SEASON 2013/14 MATCH REPORTS AND STUFF

(01) 03.08.13 FOREST 1 UDDERSFEEL0
(02) 10.08.13 BLACKBUm 0 FOREST1
(03) 17.08.13 FOREST 3BOLN0
(04) 25.08.13 WATFOR? 1 FOREST1
(05) 31.08.13 WIGGUM 2 FOREST1
(06) 14.09.13 FOREST 3BARNSLEH2
(07) 17.09.13 FOREST 2 MISERABLEBUGGER2
(08) 21.09.13 DUNGCASTER 2 FOREST2
(09) 28.09.13 FOREST 1 SHEEP0
(10) 01.10.13 CHARLESTON 1 FOREST1
(11) 05.10.13 HOVE 1FOREST3
(12) 19.10.13 FOREST 1 BORMUFF1
(13) 26.10.13 YEVOLI 3 FOREST1
(14) 02.11.13 FOREST 0 BLACKPOO 1
(15) 09.11.13 BORG 0 FOREST 2
(16) 23.11.13 FOREST 1 SHYMOORFOLK 1
(17) 29.11.13 FOREST 2 READING LADIES 3
(18) 03.12.13 MEWO 2 FOREST 2
(19) 07.12.13 WENDIES 0 FOREST 1
(20) 14.12.13 FOREST 0 DIPSWITCH 0
(21) 21.12.13 BOREMINGHAM 0 FOREST 0
(22) 26.12.13 FOREST 2 QPLADIES 0
(23) 29.12.13 FOREST 2LEED 1
(24) 01.01.14 READING LADIES 1FOREST 1
05.01.14 FAC3: FOREST 5WET HAMS 0
(25) 11.01.14 BOLN 1FOREST 1
(26) 18.01.14 FOREST 4BLACKBUm 1
24.01.14 FAC4: FOREST 0PRESTON NOB END 0
(27) 30.01.14 FOREST 4WATFOR? 2
(28) 02.02.14 FOREST 3YEVOLI 1
04.02.14 FAC4: PRESTON NOB END 0FOREST 2
(29) 08.02.14 BLACKPOO 1FOREST1
(30) 11.02.14 UDDERSFEEL 0FOREST3
16.02.14 FAC5: SHEFFU 3FOREST 1
(31) 19.02.14 FOREST 2LEICESTER BORG2
(32) 22.02.14 SHYMOORFOLK 3FOREST1
(33) 01.03.14 FOREST 1WIGGUM4
(34) 08.03.14 BARNSLEH 1FOREST 0
(35) 11.03.14 MISERABLEBUGGER 1FOREST1
(36) 15.03.14 FOREST 0DUNGCASTER0
(37) 22.03.14 SHEEP 5FOREST0
24.03.14 DAVIES SACKED
(38) 25.03.14 FOREST 0CHARLESTON1
(39) 29.03.14 DIPSWITCH 1FOREST 1
(40) 05.04.14 FOREST 1MEWO2
(41) 08.04.14 FOREST 3WENDIES3
(42) 12.04.14 QPLADIES 5FOREST2
(43) 19.04.14 FOREST 1BOREMINGHAM0
(44) 21.04.14 LEED 0FOREST2
(45) 26.04.14 BORMUFF 4FOREST1
(46) 03.05.14 FOREST 1HOVE2
LAST RITES
FOREST 1 HOVE 2


Well, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Forest played some neat football at times, but in the end they didn't have the power, strength, grit, drive, composure, character, leadership or quality to succeed. That killer goal, as they say, "was coming". It was no real surprise to see Ulloa once more get beyond Collins and nod the ball home. Forest fans once more sucked in their bitter disappointment and mumbled, "Well, it was coming." It's happened far too often.

We don't know whether the season would have gone differently if Billy had stayed, or if Warnock had taken the job, or if Fawaz hadn't obviously been scared off interfering when his involvement might actually have helped Brazil, or whether Brazil was sacrificing points by showcasing players for Stuart Pearce's assessment, or whether, quite simply, the ridiculous injury list left us with a rump of players who weren't up to the job. And, quite frankly, we don't have much interest in trawling over this stuff any longer. This season, though far from being a disaster, should be wrapped up like mouldy cheese and binned.

The consolation is that things are already changing. We have a new manager (soon), and apparently we will have a new CEO. We should have some new faces to supplement the core of fine players we already have. There are promising times ahead. If the owner and the fans demonstrate a degree of patience they are not exactly noted for, we'll be fine.

As we said, we're not going away. The play-offs and the World Cup will provide much needed p-taking possibilities, and hopefully there'll be a heap of Forest news during the close season. We hope you'll join us. It should be fun.

TIME FOR BED (2)
BORMUFF 4 FOREST 1



So we didn't make it, eh Grandfather?

Not that season son, no.

Why didn't we make it, Grandfather?

Oh, that's a tough one. I suppose by the end of the season, by accident or design, we just ran out of bodies. The team just got weaker and weaker, and though we gained a couple of good victories against pretty ropey sides, by the time we came up against decent opponents, we had little left to offer. Against Bormuff, the trick of scoring early and hanging on didn't work at all. It was a sad end, but not altogether unexpected. If we'd somehow fluked our way into the play-offs, it would have been, well, wrong.

So you weren't too upset then, Grandfather?

Not really.

So who did you blame then, Grandfather? Did you blame the Evil Billy Man and his vengeful minions? Or did you blame the enthusiastic but impulsively naïve Mister Fazzer? Or did you blame the players for being made of biscuit? Or Mister Brazil for timidly sacrificing short term glory on the altar of long-term development? Who did you blame, Grandfather?

Blame?

Yes Grandfather, you must have blamed somebody. That's the way it worked, wasn't it? No such things as accidents or bad luck in those days. If something didn't go according to plan, it was bound to be somebody's fault.

Ah yes, the good old days, when everybody had their own version of the truth, when everybody was certain it was somebody else's fault. It was such a pity that the Great Internet Crash of 2015 rid the world of their voices - all those insightful opinions lost in the meltdown. Yes, there was a lot of blame flying around in those days, but to be honest most of it was fairly muted and quickly forgotten, at least among right minded people. Right minded people realised that if they were to blame anybody, they had to blame everybody, including themselves. Right minded people simply kept the faith, and moved on.

Really Grandfather?

Yes really. There were people who tried the "it's a disaster" line, but they had no idea what real disasters were like, just some simplistic, soap-opera notion worked up by chattering fools with as much real-life perspective as a plate of sausages.

I like sausages.

And anyway, disappointments were quickly overtaken by more momentous events. The Great Sheep Slaughtering and the Liverpoo Fiasco to name but two.

I like Cumberland sausages. They're the best sausages ever made.

And then, of course, the Magnificent Forest Adventure of 2014/15, the one that led indirectly to the Great Internet Crash of 2015. What a psychodrama that was. Would you like me to tell you about that?

Because they look like dog poo, but taste of heaven.

Apparently not. Okay, I'll tell you about it tomorrow, after a good night's sleep. Time for bed.

Very well Grandfather.

And stop calling me Grandfather, you jumped up little snot.

THE TRUTH
LEED 0 FOREST 2

Derbyshire, Derbyshire

You want the truth? No, you can't handle the truth. You can, you say? Okay, here's the truth.

We didn't go to Leed. We went to Manchester instead. Stress had got two free tickets to watch ManCity, and that's where we went.

So at five o'clock on that Easter Monday, there we were in a huge barn of a pub near Piccadilly watching Forest on Sky. It was the weirdest experience. We were surrounded by people who had no interest in the game at all, even though the pub had seven or eight screens showing it, a couple of them so big you could see the flies on McDermott's head. And they had the sound off, so all we could hear was the general chatter and the occasional thwack from the electronic golf game. Surreal wasn't the word.

Even the team was surreal, in that nightmarish, injury-ridden way which is cursing Forest this season. Even Darlo was injured, for heaven's sake. And no Lansbury or Wilson. And McClaughlin, the forgotten Irishman, and Little Jamie Osborn patrolling midfield. Oh dear. This was scary.

Thank God the players had more faith in themselves than we had. Within two minutes, there was McClaughlin driving forward and darting a perfect ball through to Derbyshire, who finished with the aplomb of a real striker. Stress let out a muffled roar which interrupted a few conversations, and there was Derbyshire's face gobbing at the camera splashed life-size around the pub. And about ten minutes later there was Derbyshire again, making the most of an idiotic clearance from Wootton (remember him?), swerving sideways and slotting home a neat, left foot finish. We were in giggling heaven, in Manchester, surrounded by people who couldn't give a fig.

As the match progressed, we became increasingly confident that Forest could pull this off, partly because Leed were as dull as dog crap, and partly because of the magnificent Vaughan, who constantly turned defence into dangerous counter-attack. How one little space-eyed wizard could make so much difference was phenomenal.

Half time came, and we half-thought that Leed would come out fighting, but consoled ourselves with the other half thought - that McDermott didn't do "rallies", and that he would probably insist on more of the same. Which they did. They pressed more, of course, but their increasing "dominance" was still grotesquely unimaginative, and only came about because Forest backed off and broke less and less. The most scary bit was when Vaughan was replaced by Greening. Greening's first two involvements were to give away a free kick and get nutmegged. For the remainder of the match he offered little in the way of defence or attack or organisation. He simply ambled around taking up space. Of course, this may be the lager speaking, but we weren't that drunk.

But it didn't matter. Leed were so awful they found it necessary to bring on Smith, whose raw-boned, flying challenges were a danger to life and limb, especially his own. And that was it, really. The Forest defence coped manfully with the increasing aerial bombardment, and suddenly the match was over. The Forest second eleven, or New Forest, call them what you will, had ended up one point outside the play-offs. Around us the pub was emptying. It was, after all, time for the main event - ManCiteh versus West Brom. None of these people had the slightest interest in a crippled Championship side struggling to bring off a miracle.

We'll keep this brief. A short tram ride took us to the Etihad Campus, an impressively commercialised little city gathered around a very impressive ground, with screens all round and pits for the cameramen and endless adverts for Etihad Airlines and Middle Eastern holidays. The football was impressive too, at least at first. Citeh strolled to a two-nil lead, West Brom caused a few flutters with a brilliantly taken goal, but Citeh sealed it with an easy third.

But it was boring. West Brom offered little resistance, Citeh killed the match with that mechanical passing game they have (like Barcelona used to do), and even the crowd seemed to fall into a soporific daze of expectancy. There was no urgency, no passion, just a routine win watched by a routine crowd.

And it dawned on us, in the second half, that the pitch was really just another screen amongst the surrounding screens, and the crowd was as divorced from the action as any screen watcher, and the people around us were chatting away about other things, just like the people in the Piccadilly pub. We left early, as did hundreds of others, to catch the tram back to town. Even there, the Citeh supporters were not talking about the match. They were talking about Moyes' sacking.

A strangely artificial experience all round. Give us the City Ground any day, and a bunch of crippled heroes trying to pull off the impossible. Ain't that the truth.

FOREST 1 BOREMINGHAM 0
Derbyshire

Well, that's really buggered things up, hasn't it? Just when we thought that the season was buried deep in history's back yard and we could go off and do more important things like trying to work out the topology of Derbyshire's hair, up pop Forest with half a game's worth of attractive football and three points. Now things have become "interesting" again, and we all have to stop pretending we don't care.

However, despite Forest extending their winning run to one, we refuse to get carried away by one valuable result. In this match, every good thing was counterbalanced by a doubt, and this balancing act will leave us gnawing our thumbnails for a while yet.

So, although Derbyshire's well-taken goal set up a half of confident, at times scintillating football, Forest's failure to capitalise on their dominance led to the usual fretful concern. And although almost everybody played well, there is no doubt that better sides than Boremingham (and there are a lot of them) would have made life much more difficult for us. And although there were some quality performances, especially from Osborn, Derbyshire, Paterson, Vaughan and Lascelles, the replacement of Vaughan by Greening signalled a nervous weakening of the side which, though understandable, was an unwelcome reminder of Forest's shallow resources. And although Forest deservedly won, Boremingham could easily have fluked a draw.

We say these things not because we are miserable pessimists, but just to remind ourselves that the balance between success and failure is a terrifyingly fine one. On the one hand there were moments of thrilling promise - Derbyshire's cross which would have been converted by Osborn if he was two inches taller, Derbyshire's thirty odd yard shot when he should have passed to Paterson, Osborn's shot which should have curled a couple of inches the other way, Vaughan's drive which skimmed a yard wide, Paterson's brilliant cross which should have been met by Derbyshire, Paterson's clean break which he couldn't convert because of his own hesitancy, and Henderson shovelling the ball inches wide. On the other hand there were moments of gut wrenching fragility - the Darlow/ Lascelles collision could have led to real trouble, Ibe muffed a clear opportunity by skewing wide, Zigic headed a good chance straight at Darlow, Burke's cross dribbled frighteningly across the six yard box inches from the goal line, and Robinson's free header was only kept out by a world class save from Darlow.

What we are saying is that this terrible balance between hope and disappointment has not yet tipped. The tipping point has been delayed for another match, and perhaps another after that. We saw indications in this match that we can win again. We also saw indications that we might lose. We think, to fulfil the absurd dream of reaching those absurd playoffs, that Forest will have to get better with each match that comes, and even then our jittery rivals will have to cock things up to let us creep in.

Still, a week ago Forest were finished. Now they go to Dirty Leed with their hopes patched. Perhaps they haven't really buggered things up at all. Not yet, anyway.

COME ON HARRY, FINISH US OFF

If Harry Knapsack can get his bunch of mercenaries to stop twitching and start to believe they're worth the money he's paid for them, they should have no problem seeing off a Forest side which hasn't won since sliced bread.

This piece of reverse psychology is brought to you courtesy of two blokes who have tried everything else and failed, so come on Harry, we're tired and want to go home. Do the dirty deed, there's a good chap. Finish us off.

If you can...



...And he could. Forest's season virtually ended with a 5-2 defeat at Loftus Road. It was not the "rout" that the score would suggest, just a spirited performance by a team low on confidence, whose key players were missing or unfit. There may have been a game plan, but whatever it was, the players on the pitch were not good enough to fulfil it. It was disappointing.

And that's as far as we're prepared to go. It was disappointing. It was not "a disgrace", this was nowhere near "the worst performance ever", this team was not "the worst Forest side in living memory". These are just words, and words are slippery customers. They are too often used as vehicles for personal bitterness which distorts sincerity.

For example, we are told that this club is "a disaster, both on and off the pitch". It's a catchy phrase, but we don't feel the truth of it. Obviously mistakes have been made and opportunities missed, but glib hyperbole comes nowhere near describing the complex difficulties faced by the club, nor the full range of emotions engendered over the season. We don't feel that any player is "shit", that Fawaz is "a fool", that Stuart Pearce is "a poor choice", or any of the early markers put down by empty-souled pessimists. We want to enjoy this club, not rip it to pieces.

So we will hope that Fawaz puts in place a proper administrative structure, allows Stuart Pearce to enhance an excellent core squad, lets him get on with it next season, and doesn't panic when things don't go as well as he wants. In the meantime, we'll allow Forest to stumble through the dregs of this season in the hope that they can rediscover some overdue confidence. And we're really looking forward to the play-offs, because it will give us the opportunity to take the right royal piss out of the three clubs who will be playing us again next season. It's about time us Tinternetters had a real go at other clubs, rather than wasting time smearing our own.

FOREST 3 WENDIES 3
After a match which defied analysis, a few thoughts...

We don't think it was a penalty. We think Collins got the ball, and Maguire launched himself over Collins' outstretched leg. For that, and all the other cockeyed decisions he made, we have put Mister Scott Duncan in our Grudge Book. The Grudge Book is a large black book with "Grudge Book" tooled in gold on its cover. It contains many names.
Despite his innocence in the above matter, Danny Collins had a poor game. The strength, speed and authority required of a captain/central defender doesn't seem to be there any more. We're beginning to view Collins in the same way we have always viewed Greening. Nice blokes, but their presence on the pitch breeds only the promise of calamitous uncertainty.
Hendo had a poor game, again. Joking aside, the poor bloke's had a rough time over the past months and his form and confidence are shot. He needs a break from the abuse.
Derbyshire was good. He showed intelligence and clever movement. He was unlucky when he launched himself at a header which screwed wide. One move between Mackie and Derbyshire left the latter clear in their penalty area, and he was unlucky that a well placed shot was cleared off the line. He was even more unlucky when, having retrieved the ball, he crossed expertly towards Henderson, and a defender hand-balled it away. Yes he did, Mister Scott Duncan. It's in the Grudge Book.
Mackie was good. His link up play with Derbyshire, his goal, his cross for Tudgay's goal, were all exhilarating. Sadly, we fear he may have gone insane. His celebration of that rip-roaring strike revealed a man sorely at odds with his own sanity. He may have been mad for ages. Perhaps we should cherish his lunacy, and pray he can continue to harness it to positive ends.
Tudgay was good. He still has that slow grace we used to love and hate, and his goal reminded us what a fine header of the ball he is. He also drew the foul which led to Paterson's free kick....
And what a player Paterson is! He took a lot of responsibility last night, and towards the end he threatened to win the game on his own. His goal was sublime, his jinking run and that final effort was sublime. Everything about him was sublime. Even his weight. To all those twerps who keep insisting he should "bulk up", sod off, he's perfect. Bulk him up and you'll rob him of the gift of litheness and turn him into an over-muscled, injury prone robot. Leave him alone. He's great as he is.
At the end of the game, we were a mess of conflicting emotions. After three quarters of the game we wanted to forget the whole effing thing, the effing match, the effing season, every effing thing that crawled on the face of the earth. At the end, we felt proud of the team's efforts, and tried to convince ourselves that we were unlucky not to snatch three points. That mess of emotions still hasn't sorted itself out. We know that reaching the play-offs would involve the combination of several miracles, and we dearly wish the season would end, but, agonisingly, it won't. It is like a decapitated chicken, still jerking its brainless body around the farmyard, still twitchily convinced it has a few surprises in store.
You never know, maybe it has.
But we doubt it.

FOREST 1 MEWO 2
We've just decided to write that one off. Not the season, not quite yet. Just the match.

The match was a write-off before it even started, because of the team selection, and because of the expectations set up by the battling display against Dipswitch. Against Dipswitch, the team was set up to press high and stop Dipswitch overrunning us. This had the added bonus of taking them by surprise and securing the ball in advanced, dangerous positions. Plus we scored early and had something to fight for.

Against Mewo, however, the responsibilities were reversed. At home, the responsibilty lies on the home side to create and penetrate, not rely on defensive mistakes, and in this regard, Forest fell woefully short. At home, most people would agree that you play a striker up front, any striker, to provide a focal point and at least give their defence something to think about. Instead, Forest had Mackie, a whole hearted winger who got so frustrated he ended up, as he too often does, fighting battles of his own making. In that first half it was not, as Gary Brazil intimated, that we lacked spirit. We were just playing the wrong game with the wrong set up. The players, at least in the first half, looked lost and leaderless, and they didn't have the quality to adjust to the changed circumstances. Brazil was trying to do a Dipswitch, but tricks like that rarely work twice.

Mewo must have been pleasantly surprised at Forest's lack of drive and focus, at how easy it was to bully a physically weak midfield, and they took advantage, twice. Not because they were particularly good - they didn't have to be. Their first goal was a wank shot which deflected off Jara. Their second came when Martin shifted the ball inside (a move so complex it completely baffled an isolated Jara) and slotted it neatly beyond Darlo. It was sickening, but, as we could all see, it had been coming. Once more we had failed to impose ourselves on a poor side, and given them the confidence and freedom to try their luck.

So the first half drifted away into the anals of our recent miserable history. There were a few boos of disappointment. People talked about many things, as angry people will. About Billy destroying the season, or Fawaz sacking Billy too early, about Jara saving himself for the World Cup, about Brazil's naivete, or why we can't be arsed to put the accents on naivete, about Halford coming off second best to that camera, but mainly about throwing away our chance of a play-off place, and how disappointing it was but at least it provided a welcome release from the terrors of hope.

Sadly, the terrors of hope wouldn't go away in the second half. Lansbury came on, and gave Forest some degree of midfield drive, plus an awful lot more determination and streetwisdom (?). A neat move between Harding and Osborn left the little winger boxed in near the corner, but he managed a neat cross towards Mackie, who laid it off to Harding, who crossed fiercely on to the head of Paterson, who skimmed it quite wonderfully into the net. The whole place went a bit bananas.

And even though the euphoria dwindled as Forest (and Mewo) muffed some good chances and the referee left early and Lansbury's fiercely struck free kick flew wide and Forest lost again, there was just enough decent stuff in that second half to suggest that the season isn't over, not quite yet. At a time when we could be talking about that dodgy Leed bloke winning his appeal and how impotent that makes the Football League look, or how delighted we are for Leicester, or how the Sheep are finally running out of steam, or how amusing it is that six Nob End players have been charged with match fixing, or a million non-Forest related bits of football fluff, we can't. Wilson's back. Lascelles is back. Lansbury's back. Maybe even Reidy's back. And Vaughan? It may well be too late, and it most probably is, and we most probably wish it were, but, as Old Uncle Boff used to say: It's not all over until the Fat Lady's dead. If we lose to Wendies, we can bury her, but she's not quite dead yet.

We just noticed that Gary Brazil's statement on the official site which was originally "We’re now going to let this season die out now" has been corrected to "We’re not going to let this season die out now". Now that's the kind of attention to detail which will get us through. Come On You Resd!

DIPSWITCH 1 NOT FOREST 1
How very dare they? Did they not understand that their one remaining duty was to bury this season, with a little grace if possible, once and for all? All they had to do was carry on in the same old way, staggering through the final games until they collapsed like some drunk in a gutter. We wouldn't have minded. We would have turned away and found something better to do, like checking the cat traps.

But no, oh no, they couldn't settle for that, could they? That upstart Gary Brazil goes and picks his own team, for heaven's sake, a bewildering combination of kids and old stagers, deployed in what is laughably known as a diamond, which means no wingers. No wingers, presumably because there was nobody to cross to, what with us playing no centre forwards. An "awful" team, as Stress put it.

Sadly, this "awful team" proceeded to play so well that at the end of the first half the Dipswitch players wandered off like the victims of some random gang of thugs. What had hit them was not only the element of tactical surprise but also a storm of enthusiasm which threatened to sweep them away. This was not the Forest of labouring predictability, but one driven to press high, fight for every ball, break fast and generate real threat. This determination led to Collins scoring his first goal for Forest, Paterson tormenting the defence like he used to and missing by a whisker, Mackie running himself into a stupor and fluffing a chance that a proper striker, like Suarez, would have gleefully converted, even Greening plugging the midfield routes with dogged effort. They all played well, or at least to the limits of their ability. It was a real surprise after the woebegone rubbish of previous weeks.

It wasn't enough, of course. High energy doesn't last forever, and in the second half, things began to go wrong. The forwards were given less and less opportunity to press and break, Forest began to give away far too many free kicks partly through their own enthusiasm and partly through the ref's knobheaded cowardice, Darlo had to reprise his superhero act too many times, and eventually the brave souls cracked. It happened, quite simply, because Greening was by this time virtually dead. He used up his remaining life force in a superb tackle which led to a corner. The corner was played short, and poor old Greening, physically unable to close down the danger, watched as the cross found his defence at sixes and sevens. Then he bowed over and died.

There was no capitulation, however, not this time. Forest could even have sneaked it with a decent effort from Derbyshire, but that would have been silly. Forest ended up taking a point away from home against a rising team, and to some extent blew away a few cobwebs in the process.

To repeat, how dare they do this sort of thing? It was all going so well, this forlorn cruise to the knacker's yard, and here they are reigniting hope. It won't do. They'll have us thinking that anything is possible - hanging on to the play off fringes, waiting for the big guns to return, even offering the prospect of winning the next home game.

Stop it, Forest. It hurts.

FOREST 0 CHARLESTON 1

CHAPTER 38

"I'd better warn you before we arrive. We've had a few steering problems."

Mister Strum stopped and stared quizzically at the back of the Old Man's head.

"Steering problems?" he said. "How can a train have steering problems? It's on a track."

The Old Man's shoulders seemed to slump a little.

"Well," he began patiently, "I don't know whether you remember, but the engine's wheel arrangement was 4-6-2. Two pairs of leading wheels, three pairs of driving wheels, and one pair of trailing wheels. You understand?"

"Of course."

"Well, now it's 3-6-2. One of the leading wheels fell off."

"Oh."

"And one or two of the driving wheels aren't too healthy either."

"Which means?"

"Well, they're a bit buckled."

"Which means?"

The Old Man seemed to shiver.

"Which means that if you're looking for a smooth ride, or expecting to go in one direction at a time, then this isn't the train for you."

The Old Man looked him in the eye, scanning his response. It was, as they say, decision time, which turned out to be two full minutes of the most inscrutable stare each man could muster.

Eventually Strum took a deep breath, and said: "I could say this sounds like another suicide mission, but you'd come back with some clever reply about there being worse things than suicide. I could say you were off your head, but you'd probably agree and not see that as a problem. I could say it's time for you to manage this one on your own, but if you could manage it on your own, you wouldn't be asking me for my help, would you?"

The Old Man's face gave nothing away - not hope, or doubt, or expectation or disappointment. Not a shadow. Just that steely, blue-grey stare from his one good eye.

"So, despite all my better instincts," concluded Strum, "I suppose I'll give it a go. After all, we've nothing to lose." Except, of course, everything.

Half an hour later they were swaying in the cab of the Big Red Train as it rolled drunkenly down the track to meet Charleston. Strum was sick twice. The Old Man just grinned.

*****

Everything about the Charleston encounter was wrong. Apart from being seasick, Mister Strum felt oddly uncomfortable in the cab, sort of sidelined, as if he didn't quite recognise his surroundings. All the components - the plates, the levers, the valve wheels - were the same as always, yet unfamiliar, like past friends you struggle to put a name to.

And they were travelling so slowly. The Old Man explained that they couldn't risk going any faster, because the engine was unstable. Strum partly understood this, as the train pitched badly to the right and, as the Old Man had warned, seemed to be progressing in several directions at once; but what he didn't understand was the Old Man's attitude to this. It was too measured, too resigned. The old pirate, who once roared his defiance in the teeth of overwhelming odds, was gone. What remained was, well, just a tired Old Man.

There were other things too. They were hauling no carriages. Why were they hauling no carriages? "Not enough people to justify the expense," murmured the Old Man. And that paper notice that was pasted to the front plate: NFFP it read. What did NFFP stand for? The Old Man's response was a shrug of the shoulders.

Strum's discomfort grew as they lurched through an unfamiliar territory. He recognised no landmarks in the deepening gloom. It felt like being lost in your own back yard. He found himself longing for the old glories - the roar, the flames, the head-on violence. But they never came.

There was no collision at all. Charleston turned out to be a wheezing little train on the up line, trundling past them like an arthritic horse. Charleston Arthritic. It pulled one carriage, full of faces pressed against the windows. A few faces sported derisive grins, but most wore stares of disbelieving pity. Somebody threw a missile which rattled around the cab and settled by Strum's foot. It looked like a brazil nut. And then they were gone.

It was over. Well, not quite. The Big Red Train suddenly righted itself, then pitched forward, grazing the track with a squeal of sparks, then lurched back again, leaving Strum on his arse at the back of the cab.

"That's the other leading wheel gone," said the Old Man. "Now we're 2-6-2. It is, as they say, what it is."

Strum's discomfort gave way to rage. "What the hell's going on?" he cried. "This isn't what I signed on for! Why didn't we ram the bastards off the track? And you. Just look at you. You don't seem to care. Where's the old spirit gone? The old fight?"

His words hung in the air like knives. The Old Man slumped over the regulator, as if something insupportable was bending his old bones to breaking point. When he spoke, it was in the barest whisper.

"Perhaps I should have told you earlier," he said. "There won't be any more encounters, not the sort you imagine anyway. Those days are over. The job now is simply to get the train to the end of the line."

"The end of the line?"

"Yes. The scrapyard. That's where we're going. The scrapyard. The end of the line."

Strum froze. They really were lost, then. They really were going nowhere. And with a sudden terror he realised what the paper sign NFFP meant.

The old train limped through the night, hauling itself painfully towards the end of the line.

NFFP. Not Fit For Purpose.

RUBBISH
SHEEP 5 FOREST 0

Never make a decision when you're angry. Never make a decision when you're excited. Never make promises you can't keep. Wait, be honest, and tell the truth.

Forest were rubbish yesterday. They put in the kind of non-performance which gives you stomach ache. Any team which relies to any degree on the midfield vagaries of Moussi and Greening, on scorers who seem determined not to score, and on a defence with as much composure as a bag of scalded kittens, is bound to be rubbish. Their rubbishness was, sadly, entirely predictable.

It was predictable not simply because that team was a ghostly shadow of the real Forest, but because nothing has been done to shore up the deficiencies. This is where we stumble upon more rubbish. Fawaz implies that he is willing to draft in anybody Billy suggests, but that Billy has suggested nobody. Billy distances himself from these decisions and ceases communications entirely. It's rubbish this, because we don't know who to trust. As soon as you start sorting through this rubbish, you only find a bigger pile of it hidden at the back of the room, and the room stretches back as far as the eye can see, right back to the #unfinished business rubbish, the Jimbo twitter farce, Fawaz's passionate but incautious promises. Everything that's happened has led us perilously close to snapping into default mode - Don't Trust Anybody. It's a shut-down position we've adopted before too many times, but it's the only way we can maintain any kind of sane objectivity in an increasingly insane world.

At the moment, the relationship quadrilateral which should look something like this:

is beginning to look more like this:

what with Fawaz's public relations efforts on one side, and Billy bunkering down with his trusted players on the other. This, obviously, is unsustainable.

For relationships to be repaired, there has to be give and take on both sides, but Billy has to do more of the giving, by showing some humility, by forgetting all this legal nonsense, by coming out of his self imposed bunker and stop sulking about perceived slights. And somebody has to tell us the truth about the lack of loan signings.

Sadly, we think this is not going to happen, because in general football is driven by ego and both men demand too much. We haven't a clue what will transpire over the next days and weeks. Perhaps we'll get reinforcements to save our season. Perhaps Billy will be sacked. We don't know. We're just pretending to shut down, to say we trust nobody until they earn it. Yesterday, only the fans earned it. Everything else was rubbish.

THE REAL WORLD
FOREST 0 DUNGCASTER 0


Forgive the lateness of this report, but I've been away. I've been to a place called the Real World.

I could not go to the match. I was in a place where there was no Tinternet, so I couldn't watch the patchwork inadequacy of Wzwg, nor listen to the stress-inducing squeals of Mister Fray. I missed the thing entirely. The only evidence I had that a football match had taken place at all was seeing the result on Ceefax, and getting a text from Stress which said "Crap".

I was abandoned to the Real World, where there was no electronic communication about football, and it was a blessed place. The disappointment of a 0-0 draw was quickly forgotten in a world where people, real people, talked about other things, ate bacon rolls, wore peculiar expressions which I recognised as smiles, helped you out when you got lost, and indulged in a million activities which somehow avoided ritualised anger and creepy posturing. The Real World did not flicker or beep or march to the rhythm of a tapping keyboard. It was a breath of unpolluted air.

When I came back to Tinternet World, it was like returning to a lunatic asylum. I came back to discover that our broadband was down. A long and expensive call to the service provider bore little fruit, except some dubious advice that our phone socket was probably broken. A long and expensive call to BT bore little fruit, except the assurance that our phone socket was fine and we should contact our service provider. The problem was eventually solved by a lad from a local computer shop in the Real World who fitted a new router in fifteen minutes with a minimum of fuss and a big smile.

Back on line, I was immediately plunged into the dark heart of the asylum, where virtual people were gleefully convincing themselves that Forest were in meltdown, that it was absolutely necessary to take sides, that new deals for Pato and Prince Jamaal Lascelles were in fact bad things because Lansbury hadn't yet got one and it was all papering over the cracks and anybody who disagreed was stupid.

Out there, in the Real World, there are thousands of Forest supporters who are dismayed by this background noise and prefer to wait to see what happens. All they want is for good players to return, Forest to play decent football and win, Billy to learn to cheer up, and Forest to get promoted before they die. And even if these things do not happen, there are enough grown-ups in the Real World who manage to avoid the malicious hysteria of Tinternet World, and just keep hoping.

Even Stress calmed down eventually. His latest text said simply "Forget this season. Billy will get us up next year."

Which seems like a decent plan to me.

ONE DAY SOON
MISERABLEBUGGER 1 FOREST 1
Carayol Handerson

One day soon, many things are going to happen. They may all happen at the same time, or they may dribble in bit by bit. But they will happen, because the signs are unmistakeable.

One day soon, Cox is going to stop rolling his eyes to heaven and remind us that he is a good player who can score goals. He will confidently beef the ball home with his head, instead of pugging it like a damp fart from a couple of yards out. He will gain some leg speed, so that his jinks into goalscoring positions will be rewarded by strikes so fast and clean they don't get blocked. He will do these things because he is too good a professional to be satisfied with his contribution.

Jamie Mackie will learn two things. He will learn that shouting at Abdoun does nobody any favours, and he will learn to head the ball properly. He will become a matchwinner again, because all the good things he does and all the passion he brings will be blessed by humility and more composed technique.

Djamel Abdoun will also be rewarded, as he would be already if his team mates managed to convert some of his fine crosses. Abdoun's self belief seems boundless, and we will soon see the best of him because his efforts will be encouraged rather than criticised, and one day soon one of those long shots is going to fly into the net.

Paterson will get his mojo back. He will ignore those who point out that his over-ambitious pass led to their scoring breakaway, and continue to scare the bejeesus out of opposing defences. Only he will do this more, and he will start scoring again. As will Majewski, who is taking the opportunity to shoot more, and getting closer with every game.

Jara and Fox will get better because their wingers will protect them more, not abandon them to patrol vast areas of turf on their own, causing them to be pulled out of position. Lascelles will return to imperious form when he and Darlo sort out their confusions, and when Wilson comes back.

One day soon Greening will still be Greening, a player who, despite deserving great credit for the shift he put in at Miserablebugger, does not have the energy or sharpness to cope when the game gets stretched. One day soon, perhaps, he won't be needed.

This day, the day when everything goes right and Forest get back to winning ways, may be closer than we think. Reidy's welcome return brought with it not only a superb cross for Hando's goal but also a much needed sense of returning conviction. They have fought hard, this lot, but they badly needed the shot of fiery optimism that Reidy brought.

One day we may care about Billy's press antics or his relationship with the owner or embargos or myths about defensive football or the endless stream of digital bullshit which masquerades as football talk, but that day is a lot farther off than the day we're talking about. The day we're talking about could be this Saturday.

Well done lads. Now score some goals.

BARNSLEH 1 FOREST 0
Some bloke I've never heard of

I don't remember much about this game. I do remember it was like watching underwater football in which a bunch of strangers went through the motions of slow drowning. I remember Abdoun lighting up the gloom with a fifty yard speculator which bounced off the post. I remember Mackie buggering up an open goal. I remember an alarming period at the start of the second half when Forest were intent on playing ping pong with concrete boots, and then the awful moment when the usual void opened up in deep midfield and some bloke I've never heard of took the opportunity to ram a blistering shot past Darlo.

I don't remember much else, except a growing sense that this leaderless, loanless team were throwing away another game, that they weren't really a team at all, and that the gamble of hanging on with a depleted squad wasn't working. Again.

I remember thinking, I don't need to be doing this. There are a million better ways of spending my life than watching a series of wholly predictable defeats.

I could be taking my yacht across a choppy North Sea towards the Friesian Islands, where they still hunt black and white cows. Or I could sell my collection of Vermeers and spend my life sunning myself in St. Tropez. Or I could nip over to Crimea and storm the Russian guns in a glorious but futile cavalry charge. Or I could spend hours squealing like a stuck pig about my club's players, manager and owner, or even indulge in some spiteful, self-indulgent journalism about how my club lacks class. I could do all these things if I wanted to.

But I probably won't. I'll probably grit my teeth and end up watching Forest play Miserablebugger in the certain knowledge that we're going to play underwater football and lose, as surely as Sheffield Undead will lose to Charlton, or Wiggum will lose to ManCity.

It's just the way things are.

FOREST 1 WIGGUM 4
Paterson Various players

"Even with all our injuries, there's no excuse for that performance," said a good friend of ours. He was wrong. There's no getting past the first bit - with all our injuries. It's not an excuse, it's a fact. You can't just shove it under the carpet. What was left out there today wasn't good enough, was never going to be good enough. No amount of spirit, tactical awareness, organisation, whatever, could have whipped that side into anything resembling the real Forest team. Individually and collectively they were not a match for Wiggum.

We don't want to single out players, because every one of them did as much or as little as we expected them to do. A few of them can be good when they are surrounded by good players, but without Hobbs, the defence was a bit of a mess, without Reid, the creativity was haphazard, without Lansbury and Vaughan, the midfield was, shall we say, uncertain. These are statements of the obvious.

What is not obvious is what is going to happen now. It's not a simple matter at all, except perhaps to the simple minded.

First of all, we are tempted to say that the experiment of "hanging on" with a broken squad has failed, and is likely to continue failing. But then, the last two bad defeats have been against superior sides. Perhaps against weaker sides, like Barnsley and others, our players can keep us in the play off hunt. The trouble with this proposition is that it provides an excuse for not reinforcing - the keep hanging on until we get some players back approach which is fraught with danger.

We suspect, at the moment, that "hanging on" may be the order of the day for a while yet. Billy Davies' belief that he can forge winning teams from average players may be persuading him to go with what he's got. If this is the case, it's an enormous gamble.

"Oh well, next season we'll be better" seems to be a sentiment which is taking hold in many quarters now, and although we have enormous sympathy with that view (because of our rotten luck with injuries), we hope it isn't one shared by Billy or Fawaz or any of the players. We think that they think they can make the play offs, which is fine. It's what you would expect.

For the first time, today, we weren't so sure. We got the impression of demoralising drift. It was really unpleasant. In short, we would very much like to see reinforcements now. Yes, we want the moon on a stick. It doesn't have to be the best moon, or the best stick. Any moon, any stick will do.


We're not going to get it, are we?

KERPLUNK
SHY MOOR FOLK 3 FOREST 1
Various players Abdooon

Kerplunk? Well, you know the game - you pull "straws" out of a cylinder in the hope that marbles don't come kerplunking down to the bottom. Some complete bastard has been pulling Forest's best players out of the cylinder for a long time now, and yesterday's news that Reidy was missing was, almost literally, the last straw. The marbles well and truly came tumbling down.

