MATCH REPORTS SEASON 2016/17

GAME 1 AUGUST 6 2016 FOREST 4 BURTON DOWN 3

Sorry this is late, but at some point during the match I died, and that takes some getting over.

As Charles Dickens once said, it was the best of games, it was the worst of games. The best stuff was seeing the shirts blazing red in the sunshine, and the sheer attacking intent of a young Forest team; watching a beefed up Burke launching himself goalward on the right with his equally rapid mate Hildeberto; and, of course, the four goals. Four goals, for heaven's sake. After last season's struggles, seeing a Forest side hit the back of the net four times was delightfully daft.

Each goal owed a bit to luck, but more to pressure. For the first, Burke cut inside and caused problems, Henri's shot was deflected to Grant, whose cross/shot was bundled in by Assombalonga, or Ass Man as some disrespectful sod to our left called him. The second came just before half time when Forest were trailing two one, and not only was it much needed but also the best goal of the game. From a corner, the ball found its way to Lam, who drove a spectacular low skidder in at the foot of the post. The third resulted from a Kasami free kick. Kasami had come on for Grant, and had added class and authority to Forest's midfield. His kick came back to him, his drive ballooned over to Burke, who bumped it home. The fourth goal came from the right, with Hildeberto's cross once again ballooning off a defender to find an unmarked Britt, who nodded it home. Great stuff, and a reward for Forest's exuberant intent.

The worst stuff was the defending, which at times was awful. I suppose that a team which drives forward so eagerly is bound to leave gaps, but Burton broke through our midfield too easily at times, and Forest's defenders found themselves lurching out of position too often. Burton's first came from a cross which was met by some bloke whose skied header reduced the Forest defence to jelly as they watched a return ball bundled over the line. The second resulted from a missed tackle, a cross from Grant and a neat finish from some bloke while the Forest defence was reduced to jelly. The third was a simple cross from some woolly bloke which was met by some unmarked bloke as the Forest defence etc. In short, there was far too much jelly reduction going on at the back, which you can put down to a mixture of weak challenges, poor positioning, unfamiliarity with each other's responsibilities, Lam weighing in at eight stone, and Henderson managing to make the goal look awfully big. There is an awful lot of work to do in that defence, which may involve the introduction of better and wiser players.

I think it was near the end of the match that I died, as Burton pressed for an equaliser. For all the excitement generated by Forest's attacking play, that feeling of fatal dread is never far away. I get the feeling that this season will be the best of times and the worst of times over and over again, and it will take some surviving.


GAME 2 AUGUST 12 2016 HOVE 3 FOREST 0

Stop shouting, Stress.

I'm not shouting, Pie. I'm simply expressing my anger in bold face.

Okay, I'll play along. Why would you be expressing your anger in bold face?

Because I'm angry Pie. I'm an angry man.

You don't say.

Oh but I do say. Don't you want to know what I'm angry about, Pie?

Not really.

Then I'll tell you. I'm angry that nobody seems to see the mess that Forest are in.

Nobody but you, I presume.

I may be a voice crying in the wildebeeste Pie, but all this one-eyed, slack-bottomed optimism is getting up my wick.

Slack-bottomed optimism?

Yes, all this Give them time and they'll come good bollocks.

It's wilderness, Stress. And things get on your wick, not up it. But apart from that...

The signs are ominous, Pie. Look at the Hove match. Losing three players before a ball has been kicked wasn't exactly inspiring, was it? It had the familiar whiff of the biscuit factory about it.

That's going a bit...

So what happened to Mountaineer's claim that they would work hard on defence? That paid off big time didn't it? A defence which is crap because they don't know each other is rejigged into another defence which is crapper because they don't know each other even more and we end up looking like the Tombliboos.

Tombliboos?

Don't ask.

Anyway, that's why the manager wants a deep squad, so that...

Wrong again, Pie. The deep squad myth is just an excuse for shuffling round mediocre players in the vain hope that endless fidding will miraculously cure their mediocrity. It's like rearranging the deck chairs on the Teutonic.

Titanic.

There's plenty of deck chairs, but the boat's still going to sink.

You think Forest are going to sink?

I may well think that or not, Pie.

Don't you think we've enough attacking threat to keep us out of trouble?

Attacking threat? Did you see that Lard bloke up front? Iggle Piggle would have been more effective.

Iggle Piggle?

Don't ask. I'll tell you, Pie, my faith in Mister Mountaineer was sorely dented when I saw he'd picked that bag of gravel to lead the line.

Oh come on, Stress. Give the poor bloke a chance.

And that's what really gets in my wick, this soppy idea that everything will get better with time. You can't teach pigs to fly, Pie, except perhaps after painful surgery and an extensive course of practical aeronautics, and that would take years. We don't have years. The Championship isn't a prolonged practice session.

But what about the positives?

The positives will soon lose interest if we keep losing heavily. Loyalties will be tested to breaking point.

Surely you're ejaculating prematurely, Stress?

What?

It was a joke, Stress.

That's a matter of opinion, but my thrust still stands.

What thrust would that be then, Stress?

I've no idea. But what I do know is that time is not on our side. This idea that teams take years to build is just an excuse for repeated failure. Ooh look, we've lost ten nil again, but don't worry because we're building a team. What daftiness is that? Time and tide wait for Norman, whoever Norman is, especially in the Championship, especially at Forest.

But to conclude that after two matches is just as dafty, Stress.

Two matches in which we've conceded six goals, almost been embarrassed by the aptly named Burton Down, been thumped by the ill-favoured Hove who may be a bunch of referee-assisted bullies but made our defence look like the Pontipines.

Pontipines?

Don't ask. I've seen a lot in these two matches, and much of it I don't like. I don't like having a right back who isn't a right back but that's okay because he's probably crazy, a left back who is a midfielder or a centre half but that's okay because versatility is important, a Burke whose finishing is wayward but that's okay because he's brilliant, a Pastrami who gets as frustrated as a hobbled bull but that's okay because he reminds people of Guedioura, a Paterson who does a passable impression of a moth but that's okay because he probably is a moth. I definitely don't like that we've replaced the best goalkeeper in the Championship with some chubby chap but that's okay because he looks a bit like Upsy Daisy.

Upsy Daisy?

Don't ask. All I've seen so far is muddle and mess, a manager who seems intent on shuffling a dog-eared pack but who has no idea what his best formation is or who his best players are. And I don't like being owned by the Man in the Mist. This season promises to be not so much a roller coaster as a series of clifftop accidents.

I'm sorry, Stress, you're describing a club I don't recognize at all. What happened to patience and support?

It ran out, Pie.

Where's your appreciation of decent, fluent, attacking football?

Somewhere in the night garden, Pie, playing footsy with Ninky Nonk.

Ninky Nonk?

I told you, don't ask.


GAME 3 AUGUST 16 2016 BENTFORD 1 FOREST 0

Before I begin, I would like to apologise for Stress's wholly negative contribution to the Hove match report. It was the demented outpourings of a perennially disappointed man.

Hey, I'm here you know.

I would like to reassure you that my views on Forest are more positive, and though a one-nil defeat might not seem the best example to use, the Bentford match provided enough evidence to suggest that better days are ahead for Forest.

The kit looked good, if you like the slit-belly look.

For a start, the defence looked better, as Mister Montanier finally realised that dedicated defenders do a better job than makeshift ones. Even so, it took Forest a while to get into the game against a neat passing side.

What on earth has happened to Lansbury's hair?

Forest looked strong down the right, with Hildeberto, playing further forward, causing problems with his pace and trickery.

Ah, Pace and Trickery, solicitors to the idle rich.

Lansbury had a pop, Hildeberto latched on to a long clearance and missed by inches, Fox crossed for Vellios who missed a good chance...

No surprise there then.

...but it was clear that Forest's progressive approach was causing the home side problems. Ironically, it was during Forest's most threatening period that Bentford scored, a scrappy affair which took three efforts to cross the line thanks to some brave work by Henderson.

Iggle Piggle.

And what was heartening was Forest's response. After a couple of anxious moments, they regained their composure and determination, and pressed on. A rejuvenated Osborn produced a wonderful run which culminated in a decent penalty appeal which was denied by the latest in a long line of the worst referees in the world.

They have a meeting, you know.

What?

The referees have a meeting just before the season starts to decide which teams they're going to punish most. Forest are always top of the list - something to do with unpaid bills or something.

You're sure about that, are you Stress?

The truth is out there, Pie.

Anyway, Forest's performance in the second half deserved a lot more than it got. They controlled the game, carved out several half chances, were denied progress and penalties by a referee who was only doing what he was paid for, and generally had no luck at all. In the dying moments a lovely move gave Britt the opportunity to equalise, but he was thwarted by an outstanding save.

And we lost. Again.

Yes we did, but this time we didn't deserve to. Even the Bentford fans said that. Things are beginning to click.

Things have been beginning to click for years, Pie. Beginning to click doesn't cut it any more.

Forgive me if I treat your pessimism with the contempt it deserves, Stress. This was my match report, and despite your attempts to derail it, I remain convinced that Forest are on the right track.

We'll see, Pie. Do you know why Dutch people appear so tall?

Because they're tall?

No, it's because their country is so flat.

Gosh, you know many things, Stress. All of which, sadly, are wrong. See you at the Wiggum match.

Pfft.



GAME 4 AUGUST 20 2016 FOREST 4 WIGGUM 3

Died again, several times. Of course, it's not the dying, so much as where it leaves you, that matters.

So, when Forest pressed high, forced a Wiggum mistake, and Britt ran through to slot home the perfect striker's goal, you may have died and gone to heaven. Not any old heaven, this, but a heaven characterised by sweet precision and that general air of things slotting into place and the cheerful promise of abundance. This particular heaven, sadly, was almost immediately stained by the sight of Britt limping out of his celebration and, not long afterwards, out of the match.

A few moments later, it seemed, we died and went to hell. A Wiggum player was freed on Forest's left, and amidst a confusion of sluggish reaction and poor marking, a sharp finish darted across Henderson into the net. This was a hell of freezing silence punctuated by muttered foulness, and that terrible feeling of dread which seems to spread from the defence to the crowd to the defence again.

Hell hath no fury like a Forest scorned, they say, and hopes were raised as the youngsters in red pressed for a second goal. Matty Cash, who absolutely made the most of his opportunity on the day, pitched a wonderful shot against the post, but Kasami couldn't convert the rebound. Vellios's cracker was saved, Osborn tried his luck when perhaps he should have passed. Twisty's pace took him beyond a labouring Wiggum defence, but he too failed to beat their goalkeeper. The half ended with the match threatening to become a frustrating hell all of its own.

Eight minutes into the second half, and we were in heaven again. This time the heaven was of its own making, composed entirely of a splendid sequence of events: Cohen simultaneously placing the ball for a free kick and staring downfield to track Twisty's run, then delivering a sixty yard pass onto Twisty's chest. Twisty controlled it perfectly and bounced it past their keeper. A heavenly move, accompanied by hugs and relief and that swelling conviction that one of our own was becoming a star before our very eyes.

And then a penalty, manufactured by the wise old head of Chris Cohen. And then hell again, as Vellios, desperate for his first goal, delivered a weak attempt which was saved. And then a deeper hell, as Hildeberto failed to stop a cross and a completely unmarked Grigg nodded home past a surprised Henderson. This hell was worse because it was not entirely unexpected. Another reshuffled defence, another chaos of dim reaction and uncoordinated effort, another simple goal for the opposition. The Forest players looked at each other, not exactly knowing who to blame.

The City Ground was turning into the Theatre of the Absurd. A beautiful through pass by Cash (we think) was collected by Twisty, who scored an angled goal with some expertise. Heaven again, surely this time one that promised light at the end of a rocky journey. But no. Not long later a Wiggum throw in was headed backwards by Mancienne, and Grigg pounced again. This really was hellish, like being trapped in some Victorian asylum full of half-lit, haunted faces. The crowd were now anticipating the deepest hell of all, the one we'd be plunged into when Wiggum scored their winner.

Well at least Forest seemed to be avoiding that particular horror, as full time ticked into extra time, leading to odd musings about why Forest matches always last longer than everybody else's, about whether Will Grigg's unenthusiastic celebrations meant that he was off to pastures new, about how the Forest defence could possibly manufacture the father of all cockups in the dying moments. And then, in added time, came the final death, the final petite mort as the French say (look it up). Hildeberto performed one last bit of wriggling magic and crossed precisely to Lam, who swept it home. What fresh heaven was this? The lunatics broke out of the asylum and scattered joyously through the grounds. Grown men swore undying love for the centre half. The Theatre of the Absurd exploded in earthy appreciation. Forest had won 4-3 again.

So after all these deaths, where does that leave us? Well, somewhere between heaven and hell, in a place that's called Purgatory. That sounds bad, but I would remind you that everyone who enters Purgatory is eventually purged of their sins and ends up in heaven. How long we have to wait for that, however, is anybody's guess.



GAME 5 AUGUST 27 2016 FOREST 3 LEED 1

We were going to say what an exciting match that was, how even Stress was begiinning to admit that the team was becoming a more coherent outfit, that the defence was beginning to find its feet, that the midfield and attack, even without Britt, was looking threatening and occasionally awesome. How well they played, we were going to say - Perquis, Osborn, Lansbury, Kasami, the mad Hildeberto, in fact all of them.

We were going to comment on Monk's graceless and wildly inaccurate analysis of the match, putting it down to the pressure he is under at that club, a pressure which turns all its managers sour. Contrast that, we thought, with Mister Mountaineer's calm rationality.

We were going to say that the only down-side to our victory was the increasing speculation about the sale of Oliver Burke. It seemed that every comment on his success was accompanied by some cynical side-note: the that's put another five million on his value kind of quip, or that remark during the latest incarnation of crap League Football shows: All they've got to do is keep him till Wednesday. It seemed that everybody was trying to sell him, the best Forest prospect for years and years. We were going to reassure ourselves with Mister Mountaineer's words about Burke's future, that he would be best served staying at Forest.

And then they sold him, within hours of that bit of brilliance which clinched the victory against Dirty Leed.

We were not shocked, just disillusioned, again. Forest, or rather Fawaz, had sold our best prospect, the young man who was going to drive Forest into an exciting future, to some German side financed by a company that produced canned caffeine. We read all the reactions, the emotional, the reasonable, the conspiracy-based garbage, the bite-your-tongue-and-try-to-explain-it-away brigade, and ended up feeling exactly how we had done when we first heard the news. Disillusioned.

Why was he sold? Because Fawaz needed to re-finance the club to buy players without plunging us back into embargo. Because Fawaz is still the C.E.O. making the big decisions, which, worryingly, casts doubt on the "investment" deal which doesn't seem to have turned up yet. However much is re-invested, it's not going to replace Burke. However much people try to rationalise their way through it, selling Burke is not going to make Forest a better side. It does, however, say a lot about the fragile authority of the manager and director of football at Forest. It says an awful lot about the state of modern football with its cattle-market capitalism and its cynical disregard for supporters' hopes.

We just wanted Twisty to stay, to mature with the team which had fostered his career. We think he would have stayed, happily. We're just disillusioned. But we tell ourselves not to worry, because whatever happens, Fawaz won't allow us to end up like Blackburn. He's far too clever for that.



GAME 6 SEPTEMBER 11 2016 VILLA 2 FOREST 2

How anybody could feel anything but pride in the team and the fans after that display is beyond us.

Consider the odds stacked against Forest. Several of our best players were missing. Two more injuries during the match added to the toll. We were "weak" up front. The team is still in the "slightly incoherent" stage of development. Villa sported an expensive set of Premier League players. They were at home, as was the boiled egg of a referee. The media script was pre-written - Villa were a class outfit who would cruise past a higgle-piggle Forest side on their inevitable rise to the top. It was simply a matter of waiting for the goals to come.

It seemed like that in the first half - waiting for the goals to come. There were several of those "watch through your fingers" moments, or in some cases "lower your eyes and pretend to be interested in your shoelaces" moments. Come on, we've all done it - if you're not looking then nothing bad will happen, innit? Forest's possession seemed to consist mostly of clearances, as Villa pressed high and exploited our flanks, Lansbury played deep, Kasami was having an off day, Osborn struggled on the wing etc. It did seem a matter of time. But as the first half ticked by, there came the tentative realisation that Forest appeared to have misread the script.

For a start, though the midfield weren't doing too well, the Forest defence were not playing that badly. Fox sort of dealt with Ayew early on; Gardner loosed a skier; Ayew cleared the bar with a free kick; the overrated McCormack muffed a chance at the foot of the post; Ayew bobbled a chance wide; Codger drove a powerful header low to Vlad's right, but Vlad impaled it brilliantly. None of this was luck. It was a combination of poor finishing, brave defensive play and brilliant goalkeeping. It was also evident that Forest's stubbornness was causing some funny looks between Villa team mates.

The second half started with a couple more wayward efforts from Villa, and it looked as though normal service would resume. But then something funny happened. It was obvious that Forest couldn't get much forward momentum, and this seemed to piss Henri Lansbury off. He took it upon himself to run over half the length of the pitch to close down the Villa goalkeeper. It was not much in itself, but what it signalled was that Forest weren't going to lie down and simply take it, and it had the Forest fans on their feet.

Not long afterwards Forest scored. A move down the left saw the ball moved to Vellios, twenty five yards out from goal, and the Greek bloke launched a missile into the top of the net, the goalkeeper beaten by sheer pace and swerve. And that's why we're at odds with those who say we were lucky or we didn't deserve the result or those who analyse games to death. In the end, football is not about luck or analysis or agenda-driven gripes. It's about moments, the kind of special moments you'll remember for a long time. Vellios's goal was one of these. There was an even better one to come.

Anyway, Villa tried to hit back with a ferocious shot which struck the bar - you know, one of those which isn't actually a goal because the frame of the goal doesn't count the last I heard - and after more pressure Forest cracked. Within a couple of minutes the overrated McCormack had fluked one through Mancienne's legs and Gestede had kicked Lichaj's face into the net - something which is apparently allowed these days unless you're Forest. Everything looked lost, until, once more, a Forest player got pissed off.

Everybody knows that at least a couple of the Forest players are probably unbalanced, and one of these is Hilderberto. He managed to get himself booked in a kerfuffle which should have resulted in harsher punishment for a Villa player. This seemed to upset him greatly, to the point where he decided to win the game himself. He set off from several miles out on what seemed a kamikaze run towards goal, glided past one, bamboozled another two, and ended his run with a piece of wonderment that beggared description. The ball rolled sideways to Lansbury, who slotted it gleefully into the net with the outside of his right foot. It was such a brilliant display of bewildering skill that the roar for the goal had gone up before the goal had been scored.

There were many swear words employed to express joy and disbelief, but even more greeted Hildeberto's dismissal. Those defending the boiled egg's decision, and there aren't many, quote the rules about perimeter walls or something, but forget that the ref has a degree of discretion in such matters. He could just as easily have warned Hildeberto about his future conduct, but he chose to follow the script, which dictated that he should do everything in his power to spoil Forest's day.

Well, that was that. Forest re-wrote the script and nourished a legend. We will long remember Vellios' thunderbolt, Vlad's amusing behaviour, Hildeberto's blinding run, Henri's goal and the subsequent celebrations, and the Sky-funded boiled egg of a referee. Everything else is just history's dishwater.



GAME 7 SEPTEMBER 14 2016 ROTHERINGHAM 2 FOREST 2

I love this kind of football, not only because it's entertaining, but also because it makes conventional match reporting almost impossible. In order to fully understand this match, and indeed what is going on at Forest, you would need to consult a reputable psycho-analyst rather than the bland mutterings of mainstream media.

I think the club has gone mental, in a nice way. We already know that some of the players are a bit unbalanced, but this is only one issue in a catalogue of oddnesses that keeps cropping up on matchday.

The Plan, for example. The Plan seems to comprise the following:
1.   Because of either injury or an apparently unhinged desire to rotate everything under the sun, the defensive personnel change match by match and even within the match itself. This leads to an exciting brand of chaos. At key moments players forget not only their own responsibilities but also those of their team mates. Sometimes they seem to forget who or where they are. Rotheringham's first goal came from some of our defenders, including the defensive midfield players we don't have, being sucked upfield, leaving some Rotheringham bloke to run at our backtracking defence. The bloke who ran wide and scored went unnoticed until it was too late. Rotheringham's second goal admittedly was a bit lucky as the ball was won by a foul, but watching the Forest defenders skittering around like bluebottles was painful. You can't coach that kind of mental breakdown. It stems from an inability to sense danger early enough. It can be cured, but only by installing a proper defensive midfielder, delivering a defensive arse-kicking, or subjecting the defensive players to a course of severe mental readjustment.
2.   Because of either injury or an apparently unhinged desire to rotate everything under the sun, the midfield personnel change match by match and even within the match itself. This leads to an exciting brand of chaos. As well as leading to defensive problems when the midfield wanders off for a fag, it generates an unpredictability which is scary for the opposition, and a pace and fluency which can be spectacular. Of course it doesn't always link up properly, but that's because relationships haven't yet formed between whoever is playing at the time, but the promise is there in bucketloads.
3.   Because of either injury or an apparently unhinged desire to play Vellios up front on his own, the Greek bloke has started scoring some of the most breathtaking goals you will ever see. Last night's goal was a feat of world class athleticism. This seems to be a core part of The Plan - don't give Vellios the ball much so that he gets cheesed off enough to try something remarkable.
4.   "Getting cheesed off" is also part of The Plan. When Forest are up against it, they seem to react with adrenalin-fuelled anger. The latter stages of last night's match were frenetic, driven by a team spirit so intense it bordered on the insane. Watching Forest in such a mood is a bit frightening to be honest, especially to ageing supporters whose knees aren't what they were.
5.   Forget the previous four points. There is, of course, no Plan. Or at least, The Plan is so long term its fulfilment is miles away. It probably has something to do with fluid selection, positioning and responsibilities, a total footballing ethos which is wonderful when it works but at the moment, here on the battlefields of the Championship, seems alien and a bit crazy. What we're left with is a variably functional group of talented players who alternately take the breath away and shred your sphincters, but who, and this is most important, have formed an emotional bond with their fans which hasn't been there for years. We appear, probably by Alchemy, to have become the most exciting and entertaining team in the league.



MISTER EGG'S CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW
SEPTEMBER 17th 2016

FOREST 1 NORRIDGE 2
Monty's Flying Circus lost for the first time on home soil as Norridge came from behind to blah blah blahdy blah. Boss Neil said: "I just questioned them. I asked them how much they wanted it. Did they want to go on and win this game? What were they made of? How many U.S. presidents had served a second term? How many Diehard films had been made? They answered all these questions in the second half. Well, almost all of them. In the end, all you can ask of your players is pretty vague questions which require non-verbal responses and then pray to God they get the rub of the green. Which they did."
Reds head coach Philip Mountaineer was disappointed with the manner of his team's performance. "Norridge are one of zer big cheeses in zer Championship and we needed to be at zer higher level. We were a little timide wiz zer ball and also in defence. We made things too easy for zem. After zer penalty save we had a good reaction and we took zer lead. We wanted to keep playing in zer same way, but our level of mindless brilliance fell away and we handed them zer game on a platter. It was disappointing but at least it was not us playing like time-wasting robots at zer end. "

DIPSWITCH 0 VILLA 0
Villa boss Di Matteo insisted his side had not been lucky despite failing to register a shot on target during the whole match. "We played reasonably well during the first half," he said. "The second half was a bit more difficult but it was a good solid performance at a place that is always difficult to play at, because it is always so boring here, stuck out in the middle of nowhere, and so flat. I have never been to a place that is so flat."
Dipswitch boss Mick McCarthorse said: "My players gave everything they had. That doesn't amount to a hill of beans, or a hill of any size, I know, but when you've played in this part of the country for as long as I have you come to realise that mind-crushing boredom is an integral part of life here, which suits me fine."

CAERDYDD 0 LEED 2
"We have a new group, new manager, new ideas, and we are taking it step by step," Leed boss Monk said after second-half goals from Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez settled the contest. "This victory was another step in me keeping the job for another week or two."
Caerdydd remain in the bottom three after a fourth successive defeat, with the club having won only once all season. Bluebirds boss Paul "Who?" Trollope said referee Graham Scott "changed the game" when he blew his whistle for the kick off. "If he hadn't done that, we might have got away with a result," said Trollope. "As it was, his actions instigated another woeful display, and once more we see that officials at this level are simply not up to the job."

BOREMINGHAM 2 WENDIES 1
Boremingham scored two late goals to come from behind to beat Wendies who lost because they only scored one. Boremingham boss Rowett went on for ages about revenge and spirit and penalty taking technique and matters of such soul-blenching insignificance that rumours of Hinkley Point C's completion were rife before he had finished.
Wendies manager Carlos Carlosvalhalos could not hide his disappointment with the result. He said: "I am very happy with our form. I am happy we are playing fantastic but not scoring. I am not happy with our not scoring. I am happy we scored one, but one is never enough when the opposition score more than one. About this I am not very happy. I do not know whether I am happy or not happy. I find it odd that when you repeat a word over and over it seems to lose all meaning. Happy. Happy. See what I mean?"

BRISTOLS 1 SHEEP 1
Bristols' boss Lee Johnson was grateful to substitute Aaron Wilbraham (yes, he's still alive) for a stoppage time equaliser against the goal-shy Sheep. Johnson said: "I'm really pleased for goalkeeper Frank Fielding. Someone said well done in the dressing room afterwards and there was a spontaneous round of applause from the players because they all love him. That's the kind of cheesily disturbing atmosphere I like to foster in the changing room, after all."
Sheep boss Nigel Pearson had good cause to regret his side's lack of finishing power. "You could see by the players' reaction at full-time how disappointed they were," he said. "We continue to stutter as a direct result of not converting the chances we are making." Pearson continues to sound like one of those weather presenters who insist that the only reason for increasing turbulence in our weather systems is the dislocation of the jet stream, notably failing to explain why the jet stream is acting so weirdly in the first place. In the same way, Pearson consistently fails to explain why his players are not converting chances. Are they crap? Does his influence inhibit them? We'll probably never know, because according to Pearson, "You can't spend too much time beating yourselves up about it."

