...in very much the same way that Forest will probably take care of the Wendies.
That's how we ended our "preview", and that's pretty much how things turned out. Forest took care of business.
The match was, weirdly, like one of those boring business meetings where a few people diffidently advance points of view in the knowledge that the powers-that-be have already made up their minds. A real "going through the motions" affair, it seemed to us. We don't mean this to sound critical, of either side. The fact that Forest seemed to be playing at fifty per cent of their potential for much of the match ended up being oddly reassuring. As Stuart Pearce said, it was a pity people hadn't seen the best of Forest yet, which indicated that there was so much more to come.
Forest started badly, sleepily allowing Wendies' runners to twice slip behind their defence into goal scoring positions. The fact that Forest survived was down to poor Wendies decision making and some splendid defending. Thankfully, Forest recovered from that, but even so they rarely had control of the game, especially in midfield, where the creative influence of Reid was stifled by their aggression and his own dip in form. So the midfield battle became scrappy, with Forest's superior quality only occasionally shining through.
But Forest did hold some aces. Despite having a hit-and-miss game, Antonio was always a threat. He did seem a little affected by the childish boos from the Wendies' fans, but despite that his perseverance was rewarded with a delightful clip to the onrushing Lansbury for Forest's goal. Good old Henri, our second ace. He was included to stiffen up the midfield, which he did with some feistiness, but his real strength is as an attacker, and his goal resulted from a typical late run into the box. That was that, really. Wendies huffed and puffed, but Forest held on.
Actually, I hate the phrase "held on". It implies that a team is so inferior it is somehow lucky to survive, but luck had nothing to do with it. Were Forest lucky to have a defence stuffed with players of outstanding skill and courage? Were Forest lucky to have a goalkeeper with outstanding reflexes and hair? And think on this: if Wendies had equalised, would Forest have settled for a draw? I think not. By the nature of the manager and his players, Forest would have mustered those missing percentages of potential, and gone for it, because all they seem to want to do is win.
Yes, it was a dull game, but that was because Forest did the business, did no more than they had to. To be honest, we think Forest gave too much respect to the opposition by rarely getting out of third gear, but that's us lifting our expectations far too high, and also being hypocritical. We were actually worried that Stuart Pearce was one of those "gung ho" managers whose team would burn brightly but not long. Now we know different. This match showed that he is grittily aware of the length of the campaign, the adaptability of his squad, and their determination to continue doing the business.
Anyway, bugger what Sky audiences think. We're top of the league.