Take Vaughan, Lansbury and Reid (and, it turned out, Majewski) out of the midfield, and you're left with not much. In that horrible first half, Jara looked reasonably assured when he had plenty of time, but went missing when things got critical. Moussi simply didn't know where he was in relation to anything - the world, Burnley, the opposition, the ball. He seemed to spend most of his time trying to kick an invisible dog. If the central midfield has gone awol, you should be able to rely on your full backs to step up and defend the flanks, but that didn't work either. Fox, seemingly disturbed by the abuse he got from the home fans, was dreadful. Halford's casual approach was exposed by an irritating left winger. Collins and Lascelles were left cruelly exposed almost from the beginning. They did their best, but they got no help at all. Up front, the Tourist was woefully ineffective - not entirely his fault, because a man who relies on defence splitting passes or sharp crosses was fed a diet of high balls from the back with no support from the middle. To be kind to him, like most strikers he's only as good as his providers, and his providers were hopeless. I presume Billy's idea was to play him up there to benefit from swift counter attacks, but there weren't any. Paterson did one or two things but ended up losing arguments with the touch line. Mackie lost his head early on, and never found it. Abdoun - "that hairy chap" as Missis Pie called him - did okay, in our opinion. He seemed to take things personally.

That first half, in short, was a heart breaking mess. By the end of it, players were blaming each other for their own mistakes, Burnley were taking the piss, and one particular knot of supporters not far away were hurling pretty vile abuse in all directions. One of them seemed to be claiming that Billy Davies was staring at him, challenging him to a fight. Various chants greeted the players as they exited the pitch below us. " We're Nottingham Forest, we're better than this," was the main one.

The second half was better, probably because Billy had threatened to kill anyone who let him down. But credit to the players, they fought hard to bring back some credibility, they fought hard to convince us all that this was, in fact, a Nottingham Forest side out there. Lascelles fired in two dangerous headers, one of which hit the bar. If Forest could have got an early goal, they could have rattled Burnley, but their attacks faded, and Burnley took over again. The Tourist was eventually taken off - perhaps he should be used as a sub - and Cox came on. The invisible dog was spared further harrassment when Moussi was replaced by Greening, reminding us all of how threadbare our midfied options had become (sorry Jonathan). Cox got his penalty, Abdoun scored at the second attempt. Paterson came to life and fizzed one close. Collins missed an easy chance. As someone said, if we had buried our chances in the second half, we could, ridiculously, have won. But it would have been ridiculous, especially bearing in mind the number of chances missed by the opposition.

At least they brought some pride back, and were applauded off. But our memories of that match will not be happy ones. They will be fuelled by resentment at all sorts of things - that terrible first half, that obese bloke scoring twice, Burnley being made to look so much better than they are, the sheer unfairness of that Bastard stealing all our best players. We can only console ourselves with the Kerplunk metaphor. Marbles may have fallen, but the game isn't over until they've all come down. There are still straws left, still more marbles to fall. Hopefully they won't all fall on us.


FOREST 2 BORG 2
Paterson, Reid (pen) Mistake, Dive

Here we go:

Leicester aren't particularly good. What they do have is the insistence of a heavy bowel movement. Talent wise, they are running very near empty. We've said this for a long time now, but we'll say it one last time. Leicester rely for their success almost entirely on opposition mistakes. They have to, because their strike force is poor. Nugent was living on memories of when he was average. Dyer was looked after with ease. Knockout pretended to look threatening but rarely delivered. Phillips was worse than Nugent. Their goals came not from good football but, typically, from mistakes. The first resulted from a mix up between two Forest kids. The second came from a laughable penalty decision. Even the penalty was saved, but then, as with the first goal, the ball broke, fortuitously, to a Leicester player, who scored.

Leicester fans will make much of their "ten man" heroics, after Konchesky was sent off for a vicious lunge at Mackie's ankle. But it didn't change much, to be honest, because Konchesky was useless enough to discard, and Leicester were always going to continue swarming. Leicester's plan b is exactly the same as their plan a - create the illusion of threat and hope for errors. They were rewarded by a silly mistake and a compliant referee. Once again they got away with it.


As for Forest, we feared for them when we saw the team. Six of our best players missing, for God's sake. And our last match was three days ago. But it was obvious early on that Billy and his team had not made the same mistake we had. We had been sucked into the myth that Leicester, at full strength, were too powerful for us, but we shouldn't have thought that, because Billy and his team were having none of it. Paterson made mincemeat of De Laet down the left and put in a telling shot, Mackie tortured them down the right to win a corner. Collins tested Schmeichel with a powerful header, and from the resulting corner a panicky Leicester defence scrambled it away for what should have been a third corner, but the ref, dismally, gave a goal kick.

Their goal came from a Wes Morgan hoof which should have spelt no danger, but Darlo and Lascelles managed somehow to cock it up between them. We don't really know who was primarily to blame. Darlo could have caught it inside his area, but his momentum would have taken him outside. Lascelles was trying to guard against players behind him, but didn't get out of the way of Darlo's punch. If Darlo had managed a clean punch, the danger would have been cleared. If Darlo hadn't come out, Lascelles would have had the devil's own job ushering it back to him. Perhaps the situation wouldn't have occurred if Lascelles, who had an uncertain night, had headed the long ball away in the first place. Perhaps Collins should have told him to do that. We could go on forever. We feared at the time that our defensive lack of authority was going to sink us. We made the same mistake, of overestimating Leicester and underestimating Forest, again.

A period of uncertainty passed without further punishment ( a poor shot from Knockout, a dive from Dyer, a lousy shot from Drinkwater were all Leicester could muster). Then Forest showed them what real talent could do. Leicester defended a couple of crosses inadequately, and a screwed clearance looped away to Paterson, who bulleted home a header from just inside the area. It was a stunning goal from a player whose talent stood head and shoulders above anything that Leicester had to offer. Not long later Mackie nicked the ball off Morgan who brought him down in true Wes fashion. Morgan was the last man, and prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity. He was visibly relieved when the ref showed him a yellow card. Reidy scored emphatically.

The rest of the match was a blur of end to end stuff during which Forest had as many chances as Leicester, but the quality of finishing from both sides lacked composure. Forest could have damped things down, but they lacked the experience to manage the match properly. It was remarkable, to be honest, how enthusiastically they kept going, considering all the crap that fate had thrown at them lately. Leicester ended up getting their extraordinarily soft penalty, and a brave Forest effort was denied victory.

Mistakes were made in this match, but the biggest was ours, and many others, in thinking that Forest might fear their opponents. Despite everything that has conspired against them this season, they will go to Burnley thinking they can win. They probably can, too.

FAC5: UNDEAD 3 FOREST 1
End of cup run. Learned nothing new. Undead fans still display their mindless incivility with apparent pride. Reidy is still trying to single-handedly compensate for the glaring weaknesses in our midfield. We still need strong characters in there, if only to share Reid's responsibilities. Lascelles is still far from the real deal without Hobbs. Doris isn't Darlo. Referees are still mostly dumbasses.

We are still in the biggest competition of all. Despite our weakness, we are still capable of matching the best this league has to offer. We are still closer to second than we are to seventh.

There are still sixteen regular games left. That's a third of a season. It's still too early to be chicken counting, but it's far too early to be fearing the worst. Leave the chicken counting to Leicester, and the fear to QPR, Derby and Burnley.

On Wednesday, Forest continue their promotion battle at home to Leicester. The Undead continue their relegation struggle away at Gillingham. Nothing new there. We look up, they look down. Life can be a bitch, if you let it.

UDDERSFEEL 0 FOREST 3
Paterson (2), Hendo

Approaching each Forest game these days is like carrying a dirty great big bag. This bag is stuffed with history, hopes, fears and preconceptions, and it is very heavy. Last night the weight of fear and preconception was enough to dislocate a shoulder or two.

We weren't looking forward to this one. The injuries to so many players, the less than convincing displays in the last two games, even the pressure of that fifteen match unbeaten run - all these things lay at the bottom of the bag like lead. Even if it was Fawaz Day, we thought, deep down, that we might struggle badly against Uddersfeel.

And during the first half, these fears didn't get any lighter. We were obviously the better side, but some problems old and new were beginning to dampen our enthusiasm. The final ball/strike problem seemed to be the worst, what with Cox plunging into another Season of Dearth with some woeful finishing, Reid and Majewski having unconvincing pops from distance, Reid reminding us that he hadn't been in the best of form lately with some misdirected crosses, and the Terrorist not really terrorising anybody very much. And despite some neat play in midfield, some sterling work at the back, and the enthusiastic backing of a noisy Forest contingent, the simple fact was that Uddersfeel were still in it, and anything could happen.

Simple enough to put the bag down at half time and give yourself a break, talk about how crap Derby and QPR had been, or persuade each other that there was only really one team in it, et cetera. But you daren't put it down because that's when it starts whispering. "We're not going to score, are we?" it would say. "And Uddersfeel are beginning to know this. And they'll grow in confidence. And one of those defensive blocks is going to loop over Darlo. And that will be that."

Just as everything gets heavier before it gets lighter, so did the bag. Moose didn't come back for the second half. He'd played okay for the most part, so he must be injured. We began to wonder how many injuries a club were allowed before they were declared dead. Uddersfield men kept flaying the ball wide from great distance, but you never knew. The Terrorist was put through by Reid, but lacked sharpness. Reid juggled himself into the box, but shot tamely.

Still, things were getting better. Reid was playing more accurate, more energetic football. His indifferent form seemed to fall away from him like ... a heavy bag. Our heavy bag sat just a little easier on the shoulder. Then, after about an hour, Reid clipped it to Fox who crossed a head high ball to the penalty spot where Paterson thumped it home with his head. Pandemonium. Even the jubilant Paterson pointed to his forehead, confirming our suspicions that he produced headers as rarely as Darlo.

Surely the bag would lighten even more now - but no. One nil was not enough. Instead, the bag grew a little heavier with the weight of anxiety. We'd been here before, and muffed it. As if to reinforce our fears, Paterson skied a great opportunity to make the game safe, and Reid gave him a gobful.

Uddersfeel threatened with a corner. Darlo grabbed it safely and punted the ball high upfield. Henderson, aware that Paterson was making a run beyond him, headed the ball into the path of the onrushing forward. Then what happened almost defied belief. Paterson could have shot with his left foot, but instead decided to wait for two Uddersfeel defenders to catch him up. Using their momentum against them, he switched inside on his right, cleared one defender, then another, and buried it in the far corner. It was even more remarkable than his first goal. It was just sublime. Almost unnoticed, the old kit bag of troubles slipped to the floor.

By the time Hendo's third, a neat finish from a horrendous Uddersfeel back pass, found the back of the net, the bag had been entirely forgotten. It probably lay there until some cleaner bundled it away with all the other rubbish.

We won't miss it. It was getting too heavy anyway. We'll have to get a new one, of course, but this time we're going to stuff it with hope and magic, which, as we all know, weigh next to nothing.

BLACKPOO 1 FOREST 1
That Lump Keogh Prince Jamaal Lascelles

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a decent central midfielder. Or two."

This is the famous opening line of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and it is testament to the vision of this doyenne of English letters that her words still ring true today. If she had been at Bloomfield Road...

Well for a start she wouldn't have been there, would she, because the conditions were shit. But if she had been, she would have seen a positive start by the famous team, who seemed intent on scaring the bejeesus out of a rocky Blackpoo defence. But she would have noted, after a while, that no goals were forthcoming, and she might have said to her companion, a dowdy girl of little consequence, "There is little in this world more dispiriting than unrewarded effort," and she would have been right. Forest's intentions, to take advantage of an insecure opposition and score early, began to dwindle, as indeed did the quality of the football. She would have been especially annoyed at the way Djebbour was virtually ignored, despite his intelligent positional play. Early on, Reid broke down the left, but instead of crossing to Djebbour, who had worked himself into an unmarked position in the centre of goal, proceeded to blast the ball into the stands, leaving Djebbour waving his arms in frustration. Mister Billy said that Djebbour lacked fitness and needed to come up to speed, but he might also admit that his other players should play him in more intelligently.

By the time Forest scored, paradoxically, they were beginning to show signs of losing control of the game in midfield. The goal came from a Reid cross, which dropped neatly onto Lascelles' shin. It was a good goal, scored at exactly the right time, but it was becoming obvious towards the end of the half that Blackpoo were beginning to gain confidence. As Miss Austen might have explained to her companion, a plain girl of little footballing experience, "If Forest do not score a second goal, the rest of the match will be bloody torture."

And she would have been right. After an initial burst of attacking intent, Forest allowed Blackpoo into the game once more. The problem, of course, was the midfield. The prevailing conditions pushed the midfield back onto the defence, and Moussi and Jara did not have the skill or the composure to play their way out of trouble, or to release counter attacks with any fluency, or to block off dangerous avenues. As Mister Billy said, the two of them have done well, but there is no doubt that they lack the guile of Lansbury and Vaughan. When Forest should have been retaining the ball, passing short from side to side, drawing fouls to relieve the pressure, they were hacking it away sloppily hoping it would break for their forwards but generally finding the opposition. Things could have gone badly wrong if Darlo and his defence had not been up to the mark. As Miss Austen might have said, to reassure her companion who was by now wetting her knickers, "There is nothing in this world which can unlock this defence," to which the witless girl might have replied, "Apart from its own crappy midfield."

It might have worked, this rather chaotic counter attacking ploy. For a start, Blackpoo's finishing efforts were a bit duff, and a fortunate break by Henderson led to a dangerous cross which Cox should really have converted. But that was it really. The Blackpoo goal, when it came, was a direct result of Forest's manic desire to get forward instead of killing the game with a bit of composure. Reid broke on the left, and, instead of slowing the game down, waiting for his team to regain shape, putting his foot on the ball, reviewing his options etc etc, he instead swept a floaty pass crossfield towards Paterson. The ball seemed to hold up in the wind, thus allowing a Blackpoo player to intercept it, drive forward, and cross to the lump Keogh who headed it past a helpless Darlo. It was a stupid goal to give away. A bit of thought would have prevented it, but thought was a rare commodity in that frantic end to the game.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a decent central midfielder. Or two," she would have concluded. "Without a quality replacement, the away games against Uddersfeel and Sheffield Undead will test us sorely."

She certainly knows what she is talking about. These next away games will put an enormous responsibility on the strikers and the defence, because the midfield is an unreliable quantity. A frustrated Miss Austen would have made her muddy way home from Bloomfield Road, scrupulously avoiding the local fleshpots, and dreamed of Prince Jamaal Lascelles in that striking kit, probably wishing that she had not been dead for a hundred and ninety six years.

FAC4 REPLAY
PRESTON NOB END (misprint) 0 FOREST 2
Mackie, Hendo

There was some fun to be had from this grim affair, though you had to work hard to find it.

The goals, of course, were what separated the two sides, both in terms of quality and the scoreline. Whilst Nob End's striking efforts were woeful, both Mackie's and Henderson's were surgical. Not fully-equipped-operating-theatre surgical, but battlefield surgical, involving makeshift instruments and lots of blood. The second goal was especially fun, as it bleached Grayson's face into a ghostly, currant-studded pasty.

It was fun, in a perverse way, to watch the Forest team trying to work out why they were so dreadful on the night. Lascelles was very good, as was Doris in goal, but everybody else pitched somewhere between ineffective and crap. Moussi had an especially wayward night. Off the back of two sterling performances, you would have expected him to play with growing assurance, but the other Moussi turned up instead - the one who resembles that doughnut thing on a pin-ball machine which pings the ball away at extravagant and not entirely predictable angles. He was only one of many who played poorly, of course, but with Vaughan and Lansbury out, Moussi will have an important part to play, and last night he reminded us of just how unreliable he can be.

Apart from that, there wasn't much fun. There rarely is against Nob End, or against Grayson teams, because both seem to harbour a surly resentment against Forest, or perhaps Billy. Kevin Davies put in his usual "I used to be a footballer now I just injure people" stint, and Garner slithered around like a muddy diving rat. There were a few wild shots, a few blocked scrambles, but although Nob End's midfield dominance may have seemed alarming, it was gained by players flooding forward, meeting a determined defence, then leaving themselves exposed to counter attack. Forest's counters didn't come off until added time, when a clumsy defensive mistake led to Henderson's spectacular goal and Grayson's pasty-faced curses.

Cup matches are often irrelevant to the league season, but this one probably wasn't. It served as a warning that without key players, especially without Vaughan and Lansbury, we're probably not good enough for automatic, and will probably have to scramble to secure a play off place. This lowering of expectations may be a good thing. On the other hand, winning seems to have become a habit it is going to be very difficult to break.

YOEIVL RATINGS
FOREST 3 YEVLOI 1
Some thug (og), Cox, Terroristcan't remember

We don't do player ratings, but if we did, they would go something like this:

Darlo
Not his best game. He didn't come to terms with being outgreened by the Yevloi kit, didn't show his usual athleticism when challenging the Yevilo scorer, and made a dangerously wank clearance when under pressure. Most of this could be put down to the hit and miss defending in front of him, and he did recover his composure later, making a smart save and some safe catches. His hair remained immaculate throughout, and his spitting was reasonably elegant for one so young. 6/10.

Prince Jamaal Lascelles
Not his best game. We don't think he will play his best game until he is partnered with the mighty Hobb, who will provide him with the confidence and assurance that Collins lacks. 6/10.

Collins
Don't get us wrong, Danny Collins is a fine player. It's just that he isn't the mighty Hobb. The mighty Hobb is bigger, stronger, and more authoritative than Collins, whose lapses tend to make other members of the defence a wee bit jittery - see Prince Jamaal Lascelles. 5/10.

Gonzo
A talented player who is comfortable on the ball, but whose vacant stare and slightly arrogant demeanour puts us in mind of an assassin we once knew. Occasionally, as in this match, his extravagant passes put his team mates in trouble. Overall, though, he's a very cool dude. 6/10.

Fox
An impressive debut. Somebody had obviously told him that the first responsibility of any Forest left back was to clean out an opponent, and he duly delivered. The best thing we can say about him is that he looked like he'd been playing for Forest for years. His facial hair, however, disturbs us. 7/10.

Moose
A good, muscular performance from Moussi. You can't help but love the guy, though his determination to dominate the entire world led, as it often does, to some bouts of positional chaos in midfield. We just have to hope that his strength and drive continues to outweigh some of the more random elements of his game. 7/10.

Lansbury
A decent performance overall. It seemed, in the early exchanges, that he was aiming to win the match single handed, but after a brilliant start he wandered off for a quiet smoke and thereafter blessed the proceedings with his clever contributions only occasionally. Needs a goal. 7/10.

Reidy
By his own high standards, a disappointing game. Perhaps he was a bit weary, but he conceded possession too much and couldn't consistently find those killer passes which the team depends on. Still, he never shirked responsibilty, never shied away from his playmaking role, and played his way through a difficult time. This is why we don't do player ratings, because they end up being completely unrepresentative of a player's long term contributions. Reidy will come good, as he always has. 6/10.

Paterson
Occasionally brilliant. He may flit in and out of the game like a piece of wind-blown litter, he may find himself outmuscled by opponents who weigh more that six stone, but give him a bit of room near the penalty area and he will terrify opponents. He terrified their thuggish defender into conceding an own goal and terrified the post later on. Stick with him, Billy, he's a gem. 8/10.

Mackie
Perhaps Jamie Mackie should be used as a sub. We don't know what was wrong with him today (perhaps it was his haircut) but he blew several good scoring chances. However, people who say he's not much of a footballer should cast their minds back to the Watford game, when he came on, paralysed the Watford defence with his relentless energy, and scored a brave header. Even in this match, his cut back to Cox led to Forest's second goal. He'll have better days. 5/10.

Cox
Simon Cox is coming good. He is a remarkably cool and clever footballer who is beginning to fulfil his goalscoring potential. We are always reminded of that match, last season, away at Hull, when Majewski crossed to Cox, who stretched mightily and saw his volley bounce back off the woodwork to Henderson, who drove it home. We'll never forget Cox's reaction - that "what do I have to do to score" sulk which quickly gave way to celebration with his team mates. It showed us just how much Cox wanted to score, and that appetite has never dimmed. At some point we dismissed Cox with the stupid criticism that he would "probably never score again". Well, how wrong we were, and how right Billy was to persevere with him. 7/10.

Henderson
Not in top form lately, but caused the usual flutters in Yevlio's defence. Always a troublesome substitute to throw into the blender. 5/10.

Harding
A decent enough player to bring on. Would be better if he weren't made of balsa wood. 5/10.

Djebbour
The Terrorist ran into three goalscoring positions and was rewarded by being ignored three times by team mates who blasted the ball into the sea. Finally, his predatory instincts got their reward when the ball ricocheted off the post and he scored three times, with his hand and his leg and his head. This took some doing. We have great hopes of this guy - he looks like the single minded finisher we have been waiting for. It was great to see the delight on his team mates' faces. Welcome to the City ground. 7/10.

Not a great performance, and the numbers mean absolutely nothing of course, but a reassuringly good victory against very green opponents. When you are below your best but still win, as they say, the world is your oyster. Whatever that means.

EPIPHANY
FOREST 4 WATFOR? 2
Cox (2), Hendo, Mackie some girl (2)

I've had an epiphany, Pie.

An Epiphany Pie?

It was during the game, Pie.

The Game Pie? You're confusing me Stress.

I had an epiphany during the game.

No you didn't. You don't even know what an epiphany is.

It's a moment of sudden and great revelation.

Are you sure? Are you sure it's not an almond-like nut, or a small cake topped with marzipan?

It came to me after Watford scored their second. I was full of doubt, Pie. So many things had gone wrong. We had missed sitters and Halford Wasn't Working and Watford were buzzing and their manager was yapping like a posh dog in a suit and they were two nil up and there was no way back from the wilderness...

That's usually where epiphanies happen, in wildernesses. Or on roads between places.

And that's exactly what happened, Pie. There I was, lost and forlorn in the wilderness, when lo there was a blinding light and there in front of me was a burning bus.

A burning bush, surely.

Exactly, Pie, a burning bush. And from the flames there came a voice, which said Have You No Faith? And I said How can I have faith when we are two nil down? And then within the flames of the burning bush there came the vision of Gonzo crossing and Moose heading and Cox sweeping home.
Have You No Faith? came the voice again, and again I replied, How can I have faith when the defence still looks dodgy and the manager has virtually admitted he picked the wrong team? And then within the flames of the burning bush there came the vision of Reidy skewing a cross of heavenly quality onto Hendo's head, and the scores were level.
Have You No Faith? came the voice a third time. And I said Okay, that's all very well, but a spirited draw isn't the stuff that promotion's made of, is it? And this time the flames roared higher and there came a vision of Jamie Mackie bravely nodding the ball home and charging insanely to the touchline to bump chests with Billy Davies. Three two.
Have You No Faith? came the voice, tinged with a bit of righteous anger this time, I thought. And I said A bit. And then there was Simon Cox sweeping home a fourth, and the flames boiled and the earth shook and Billy punched a hole in the air and Fawaz blew a kiss.
Have You No Faith?
I had to think about this one.
How can I have faith I said when the squad is still weak in vital areas, when we have signed a terrorist, a big French dude and a Fox, but have let slip two of our most influential players? What does the future hold without these men ?
And lo, there came a final vision in the flames, of the wide-eyed Vaughan and the mighty Hobb pledging their future to Forest, and I fell to my knees with the wonder of it all.
Banish all doubt, and have faith my son said the voice. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's fox, nor his ram, nor his ram's ass. Thou shalt hold thyself erect with pride, and thy flame shall burn for all eternity. .

And that was your epiphany, was it?

It certainly was, Pie.

Not just a conflation of the last couple of days' events fuelled by a drinking bout so intense it left you gagging in a bus shelter?

I have no recollection of these things, Pie. All I know is that my faith is strong.

Until Billy picks a crap team to play Yevoli, and our complacency smacks us hard across both cheeks.

You may mock me with your enormous doubting Thomas, Pie, but nothing can dim the glorious flame of my bush.

Unbelievable.

Indeed.

FOREST 4 BLACKBUrn 1
Lansbury (2pen), Paterson, Reidy Some bloke

What's it like going to watch Forest these days? I'll tell you what it's like. It's like when the electric kettle stops working properly and the wife says We need a new one and you say Hang on, I'll take a look at it, because that's the kind of thing men say. So you take a screwdriver (the one you use for everything, including taking bike tyres off), gaze at the kettle, dry its outside as thoroughly as you can, blow on it, plug it in, and...

There, that moment, that's what going to watch Forest is like. Anything could happen. The kettle could buzz angrily and explode, it could sit there glumly doing nothing at all, or it could quickly and happily come to the boil.

This match is particularly unpredictable, especially since important players are missing on both sides. But hey, it's time to stop worrying. Flick the switch, see if you've turned the kettle into a nuclear bomb.

Odd things happen immediately. Some defensive nonsense between Gonzo and Halford allows Gestede to fire one across goal, which is slightly worrying, even though later events reveal Gestede to be something of a paper tiger. Happily, Forest get on top quite quickly, and start playing the kind of football designed to make the opposition lose their composure, or their sanity, or their will to live. David Vaughan buzzes in a swirling, spitting shot from distance, watches the keeper uncomfortably slap it away, then goes back to fishing by his garden pond. Gonzo lays in an achingly beautiful ball to Paterson, who drills it across to Cox, who swipes it wide. Lansbury pushes on from midfield and drives hard and low, forcing the keeper, an increasingly worried-looking young man called Eastwood, to scramble it wide. The kettle is warming up nicely, but there are still no guarantees.

Then the goals come via two penalties from fouls committed, oddly, by the same player with two slightly different names. Hanley leans all over Lansbury, Lansbury hits the penalty so hard it actually goes through Eastwood, and it's one nil. Then the same player, now calling himself Henley and having shed a few pounds, brings down Paterson for penalty number two. Lansbury drives the ball with ferocious power, and Eastwood jumps out of the way. Everything starts to look comfortable.

And there's the problem. Everything starts to look comfortable, at least to the ears of Forest fans, is on a par with assurances like Don't worry, it's probably not poisonous. It's a sure sign that Forest will fall back, stop pressing, lose fifty fifties all over the place, and, as far as some players are concerned, disappear completely. The opposition will sense sloppiness and complacency, and probably score. As expected, Marshall scores a neat goal on 37 minutes, and even though Mackie has a sharp effort batted away, Forest's control has slipped.

It remains slipped after half time. Blackbum roll out plan B. Plan A was to fart around mindlessly and lose, but plan B is more subtle. It involves endless high balls (kicked or thrown) into the box, thus testing our replacement centre backs, with the added ingredient of Taylor throwing himself around like an angry rug in a desperate attempt to wangle a penalty. It nearly works. Halford and Collins keep them out, but with nowhere near the assurance of Hobbs and Lascelles. Harding starts to behave like an aggressive little dog. There is one jaw-dropping incident where Dann heads it across goal, Spurr helps it on, but Darlow materialises to claw it against the post like The Green Shadow. If that doesn't break their heart, you suspect, nothing will.

Blackbum become more desperate and more ragged. Lansbury intercepts a poor pass and once again tests Eastwood from range. The ball falls to Paterson, who clips a perfect little cross onto Cox's head. Cox, naturally, misses. Forest have to score. Two one is not secure. Another draw will not go down well with the natives.

The goal comes on 72 minutes. Reidy delivers the ball to Paterson, who starts skipping around and away from Blackbum defenders. He looks terribly insubstantial, like damp red paper flapping in the wind, but his strike is low and true and, for the fifth time in three matches, successful.

That really is it. No more worries now - except the one about Henderson going completely mad. But he manages to retain his sanity, even after Dann provokes him by breaking his wrist on his elbow, or something. No, all that's required now is the icing on the cake, and Reidy provides it with one of those peculiar shots which seems to be trying to pull in all possible directions at once, and ends up going as straight as an arrow into the top of the net.

There you are, you see, no problems. Fixed it, you say, as the kettle boils happily away.

No you haven't, says the wife. Getting it to boil wasn't the problem. The problem was it wouldn't turn off

And the kettle boils happily away, probably for ever.

NO GOOD WILL COME OF THIS PLACE
BOLN 1 FOREST 1
Some bastard Paterson

I really don't like the Reebok. It's like a temple dedicated to the god of damp. Honestly, if I had to turn up there every couple of weeks I think I'd kill myself. I don't remember ever winning there, or even being comfortable there. I've certainly never been warm there. It was supposed to be a bright, sunny day, wasn't it? Not at the Reebok it wasn't. It was raw and cold and increasingly overcast, and the seats were wet and too close together. All this was the stadium's fault. When they were building it, somebody probably said "No good will come of this place", and they were right.

I don't know, perhaps I was just in a bad mood, because row E, despite E being the fifth letter of the alphabet, was right at the front. Watching a match from pitch level is immensely frustrating when you're used to a higher vantage point. The action, at least the action beyond the half way line, gets squashed into a two dimensional muddle, like one of those miniature Victorian theatres with cardboard figures sliding across the stage. Trying to work out what was happening when Forest attacked in the first half depended almost entirely on the noise from behind and above us. I vaguely recall a Lascelles header forcing a save and Halford booming a header over, but everything at grass level was a blur of tangled legs.

Being so close to the pitch did have its advantages at our end though. It showed us, for example, just what a fantastic keeper Darlow is. We've been used to watching the young man from a fair distance, so that his efforts seem imbued with a kind of slow motion grace. Close up, the action is brutally and bewideringly fast, yet still Darlow performed with a strength and speed and elegance which was breathtakingly reassuring. Never mind the future, he should be playing for England now. Being close up showed other things too, like what a diver Beckford is, how inept Boln's finishing was, and how dominant Hobbs and Lascelles are. It also made us very suspicious of the pitch. We noticed that nobody was sliding in on tackles, nobody was slipping over, and there were no scrape marks or divots that we could see. The surface, apparently, is Desso Grassmaster, a combined grass/nylon weave used on many pitches nowadays (we checked). We only mention this because at one point, Lascelles tried to slide into a tackle but his studs caught in the binding surface, causing him to pull up short and jar his knee. For a moment or two he looked in serious trouble, but thankfully ran it off. An alarm like that, however, makes you question the playing surface, and the nature of the injuries sustained during the match. On the other hand, maybe I was just pissed off by the place itself.

I wasn't pissed off all the time. Paterson's goal at the beginning of the second half, for example, was a thing of simple beauty, a slice of quality pie amongst an awful lot of gristly rubbish. Cox's pass cut through the centre of their defence, and Paterson chipped it sublimely over an advancing keeper. That lad is a hell of a player when he is set free. Okay, he's no good in scuffles or when he is out-muscled, but give him a bit of freedom and he will terrorise defences with his skill and composure.

The rest of the match was a bit of a blur, I'm afraid, partly because of our position and partly because things got ridiculously scrappy. I remember a few things. I remember Mills being lucky to stay on the pitch after clattering Paterson more than once and elbowing Halford to the ground. I remember Cox winding up their goalkeeper by throwing the ball out for a goal kick. I remember Boln swarming towards the far end, endlessly taking advantage of Forest's frustration, abusing the referee, and booming shots, crosses and free kicks high into the far stand. I remember Hobbs going off, and Mills scoring, and wondering if there was some connection. I remember watching poor old Halford flailing around and thinking that the great striker experiment was drawing to a close. I remember the enormous weight of frustration as Forest failed to break out against a depleted defence which should have been there for the taking. The last thing I remember was us hitting the post, and Reidy firing in the rebound. I was sure we had scored, and I was already framing my reaction - you know, the take that, you miserable sods one - but the goalie saved it, and the match drifted to an elongated and niggly death.

It wasn't a pleasant experience. It was a valuable point, but I left hoping that Lichaj gets fit, we keep Hobbs, sign up Vaughan, and get a proper striker. Without them, there'll be too many spirited but infuriating draws.

It took thirty minutes to get out of the car park. I really don't like that place. No good will come of it, ever.

READING LADIES 1 FOREST 1
2 hrsHalford

There's nothing really new about a New Year, is there? Somebody spends a small country's GNP on fireworks, you wake up in a bush, and all that's really happened is that a digit has changed. The fireworks are the same, the bush is most likely the same, and everything starts happening again in very much the same order it did last year or the year before. It's called the Cycle of Predictability.

Forest have their own Cycle of Predictability, or rather several cycles, whirling along inside and around each other like bingo balls. It was predictable, for example, that after two great victories, Forest would cock up the chance of a third against a side so crap it virtually begged to be beaten. It was also predictable that after Halford's (predictable) goal (and what a beautiful header it was), Forest would squander gilt-edged chances with the kind of lunatic determination that would ensure a bumsqueaking finish. We've seen that particular scenario so many times, the suspicion creeps in that they're doing it on purpose. How ironic that the chief culprit, Mister Derbyshire, should have won the previous game with a world class strike, giving rise to the predictable cries of "Who needs a new striker?" Well, we do.

Predictably, without the second goal, Forest fell deeper (it is human nature, after all) and ended up giving away one too many free kicks. The Reading goal came after 5 minutes of added time, the five minutes having been added by a referee who seemed determined to keep playing until the home side scored. Nothing new there, and nothing new in the sad fact that Forest really only had themselves to blame. They could only salvage a draw from a match they should have won four nil.

And now, being the New Year, comes the biggest Cycle of Predictability of them all - the January transfer window. Forest seem to have come full circle on this one, with the team in a strong league position and Billy needing investment for "the final push". "I've been here before," says Billy - haven't we all - and the phrase #unfinished business becomes more than a silly tag line. Predictably, the digital community has already drawn up battle lines for the psychological war games to come, thus ensuring that whatever happens will be disfigured by the strident contribution of conspiracy theorists and agenda junkies. We would prefer to leave it to Billy and Fawaz. It's their "project", and, despite some inevitable mis-steps, they've not made a bad job of it so far. They've put enough pressure on themselves without the aforementioned "experts" adding to their load.

A New Year should mean renewed hope. We hope that this new year avoids the predictable disintegration of many recent ones. This year, perhaps we've woken up in a different bush.

FOREST 2 LEED 1
Halford, Derbyshire Some fluky sod

Eight minutes to go. Byram is slipped in unmarked on the right, puts in a nothing cross which Lascelles reaches deep in Forest's goalmouth to clear. His clearance strikes Darlow, and the ball bobbles invitingly to McCormack, who sweeps it into the net. The Leed fans erupt. The Forest fans mutter foul curses under their breath. Leed have equalised, with seven minutes to go.

Even intelligent people think there is a God of Football. Some call him Luck, others call him Chaos, they all know that he is fickle and spiteful. But they are wrong. There isn't a God of Football. There are many of them. They lurk unseen in the fabric of the game like lice. How the game goes depends not on the shifting mood of one God, but on which one of the many gods is currently having his fifteen seconds of fame.

So with seven minutes to go, the god of travesty is having his say. Forest fans mutter his many names - all of them four-letter words - as the Leed fans celebrate. The god of travesty grins slyly, relishing the unfairness of his intervention.

The gods were different in the first half. The god of thuggish intent had played his ugly tricks at the beginning, as Brown hammered Reid to the ground and got away with it. But he is a weak and stupid god, because his antics are predictable and can be manipulated by wiser heads. The Leed players' targeting of Reid led Brown to commit a foul too many on Reid. Brown was booked, and was neutered as a destructive force from then on. The free kick was swung across the Leed penalty area by Reid where it was met by Halford who towered above two or three Leed defenders to bury it in the net. The god of instant and satisfying revenge chuckled quietly beneath the roar of adulation.

Then came an exciting double act by the god of sublime football and his irritating sidekick the god of missed opportunities, two deities the Forest crowd are very familiar with. Reidy looped a peculiar shot over the bun-faced Kenny but it shaded the top of the bar. Mackie squirmed his way into the area and set up Abdoun, whose shot was blocked, as his shots so often are. Mackie did well to turn and run at the Leed defence, but with Abdoun available, Mackie's shot flew high and over, as his shots so often do. A cutback from Abdoun reached no-one. Another cross from Abdoun reached Mackie, who skewed it badly wide. By this time the gods of sublime football and missed opportunities were just having a laugh, and skittered off into the twilight as the half ended.

Forest crowds have become very sensitive to these situations. You could feel, in the second half, a certain tension, and the old mutterings of "we're going to regret those missed opportunities" began to surface. The football wasn't as good. The lack of a Vaughan, the inability of the midfield to keep pressing and the forward players' inability to hold the ball quietened the atmosphere. Leed were getting too much of the play. But still, they seemed to be presenting little threat. They had not had a shot on goal, McCormack had been shackled, the Forest defence had put in another masterly display. There seemed little chance that the god of travesty would make an appearance today. In fact, the only supernatural agency who seemed to be around with nine minutes to go was Reidy's own personal god, the one that inspired him to crack a beauty past the bun faced Kenny onto the post. Nobody could have foreseen that the real influence - the god of tired complacency - would play his cruel hand with the match seemingly won.

Eight minutes to go. Byram is slipped in unmarked on the right, puts in a nothing cross which Lascelles reaches deep in Forest's goalmouth to clear. His clearances strikes Darlow, and the ball bobbles invitingly to McCormack, who sweeps it into the net. The Leed fans erupt. The Forest fans mutter foul curses under their breath. Leed have equalised, with seven minutes to go.

So with seven minutes to go, the god of travesty is having his say. Forest fans mutter his many names - all of them four-letter words - as the Leed fans celebrate. The god of travesty grins slyly, relishing the unfairness of his intervention.

But there is one god left, the rarest of the lot, to make an appearance. He is the god of exquisite justice, and he comes trailing clouds of glory.

Lansbury receives the ball from the re-start. He plays it through to Chalobah, who glides it on to Derbyshire. Derbyshire is twenty odd yards from goal and being closed down by a Leed defender. But before the defender can intervene, Derbyshire lets rip with a ferocity which lifts him off his feet. The ball flies into the top corner, past the desparing dive of the bun-faced Kenny. It is an astounding goal, a world class goal, and the City Ground almost bursts itself with joy.

The god of exquisite justice roars his bloody socks off, sticks around as Forest close out the match, and lingers into the cold Nottingham evening.

Forest are fifth, five points off second place. Vaughan will be back soon. Forest will strengthen in January. The gods, as they say, are smiling.

BOREMINGHAM 0 FOREST 0

What actually happened was this: Henderson brutally tackled Robinson to the ground, hauled him to his feet, bear-hugged him, bit a large chunk out of Robinson's lower jaw, then slyly disinfected and sutured the gaping wound so expertly that not a sign of trauma was left.

No it wasn't. What actually happened was that Henderson brutally tackled Robinson to the ground, bear-hugged him, bit his right ear clean off, swallowed it, slyly grew another ear on the back of a mouse and expertly transplanted it to erase all evidence of trauma.

No. What happened was that Henderson brutally tackled Robinson to the ground, hauled him to his feet, bear-hugged him, then whispered into his ear a stream of vile innuendo which left Robinson in a state of psychological disintegration so severe he will probably never fully recover.

Other things happened in the match too, but they are of little real importance. Forest started brightly enough, but allowed the momentum to swing away from them and somehow managed, as Forest do these days, to make the opposition look better than they actually were. The first half bubbled along like a large pan of stewed cabbage. Nobody played particularly well, except for The Impressive Darlo and that Burke guy. Zigic was just a joke - one of those really long jokes you wish would end because you badly need to go to the toilet.