BENTFORD 5 PRESTON NOB END (misprint) 0
Four goals in 13 minutes, including a first Bees hat-trick for Scott Hogan, a Harlee Dean strike and a Chris Humphreys own goal, gave the scoreline an emphatic look that Nob End supremo Simon "Flies in the Eyes" Grayson insisted didn't reflect the game. He said: "We started well and were on top, created good chances and counter attacked well and then Brentford scored against the run of play. We started positively but then they scored their second, and even though we started positively they scored a third, but despite our postive start they scored a fourth, and their fifth came after we started positively. This is a massive learning curve." No it's not, Simon. A learning curve is something that's plotted over time. This was just a shit performance.

BLACKBum 4 ROTHERINGHAM 2
Blackbum manager Owen Coyle was quick to praise the courage of his team to keep playing positive football. "The most important thing today was to win," he said. "It was important we got the three points, but it was the manner of the performance and how we won which was most important. What was most important was the way we played after going one down, and even at 3-2 they picked themselves up and scored a wonderful fourth goal. That was the most important thing of all." No, Owen, what's most important is that you occasionally shut up, because a highly significant number of people don't care.
Millers manager Alan Stubbs, the position of whose eyes continues to intrigue, was angry at the 'significant' part his side's defending played in the defeat and threatened to make changes in future. He said: "To be honest, I'm saying the same thing most weeks. First of all, you have to keep working at it and keep saying the same things week in week out. If not, leave them out." Which we've done.
Words, after all, do not avoid relegation.

WIGGUM 0 COTTAGING 0
Wiggum boss Gary Caldwell believes his side are up there with the best attacking teams in the Championship despite their dull 0-0 draw with Cottaging. "As an attacking team, I don't think there's many better in the league. The way we pass the ball is excellent, we cause teams a lot of problems, and we have attacking players who can score goals. My God we're good. Sometimes on my home computer I watch our videos all night just to remind myself how pleasurable our performances are."
Fulham head coach Slavisa Jokanoslavisovic said he was not satisfied with the Cottagings overall performance. "I cannot be satisfied because we didn't score," Jokanoslavisovic said. "At the end it's good news because we kept the clean sheet but we didn't score a goal. We are trying to build something different here." A non-scoring team, presumably.

NEWCASTLE 0 WONDERBRAS 2
Asked if his players had allowed themselves to be carried away by their exploits at Loftus Road, Newcastle chief Benítez said: “No, I don’t think so because we were talking about that the day after, we were talking about that the day before, we were talking about that the day itself, so they knew how important it was to be concentrated and then do the things we had talked about on these days. But it’s more about the decisions. The football decisions were wrong and then we put ourselves under pressure. It’s not that you have to forget – you have to forget but try to understand why and try to correct things as soon as possible.” All of which might make some sense if it made any sense at all.
Walter Zenga was more plain speaking. He insisted that he was enjoying certain aspects of his visit to earth, though he was looking forward to returning to his home planet of Zenga'a when his work here was done.



GAME 10 SEPTEMBER 24 2016 WENDIES 2 FOREST 1
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why do we do "Frequently Asked Questions", Pie?

Because it's less boring. "Frequently Asked Questions" gets to the truth with surgical precision, as well as furnishing the reader with those fascinating details which sadly go missing in the tedious bumfluff you get in regular match reports. For instance, did you know that there are places in Shropshire where, whichever way you walk, you end up going uphill? You'd never get that in a match report.

Probably because it's both irrelevant and untrue. But tell me, are you of Mister Mountaineer's opinion, that most referees are bastards?

He didn't say that, did he?

I'm asking the questions, Pie.

I take it you're referring to Mister Friend's performance during the Wendies game. He did miss the obvious foul on Osborn which led to the breakaway for their goal. He and his linesman did misread the throw-in decision which immediately preceded their goal. But what Mister Mountaineer has to learn about the Championship, amongst other things, is that the referees are the spawn of Satan whose anti-Forest bias is ingrained in their blackened and wholly incompetent souls.

So we were unlucky to lose?

Of course we were unlucky to lose. Some say that "these things even themselves out" which is such a stupid argument. First of all it provides an excuse for referees' incompetence. Secondly, it's like telling somebody in Shropshire not to worry because they're bound to be heading downhill sooner or later.

So Wendies didn't deserve to win?

A draw would have been fair. It was, to be honest, not much of a match. It looked to me like two fairly average sides battling away in a fairly average fixture. Forest's problem, apart from the referee, was that they didn't create enough, which sounds odd when you consider their defensive weaknesses. There were some fluent passages of play, but too little punch up front. I thought the defence did okay, not brilliant, but okay. I think we would have been a more potent attacking force with Hildeberto playing higher up, Lichaj at right back and Cohen at left back.

So you think Mister Mountaineer tinkers too much?

I think Mister Mountaineer wants the players to be versatile, to be able to play in a number of positions, and to play football. Unfortunately this approach is being hampered by, firstly, the chronic Forest injury problem. Players who are more comfortable with this style, such as Lam and Perquis, are not available. Secondly, there is the perception that rotation and readjustment does not work in Championship football, that "the settled side" is far more effective. This has been fairly evident in the last few matches in terms of the opposition. The Wendies for example did at times look a more settled and coherent side than Forest, with slicker, more practised moves. Thirdly, this kind of analysis bores the crap out of me, whereas the sporadic brilliance of Forest's play I find engaging, so I don't mind Mister Mountaineer persevering with his experiments for the time being.

Are you sure?

Nope. I'm pretty much as mixed up as Forest's form and results. What I do know is the sooner we get Britt back, the more sure I'll be. And the sooner we get a win or two, the safer I'll feel.

So how did you feel, honestly, after the Wendies match?

A bit angry at the manner of our defeat. A bit gloomy at Henri and his fifth booking. A bit disappointed that we only played okay for much of the match. A bit worried about three defeats in a row. But mostly a bit sad when I learned that the Sheep had lost at home to Blackbum and I laughed out loud. It is sad, isn't it, when your mood is brightened by the misfortune of others, when you find succour in the febrile rantings on the Sheep forums? Sad, in the sense of being bloody hilarious, you understand.

Football is a funny old game, isn't it?

It's certainly funnier than walking miles uphill in Shropshire, then turning round and seeing that the way back is uphill too. That's not funny at all.

Do you know that there's a crossroads near us where, whichever way you walk, the wind's against you?

Really?

No, I'm lying. But it's more interesting than doing a match report on another defeat.

Which is, my wise young friend, why we do "Frequently Asked Questions", isn't it?

I thought so.




GAME 10 SEPTEMBER 27 2016 FOREST 1 COTTAGING 1
MIXED BAG

Me and Missis Pie have two neutered rabbits. One is called Bonnie. She is a Netherlands Dwarf rabbit, full of energy and, despite her size, as bossy as any cute female can be. The other is Tubbs, a lumpen mass of English black and white indifference. He should be called Meh. Anyway, we feed them this mixed bag of rabbit food which contains one particular treat, at least for Bonnie, which is dried apple flakes. Bonnie would kill for them. Tubbs, on the other hand, is happy with grass pellets.

