Crikey, top of the league? I thought I’d lost this loving feeling about 5 years ago when Psycho had led us to the same heights before that particular season fell apart (!!!). Despite being a natural optimist, I can’t help but hold a glass that’s half empty when Forest start showing any signs of achieving success; I’m a Forest fan, resigned to ultimate disappointment! However, given the rarity of us hitting such heights, I’m making the most of it – probably until about 4.45pm this afternoon. It’s been quite the week being a Nottingham Forest fan. After feeling thoroughly exhausted after Tuesday’s grueller at Arsenal, the escapades in Derbyshire had made me raise a wry smile. What an absolute shambles that it is by the way; an all time low for those boys.
Amidst the banter, I thought smiles might’ve been wiped off Forest faces in defeat to bottom of the league Stoke. About right given the topsy turvy relationship we enjoy with our neighbours. The circus doesn’t need to move out of the East Midlands; it seems to be either at one end of the A52 or the other…..
Sabri Lamouchi doesn’t entertain the circus though I’m sure. And if he did, it would be the Cirque du Soleil; a higher class of circus. There’s something reassuring about our manager; calm, realistic, honest. It’s hard not to gravitate towards him, the players must be thoroughly enjoying life under him. He seemed to enjoy last night.
After the win, belief now comes into play and have we got enough of it? The last 10 minutes got a bit jittery and in years gone by, we’d have surrendered that lead let alone got back into the game at 1-0 down and losing our skipper. The most refreshing thing is that the Forest players aren’t hiding when under the cosh. There is a determination and added quality about our game at the moment. Belief is now the key; do the players and fans think we are good enough? This will be a collective effort.
If the first 10 minutes were Forest of old, Samba Sow soon showed what our future is all about. He’s like a Daddy Long Legs in our midfield; arms and legs everywhere getting around the pitch. He’s a nuisance for opposing teams! Some of his willingness to press and win the ball back set the tone for everybody else to follow; he hauled us back into the game at 1-0 down and got us a foot hold in the game. It was some battle between him and Peter Etebo in the midfield. Both were equally impressive. Etebo seems to play very well against us and whilst he marginally had the better 1st half, he was relatively quieter in the 2nd period until a flurry at the end. Sow was quality for Forest across the 90. He’s establishing himself as an important player for us.
Obviously the big blow was losing Michael Dawson but hopefully it was more of a precaution. Body language suggested it wasn’t a bad injury but then you’d expect nothing less than for Michael to put a brave face on it. In fairness, the loss didn’t hit as hard as initially feared with Chema coming in. He seemed rarely flustered for the rest of the evening.
I continue to wear my Forest of old hat just to keep expectations in check and I’ll admit, I thought the loss of Dawson at 1-0 would be the end of our evening.
How wrong I was. Within 5 minutes we were right back in the game with a better spell with the ball. Yes we got a bit of luck with the goal but it was a poor mistake from Butland and Lolley was alert enough to pounce on the loose ball. It woke Joe up thank the lord, as he’d had a shocker before then. Whilst it’s a bit concerning he’s still not at optimum speed, it won’t be far away I’m sure. He had a hand in the other goals too so hopefully it will build his confidence. Love you Joe.
Ben Watson continues to marshal the back four and whilst it wasn’t his best game, I thought his organising and positional sense was a key feature of us holding firm. He was running on empty in the final 10 minutes but his influence on the team continues to grow by the game. It’s mad to think that Ben Watson is probably the first name on Sabri Lamouchi’s team sheet. He’s there on merit. The manager has to take a lot of credit for this also. Ben has gone from a player that many would’ve let go in the summer (including me) to now being the lynchpin of the side. The big worry would be if anything happens to him now. It’s a funny old game.
There were some big positives from a night when we really weren’t at our best. I thought Joe Worrall did well without the hand of Michael Dawson to hold. The next couple of games are going to be a personal challenge for Joe to continue in the same vein without our leader next to him. It’s all about belief for Joe now. He’s already shown that he’s got what it takes.
Whilst Carvalho was a little off colour, he’s on the pitch for a reason! An audacious back heeled volley to Grabban nearly mustered a goal for Worrall before the break and his switching of the play led to our second goal. It’s evident he’s still building fitness and we’ve got to be careful with him. He was running on empty by the time he was replaced by Silva.