The other thing that happened was that in the second half Forest played much better, pressed more aggressively, began to look more threatening, and, having dispensed with the services of Harding, cut out the influence of the marauding Burke. The fact that Forest's improvement scared the crap out of Boremingham and its fans and roused the Forest support to tumultuous sing song should, however, go unreported, as it was of no importance. What was important was the fully justified sending off of Henderson for acts of mediaeval depravity. It's also important to praise the composure of the referee, whose leniency towards the Birmingham player who hacked down Mackie not long afterwards showed a commendable ability to defuse an explosive situation. It was heartwarming to hear the crowd's appreciation of his courage as he left the field.

An odd, but wholly unimportant point, was that Forest were even better with ten men. They play better when they get angry. Unimportant, except in the sense that Billy's "siege mentality" has probably turned them all into poison-headed psychopaths. Yes, that's it. Billy has turned our beloved team into a nest of demented assassins. Once the F.A. get wind of this, Forest could find themselves in big trouble. Nurturing a culture which condones the casual slaughter of innocents is still against the law in this country.

Anyway, the same old conclusions can be drawn from this match. Forest miss Cohen badly (each match shows what a tremendous player and captain he had become). Forest badly need a hungry striker - one who would eat an opponent's head to get a goal. We're getting a bit tired of Cox's laid-back professionalism. We need a lot more vigour up front, preferably of the darting and slightly lunatic kind. The midfield isn't firing properly still, but Vaughan's got to be allowed the time to settle in there, and it still hasn't got a focus for its attacks (neither Cox nor Mackie fulfilling that role, and Henderson away mugging strangers in car parks probably ).

But this, being football related, is wholly unimportant, we know. You'd rather we made sneering remarks about the club and used epic phrases like The Heart Of Darkness ot The Perfect Storm or some such tosh. Well, sorry, we can't. It's Christmas, for God's sake. May you have a merry one, and, over this special season of the year, may you receive exactly what you dish out to others.

FOREST 0 DIPSWITCH 0

That match was a metaphor for Life. It began full of promise, offered a few brief glimmerings of hope, quickly resolved itself into a fog of chaos and decay, and left the stage with barely a whimper. The thing you have to realise about Life is that most of it is wrong.

Everything about the match was wrong. The build up was a series of barely-interested comments and an oddly staged interview from Billy which blurred everybody's focus on the upcoming event. The team selection seemed odd to us. Lansbury is wasted in a deep lying role. Jara should have been playing. Chalobah brings a kind of feverish uncertainty to midfield. Nothing really gelled, there was barely any fluidity at all. And where the hell is Vaughan?

The good bits were at a premium, and even the good bits were tainted by wrongness. Abdoun looked menacing in the first half, but spent the second half flopping to the ground like a rag doll. His efforts to convince the referee he was being persistently fouled failed on two counts: they were not very convincing, and the ref had by then shown he was reluctant to give Forest anything. Cox looked good in parts, should probably have won a penalty and sent a header onto the crossbar via Gherkin's fingers, but missed what appeared to be a sitter. Lansbury drove forward a couple of times in the second half with the kind of exhilarating energy that used to be provided by the sorely missed Cohen, but spent most of the match lying too deep and charging around with aimless enthusiasm. Reidy produced one dangerous cross, but many of his passes were floatily predictable. Chalobah seemed to be playing for some other team, one generated in his own imagination. In short, the midfield rarely exerted pressure, or provided those fluent, driving passages of play we used to expect. It just didn't work. It was wrong.

The ref was wrong, too, strutting around like some Stores Clerk tracking down stolen paper clips, driving the Forest players into a sulky display of agitated (and unprofessional) impotence. It would be convenient to blame the ref for Forest's lack of success, but to be honest they didn't do enough to help themselves. Dipswitch were there for the taking. Forest couldn't muster up the quality or ruthlessness to take them.

Nothing, however, was much wronger than Dipswitch. They were genuinely, horribly poor. They were like a herd of cattle so desperately aware of their own limitations that they were actually looking forward to being slaughtered. The fact that there were times during the second half when they appeared to boss the match was testament not to their quality but to Forest's chaotically stupid determination to keep giving them hope.

Anyway, it wasn't good. Saying we bagged a point and we're still seventh and still in touch can't hide the fact that, at the moment, the engine is misfiring. Cohen is missed more than we imagined he would be. Lansbury is being wasted deep. The Vaughan-less (or at least Jara-less) midfield has reverted to muddle. That's the way we see it anyway.

Life may be disappointing, but, being driven by chaos, can also produce surprises. A chaotic win at Boremingham would cheer everybody up for Christmas, and restore the notion that hope is not a romantic by-product of existence, but its whole point.

WENDIES 0 FOREST 1
Cox

This was one of those matches which we will forget quite quickly, not because it was a fairly grisly affair, which it was, but because we felt somehow short changed. It was like that Christmas parcel which you tear open in feverish expectation, and a minute later you're grinning and saying "You can never have enough socks". This match was a pair of socks, when it could have been something exciting, like a wall-sized tv, or a gun.

We were looking forward to this because the Wendies had become a real test, having accelerated Leicester's inevitable decline in midweek, and having a team which read like a catalogue of dangerous exotic veneers - Semedo, Loovens, Olofinjana, Nuhiu, Maghoma. They sounded a threatening bunch. But we suspected that Billy would play the unpredictable card and attack them until they were dead, just to teach the world a lesson.

Things didn't quite work out like that. Atdhe Nuhiu looked dangerous early on until everybody realised his name was Albanian for Death Onion, after which his influence faded. Connor Wickham had a few shots for comic effect, and Semedo looked okay, but overall Wendies were as disappointing as that pair of socks. The really sad thing, however, was that it took so long for Forest to realise this. If Forest had given them less respect, the result could have been embarrassing for them. As it was, recent absences and results have made Billy cautious, probably understandably, and Forest played as if a clean sheet was their priority.

Billy said afterwards that Forest "stood up to the test". Well, to be honest, the only test we saw seemed to be the one of Forest's own making. Darlow was getting so bored at one point that he passed the ball to Death Onion, then pounced cat-like on the Albanian's poor touch. And later, when Wendies finally got desperate, it looked suspiciously like the whole Forest team was involved in some high-stakes defensive exercise, which involved a high quality midfield repeatedly giving the ball away as if they meant to. A Conspiracy Theorist might suggest that Billy had instructed his players to make it look hard, because he'd already scripted his post match interview and he needed them to justify his cautious approach, but that, as you know, would be silly. Anyway, whatever the motivation and whatever the tactics, we left happy but slightly miffed that neither side had managed to display much quality.

There were good things, of course. Cox's goal was the result of one of the few bits of quality in the match. The ball swung from side to side, leaving Halford free on the right. His flat cross ran beyond Mackie who was running interference and reached Cox who swept it into the goal. It was one of those sublimely simple moves that made you wonder why Forest couldn't replicate it and score a dozen. It was good to see Cox maintaining his scoring burst, although his new found greediness squandered a couple of goal-scoring chances for his team mates. It was good to see Lascelles developing into a first rate centre back, though his burning determination to succeed in that position can lead to some reckless decisions. It was amusing to see the referee maintain the tradition of being bone-headedly stupid at key moments. It was reassuring to realise that we could have won three nil had the ref been inclined to used what remained of his brain. And perhaps Billy's approach was justified when you look at the other results in this crackpot league. With this "hard won" three points, we took three points off Leicester, Reading and Blackpoo, and two points off Leed and QPR, to leave us 5th, 8 points off the top teams. Not a bad day's work in the end. We only hope that Vaughan is back soon.

You can never, as they say, have too many socks.

MEWO 2 FOREST 2
Two blokes Reidy, Chalobah

Sticky Times continue for Forest, after Billy Davies continued his one man demolition of the club in this pulsating mess of a match at the New Den. The controversial Glaswegian was, according to sources near the club, solely responsible for a horrendous injury list which left his side weakened and disjointed and unable to dominate Steve Lomas's cheap and cheerful East End battlers.

The desperately low morale of the Forest side was evident after only six minutes, when Henry Lansbury's wayward drive appeared to be a swipe at the coaching methods of under fire manager Davies. It came as no surprise when, minutes later, unsettled American Eric Lichaj's weak header presented a chance to Mewo star Steve Morison, whose half volley zipped past Karl Darlow in the Forest goal. Davies later described Lichaj as a "sloppy player" in a typically intemperate rant, possibly indicative of his increasingly desperate struggle to impose his authority on a disillusioned dressing room.

Mewo continued to press, buoyed by the abject response of a Forest team rendered clueless, it would appear, by Davies' tactical ignorance. The Scottish firebrand's malign influence could be seen most vividly in the performance of Chelsea and England starlet Nathaniel Chalobah, whose wasteful concession of the ball nearly led to a Mewo second. Chalobah is reportedly unhappy at Davies' Forest, and Davies has hit back by describing Chalobah as "needing time to adjust".

After being denied a stonewall penalty by a blatantly biased referee, Mewo were rocked by a Forest equaliser. Irish international Andy Reid, reportedly unhappy at Davies' refusal to offer him a contract, lashed angrily at the ball and watched it sneak into the bottom corner of David Forde's net. This led to a brief period of Forest pressure which ended with a weak shot from Mackie, whose scoring record under Davies has been disappointing.

The second half saw Mewo wrest back the advantage from their expensively assembled opponents with a smart goal from bargain basement man Martin Woolford, though their joy was short lived when out of contract Reid swung in a corner onto the head of Chalobah and the frustrated Chelsea starlet planted it into the net.

Davies sent on forwards Matt Derbyshire and Djamal Abdoun in a frenzied attempt to waste time, but, apart from yet another unfathomable penalty denial from a stubbornly prejudiced referee, there was no further goalmouth action in a match which tested the Glaswegian's managerial credentials to breaking point. His extraordinary confrontation with a match photographer was ample evidence of his loss of control, both of his team's performance and, perhaps, his own peace of mind.

Forest fans were displeased by their team's display, but most criticism was reserved for their under fire manager. "I've been supporting Forest since before my operation," said one lifelong supporter, "but I don't think I've seen a worse Forest performance in my life. The sooner we get rid of this poisonous little man the better for all of us. Ian Hologram's the man for me. At least he'd bring us some stability, with his bucolic humour."

Irish international Andy Reid reflected the turmoil at Forest when his post match comments bore all the hallmarks of a pre-scripted Davies' response:
“We’re disappointed not to have won the game but we showed a lot of resilience to fight back twice," said the grudgingly coached midfielder. "Millwall make it really difficult but at times I thought we played some great football. Their second goal was crucial but the lads showed good spirit to hit back. We’re relatively happy with a draw and we might look back on this as an excellent point come the end of the season.”

Forest lie a lowly seventh in the Championship, with games running out as fast as owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi's patience.


see also:

"DAVIES STOLE MY BONE" CLAIMS BROWN DOG
BILLY DAVIES RESPONSIBLE FOR SHIT WEATHER
DAVIES ALMOST ASSAULTS PHOTOGRAPHER
BILLY DAVIES ADMITS ALIEN FOREFATHERS
DAVIES ACCUSED OF BEING "SMALL"
"I KNOW BILLY DAVIES" ADMITS PERSON.

SUPERNOODLES
FOREST 2 READING LADIES 3

Cox, Hendo Three blokes

Before we settle down to analyse this latest setback in Forest's rise to world domination, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk to you about the merits of Batchelor's Supernoodles. Batchelor's Supernoodles are a flavoursome, wheat-based snack which can be enjoyed at any time of the day. They are simplicity itself to prepare - place the noodles in simmering water, mix in the flavouring powder, and in four short minutes you have yourself a mouthwatering bowl of hot, delicious noodles. There is a wide variety of flavours - from Chicken and Mushroom to Prawn Cocktail - but whatever you choose, you can be assured that Batchelor's Supernoodles will not disappoint. Batchelor's Supernoodles - everybody's favourite. Try them today.

What the hell are you doing?

I'm talking about Batchelor's Supernoodles. I'd have thought that was pretty obvious, from the various mentions of Batchelor's Supernoodles.

Yes, but why?

Because I like them. Except for Peppered Steak, which is really just pepper, and for some reason congeals into a sticky ball much more readily than any other flavour. I am suspicious of Peppered Steak.

But this is a football site.

It may be a football site to you, Pie, but to me, it is a window of opportunity. Why should we restrict ourselves to football, or indeed to Forest? There are plenty of Forest blogs and forums and twitter sites out there who seem to know a lot more than we do, and present their views with that belching viciousness which is all the rage these days. So I thought the best way to do battle with the Digital Idiocracy is to ignore them and discuss something more interesting.

But you've got to say something about the match.

I do? Very well. Forest started off playing like a bag of slack, went two down, then played liked the Divine Wind, equalised, then lost to a strike which went through our goalkeeper, thus showing several levels of incontinence within the same game. Various reasons have been advanced for this incontinence: the lack of a Vaughan, the shiteness of our players, Billy Davies' impenetrably secret and vengeful plan to injure all our players and never replace them, the need for a decent scapegoat, the unavailability of wheat based snacks, the inherent evilness of Fridays. Take your pick. The simple truth is that in this match, as in so many others, the teams are so closely matched that the winning/losing bit becomes the stuff of lottery.

Is that it?

Unless you want me to spin you a yarn of repetitive excuses, yes. And while you are musing over this latest setback in Forest's rise to world domination, let me take this opportunity to discuss the merits of Batchelor's Supernoodles, specifically the BBQ Beef flavour, of which I have just partook myself...

Wait a minute.

What?

I know what you're up to. All this guff about Batchelor's Supernoodles is just a ploy to distract me from the bet we made. You owe me fifty quid.

I recall no such wager, Pie.

Yes you do. You bet me fifty quid that Forest would beat Reading, and you were wrong.

I recall a bet being refused with the words "Well, I'm no betting man". Forgive me, but "I'm no betting man" suggests that you declined the opportunity.

Well, I...

Tell you what, Pie. To satisfy everybody's honour, I'll bet you my remaining fifteen packets of Batchelor's Supernoodles that Derby beat Wigan this very afternoon. What do you say?

What the hell do I want with fifteen packets of Batchelor's Supernoodles?

How can you refuse the chance to win fifteen packets of the country's favourite multi-flavoured wheat based snack? Besides, I can't eat them all. And the BBQ Beef one is lying on my stomach like a ball of tripe. Perhaps Peppered Steak and BBQ Beef are ones to avoid.

You're an arsehole, Stress, but not as big as the one you're going to have after thirty packets of those bloody noodles. Wigan 1 Derby 3. Well done sir. Happy eating.

HYPERBOLIC
FOREST 1 SHYMOORFOLK 1

Cox Some bloke, pen.

Well I call that performance magnificent, Pie.

Really Stress? Magnificent? I don't think so. Sparkling at times, hugely competent throughout, committed, intelligent, confident - all these things, but magnificent is a little over the top.

Oh come on, Pie. Considering that Bunley were top of the table and a weakened Forest never gave them a sniff and Hobbs was sick and Reidy was missing and their only goal was a dodgy penalty ... that's magnificent in my book.

No, Stress. It would have been magnificent had Bunley played to their table-topping credentials, but as it was they were surprisingly disappointing.

Because Forest stopped them playing, that's why.

Which wasn't too difficult, was it? Bunley were a neat and well organised outfit, but no better than a dozen other teams in the league. They certainly didn't have the talent or the energy to keep the ball or close down the opposition effectively. They didn't seem as confident as their reputation suggested they would be.

Because Forest outplayed them, that's why.

Of course they did. I'm simply saying you shouldn't get carried away by a drawn game against a disappointing opposition.

God you're a miserable bugger Pie.

I'm neither miserable nor a bugger, Stress. I'm an optimist. I thought the team performance was promising. I thought individual performances were promising. But I will not indulge in the kind of hyperbolic misrepresentation you fall prey to.

Same old Pie - trying to cover up your grumpitude with real words. Okay then, what about the players? What about Hobbs, who was obviously suffering throughout the match yet put in a heroic performance?

A brave performance, but heavily reliant on Lascelles, who put in a sterling effort at the back.

Or Cohen, pumping his fist like Psycho and trying to carry on with one leg?

Inspiring, yes, but still too eager to leave his defensive duties uncovered.

Or Gonzo, who's really looking the part now, eh?

A very classy player indeed, but not as defensively secure as Vaughan.

Paterson, who crossed perfectly for Cox's goal?

Again, promising, but needs feeding up a bit. As for the others, Lansbury is a top player but needs to rediscover his anger, Lichaj remains a secure and ambitious right back, Chalobah was surprisingly good but only because Forest were completely on top, Majic was competent but continues to lack the confidence to penetrate, Mackie is turning out to be a more skilful and dangerous player than I expected, Cox is starting to score goals but one wonders whether the run will continue. All very, very promising. But magnificent? Heroic? I don't think so.

Oh dear, and there's me getting all excited again. Thank you, Pie, for reminding me that Forest are merely promising. Thank you for bringing me back down to the muddy track of reality. I mean, that's what being a fan is all about, isn't it? The refusal to give credit, the fear of hoping too much, the soulless dismissal of dreams. Play it safe, eh Pie? Always play it safe.

It's the best way, Stress.

No, Pie. It's the safe way, that's all. It's the way which says we'll lose to Reading Ladies, because to predict a win would be dangerous. Well let me tell you, Pie, I've seen enough to be sure that we'll beat Reading. I have no doubts about that. We'll play magnificently, heroically, brilliantly, and we'll beat them. Fifty quid on it. What do you say?

Well, I'm not a betting man....

You are now. Fifty quid says the hyperbollocks will win, because we're that good.

DÉJÀ VU
BORG 0 FOREST 2
Cox, Mackie

The Déjà Vu bit relates to last year's corresponding fixture, when Forest went to their place and snatched a 2-2 draw. You may remember that we produced a report for the game which maintained that, despite the prevalent view, Forest had not been "lucky" at all - that Leicester's two goals (Nugent's flick and the own goal from Dyer's cross) were flukes, and that Leicester failed to win because they played an unimaginative, low-skill, "swarming" game which depended almost entirely on forcing the opposition into making mistakes. A lot of people poured scorn on the report, dismissing it as red-eyed rubbish. Those people, perhaps, shouldn't read any further...

...because yesterday's game vindicated our views completely. Leicester fans will whine endlessly about how unlucky they were in front of goal, but on closer examination their misfortune was down to lousy finishing, stern defending, and a deficit of the kind of fluky breaks they so badly rely on.

Chance 1: After a bit of unconvincing ball play by Schlupp, Knockaert lines up a left foot curler from just outside the D. It floats hopelessly wide. Perhaps it shouldn't be classed as a chance at all.
Chance 2: A debatable free kick is taken by Knockaert and headed goalwards by a poorly marked Nugent. Darlow makes a flying save which looks spectacular but is fairly routine. All Darlow's saves are "flying". It is a result of athletic over-compensation. Nugent adopts his "hard done by" pose for any passing cameras.
Chance 3: Knockaert flukes his way to the by-line (yes he does) and crosses for Dyer, who miscontrols it. No surprise there. Dyer is a master of miscontrol. He plonks it into the side netting.
Chance 4: Another Knockaert free kick sees a poorly marked Nugent head over the bar. To be fair to him, he was never quite above the ball, so when he executed his nod, the ball hit him just above the forehead and headed upwards. The poor fellow perhaps couldn't jump high enough, a bit like perhaps he can't run fast enough. Perhaps he's just more at home with lucky slices than clear cut chances. His "hard done by" pose has now become the slightly vacant expression of a man failing to come to terms with his own limitations.
Chance 5: A throw in bounces dangerously in the penalty area and Schlupp fashions a screwed overhead kick which goes wide. If he'd got it right he'd probably have hit one of three Forest defenders in the face.
Chance 6: Schlupp pulls it back for Nugent, who hits the ball with what appears to be a wet foot, and it is blocked by Lascelles. Nothing lucky here, just proper, spirited defending. Nugent looks more and more like a man who needs a decent shave.