Forest's performance against the Cottaging was such a mixed bag. There were some apple flakes. Vlad in goal was immense, because he has powers of anticipation which border on the supernatural. The defence coped reasonably well, with Perquis in particular providing power in the air and a degree of assuredness on the ground. Vaughan took his chance well and we hope there are many more of them, which means we hope that Mister Mountaineer avoids the temptation of playing lesser players just because he feels he has to. The Dark Lord Bender got his goal and should have had others. He is an intelligent player who roams to find space and frustrate his markers, but we hope he doesn't get cheesed off by the grass pellets around him.

There were, sadly, an awful lot of grass pellets. Poor old Osborn had obviously been told to close down as high as he could, but his efforts were neutered by those beside him failing to do the same, which meant his attempts to stop the opponents' momentum were largely wasted. Carayol tried hard enough, but is a bit of a brick wall merchant who doesn't track back. Kasami looked like a troubled crab, and Dumitru promised to become a skilful footballer but sadly failed. Our midfield was a mishmash of uncertain ambitions and confused intent. The Cottaging midfield, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were up to. It was a good job their forwards didn't, or that Vlad played like a wizard.

There were other grass pellets. Not playing our most progressive and exciting attacking player caused mumbles, and when he did come on, Hildeberto was again stuck at the back. Mumbles too about the extent of Britt's injury, and when exactly he will be back. Mumbles about not winning for too long, about declining performances in front of crowds who are beginning to forget the excitement of the opening weeks, about settled sides and missing Burke and Henri being stupid and stuff like that.

Tubbs would have loved that match, if indeed Tubbs could love anything. It was a point, after all, so what the meh? Bonnie would have gobbled up the dried apple flakes and then impatiently butted Tubbs in the stomach.

I'm afraid we're going to have to get used to more mixed bags, because at the moment there are more grass pellets than apple flakes, and we can't see the rabbit food producers tweaking their ingredients any time soon. For the moment, Tubbs rules.



GAME 11 OCTOBER 1 2016 BRISTOLS 2 FOREST 1


Here is the Good Ship Forest, ploughing bravely through the Seventh Sea with its sheets braced and its hawsers taut and various other bits and pieces quivering in the teeth of the salty wind.

Here is the Master, Captain Mountaineer, a man of ideas with a cool dress sense and a fondness for French cheese. He issues orders which are barely heard above the wind - Haul the spigots ... brace the linekers ... crimp the stanchions - while his crew do random things with ropes and blocks and lumps of iron and generally give the impression of people who almost know what they are doing.

Here is the crew, a motley selection of Lascars and Pompadours and Scallywags, struggling manfully with tasks they barely understand. Here is Henri the Navigator, who knows where he wants to go but not how to get there; Handsome Dave, a man much reduced by appearance and circumstance, who spends much of his time whittling toothpicks; Vlad the Impaler, whose party trick is catching cannonballs and hurling them back whence they came; Bennie the cabin boy, who does as he is told; a selection of big blokes with nervous tics; a wild looking individual from God Knows Where with a blazing passion some mistake for madness, or vice versa; One-Shot Apostolos, who is in charge of the guns; several fellows who stump around on crutches; and an odd assortment of foreign types whose main occupation seems to be avoiding the briny slap of the wind.

Here is the Good Ship Forest, ploughing bravely through the Seventh Sea on its way to fame and glory and untold riches lying somewhere beyond the horizon.

"Ship Ahoy!" yells a seasoned voice from the tops, and Captain Mountaineer peers through his spyglass to see the three-masted sloop Bristolian a mile off the starboard quarter. His gathers his men quickly on the middling deck and addresses them from the poop.

"You know your tasks, mes petits fromages," he says. "Every hand to his rope or gun, quick's the word and sharp's the action, and God willing this day the prize will be ours!"

The hands cheer uncertainly and scuttle to their stations with clumsy enthusiasm.

The two ships draw closer, and battle begins. Volleys are loosed at far too great a range, and cannonballs plop harmlessly short. Powder monkeys wriggle between hairy legs to deliver their dangerous loads. Gunners fight to deploy cannon with seized axles and perilously rusted barrels. The whole chaotic pointlessness seems to go on for hours.

But now there is a measure of success for the Good Ship Forest. Henri the Navigator spins the wheel and catches the wind, drawing the Bristolian within broadside range. One-Shot Apostolos looses a charge of chain-shot which crashes murderously into the Bristolian, raking away the mainmast rigging and leaving her temporarily disabled. But One-Shot Apostolos cannot repeat his success. There are too many guns out of action. An exploding breech renders the best of the big blokes senseless. The Bristolian rights itself, and joins battle again.

Then, in a few short minutes, the battle is lost. Henri the Navigator spins the wheel again, but this time drives the ship shuddering into a windless trough. The ship wallows helplessly long enough for an enemy cannonball to splinter the mainmast, then another shears the foremast rigging. There is panic and cursing and reasonably insignificant bodies lie all over the place.

The ships are close now. The crew of the Good Ship Forest watch angrily as a skinny ragamuffin taunts them across the narrow gap. Captain Mountaineer demands greater aggression from his men, but the guns are all wrecked, the steering buggered, and too many sails flap hopelessly in the wind. The battle is lost. Luckily, the Bristolian's condition is not much better, and the two ships eventually drift apart, like two wrestlers exhausted by the absurdity of their sport.

Here is the Good Ship Forest, drifting into calmer waters. It is not a happy ship. As well as the disappointment, there are ugly rumours. Rumours about the fate of a young favourite called Burke, about large sums of money gone who knows where. Rumours about the state cabin, where unseen men play with infernal engines and manipulate destinies by candlelight. Rumours that Captain Mountaineer keeps some men manacled in the bilges for no good reason. Rumours about what the future holds for the Good Ship Forest, with its splintered decks and tattered red pennons and its aimless drift towards an uncertain fate.

But at least they are safe for now, as they limp towards Castaway Island, a safe haven which will afford them the time to fix their guns, caulk their planks, splice their braces, do something about their haircuts and generally sort out their crutches. Here they are now, dropping anchor in a deep inlet, and rowing their billy boats up a narrowing river. Captain Mountaineer smiles reassuringly. "Have no fear, mes braves," he says. "I know this river like the back of my head. I know where we are going, je vous assure."

The crews return uncertain smiles as they glide inland under a blue sky, dipping their oars into the muddy waters of Frenchman's Creek.

Meanwhile, back on board the Good Ship Forest, the infernal engines are humming.



GAME 12 OCTOBER 14 2016 FOREST 3 BOREMINGHAM 1

AT PIE MANSIONS...

Where on earth have you been, Vetch?

I'm terribly sorry, sir, but I've just returned from the Accident and Emergency Department of the local hospital.

Good God you're not dying, are you?

I think not, sir. No, it's Missis Vetch...

Ah, the perpetually unfortunate Missis Vetch. What is it this time, eh? Don't tell me - she's walked into a door and broken her neck...

Something along those lines, sir...

Well, as long as it was a consenting door, nobody really cares do they? But while you're here, Vetch, tell me, did you attend the footballing match on Friday evening?

I did, sir.

I would have attended myself, you understand, but Friday night football is a concept I wholly reject. Friday evenings should be given over to dubious liquor and expensive women, not the noisy rompings of hairy men. So tell me, Vetch, how did the match go? A blow by blow account, if you will.

Very well sir...

Starting at the beginning, if you please.

Of course sir...

Did we win, by the way?

Er, yes sir, it was a three one victory to the Forest.

Splendid, splendid. On with your story, then.

Well, sir, The Forest team selection indicated a preference for the sure and steady, with David Vaughan and Chris Cohen bracing midfield and defence, which resulted in a more balanced and composed set up than in previous games.

Good men, those.

And their reliability spread confidence throughout the team. Barely a minute into the game, Henri Lansbury forced the Boremingham goalkeeper into a fumbled save, and shortly afterwards, a clever Lansbury free kick bounced beyond the hapless keeper into the net.

Good man, Lansbury.

Except, of course, the goal was disallowed for off side. This began a match long debate about the competence of the referee and his linesmen who, by their own spiteful refusal to dole out punishment in an even-handed manner, were subjected to a torrent of curses and threats from the onlookers.

Good grief, that sounds ugly, Vetch.

Boremingham were ugly, sir. Forest, to their credit, played football. It was with some sense of justice that Forest went ahead with a delightful goal from the American full back Lichaj. A splendid pass from Bender found Lichaj in the area. The American controlled, made space, and hammered a powerful shot into the net.

Good man, Lee Hi.

Indeed, sir. Half time came with the locals indulging in the usual gallows humour about the inevitable Forest capitulation, and we awaited the Boremingham onslaught in the second half. But the onslaught never really materialised, partly because Forest were coping well, and partly because Boremingham were proving themselves to be little more than a mean spirited taproom eleven. Forest did indeed suffer a major blow when Bender was crippled by an unpunished Morrisson, but his replacement Vellios once more dealt out justice with Forest's second goal. Lansbury fired in a sublimely controlled first time cross, and the Greek striker displayed predatory swiftness to slide the ball home.

Good man, Vellious.

Indeed, sir. His recent form is nothing short of spectacular, and with burgeoning confidence comes a full complement of striking skills, which is reassuring indeed considering the temporary absence of Assombalonga and Bender. But two nil, as they say, is a dangerous scoreline, which was confirmed when Boremingham scrabbled a goal about fifteen minutes from the end. Recent history suggested that Forest would somehow contrive to cock things up, and there were a few nervous moments in the crowd, but all fears were dispelled with a moment of magic from the substitute Hildeberto.

Good man, Hildeturbo.

Indeed he is sir. He collected the ball deep in his own half, on the right, level with his own penalty area. The remarkable thing is that he was able to see a path clear through the middle of the pitch, when most players would struggle to see beyond the nearest opponent. His vision fixed, his pace took him along his chosen path rather like a southern European Moses carving through the Red Sea. It was a breathtaking sight, accompanied by a rising chorus of excitement from the crowd. He laid the ball off to young Osborn on the left, continued his run, and was on hand to receive the youngster's precise cross and stab the ball home. It was remarkable, sir. Truly remarkable.

Goodness, Vetch, it all sounds a splendid affair.

I believe it was, sir. And a great relief for manager and fans after a fairly uncomfortable time. All we need now is for the Americans to take over.

What?

The Americans, sir. My information is that an American consortium is on the verge of taking over the club.

The Yanks are coming?

I believe so, sir.

Good grief. And what are we supposed to think about that?

The general consensus is that it is a good thing, sir.

Really? Oh well, better late than never, as they used to say. At least there'll be nylons and chocolate for the women.

Indeed sir.



GAME 13 OCTOBER 18 2016 BLACKBum 2 FOREST 1

There was so much I didn't like about last night that I decided to make a list of things I didn't like.

1. I didn't like the pre-match rubbish, about Mister Mountaineer wanting an all-out attacking display, about a real chance of winning away for once, about "building on the Boremingham victory". I didn't like it because, as so often happens, the reality of a dirty night in Blackbum bore no relation to the pie-in-the-sky flummery about "getting the winning habit". People should just shut up, or say something pragmatic like "It'll be a tough game", and stick to it. Pre-match hype just hangs you out to dry.

2. I didn't like Blackbum. I've never liked Blackbum, with its stupid humped pitch and its general air of damp resignation. Blackbum is the sump of the world.

3. I don't like the way Forest players get injured at the drop of a hat. It reminds me of Little Ed's song, which will provide the title track of a major up-coming feature film:
We like cheese and biscuits
Better than coffee and cake,
The trouble with cheese and biscuits is
The cheese just crumbles and the biscuits break.

4. I didn't like the way Forest started. Our so-called attacking plan went down the drain somewhere between intention and execution, and it was Blackbum who seemed to have a clearer idea of what pressing and attacking meant. Forest's lack of clarity continued into the middle of the match, and when eventually they did open their eyes it was too late.

5. I didn't like the performance levels of some of the players. The defence was okay except when it was terrible, Lansbury frustrated, Cohen fired in a brainless free kick right at the end when everyone including our goalkeeper was waiting for a high one into the mix, and Hildeberto stopped the ensuing Blackbum break with a tackle which got him sent off. That Kasami bloke didn't exactly shine, and Dumitru was reliably duff.

6. I didn't and don't like the appalling inconsistency of this side. They should by now be welded into a consistently effective group, but they're not. It's this kind of waywardness which will get Mister Mountaineer the sack, if and when the Yanks move in.

7. I didn't like thinking that last thought after the match, and I still don't. But unless Mister Mountaineer can buck this switchback trend (we've lost six out of thirteen games now) I fear for his future.



GAME 14 OCTOBER 22 2016 FOREST 1 CAERDYDD 2

SOME PERSPECTIVE, PLEASE

There were so many intemperate reactions during and after the Caerdydd game that we felt the need to counter the main ones.

MOUNTAINEER DOESN'T HAVE A PLAN

This, an opinion held by people with little imagination, is simply not true. To understand Mister Mountaineer's plan, you must half-close your eyes during the match, focus on a plane somewhere behind the foreground, and wait for the plan to take shape and reveal itself like a ghost. Yes, Mister Mountaineer's plan is hidden in a book of Magic Eye pictures, visible only to the most discerning and educated gaze. It is a subtle proposition which involves a cleverly confusing line-up, playing it out from the back with nuanced incompetence, and presenting the illusion of attacking football without actually doing much attacking. Once the plan becomes plain, your frustrations will ease.