I thought Thiago did well when he came on and sured things up in midfield. He worked hard and kept things simple with the ball. I’m not the only one who noticed that his touch for Grabban’s goal was possibly intentional. The way he and Joe Lolley celebrated indicated that it was. He’s a clever little player and it’s a good sign that we’ve not seen the best of him yet; he’s a slow burner. The away fans were loving it and I could hear the Richard Keogh songs from the sofa. Ouch. Derby fans will be absolutely livid; make no mistake. Football aside though, it’s a relief that Keogh walked away from that accident still alive. It’s a genuine shame we might not see him as pantomime villain again; he’s played a part in stoking up the recent derby games.
TOP OF THE LEAGUE! What a win!! Traveling fans you was unreal! Bring on the next one 🙌🏼🙌🏼🔥🔥🔥🔝 #Nffc
— Matty Cash (@mattycash622) September 27, 2019
Last mentions go to Matty Cash and Sammi Ameobi. I thought Matty was awesome at right back and continues to get up the pitch and offer a threat with his quality on the ball. It’s been a big area of improvement and his ball into the box for Ameobi’s header was a great pick. His effort against Arsenal was for all to see, still working tirelessly at 5-0 down. Pleasing that hard work pays off over time; he’d earned that win this week.
As much as Samba Sow can get us back into the game with his tackling, Sammi’s running with the ball releases much needed pressure when the team aren’t quite at it. Similar to his cameo at Leeds, his willingness to chase lost causes and show quality on the ball were the difference for us last night. He was the match winner and the ultimate difference between the two teams. I thought Sammi had rightfully got the man of the match award although Tom Ince might disagree.
The last 10 minutes or so got unnecessary twitchy for Forest having seemingly wrapped things up at 3-1. We were architects of Stoke’s resurgence with some sloppy play. Jack Robinson had played Ben Watson into trouble for him to pick up a booking and the momentum began to shift. Joe Worrall sliced a clearance onto his own arm and poor control by Lewis Grabban threatened to give Stoke another opportunity. It all added to a heart racing end. Brice Samba produced a bit more s**thousing at the death; rolling around at the end to dab out any remaining Stoke threat. Gamesmanship appears to be a feature of his game; that’s Fulham, Barnsley and now Stoke where he’s showed the game intelligence to nullify the opposition. It may not be pretty to watch but what the hell!
The jittery end appeared to be the first Sabri Lamouchi has seen of it in his team, judging by his interview at the end of the game. He seemed quite bemused by the panic. If there’s an area that Sabri now needs to address; it’s within the forest psyche where a lack of belief can creep in. The players are good enough.
Even the Sky pundits were saying that we’re in with a chance of promotion although David Prutton couldn’t resist questioning ‘without Michael Dawson’? Did Prutton leave on bad terms at Forest or something? I’m not sure why he’s so negative about the club that made him as a player! He couldn’t resist a final quip in his closing sentence ‘we’ll give them their time in the sun; Forest fans are very giddy at the moment’.
Anyways, I am going to enjoy my ‘time in the sun’, thank you very much David. Ee-ii-ee-ii-oo. Do they even sing that anymore? It’s been a while…
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6 – Not at our best but I’ll take avoiding a banana skin and picking up 3 points all day long.
SAMBA: 7 – Assured in all he did. Best keeper we’ve had since Dorus.
CASH: 8 – Big performance from Cashy. The lad bleeds Forest.
ROBINSON: 6 – Had a decent game at left back despite couple of shaky moments. Fight is on for the left back shirt. I can’t recall this every happening in my time supporting Forest – 35 years!
WORRALL: 8 – Solid and dependable. Michael Dawson Mk 2.
DAWSON: 6 – Departed early.
WATSON: 6 – Not at his best put played an important role holding it together.
LOLLEY: 7 – Improved from Joe. Forming a good partnership with Cashy.
SOW: 8 – Monster
CARVALHO: 6 – Off the pace but provided moments of quality.
AMEOBI: 8 – Man of the Match.
GRABBAN: 7 – Led the line well. Fought hard at the end when we needed everyone to dig in.
CHEMA: 7 – Solid enough
ADOMAH: 7 – Some much needed knowhow to come on and see the game out. An important player in these circumstances.
SILVA: 7 – Some tidy work. Assist.