And that was it, for the first half. Except that between chances 4 and 6, Forest scored two goals. Billy Davies said they had been working hard all week on countering Leicester's strengths and exploiting their weaknesses. The weaknesses, it turned out, were on Leicester's left, where Konchesky and Dyer displayed less positional discipline than a bucket of fish. The first goal came when Lansbury slung a ball out to Jara, who had strayed up Leicester's left almost unnoticed. Jara danced around with it for a bit like an animated traffic director, then slid it in to Paterson. Paterson bounced it back to Vaughan on the line, and Vaughan gave it to Reid. Forest players were collecting like wasps over on Leicester's left, and the sting came with Reidy's perfect through ball to release Paterson into the box. Paterson skipped past one man, drove it into a falling defender, the ball rolled free, Schmeichel pawed at the ball like a man looking for his glasses, Mackie's boot forced the ball to Cox, whose side footed effort clipped another defender on its way into the back of the net. If the goal was scrappy, the scrappiness didn't come from Forest. While the Leicester defenders were flying across goal falling over each other, there was more intelligence and quick thinking in that Forest move than anything Leicester managed in ninety minutes.

And not long afterwards it happened again. Again it happened down Leicester's left. Hadn't they learned anything? Jara (again) darted the ball to an unmarked Reid (again) who played a delicious ball to put Lansbury through in the vacant plot of the penalty area (again). Lansbury hit it sweetly and Schmeichel was happy to bat it out for a corner. Reidy's corner was aimed for Lascelles, who made it his job both to reach the ball and dismantle two Leicester defenders in the process. The ball fell to Lansbury, whose drive was cleared off the line and reached Mackie, who smashed it into the top of the net past the famous Schmeichel starfish. It should be noted that Mackie had, a second earlier, been wiped out by a Leicester defender, but unlike a Knockaert or a Nugent or several other of our blue shirted brethren, he did not writhe like a split worm or make whiny appeals to the ref. He just jumped up and scored a smart goal. Once more, the goal left several Leicester defenders on their arses, and once more demonstrated a sharpness and intelligence that Leicester would never match.

The second half was a masterclass of defensive corralling, variously described as "shit football" by the Leicester faithless because it exposed the gruesomely unimaginative play of their favourites. Their only meaningful response was to manufacture a penalty, which Nugent drove over the bar with a final, disdainful flourish of incompetence. This time he covered his designer stubble with his shirt.

The "shit football" that Forest played was, to us, a joy to behold. Only since Vaughan's arrival has the team been capable of such defensive resolution. The bad old days of charging about leaving gaping holes in midfield seem to have gone. Here is a defensive sternness and a team spirit that can be built on. We loved every minute of it. We loved the way Leicester were frustrated into weary resignation. A last flurry, involving the Enormous Threat called Taylor Fletcher, came to nothing.

We loved it so much, we almost convinced ourselves that our problems were solved. But that would be stupid. It would signify that Leicester were tougher opponents than they actually were. It would spring the trap of smugness which Pearson and his boys have already fallen into. It would signal the kind of complacent denial you can find on the Leicester forums, and we really don't need any of that. Neediness is not a Forest trait.

It was, in the end, just three points. What made it special was not that it was against Leicester, but simply the fact that it wasn't lucky. Again.

FOREST 0 BLACKPOO 1
Some turd

It was such a pity, that sending off. Not because Abdoun didn't deserve it - he did, though questions as to why an attacking left winger was doing his business in his own penalty area remain.

No, the pity is that the match was not, in the end, a true test of this new Forest line up. We've been saying for weeks, like you probably, that Forest's midfield, in its chaotic attempt to come to terms with Guedioura's departure, needed some old fashioned solidity. After a few lame excuses about its being everybody's job to defend, Billy's signing of Vaughan was an admission that things weren't working, that a more common sense approach was needed. And pairing Vaughan and Jara in midfield actually worked. The pair of them effectively plugged the hole in midfield, preventing Blackpoo coursing through the middle as too many teams had done previously. They produced both a shield for the defence and a decent platform for the attack. The pity was that this configuration wasn't given the chance to fulfil its promise, as defensive duties took priority after Abdoun's dismissal.

So things worked well in that first half hour, at least in the base of the team. The trouble came further forward. Mackie and Abdoun performed quite well on the wings, but their efforts bore little fruit because Forest displayed little or no sharpness where it counted. Presumably Lansbury and Henderson were our main goal scoring threats, but Lansbury rarely had the chance to get properly angry, and poor old Henderson became increasingly hopeless. We don't think Reid instead of Abdoun would have made much difference, at least not as a provider. Reid's efforts over the last weeks have not been exactly fruitful. No, the problem is not the provision of chances, it's the conversion. The fact that everybody knows we need a good striker, including the manager, must be weighing heavily on Henderson and Cox, who aren't coping with the pressure well at all.

Still, with eleven men we could have won it. We might have looked less swashbuckling and a bit dull up front, but we were creating enough pressure to suggest that, given a fair break, we could have forced one in. If Mackie had collected Abdoun's cross; if Lansbury could have connected better after a smart move on the right; if Henderson's penalty claim had been upheld (as well it might, with McKenzie's arm easing him downwards); if Cohen's fizzer had crept in at the base of the post; if Jara could have kept his shot down after retrieving the ball from an impossible situation; if Mackie, after one last tremendous surge goalwards, had had the energy left to compose himself properly; in short, if the Lords of Chaos had smiled on us just once, we could have won that.

As it was, the Lords of Chaos smiled on Blackpoo. Their performance didn't really merit that goal. They were a distinctly average outfit, even duller than Forest up front, and never looked like getting the better of ten men. And when their goal came, it resulted from the kind of chaotic muddle that lucky sides take advantage of. Lucky? Yes. When the ball was headed down, Tyson was active (it came to him) and off side. Having checked the highlights, we have no doubt about that.

We are not stupid. We know how it felt when their goal went in - that horrible feeling of a cold finger brushing against your heart. We are also aware that, over these last weeks, some invisible tide seems to have turned against Forest. We would heartily wish that some of the bullish hyperbole spawned by earlier successes had been left unsaid. We know that, as with all teams in this division, manager and teams make mistakes. But we are intelligent enough to know that tides turn, that this defeat was not a catastrophe, nor the beginning of some plunging downward spiral, and that to react with poisonous negativity is the prerogative only of the faint hearted lurker.

It seems to us that we are resettling, lowering some of our more outlandish expectations, letting pragmatism replace the more extravagant, gung-ho approach since that Wiggum defeat. It's as if we've finally settled in the real world. It's about time.

YELIVO 3 FOREST 1
Various fellows Chalobah

There are various methods you can use to deal with rubbish like this. Here is a selection of them.

Go and live in Australia. It may be dusty, unpleasant and full of people who talk like knuckles, but at least (there was to be a joke about forests being on fire here, but Missis Pie would have none of it, on grounds of taste.)

Threaten Yelvio with murder when they play the return fixture in Nottingham. How dare a team which is made of green hoops and bits of straw put three past the Mighty Forest? Do they not realise they are dabbling in matters far beyond their understanding?

Convince yourself it didn't happen. We've tried this one before, and it doesn't work. Successful denial would involve killing almost everybody in the world, which is neither practical nor desirable. Personal denial - simply pretending it didn't happen and going lalalalalaa when the matter is raised in conversation - can lead to social exclusion and in some cases warts.

Pretend that you no longer care about football. You never have. You simply went along to please your dad/grandad/mates, and could never bring yourself to admit that close human contact left you feeling soiled, and an unwilling part of some global confidence trick manufactured by betting companies and their moronic lackeys. It is time to step off the Big Red Train and hope you don't collide with a passing bridge. Bye bye.

You could always try being serious and grown up. This, sadly, involves accepting criticism of people you're probably fond of, as well as admitting that things aren't going well at the moment. You could start with that Wiggum game, where Guedioura played so badly and left, and admit that, although he might not have been the best holding midfielder in the world, at least he brought some muscular authority to the role. Our various attempts to replace him have either failed at transfer level (Legbiter), failed at loan level (Chalobah, who is turning out to be, as Stress puts it, "a bit of a dud"), failed at strategic level (where everyone has the responsibility of doing everything and ends up doing nothing), and failed at tactical level (ooh look that bloke's running through our midfield and he's going to shoot from twenty five yards and nobody's doing anything about it...). You should also admit that the only bloke who looks anywhere near capable of doing the job is Jara. Whether he will get the job is open to debate.

You should also admit that our strikers are slop. It hurts to say it, but the match against Yevloi just about finished Cox confidence-wise and we may never see him again. Henderson is a good player, but appears to have entered a no-jumping, no-scoring phase of his career. At our present conversion rate, if we are to go up this year will we have to create one and a half million chances, most of them comprising some floaty rubbish from Reid.

And, having accepted these things, pray that Billy has the nous and the humility to start addressing these problems. He could start by avoiding the phrases "long hard season" and "bumps and bruises".

Find something else to talk about. The weather, for instance. God appears to have just thrown a sea of rain at our front window. These are exciting times.

Forget Yelvio and instantly focus on Blackpoo. Blackpoo are, of course, in a false position, having no players of note and a criminally tempestuous manager. Convince yourself that because Forest are some kind of quirky oddball outfit they will now probably stuff Blackpoo all ends up - "it's the sort of thing Forest do," you'll hear people cry, despite the overwhelming evidence that, in terms of sanity, we're very much the same as every other league club in the country.

Console yourself with mathematics. Twenty three points from thirteen matches equates to a season's total of eighty one points, which would have seen us second last season. No worries there then. Forget all the crap about roller coasters and bumps and bruises. The numbers say we're going up, as are the five other teams above us.

Sleep well, preferably with someone you know.

FOREST 1 BOURNEMUFF 1
Lansbury Some bloke

We've been warning you for weeks that Forest games have more in common with music hall entertainment than grown-up football, and yesterday's match plunged into pure pantomime. It had everything - players and officials made of biscuit, strikers grimly determined not to score, a game plan loosely based on British Bulldog, and a referee dressed in his wife's bloomers.

It is too painful to go through the details. In general, Forest's charging attacks continued to look at times breathtakingly good, only to stall at the pointy end with a series of crapped-up strikes from Cox, Henderson et al, whoever al is. And, as usual, this steroidal determination to attack left us light on defensive cover at critical moments. It's called end to end football. It's exciting, in a deeply unpleasant way.

Sadly, there's not much Forest can do about this with the players they've got. Playing Reidy deep, for example, is fraught with danger because Reidy, being an attacker, is not risk averse. Lansbury defends well on the half way line, but any deeper and he is bypassed. This lack of a cautious, controlling deep midfielder is becomingly painfully obvious now. Everything would be okay if our blitzkrieg approach led to a bundle of goals, but as soon as the opposition sense our failings up front, they gain the confidence to come back at us, and then we're in trouble.

I know this is all pretty obvious, but it's getting me down now. People keep saying "It's certainly entertaining", but they don't say it with any particular joy. I'm old fashioned. Like that bloke said, "Controlling the controllables" is what we should be doing. The uncontrollables, like that ref becoming a fetid blob of cerebral dysfunction in the last quarter, are uncontrollable, but we should have been miles ahead by then. If we don't get a proper striker, or the strikers we have don't start doing their stuff, we'll continue to thrash ourselves stupid and end up shouting at the moon.

There was, of course, some very good stuff. Lansbury's goal was world class, and there's no doubt the lad should be playing for England being, as he is, better than Lamppost or Wilshere or Milner. But Forest shouldn't have to rely on glorious finishes from midfielders to dump teams like Bournemuff.

What I would like, being both old and old-fashioned, is for things to slow down. I would like to see less of this hyperactive, overpumped aggression which leads to brainless finishing, disciplinary bother, lack of control and, probably, late-season burn out. I would not mind at all if Forest did not choose to attack at every opportunity, but adopted a more measured, clinical approach.

But I know I'm pissing in the wind. We'll probably storm Yeovil. We may even score a hatful. But it will be about as entertaining as a truly wonderful night out which ends up with your being sick in the back of your best friend's car. I'm too old for that.

BRING ME THE HEAD OF OSCAR GARCIA!
HOVE 1 FOREST 3
Some bloke Hendo, Lansbury (2, 1 pen)


Recently, Fat Man has been harping on about the underlying bonkersness of Forest's approach, about our lack of a proper midfield general leading to a Charge of the Light Brigade approach which leaves grown men eating their own heads in frustration. Well, despite Fatso's views stemming from nicotine withdrawal, I'm here to tell you that I agree with him. Forest do appear to have gone slightly crazy, and I love it.

It was obvious from the start that Forest's plan was to win. Not for them the sensible approach - you know, quieten the noisy home crowd by lying deep and nullifying Hove's attacking threat. Forest didn't have the players to do this anyway. No, the idea was to impose their own perceived attacking superiority, to rattle the opposition, to show them who was the boss. It is an idea founded on arrogant self belief, and when it works, as it did this time, there is something simply breathtaking about it.

It didn't work at first. Forest were sloppy, left the usual gaps in deep midfield, and looked vulnerable to fast attacks from the wings. It wasn't comfortable, it didn't make sense. Forest's response to its not making sense was to ramp up their attacking play. Reid crossed for Henderson to test their goalkeeper with a superb header. Majic half volleyed powerfully straight at Kuszczak. Lansbury drove just wide, and reacted furiously when the referee denied him a corner. The Hove players were visibly disturbed. This was not supposed to be happening. They were the home side, after all.

And then Hove scored. It was one of those "you just knew it was going to happen" moments. The goal itself, a bounced volley which somehow fell to Crofts who nodded it home, owed something to good fortune and was scored against the run of play, but the Hove crowd didn't mind at all. As far as they were concerned, a kind of normality had been restored. The home side was winning at half time.

The sad thing was, Hove obviously thought they were dealing with reasonable people. Somebody in their dressing room should have warned them: Did you see that Lansbury bloke? Did you see the look in his eyes? He was bloody crazy. They're all crazy. And indeed, Hove seemed ill prepared for what hit them in the second half.

Forest just bristled with intent. Lansbury glanced home a tremendous header, boom, and appeared to have murder in his eyes. Hove roared back, and forced Darlow into a save he had no right to make. Calderon had a clear header which he fluffed. Henderson was denied by great defending from Upson. It was thrilling, senseless football.

Thrilling, senseless and brilliant. The goal that put Forest ahead was brilliant. A cross came in from the rampaging Cohen. Did it hit a defender or was there a sublime back flick from Cox? I still don't know. Anyway, it reached Henderson who drove an awkwardly bouncing ball past a static goalkeeper. Boom. It was tremendous stuff, a triumph of attacking courage and very special skill.

And then it was Lansbury again, feeding a clever ball in to Cox, who baffled a defender into conceding a penalty. And Lansbury again, smashing the penalty home with brutal venom. Boom.

That should have been that, but a match which had been played just outside the boundaries of common sense was never going to settle down into a late afternoon tea party. Chalobah, probably unfit, probably trying to match the bristling vigour of his team mates, got himself a second yellow and left the field amid anger at some of the Hove players' cheap antics. Forest simply introduced fresh legs, redoubled their defensive efforts, and saw the game out comfortably.

Why do Forest play like this? Are they really mental? Well yes, in a way they are. Billy has got them pumped up with a confidence which borders on irresponsibility. They can be bullying and brilliant, sloppy and sublime. There is absolutely no knowing how this experiment in sheer will power will end, but you can bet your boots that the Forest players will still be fighting when the sun goes down.

Boom.

THE JOYS OF OXYGEN
CHARLESTON 1 FOREST 1
Some bloke Reidy

I haven't had a cigarette for three days now. I am coping well, thank you very much. It is not easy, but I am coping well. The advantages of stopping smoking rapidly become clear, of course: easier breathing, hair that doesn't smell of smoke, the unwanted attention of expensive women etc. The disadvantages, however, are dreadful.

The main disadvantage is oxygen. Oxygen in the blood has this dreadful effect on the brain. It makes you see things with a clarity which is, frankly, terrifying. This match, for example, revealed truths which are difficult to bear, but enhanced oxygen repletion makes them equally difficult to ignore. Here are those truths:

Billy's selection process has the smack of the bran tub about it, but its apparent randomness cannot hide one harrowing fact: we have collected a large number of mediocre players together in one place, and are still nowhere near being a top two side. Nowhere near. The bran tub selection policy rotates these mediocre players in the hope that one day, by the magic of alchemy, individuals or partnerships find form and drive us to success. But the experiment isn't working.

We have not one decent striker, for a start. Rotating your front men doesn't make them better. It may even make them worse. Dex looks like a man trying to remember what it was he used to do. Derbyshire, after a spurt of goalscoring success, is regressing into MothMan, flitting around the edges of a darkening room. Mackie labours under the quantum delusion that he can kick the ball through goalkeepers. Hendo seems to have become a jobbing labourer of some sort. Cox, our hidden gem, remains stubbornly hidden.

However much Billy experiments with this lot, they are never going to get much better. This is the truth, delivered to me by the miracle of hyper-oxygenation.

Other problems become as clear as day. That Chalobah youth doesn't look too promising to me, and I suspect he's either been massively over hyped or they've sent the wrong one. He doesn't look ready at all to be a deep lying midfielder. Whether he's meant to be or not, we need a deep lying midfielder. All this rot about not needing one is just a muddled reaction to our not getting one over the summer. Our defence is too readily exposed, because there is a gaping hole in front of them. With the midfielders we have, we lack defensive discipline. We need somebody in there. A kind of midfield anchor. Not Lansbury, not Chalobah, not Moussi, not Reidy, not Cohen. We've tried them all, with limited success.

I mean, come on, a few weeks ago we would have disposed of Charleston like a light snack. Last night they scared the crap out of us. You don't need to give up cigarettes to realise that progress has stalled.

Billy has, I'm afraid, reached his limits. This is as good as it gets for Billy sides, lots of effort and "passion" but always a falling short, as if promotion is something to be afraid of. I see these things clearly now. For so many years, in my nicotine induced torpor, I was blind to the truth. Now the truth is plain to see. I am a better manager than Billy. I deserve the chance to prove it. I shall write to Fawaz to tell him of these things, and he will surely listen, for he is a wise man who knows the truth.

Shit, I really need a cigarette.

