GAME 7. SEPTEMBER 17th, 2014
FOREST 5 COTTAGEFOLK 3
Games like that shouldn't be allowed, because they remind you that the barrier between the real world and the world of insanity is so thin you can't always tell the difference. The game slipped from dry comfort to shit-your-pants misery and back again like a cheese-fuelled nightmare. It was not, overall, a comfortable experience.
It started weird, and just got weirder. Nobody told the Cottagers that the Cloughie sweatshirts and the banners were meant to herald a night of footballing celebration for the hosts. They didn't appear to have read the script at all, as Hoogland drove fiercely straight at Darlo, and McCormack's shot had Darlo scrabbling at his feet to retrieve the ball. Some degree of sanity was restored when Assombalonga scored, though we remain unsure which bit of him it came off, just as we remain unsure that the penalty awarded by the cerebrally challenged DeadMan actually was a penalty. Still, you take what you're given, even if the real world does appear to have slipped off its hinges a bit.
At two nil down, the Cottagers were supposed to fall apart like wet hobnobs, and Forest were supposed to mercilessly gobble them up and spit out the flaky bits that get stuck between your crowns. But no. Instead, Forest decided to knock off early, and the nightmare began. You know that, as sure as eggs go bad, when Forest stop attacking they end up chasing shadows. In fact, some of them become shadows. Mister DeadMan awarded the Cottagers a free kick (presumably to balance out the penalty mistake) which McCormack whipped past Darlo, with the Forest goalkeeper diving several minutes too late. Forest were relieved when the first half ended.
The nightmare continued in the second half. A misplaced pass from the otherwise splendid Tesche left Rodallega sprinting clear of the otherwise not very convincing Fox, and we think the Forest defender got away with a sly trip. Forest slept on, allowing Parker to surge forward, a move which ended with a superb cross from somebody or other to the unmarked (by Fox) Rodallega, who finished clinically. And it came as no surprise, not long later, when the Cottagers profited from a lousy piece of ball retention from Antonio, sliced through Forest's defence and scored with a deflected shot from McCormack. From looking as if they were going to walk a dozen goals into the Cottagers' net, Forest now looked like a gaggle of unacquainted drunks. It could have got worse. Sloppy play and miscommunication led to two more efforts from the Cottagers. The crowd morphed into last season's crowd, muttering low curses, fearful of defeat. "Bloody typical," somebody said, presumably referring to Forest's perennial banana-skin performances against weaker sides.
But there was nothing typical about this, not this match nor this Forest side. A long ball from Mancienne found Antonio, who proceeded to perform something of a miracle. Killing the ball with his right foot, at the same time turning away from his marker, he screwed the ball through the legs of an onrushing defender into the far corner of the net. This sublime piece of skill shook Forest out of their stupor, at last. Burke crossed to Assombalonga, who headed against the post, hungrily blasted home the rebound, and did a funny high-stepping dance to celebrate his hat trick. Then, with the Cottagers completely hobnobbed, Jamie Paterson did what Jamie Paterson does, sidestepping a defender and shooting home for Forest's fifth.
And so ended this absurd three-in-one match, having been won and lost and won again.
The celebrations were understandably manic, but the lessons to be learned from the game ... well, we'll leave those to Stuart Pearce and his crew, because we are no longer sure of anything very much, except that, if things carry on like this, we're going to need professional help.
SEASON 2014/15 FIXTURES
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
to the last syllable of recorded time;
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more. It is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury