Well that was more like it! After a few almost mind numbing games in between the excellent performance at Derby, it was good to see Forest offering much more than just a well organised defensive side to their game against Swansea. Coming away from the match (from the living room to the kitchen) it felt like Forest were back and that we can genuinely provide a threat to those sides in the top 6 (if we do of course make the play offs). Whilst I have to accept that Sabri’s tactics are not the most pretty on the eye, the lack of a creative midfielder in recent games (particularly at home) does give me some cause for concern. For the final 30 minutes against Swansea, I was treated to the proper version of ‘Sabri-ball’ as Forest mixed their play with not only tenacity and stability but also with their quality. I know that we are a good side that has much more to come and I’ve bemoaned finding the 4th gear all season; but we found it on Wednesday for a little while and boy was it good to watch. That’s set a marker for me in terms of using our quality on the balll; we’re going to need it going into these final games because Barnsley and Stoke are going to be far from pushovers.
That said, for the first 20 minutes of the Swansea game, Forest’s perfomance was quite alarming in all honesty. Similar to the Fulham game, Forest seemed happy enough to let the oppostiion team get into their passing rhythm and whist adopting three pressing central midfielders, we were pretty much chasing shadows for the opening quarter. Steve Hodge on BBC Radio Nottingham had already issued 3 warnings about the space Joe Bidwell was being allowed by Nuno Da Costa down the Forest right and it was almost a case of I told you so when once again, Da Costa had not quite got the memo to get closer to his man. Take nothing away from Rhian Brewster mind, when the ball did come in, he fully wrapped his left foot around a bouncing cross to smash the ball left footed into the top corner. Wow. It was some strike.
There were no complaints from me other than Forest had encouraged this on from the kick off. It was worrying to say the least when we couldn’t get any rhythm into our game whilst Swansea looked every inch a side that was staking a claim for the remaining Play off places. Enter the moment; enter the man: Sammy Ameobi. When it was beginning to feel like Sabri’s game plan had gone out of the window, Sammy produced a goal out of thin air that had massive baring on the game. Dribblig past a couple of players infield, Sammi momentarily appeared to lose the ball; but those gangling legs of his are quite persistent, clawing the ball out from his opponents leg into his path, to smash home a superb right footed curler into the top corner of the Swansea goal. Take that!
Thankfully, Forest looked a much better outfit from that point onwards but it wasnt without Oliver Langford doing his best to tip over the Forest apple cart. Before I come onto the penalty decision, Forest should probably have been in front, a great counter attack stemming from Samba Sow’s intervention played in Ameobi on the right hand side but his shot/cross squeezed agonisingly past the far post. I’m not sure if both Ryan Yates and Lewis Grabban thought it was going in; but on the replay, either one of those two only had to stick a toe out to tap the ball home from close range. So close but so frustrating too. The frustrations were about to boil over in the Eley household a few minutes later…
Now seemingly in the habit of conceding before half or full time, Forest once again succumbed to an opposing attack when we just needed to see the half out. It was sadly another avoidable goal from a defensive perspective. From the initial ball into the box, Brice Samba should really have colllected the ball but for safety reasons, Tobi Figuerueido got his head in first and nodded the ball away somewhat unconvincingly. As Jordan Ayew got on the ball on the edge of the box, he was quickly closed down to try and block his shot but after he struck the ball, enthusiasm got the better of Ryan Yates as momentum took him into the back of Ayew. Neither Ayew nor referee Oliver Langford need much encouragement to make a fuss but it seemed failrly obvious that the infringemnet took place outside of the box. The Swansea players couldn’t believe their luck when Langford pointed to the spot, the Forest players couldn’t beleive theirs either. Tough luck indeed.
If the penalty wasnt bad enough, Jordan Ayew decided he was going to rub everybody’s nose in it with an illegal run up which commited Brice Samba and allowed Ayew to smash the penalty into the opposite corner of the goal. I was pretty certain that you’re not allowed to that type of thing anymore. Samba and his colleagues felt the same. The all supreme Oliver Langford didnt appear to like players talking to him and quickly brushed aside any Forest protests. If it’s not Forest pressing their own self destruction, we don’t need a ref getting involved too. The penalty decision was tough luck but what followed amounted to shite luck and quite frankly, shite refereeing! This was going to be a hard fought game, not just in dealing with Swansea but in navigating a referee performance which I was half expecting Jeremy Beadle to appear; from out under Langford’s face mask.