FOREST 1 SHEEP 0
BILLY COMES OUT SWINGING
CLOUGH COUNTED OUT

THE MATCH

If the match was the only thing that made the news, there wouldn't be much news. There were, however, a few things of particular interest:
1. We were particularly interested in the way Forest set up. Last time, we implied that Forest were too gung-ho, sacrificing the defensive midfielder role for a more fluid (and chaotic) approach. Against the Sheep, the defensive midfielder role came back in the form of Moussi. And it worked well. Apart from one dysfunctional moment, Moussi was doing his job with a fair degree of discipline and skill. Then he broke, and the defensive midfield role once more became a vaguely joint responsibilty which might have led to problems had Forest allowed passion to overcome common sense. But they didn't. That was the nice thing. They respected the opposition, and took their defensive responsibilities as seriously as if they were the away side. The way the Sheep have been winning away is by breaking against over-committed opponents. This time, when they tried to penetrate a deep lying and determined defence, they simply weren't up to the job. That's why they have struggled at home, that's why they struggled here.
2. We were particularly interested in Hobbs' magnificence. He is a real no-nonsense powerhouse of a defender, and his goal was the icing on a very impressive cake. He was the best of a very good bunch, who all did their jobs well, apart from poor old Hendo, who will have better days.
3. We were particularly interested in how happy the crowd was. The atmosphere was not as febrile as on previous occasions, but the overriding sense of contentment made a mockery of those who found it necessary to accentuate the negative. The roar when Hobbs' header went in was shuddering. Watching Fawaz embrace Cohen after the match was just great. We found ourselves wondering what the scenes will be like if (when?) Fawaz's dream comes true. The City Ground will probably lift off and disappear in a rainbow vapour trail, like that film.
4. We were particularly interested in the fact that The Sheep, despite some tippy tappy stuff, flattered to deceive. Hughes was about as threatening as a dandelion clock, Martin spent the afternoon manufacturing free kicks, and Ward, for once, could not overcome his limitations. A lucky break gave Sammon a glorious opportunity to equalise late on, but the poor lad simply confirmed that he isn't much of a footballer. Still, it was not a performance to be ashamed of. Certainly not one to get the manager sacked.
5. We were particularly interested in the penalty. We had to watch the replay to confirm it was a penalty. We suppose the ref had to book Keogh in the circumstances, but in the end the sending off made little difference. If Hendo had scored and Reidy had scored later then it would have been seen to make a difference, but they didn't so it didn't. To be honest, the thing which really interested us was what an odd looking bloke Keogh is.

BILLY'S PRESS CONFERENCE

We read about this before we saw it, and when we saw it we found ourselves wondering what the fuss was all about. We continue to feel uncomfortable about Jim Price's Machiavellian ear-whisperings, but we also feel uncomfortable about journalists saying "we reserve the right to pass judgment". But to be honest we have never been particularly interested in either post match interviews or press reports, so we find it odd that people can get so precious about them.

CLOUGH'S SACKING

Stress simply said, "Good Riddance", but Stress has no soul, and I felt quite sad, because I do. Not sad for Clough, who hasn't been much of a manager to be honest, but for the impression given that he lost his job because his team were beaten by Forest. Long ago we said of Derby: That rather sad little club should really have learnt its lesson by now - founding your entire raison d'etre on an abiding hatred for your betters is not the wisest thing to do. Well, the timing of Clough's sacking makes it look like our ungenerous assessment is still true. Which is sad, you've got to admit.

DUNGCASTER 2 FOREST 2
Some blokes Cohen, Reidy

I'm getting a bit worried by all this, because I am beginning to suspect that everybody at the club has gone crackers.

I've long suspected that Fawaz is charmingly unhinged, but his lack of hinges seems to have infected Billy, and through him, the team. Over the last three games, the selections and the performances have seemed ever so slightly manic.

Look at today. We bring in a quality midfielder who is not, according to Billy, a replacement for Guedioura. Neither is he a holding midfielder because, according to Billy, Forest no longer play with holding midfielders. It is everybody's job to defend when necessary. It would appear to be everybody's job to attack, too. I am confused by this. What happened to the McKenna role that Billy used to deploy?

Well, the McKenna role has been subsumed into a high energy, high fluidity, high risk strategy, a kind of all or nothing approach which generates the kind of excitement that could kill you. Watching Forest has become a health hazard.

It began, as many things do, at the beginning. If the rate of shooting in the first two minutes had been maintained throughout the match, Forest would have ended up having 100 shots. This was clearly not going to happen, but the approach remained the same. The intention was to dominate the opposition so comprehensively that Dung would think they were playing away, and at times, given the number of Forest fans there, it did seem like that. This blitz approach would also deal with our midfield/defensive frailties by denying Dung the ball, or assuming that, if they got it, they didn't have the quality to do much with it. It worked for a while, and for a while it was exciting. But after a while the strategic insanity of the whole thing became apparent.

Forest's quality up front was dismal. Crosses were haphazard, shots bounced off defenders, Henderson was surrounded by defenders and got nothing, Reidy was in floaty mode, Abdoun either shot weakly or stubbornly refused to shoot at all. The same manic urgency to keep attacking robbed the forward players of composure. It also encouraged a risky disregard for proper organisation. You wouldn't drive a big grey train with no brakes, would you? Of course not, that would be insane.

It's also insane, as somebody once said, to keep doing the same things wrong and expect a different outcome. As in the previous two matches, Forest's rabid desire to get forward led to a mistake, this time on our left. Somebody, (Cohen?), nodded it aimlessly forward and a quick return ball found the Forest defence totally exposed. Robinson and Macheda combined to score an easy goal. It was all so stupid, but not totally unexpected. It's happened before, several times.

A while ago, in an interview, Cohen said half jokingly that Wilson often ticked him off for getting forward too much. Forest could have done with Wilson and his advice in this match. The crazy thing is that Cohen is proving our most threatening avenue of attack. His equaliser was world class, and the man is rapidly becoming a legend. But it is crazy because Forest shouldn't have to rely on world class finishes from a rampant full back. His forward surges are heart-pumpingly exciting, but they also signal the ineffectiveness of our forward line and the dangers of over commitment.

You're probably disagreeing with me now, but if you are, then it's because you too are a victim of the same adrenaline-fuelled imbalance which characterises the club at the moment. I'm old fashioned. I prefer caution away from home. I prefer rock solid defence. It may slow things down, but it draws the home team on to you and releases more space for your forwards to do their work. In this match, Dungcaster managed things properly.

But caution isn't part of Forest's vocabulary at the moment. In the second half, Forest were faffing about on the half way line trying to manufacture one of those surging breaks down the left wing. Abdoun, under pressure, slipped it to Cohen. It wasn't the best ball, and Cohen had to stretch to poke the ball to Reid. Reid tried to find Chalobar in field, but again it was a poor ball played too quickly, and Chalobar's weak challenge resulted in the ball breaking to Robinson. Suddenly, again, because of a simple mistake, Dungcaster were clear. Three attackers played it past two defenders and Dungcaster scored another easy goal. The only midfielder in sight was Chalobar, tiredly sauntering back looking confused and unhappy.

We were absolutely speechless, not because of the unfairness of it all, but because of its inevitability. We also knew that Forest wouldn't change their ways. It was too late now.

And this is where I have to admit that I too am infected by this collective madness, because I knew, as we all did, that Forest would come back. A scuffed shot from Abdoun, a decent free kick from Reid, a beautiful turn from Derbyshire, got the Forest fans baying. A wank of a shot from Henderson left us despairing. A couple of Dungcaster chances led to some anguished wails. Then, with ten minutes left, Henderson found Reid in space, and Reid speared the ball into the net from twenty odd yards. There was, of course, bedlam.

Bedlam seems to be the right word. Going to Forest matches is a bit like visiting a lunatic asylum. Here we were, once again, shouting our brains out for a winner in a match which, with the application of a bit of sanity, we could have cruised through. And again, we should have won, but the lack of composure which had dogged our forwards all day caused Paterson to miss an easy chance.

To do nothing about all this will lead to great excitement but tremendous frustration. We just have to stop being mad, allowing passion and desire to overcome common sense. But it's not going to happen, is it? The brakes seem to be well and truly off at the moment. We appear to be going for it in the most tumultuous, risk-riddled way possible.

Please God, let it work before everybody suffers complete physical and emotional collapse. Especially next week. Please.

FOREST 2 MISERABLEBUGGER 2
Derby, Hendo Some blokes

The atmosphere was uneasy from the start, but not for the reasons the Telegraph's John Percy gives:

Davies has restricted access to almost all the media while his cousin Jim Price's growing influence as general manager continues to polarise opinion. There should be a feel-good factor pervading the City Ground, especially now the problems of last season, including the revolving door outside the manager's office, have been removed. Substantial funds were made available in the summer while a recent picture of chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi shrouded in a flag proclaiming hatred of Forest's rivals down the Brian Clough Way has only enhanced his reputation. Recent developments, however, have created an uneasy atmosphere. This was at times excruciating and Forest controversially fell behind in the 17th minute, after Kei Kamara's simple finish, seconds after claims for a handball against Middlesbrough's Jonathan Woodgate were waved away by Dowd.

You don't need much intelligence to work out why Mister Percy would go for this angle, but, sadly, the atmosphere had nothing to do with this claptrap.

The atmosphere was uneasy because Reidy and Lansbury were sitting deep, to compensate for the absence of the hapless Moose. We had no real holding midfielders, no-one with the skills to discourage progress towards our defence. This was worrying because, although the team selection signalled an intention to attack, it had a make-do-and-mend quality which could lead to problems. Early in the match, Reidy lost possession just outside his own area. It came to nothing, but there were a few accusing glances from his own defenders.

The atmosphere got even more uneasy when Wilson was forced off through injury, to be replaced by Halford. Unease led to disbelief when Phil Dowd, whose fatness has simply migrated from his paunch to his head, waved away a penalty appeal after Woodgate clearly raised his hands to block Majewski's shot. With most of Forest's players advanced or confused or both, Adomah broke dangerously, by-passed the exposed Halford, and squared to Kamara who scored. You could have cut the atmosphere with an axe.

The axe grew sharper when Majewski was felled in the box by Rhys Williams' tackle - you know, one of those which takes the ball but also manages to reorganise a few lower leg bones into the bargain; sharper still when Reidy failed with the penalty attempt (not having a good night was our Reidy); and murderously sharp when some thug, forehead first, spat some venom into Reid's face. The ensuing fuss was sorted by the tried and tested technique of randomly generated bookings. We suspect the fuss was initially caused by the bloke who was yellow carded for the penalty, but we can't blame the ref for not seeing what was in front of his eyes. It's a difficult job, being wilfully blind.

Disgruntled frustration grew as, despite pressure caused mainly by Abdoun's thrilling play, Forest's efforts on goal were limited. Majic's shots hit people, crosses from Abdoun and others found no-one (perhaps they would have found Hendo), and the partnership of Cox and Mackie, so sharp against Barnsley, was not really working. And with that hole in front of our defence, the threat of speedy counter attacks was magnified.

This problem raised its ugly head early in the second half. Firstly, Adomah was given too much space to let fly with a thankfully weak shot. Then Abdoun was robbed by Richardson, who lofted it upfield to Emnes, and Miserablebugger were already at our defence. Emnes and Leadbitter sucked Lichaj out of position, and the ball was rolled out to left back Friend, who rocketed it past Darlow. You can console yourself with the thought that Friend, like Cywka for Barnsley, will never ever score a goal like that again, but this should not blind you to the fact that a simple long ball completely by-passed our too advanced midfield. Anyway, that's when the atmosphere bottomed out.

It didn't bottom out for long, though. The thing about Forest these days is that it is stuffed with winners, people for whom defeat is such a detestable proposition that they will sweat blood to avoid it, people whose heads refuse to go down. You can include the manager amongst these, and it was his substitutions and his waved encouragement which got the crowd roaring again.

With twenty minutes to go, with Miserablebugger growing increasingly rattled by Forest's incessant pressure, the ball fell to Reidy on the edge of the box. His exquisite chip found Derbyshire, who angled a superb header beyond the goalkeeper. At last Reidy had found a bit of magic, at last a centre forward had found a bit of admirable composure. The whole place went a bit mad.

Miserablebugger made the mistake of pushing too many forward for a corner. The ball was headed out to Lansbury, who set off amid thunderous roars on a counter attack against a depleted Miserablebugger defence. Lansbury to Abdoun, jinking and threatening. Abdoun to Henderson, whose slight mis-control bobbled back to him off a defender. Henderson again, prodding it forward beyond the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper hooking him down. Penalty.

No, not in the fat-headed world of Mister Dowd. In Mister Dowd's world, confused as it is by the murky clouds of perversity and indecision, Henderson had dived. Yellow card. Disbelief all round.

The atmosphere by now was murderously frenetic, and Forest fed off it. A great cross was punched out by Steele. The ball travelled to Cohen, who bent a wicked swerving ball across goal to Lichaj. Lichaj drove it across to Henderson, who stabbed it into the back of the net. The City Ground shook. The old girl was bouncing again.

From being 2-0 down, out of sorts and out of shape, Forest had got themselves to within an ace of winning it. They didn't, of course. The only meaningful act in those last few minutes was the red card for their substitute. Well done, Mister Dowd, but too late to be of any significance, thank you.

So we drew. We could have and should have won - that we didn't was down to our poor positional discipline, a referee with a fat head, and probably an under-estimation of the opposition. We have a few problems to solve, but we certainly mustn't under-estimate Dungcaster, or else what will the press make of that?

FOREST 3 BARNSLEH 2

Well, that didn't go to plan, did it? Or maybe it did. I'm not sure. I don't even know whether I enjoyed the experience. I think I did, but I'm not absolutely sure. I'm certainly glad we got what we deserved, but when the final whistle went I was more relieved than anything. Being relieved after a match we should have cruised through left me with doubts. It was the green voices, you see...


The atmosphere is great, like bathing in happy soup...
..but Forest have started slowly, like bathing in happy soup. This is not a good thing. It smacks of complacency.
After a while, Forest wake up and start to look dangerous. Majic slips a gorgeous ball to Cox, who places it beyond Old Pollitt only to see it bounce off the post...
..but he doesn't score. Cox doesn't score, again. Cox will never ever score. He will probably spend the rest of his career hitting the woodwork. So even though Barnsleh's defence is beginning to look like wet toilet paper...
Barnsley's defence is beginning to look like wet toilet paper. A neat ball from Cox leaves Mackie one on one with Old Pollitt...
..But Mackie can't put it away. However well the two front men are combining, they have now missed two very acceptable chances. For the first time this afternoon, there are whispers of uncertainty: "It's going to be one of those days".
Finally the breakthrough comes. After some neat interplay, Mackie thumps one so hard at Old Pollitt that he spills it to Cox, who sweeps it home. Great stuff. Cox and Mackie torturing the Barnsleh defence... Cox scoring... it can only get better...
..Barnsleh, having no defence to speak of, are there for the taking. So what do we do? We slack off, no doubt anticipating the goal-fest to come. And what happens when you slack off?
Oh bugger. They've got a penalty.
Exactly, and look who's given it them - Moose, who could have had an easy day blocking off their butterfly attacks, but no. He has to go and demonstrate his own brand of dyspraxic lunacy, doesn't he?
Leave Moose alone. It could happen to anyone.
No it couldn't. Moose has the intelligence of a broad bean. He's either dumb or mad, possibly both. And look, they've scored. Back to square one. It is, after all, going to be one of those days.
Come on Forest, they're useless. Get after them. And there's a Reidy free kick crashing off the bar to Cox, whose effort is smothered on the line. And there's Majic powering in a drive, but Old Pollitt is just about equal to it.
And now it's getting frustrating. We should be ten up by now, but we're not. "Pollitt saves fragile Barnsleh" is the headline. "Veteran goalkeeper Old Pollitt ensured a point for struggling Barnsleh in an entertaining match at the City Ground blah blah blah..."
Barnsleh give away a silly free kick. Reidy swerves it wickedly towards goal. Some hefty Barnsleh bloke slots it in past Old Pollitt. Two one! Half time. Sanity is restored.
But is it? Hopefully Billy will tell them to up the intensity and score some bloody goals. God these pies are awful.
The second half starts like the first...
..with Forest dawdling around, allowing Jennings to get in a fair shot...
...which is answered by a Lansbury effort...
..which squirms weakly wide. Why does Lansbury always look so grumpy?
But Forest are definitely on top now...
...which is presumably why a short back pass almost embarrasses Darlow. Jesus, Forest, stop being so bloody sloppy.
And Cohen scrapes the bar with a cross... and Lansbury fires one into Old Pollitt's arms...
Why does Lansbury look so grumpy? I know why, he's getting frustrated that Barnsleh won't lie down and die. That little blond bloke and the bristling fellow up front are causing us more problems than they've a right to. And there we are, slack work from Moose gives them another free kick...
...which that irritating little sod from Derby blasts home from two hundred yards.
Told you. Slack work all round, but especially from Mister Broad Bean.
Leave Moose alone. How was he to know that bloke would score from there?
Why are you defending him? That's two fouls and two goals. The man's as reliable as a meringue toilet. Anyway, it's two two and we have to start all over again against a bunch of muppets with virtually no defence and a fifty year old goalkeeper. It's just ridiculous.
Oh shut up.
One of those days.
Patterson's on.
Paterson. His name's Paterson.
And within seconds he hits the post!
Again. This is getting a bit desperate now. This is a football match, not a carpentry class.
And Cox's shot almost embarrasses Old Pollitt!
Not long left now. Will the crowd boo? Will Fawaz hit Billy?
A Cohen effort is headed away! Hendo and Abdoun on. Cox and Moussi off.
Well at least we're not going to concede any more goals. Have we actually needed a holding midfielder?
Abdoun looks a tricky bugger.
Why wasn't he on from the start?
Ooh look, Hendo's headed home from Reidy's corner, and he's gone completely mental!
He's not hit anyone has he?
Well, what a finish!
Not over yet. Please don't do anything stupid Forest. Oops, they nearly did.
And it's all over now. Forest win three two. What an entertainment that was!
Entertainment? You call that entertainment? Scraping home against that bunch of pap? That's not entertainment, that's just a warning. If we need a holding midfielder, get a proper one. If we think the opposition are beneath us, we'll get punished.
But we played some breathtaking football at times. That move down the left with Cohen and some others was a delight.
A delight? Are you a girl?
God you're a miserable bugger.
We play them next.
Who's that?
Miserablebugger. Before today's match I would have said we'd thump them. Now I'm wondering whether it will be one of those days.
No worries.
I always worry. Don't you?

(TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY) AND THAT'S ALL WE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT

We learned nothing from transfer deadline day, because we'd learnt it all before.

We were saddened by Guedioura's departure, because everybody loves a flamboyant player, but not altogether surprised. When we saw Reidy screaming at him at Wiggum, then saw that he didn't appear for the second half, it was obvious something was wrong. How far back that something went is open to debate, but it doesn't really matter any more. He's gone, and he and the increasingly idiotic Hologram will have to deal with each other. Forest will have to adjust - as they adjusted pretty well against Wiggum. The lesson we already knew from all this is that the only player's name you should have on the back of your shirt is Cohen. Or perhaps Reid. You should certainly avoid Abdoun.

The other thing we already knew was that Twitter was not and never will be a viable form of communication. At best it has the primitive and irrelevant appeal of pub talk, at worst it is cowardly and destructive. It is not so much a medium for communication as a forum for primitive one-upmanship or grotesque self promotion. We think it is not the right place for the "General Manager" of a football club to be raising expectations about future signings. And while we're at it, we also think that we do not feel a part of #nffcfamily or #unfinishedbusiness, or any of the hashtag rhetoric which is being spun as part of the cliquy branding process. We are just Forest fans, pure and simple, and the two hours of football on Saturdays may not tell us everything we need to know about Forest, but it tells us infinitely more than the vapid bleatings of the social media.

And that's all we have to say about that. You may agree or disagree. You always have the option of communicating with us by email. Sadly, not on Twitter or Facebook.

WIGGUM 2 FOREST 1
Some blokes Reidy

There is a theory which says that the first five minutes of a match will tell you how that match will pan out. Today that theory almost worked. Two Wiggum dives in the first five minutes had the ref whistling away merrily, only too eager to pander to home advantage. From then on, the whole match was tainted by his somewhat cowardly waywardness. It led to increasing frustration in the Forest players, in the massive away support, and in Billy himself. When the fans should have been enjoying a fair contest, they were chanting "We only get shit refs".

The theory almost worked. There is a good argument for saying that the officials' untrustworthiness made Forest's life difficult, but not impossible. Apart from Reidy's glorious free kick, Forest didn't turn up in the first half. The team did itself little credit, which was an enormous pity as the tub-thumping Wiggum half-wits would go away thinking that this Forest outfit weren't up to much. The reason Forest didn't turn up was that Wiggum flooded the midfield and completely overwhelmed Lansbury and Guedioura. Against Watford, our midfield had harried their tricky attackers into mistake after mistake, and released our own men in dangerous counter attacks. Against Wiggum, our midfield was half asleep. Even when we got the ball, passing to another Forest player seemed an impossible task. The way to play sides like Wiggum is to combat that midfield and seize the initiative. This may sound obvious, but it was evident even in that first half that Wiggum do not like being pressed back. Their skilful players get isolated and uninterested, their defence is suspect. But after Reidy's opening goal, our midfield, which should have taken the fight to them, declined into frustrated torpor. Lansbury and Guedioura became bystanders, and Wiggum swarmed all over us, for a while at least.

It was a new and unpleasant feeling, this going behind. The pressure told when Hobbs fouled Fortune for an obvious penalty. Reidy was screaming at somebody - we think it was Guedioura. The illegally taken and almost saved penalty added to the general disgruntlement. Then Fortune - who had the best game I have ever seen him play - was allowed to unleash a fierce drive which the Admirable Darlow tipped onto the bar. The ball fell conveniently for some blob to poke it home.

It all seemed somehow unfair - not only that we weren't getting any breaks at all, but also because this wasn't the vibrant, combative, confident Forest we had come to expect. Add to this the irritation of the Wiggum faithful clapping moronically to that bloody drum, a sense of grievance at that robotically hapless ref, a linesman on our right who seemed to take pride in his own perversity, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the players and the fans might sink into the "one of those days" defeatism of previous years.

Not so. And this is why hopes and expectations remain so high. Billy gave them a bollocking (apparently), took off Guedioura, shoved Cohen into midfield, brought on Harding at left back, and Forest proceeded to dominate the second half. In short, we got our Forest back. We simply pressed high, took control of midfield, and forced them back. Their skilful players got isolated and fed up. They made a few half hearted breaks, but these were designed to waste time more than anything else. With just a bit of luck, denied to us all afternoon, we could have equalised.

The reasons we didn't were manifold. There was the ref and his linesmen, still failing to understand what Wiggum were up to, afraid to even consider Cohen's shout for a penalty, failing to do anything about Wiggum's gamesmanship, failing to notice that Lansbury was being virtually mugged, allowing Espinosa to take an age to trudge off ( to deafening cries of "Wanker") and so on. The ref's attitude was highlighted best when a Wiggum player (we don't know who it was) contested a throw in which had already been given to Forest. Harding eased him away from the ball, whereupon the Wiggum player fell as if he'd been shot through the head. Harding laughed and spread his arms at the absurdity of it all, seeming at that point to sum up all Forest's frustration that Wiggum were allowed to get away with so much. The ref stopped the game for thirty seconds to tick both players off. Coyle got involved and tried to make it longer.

But Forest were to blame too. Lichaj and Cohen had the right idea when they burst into the box looking for a penalty, but apart from that their simply weren't enough men in the middle when the crosses came over. Time and again crosses flew in dangerously but were simply headed away by an unpressured Wiggum defender. Halford looked knackered, Mackie was rarely where he should have been, Miller was hopeless, Paterson was bright but isn't a striker. I suppose you have to say that we really do need a predator in there, though I would also add that the lucky break of the ball eluded us all afternoon.

It finished, and we weren't too disheartened or angry. In fact we felt cheated more than anything, but underlying the frustration was a sense of pride that Forest had almost done themselves credit, and that this setback will in no way dent their determination to get back to the top. Wiggum fans may kid themselves that they're going to walk the league, but that is a boast born only of temporary relief.

WATFOR? 1 FOREST 1
GoogleReid

Real life football matches are great, aren't they? Because you can trust them. When everything surrounding football (all those words and agendas and egos) is as substantial as a box of farts, a real life football match reminds you what the fuss is all about.

Watford v Forest was a great match. The standard of football was far higher than the various examples we saw in the Football League show on Saturday night, because the two teams were better than anything on display there. The competitive edge was razor sharp, because both teams wanted to win. In the main it was furiously, buttock clenchingly entertaining. And Watford got away with it.

Watford's success has depended almost entirely on numbers getting forward, passing slickly into space. In the first half, Forest didn't so much deny them space as deny them the oxygen to breathe. Forest were so much quicker, bigger and stronger that they knocked the home side completely off its stride. And because Watford commit too many players forward, they leave that awful defence exposed. Thus the first goal - defensive sloppiness allowed Reid to find Mackie, who worked his way threateningly forward before laying it back to Reid, who smacked it into the net.

You would have expected an angry response from Watford, but they continued to be nonplussed by Forest's aggression. When they came forward, their attacks broke like wavelets on rocks, and Forest were always ready to spring forward against an exposed defence. If Forest could have finished better - if Gueddy and Majik's radar had been working, or Lansbury's fierce effort hadn't bounced off the post so awkwardly - Forest could have buried the Golden Boys once and for all. The half ended with a chance for Deeney who, having been a stranger to the ball all afternoon, headed tamely wide.

The second half was tighter. Of course it was. The intensity of Forest's work could not be sustained, though you sometimes get the impression that Billy doesn't understand the limitations of human physiology. Growing tiredness resulted in snappy tackles becoming awkward fouls and 50-50 balls breaking to the opposition. A widening gap between defending midfielders and forward line left more space for the Watford midfield to buzz around in. It was from an awkward Guedioura bundle that Watford won that free kick. There was something gut-wrenchingly inevitable about Google's strike - a powerful swerving effort into the top corner which not even the admirable Darlow could get anywhere near. Forest fans reacted with a confused mixture of resentment and admiration. Watford fans hoped that this was the beginning of their team's customary second half resurgence.

But it didn't happen. Forest remained strong and composed defensively, and Watford didn't have the strength or the skill to break them down. They could have done, had not Zola taken off Google. This was an odd decision, smacking of Zola's managerial shortcomings. Could he not see that Google was beginning to fire, that he was the only difference maker in this bunch of tricky yet predictable clones? After Google's replacement, Watford simply became even more Watford - buzzing into brick walls like late summer wasps. Or hornets. Or calabroni. Despite Fabbrini (who would be a great player if he was strong enough to stay upright), despite a few long shots and the odd scramble, Watford got nowhere.

Forest, on the other hand, should have. At no point in the match were the Forest players tempted into weary submission. They had not come here to play second fiddle, and their intentions were illustrated by the number of chances they had to win the game. Halford could have chipped Almunia with better ball control. Mackie broke into the penalty area and tried to slide the ball past Almunia, but couldn't repeat his Boln success. Miller drove threateningly towards goal but rather brainlessly failed to see Cohen (how on earth did he get there?) waiting for a simple cross. Miller bullied Anya off the ball, raced goalwards, tried to curve the ball beyond Almunia, but the goalie was good enough to tip it onto the post.

Yes, Watford had some chances, but Forest's were more clear cut. And yes, perhaps Forest do need a clinical finisher, but Deeney didn't do too well, did he?

Anyway, no ifs and buts. We'll leave those to the army of speculators and blameservers. All we can say is that we trust what we saw on the pitch - a team of strong, honest, confident players who went to Vicarage Road to win, and were disappointed that they didn't. Everything about them - their play and their attitude - spoke of a team driven by an uncompromising determination to win the game and, in the long term, the league. That's what we trust.

FOREST 3 BOLN 0
Mackie, Reidy, Lansbury

JAM FOR TEA

Go on Grandad, tell it again.

Oh come on, kids. It was so long ago I can barely remember it all.

You always say that, Grandad, and you always remember.

I do, don't I? Tell you what - I'll tell the story, then you go straight to bed.

Okay Grandad.

Okay. Well, it was a match against Dougie Freedman's Bolton.

Dougie Freedman was an evil man, wasn't he Grandad?

No, not evil, just a little foolish. He'd been whining to the local press about how Forest were spending lots of money to buy points. It didn't go down very well, especially since Bolton had had the benefit of millions in parachute payments. Do you remember what parachute payments were?

They were Sky money from the Premier League, weren't they Grandad? Sky were evil, weren't they Grandad?

No, not evil - just greedy and manipulative. But anyway, Freedman's comments gave a sharper edge to a match which was always seen as a test for both teams.

The match Grandad. Tell us about the match.

Well, it couldn't have begun better for Forest. Majewski slid a perfect ball through to Jamie Mackie, who slotted it into the bottom corner beyond the Bolton keeper.

Hurray! Majewski had a magic pole, didn't he Grandad?

No - Majewski was the magic Pole.

And Mackie was the duck-footed assassin, wasn't he Grandad?

If you say so. Anyway, after that storming start -

Storming start. Hurray!

After that storming start, Forest let the game slip a bit. Bolton began to look lively, without ever really threatening.

Because they were evil crap, weren't they Grandad?

No, not evil crap - they just didn't have much in the final third. Forest let them have the ball too much in the middle, but they got nowhere near threatening our goal.

Because Forest had the best defence since for ever, didn't they Grandad? They had the beast Hobbs, and the elephant Wilson -

- the elegant Wilson -

- and him, and Cohen the Barbarian, and the classy Lee Charge. What a defence, eh Grandad?

Well, to be honest, they didn't have much to do defensively. The two teams huffed and puffed a bit, Bolton got frustrated and started doing some naughty things...

Evil things.

...the referee went on holiday, Freedman got dog's abuse from A-block, then it was half time.

Hurray for half time! What about the other players, Grandad?

Well, the second half began, and it wasn't long before Majewski -

With his magic pole.

- crossed to the far post, where Reidy -

The stout Irish wizard.

- somehow managed to balance himself on the wrong foot and clip it into the net. It was a wonderfully manufactured goal. Even Reidy seemed surprised at the quality of it. It signalled the end of Bolton's belief, certainly.

Hurray for the stout Irishman! Bolton were evil, weren't they Grandad?

No, not evil - just a bit... weak. Their defence was exposed as leaden, their midfield was being outfought, and their manager was hiding glumly in the dugout. There was no leadership from anywhere. They simply didn't have the heart to fight back.

And we had the Arabian Prince and the scowling Lansbury, didn't we Grandad?

The Arabian Prince?

Yes Grandad. Guedioura was the Arabian Prince with a curved sword and a moon white horse.

Where do you get this stuff from? Guedioura was just a very good player - wayward at times, but the beating heart of Forest's midfield. Anyway, after Pratley got himself sent off -

Pratley was evil, wasn't he Grandad?

No he was not evil. He was just nowhere near as good as he thought he was. He had a history of naughty tricks, and it came as no surprise when he got his second yellow. I think he was just a mardy sod who wanted to be sent off.

And then we took them apart, didn't we Grandad?

Well, we scored again. Halford crossed for Lansbury to plant a neat header through a small gap into the net. Another fine goal. Three nil.

Hurray for the scowling Lansbury. And to think, Halford was only there because Henderson had a bone in his leg. Halford was nine feet tall, wasn't he Grandad?

Well, nearly. It's not often you see tall footballers with that amount of skill. He actually hit the post, you know. I think he was man of the match. Very fond of Halford, we were.

And then we tore them apart, didn't we Grandad? We tore them limb from limb and gnawed on their bloody bones, like wolves.

We certainly should have done, but it didn't quite work out like that. Forest were so far on top they ended up taking the mickey. It was a bit like a comic opera near the end.

So much for the great test, eh Grandad?

So much for the great test. Bolton and their manager skulked away, Billy Davies punched the air, and the crowd roared him and his players to the echo. Top of the league we were.

Billy Davies was the sorcerer, wasn't he Grandad? Fawaz was the king, Billy Davies was his sorcerer, and Jimbo Price was the sorcerer's assistant.

Well, I suppose so, if you want to think of it like that.

So why do you remember that match especially, Grandad?

Oh, I don't know. I suppose it was the beginning of real belief. I mean, if we could thump Bolton, we could beat anybody. And it was so - happy. Everybody was so happy. It was a special day, that one.

Are you all right, Grandad?

Me? Yes, I'm fine. It's just age, and memory, and thinking of everything that's happened since.

A golden day, eh Grandad?

A golden day indeed. A day when you could forget all the doubts and imperfections, and just let yourself be swept away in the joy of it all.

And jam for tea.

Ha ha! And jam for tea. And now, I think, it's time for bed.

BLACKBUrn 0 FOREST 1
Henderson

We don't like Blackbum much - too many unhappy memories for one thing, but the main reason we don't like Ewood Park is that it is such an uninspiring place. With its boxy architecture and its silly mound of a pitch, it is like a huge shed half full of bystanders who have resigned themselves to a life of prolonged local disappointment. If you want the place to generate some atmosphere, you have to bring your own.

Forest brought their own, in abundance. It was like a dull party gatecrashed by a bunch of colourful, disrespectful, big city gobshites. Near one entrance of the ground was the legend "Your Ewood Park". You could be forgiven for thinking that the "Your" referred to the visitors.

The first half certainly belonged to Forest. They played for the most part with immense authority, and occasionally with premier league class. They kept herding Blackbum into their third of the pitch with slick midfield passing, much as Spain pen lesser opposition into their penalty area and prowl around the edges looking for a killer ball. And that was the trouble, really. There was a lot of horizontal movement, but no room for in-and-out play, and when the crosses came they were either overhit or there weren't enough Forest bodies in there to capitalise. The killer ball never came.

There were chances, at both ends. Reidy buzzed one over from twenty yards, Paterson made their goalkeeper stretch with a right footed curler, and later, after some neat control, put a left footed shot over. Majewski's effort from a Henderson cut back was deflected wide off some bloke's head. At our end, Jordan Rhodes managed to head a chance wide off his face, and some bloke headed straight into Darlow's arms. But a cataloguing of chances tells only a small part of the story. Forest were so dominant, so authoritative in defence and so quick to close down, that Blackbum were made to look like the away side, relying on manufactured free kicks and corners to sneak something from the game. They created nothing from open play. They were even helped in their efforts by a shoddily compliant referee and a dumbass linesman, but had neither the skill nor determination to take advantage of these home town gifts.

The second half appeared more even. Obviously their manager had reminded them that they were the home side, so Blackbum played with more vigour, pressed higher, pushed more people forward, and got some little bloke to run at our defence. These tactics created a lot of sound and fury, but signified little except for a lot of blind-alley runs, a pathetic attempt by Rhodes to buy a penalty, and one decent chance screwed wide. The other thing they did was stretch the game.

It is at this point that we have to admit we were wrong about Matt Derbyshire. At about the hour mark he replaced Majewski, and we thought, wrongly, that the Pole's magic would be missed. We felt no better when Derbyshire was eased off the ball by some thug of a defender - there you go, we thought - too lightweight. We began to change our tune when he controlled a long ball with brilliant skill and got off a hard shot which was blocked. He was, in fact, just the player Forest needed in this stretched game - mobile, quick footed and skilful, just the man to torment the tiring heavyweights in the Blackbum defence. His persistence drew a foul just outside the D, and Reidy's free kick missed by a whisker. Yes, Derbyshire looked good, and his attitude was just right. We've certainly not seen the last of MothMan.

We were wrong, yes, but other people were wrong, too. There was some irritating yoof behind us who throughout the game had felt it his responsibilty to provide a running analysis of play for his friend. He had earlier concluded that Forest's play was "not slick enough" and they were "lacking confidence up front", and now, as Reidy was replaced by Halford, he said: "That's it - Billy's taken off our most creative player and put on a defender. That means he's settling for a draw. You watch, we'll just sit back now and play it out for a point." He didn't say much after that, as Halford played on the left wing, joined the attack, and almost scored with an overhead kick. Sorry mate, you couldn't be more wrong.

Forest were going for it, and the stretched nature of the game allowed Lansbury the opportunity for that killer pass which had been lacking for so long. A beautiful ball towards the duck footed Mackie, who had drifted infield, tempted their goalkeeper out to a ball he was never going to get. Mackie, who really is duck footed and looks a bit like Matt Damon but that's beside the point, got in the way, got half bundled over as the ball eluded the goalie's grasp, then coolly rolled it back to Henderson, who sent it with controlled power into the back of the net. Considering the waywardness of previous shots, it was a very special finish. After a split second delay - (has that idiot linesman flagged? Has the ref found an excuse to disallow it?) - the whole world went bright red bonkers. Henderson appeared to go temporarily insane with his boiled egg eyes and his Hulk impression, and the Forest players in general behaved as if they'd just won a cup final. We only later realised that Forest hadn't won there since the end of the nineties, when Bartman took them down with us, so their mania was understandable. Anyway, the goal came at the perfect time, the Blackbum faithless trooped away, and Forest got their one nil win - the second of many, probably. As we made our way back to the car, it was noticeable how unbothered the Blackbum fans were. There was none of the usual bloody ref or how unlucky was that - you know the kind of thing. They just didn't seem to care very much. Perhaps they are coming to terms with their decline.

It would be churlish to pick faults. There will always be faults, even in the best sides, and Forest don't even look complete yet. But anyone who actually went to the match would not dwell on shortcomings. They all played well, the performance was authoritative and defensively secure, and the level of togetherness between players, manager, staff and fans was a joy to experience. Well done everybody.

FOREST 1 UDDERSFEEL 0
Lansbury

Six minutes into the second half, and it honestly wasn't working very well. Lichaj and Hobbs were already putting in an outstanding display, but apart from them, nobody was covering themselves in glory. All that talk about wide players giving our strikers more opportunity was blowing away in the wind like the dandelion seeds from Lansbury's head; our strikers weren't really in the match; crosses were too deep, shots sailed over, effort was intense but frustratingly fruitless. Majic was in short supply. The crowd, so fervently enthusiastic at the beginning, were beginning to nod off a bit. Somebody near us started talking about the cricket.

Six minutes into the second half, and we couldn't really tell the difference between the new look Forest and the frustrating Forest at the end of last season. Same old story - not making enough chances and not taking them when they came. Look - another crap pass to Cohen, who's had to stall his run to take it.

It was at this point - six minutes into the second half, that Chris Cohen said "I've had enough of this shit" and decided to inject a whole heap of direct energy into the game. His surge down the left took Uddersfeel, and us, by surprise. He crossed, and Lansbury slid it in from a yard or so.

From then on Forest should have scored two or three, but it didn't happen, because despite the raised tempo there was very little in the way of fluency. Apart from one or two decent moves, Reid was disappointing. We're getting a bit fed up with his floaty passes. We can all do floaty passes. One particular floaty pass to Miller was so bad it actually prevented Miller from scoring. And while we're in grumpy mode, we genuinely don't rate Derbyshire, not as a prime striker anyway. Yes, he worked hard and didn't fall over, but he's just not strong enough, and he "doesn't quite reach" the ball too much. Harsh, yes, but we would much prefer a strong, dedicated goalscorer up there, somebody who really curdles the intestines of opposition defences and isn't Miller.

Anyway, on the plus side we scored, we won, we looked fairly comfortable, Lichaj looked class as did Hobbs, who ended up doing two men's jobs at the back, and we left happy, though a little confused as to why Cohen didn't get the man of the match award.

Now we're going on holiday. When we get back, Forest should have beaten Hardlypoo in some cup, and perhaps made those big signings our Acquisitions Panel have been twittering about.




Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices, that, if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, I cried to dream again.