The referee’s evening went onto be even more laughable and not just for Forest. More suspect decisions continued in passages of play where he missed the most obvious of fouls before proceeding to give the more inocuous looking one a moment later. Jordan Ayew was having much more joy than Lewis Grabban; the latter failing to convince the referree of blatant shirt pulling as Ayew continued to get free kicks; falling over from the slightest of brushes. When Tobi Figueriedo went straight through the back of Ayew midway through the 2nd half, it certainly looked curtains for his evening given he was on a booking but Langford this time got a decision wrong in Forest’s favour. Talk about dodging a bullet.
Still a goal behind, Forest looked much better on the ball and were playing with a greater sense of purpose. Sammi Ameobi produced another moment of magic to haul Forest back level in a game they certainly didn’t deserve to be behind in. Colllecting the ball on the right hand side, once more he skipped infield past a couple of Swansea challenges before unleashing a cracking left foot from a good 25 yards out into the bottom corner of the net. It was some hit from Sammy and it was no more reward for his efforts this season. With Joe Lolley on the opposite flank, we’ve got a couple of cracking weapons in the armoury for the run-in. Long may it continue and lets hope it can come together from both flanks in the remaining games.
Swansea were still posing a threat and rather unorthodox piece of goalkeeping from Brice Samba, cleared the danger as Jordan Ayew bore down on goal from six yards out. Rather than going with his hands, Brice wento to kick it and got a good slice of luck as the ball sliced off Ayew and out for a goal kick. The ball could’ve gone anywhere and Brice got away with that one. He’s not looking his most confident self at the moment and hopefully he can brush any slef doubts aside. His flamboyancy is part of his character and I wouldnt want to take that away from him but he gives you a heart attack now and again!
In fairness to Langford, he did get one decision right when a shocking tackle from Kyle Naughton brought a deserve red card; raking his studs down the back of Alex Mighten’s calf as he was in full flow down the Forest touchline. Sabri looked like an incensed parent being so close to the action; I thought for a moment he might grab hold of Naughton or land one on his opposite number Steve Cooper! It was nice to see him looking out for his fledglng thats for sure. The red card seemed to benefit Swansea more than Forest as momentarily they got a grip on the game as Forest were looking by far the stronger side.
Tiago Silva made another great impact coming off the bench to occupy the No.10 slot as he provided the desparatly previous missing link between midfiled and attack. The football we played at times was much more like it and such a better fitting for individuals in this team. I know that we aren’t where we are in the league because of footballing niceties but we can mix it and have some great little footballers in the team. I feel that we have to find this rhythm in our play to genuinely go up this season. It gives me greater optimism seeing some of that link up play in the 2nd half. It’s onto Barnsley on Sunday which is going to be a tough one as it really is looking like more winnable opportunity to pick up some much needed points with a daunting trip to Brentford on the last day. They’re a decent footballing side Barnsley and so not only will we have to show the resolution that has helped so much this season, we’ll still need that bit of quality to see them off.
FIngers crossed Sammy’s confidence will be sky high and deservedly so after Wednesday’s performance. Come on your Reds!!!!
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) July 16, 2020
TEAM PERFORMANCE: 7 – Much improved 2nd half. We can’t half play when we want to.
SAMBA: 6 – Bit of an off night. Shoudl have dealt with opening goal before penalty. Suspect attempted kick away from Ayew as he bore down on goal. A little concerned about him.
JENKINSON: 7 – Stepped in once more and had a fairly good game. Not Matty going forwards however but plenty of strong running.
RIBIERO: 8 – Free transfer.
FIGUEIREDO: 5 – A horror showing from Tobi. Don’t need him wobbling and glad Sabri got him off before he was sent off.
WORRALL: 8 –- Superb performance from Joe – outstanding.
SOW: 6 – Still not upto his usual ability but Sabri is nursing him back slowly but surely.
DA COSTA: 6 – Needed him to offer more in the final third.
WATSON: 7 – Dependable as ever.
YATES: 6 – Finished the game strongly – super fit this lad.
AMEOBI: 8 – MAN OF THE MATCH: Two craking goals and was the player we needed to make the difference. I wouldn’t have taken him off on a hat-trick!
GRABBAN: 6 – Couldnt really get into things but did a job up top.
SILVA: 7 – Huge impact off the bench – he’s the answer as to why Carvalho cant get in the side.
MIGHTEN: 6 – Very encouraging cameo appearance.
DIAKHABY: 5 – Went on a few jinking runs but never seems convincing he’s in control of the ball.
LOLLEY: 6 – A little subdued but no doubt wouldn’t have been risked if the points were in the bag.