THE PLAYERS ARE A DISGRACE

This is simply an emotional over-reaction. Okay, the performance was below par, but the players cannot be blamed for this. So many negative pressures influenced their level of play - tactical confusion, the owner's flirtatious relationship with reality, wage and job insecurity, brittle bones, the situation in the Middle East, Brexit - that it's a blessing they turned up at all. As it was, it came as no surprise when Traore gifted Caerdydd a goal, or Lam was a wimpish excuse for a centre back, or Vellios got lost in the tall grass, or Pastrami performed like a transparent question mark, or Dumitru failed to recover from never having been any good in the first place, or Britt sulked like a huge baby.

WE WERE BEATEN BY A VERY POOR CAERDYDD

True, but a poor Caerdydd who had some semblance of organisation and were streetwise enough to take advantage of Forest's naivety. Still, Warlock's tactical nous can never compensate for that oddly evolving mask on the front of his head.

A RELEGATION BATTLE LOOMS

Only in the sense that everything looms. If we could predict the future, nothing would loom at all. In this case, the loom of relegation is predicated on things not changing, such as Mister Mountaineer's inability to come to terms with the trench warfare of Championship football, his apparent unwillingness to impose stricter discipline, continuing injury problems, the sense of insecurity pervading the whole club, and some pretty rotten results. If these things continue, relegation not only looms but treads on our neck like a surgical boot. However, not all of these things will stay the same. Just as everything looms, everything changes. At the moment we are entering a perfect storm of failing owner, struggling manager, wayward performances, crap results and disillusioned support. But storms, however perfect, have a habit of blowing themselves out. The nasty part is counting the bodies afterwards.

THAT WAS THE WORST PERFORMANCE I'VE EVER SEEN

How old are you? Ten?

I WANT MY MUMMY

Don't we all, sunbeam.



GAME 15 OCTOBER 29 2016 READING LADIES 2 FOREST 0

STILL WAITING...

What are you doing here?

I'm waiting.

But you were waiting yesterday.

And I'll probably be waiting tomorrow.

Why?

Because I've got no choice.

Everybody's got a choice. It's part of the human condition.

No, waiting is part of the human condition, especially if you're a Forest Supporter. We've been waiting for years. We've turned it into a skill. You can probably get a degree in it somewhere.

And what exactly are you waiting for?

What do you think I'm waiting for, a bus? Yesterday, before the match, I was waiting for Forest to get hammered. It's like going to the dentist, anticipating the drill slipping across the enamel and burying itself into your upper gum. And when the game started, I was waiting for the individual error which would cost us a goal, and sure enough along came Vlad the Imposter to deal with a straight shot by shovelling the ball out to, of all people, McClearly, who slotted it home. From that point I was just waiting for a Forest capitulation.

And did it come?

No, it didn't. To be fair, Forest played reasonably well, if being a match for a very average Reading Ladies side can be called reasonable. In fact Forest displayed a decent level of control, especially in the second half. But there was something missing, and I was still waiting. I was waiting for that bit of pace, that bit of magic that would set the game alight, but neither Burke nor Hildeberto was there. That Pastrami bloke was there, but I'm still waiting for him to tell the difference between a barn door and the eye of a needle. I'm still waiting for us to come up against a goalkeeper who has an off day, or a linesman who occasionally makes a decision in our favour.

I suppose, with all our missed chances, you were waiting for the killer goal?

Of course I was. It wasn't a great goal. In fact it was a bundling mess of a goal. Fox failed to stop the cross, the ball bounced around a bit, and there was, of all people, Gunter to fire it home, leaving me still waiting for Fox's retirement. That was a real sickener. Then, sadly, I was waiting for Forest's consolation - don't we always lose 2-1? - but the linesman and Dumitru's wide effort put paid to those meagre hopes. And then I was simply waiting for the final whistle, all the time wondering why Forest fans were squabbling with each other, or why that banner didn't just say EVERYBODY OUT and be done with it.

Well at least the waiting was over.

You've got to be joking. The waiting just goes on. I'm waiting for Mister Mountaineer's plan to miraculously come to fruition, or not. I'm waiting for Pinillos to come back, for Vaughan and Hildeberto to come back, for Bender to come back, for Britt to get some kind of fitness, for Cohen to be five years younger again, for Lansbury to stop dicking about and take proper control. I'm waiting for a clean sheet, an away win, a home win, any kind of win.

It's going to be a long wait, then.

Maybe. I suppose like all of us I'm waiting for the hammer to fall.

The hammer?

Yes, you know, that Sold! sound so beloved of that cheesy bloke off Burger Hut or whatever it's called.

Bargain Hunt.

That's the sound we're all waiting to hear, when the Yanks come in and Mister Fazzer goes and there's a clearout and we can all get back to what we do best.

Which is...?

Waiting, of course.

I see.

Waiting patiently for it all to go wrong again.

Oh come on - maybe this time everything will turn out all right.

You're new here, aren't you?



GAME 16 NOVEMBER 5 2016 FOREST 1 QPL 1

Sorry about this, but it's been a bad week so far, and it seems to be getting worse.

For a start, Me and Missis Pie are having a new kitchen put in. The house has been taken over by deliverers, joiners, plumbers, electricians and plasterers, and filled with assertions like "Those cracks were there before the skip landed on your drive" and "That needs completely re-skimming" and "Those joists aren't properly supported" and "This is the wrong cabling" and "Did you know you've got mice in your garage?" It's become an ongoing nightmare, and may lead to blows.

For a second, the mouse/keyboard keeps freezing. I'm waiting for it to happen as I type.

For a third, there's this President Fart thing, which is apparently the forerunner to some kind of Armaggeddon. Perhaps we should have kept the receipt for 2016, then we could ask for our money back. Or perhaps we could subject 2016 to System Restore, but that turns out to be a load of bollocks anyway. Perhaps we should just treat 2016 like an old kitchen and get a new one put in, but that would just prolong the nightmare and probably lead to blows.

So what's all this got to do with Forest's latest crap performance? Well, we could say that Forest's woes - a paralysed owner/executive, a failing manager, thick players and a miserable fan base - pale into insignificance when set against the world's spiralling insanity.

We could say that one day the kitchen will be finished, the Republicans will lock President Fart in a quiet cupboard, our computer will miraculously fix itself, and Forest will sort themselves out for the better.

We could say these things, but we have no faith at all that any of them are true.



See what I mean?



GAME 17 NOVEMBER 19 2016 DIPSWITCH 0 FOREST 2

Well, that was fun. I was going to say relief instead of fun, but the match didn't feel like that - there was none of the bilious dread which has spoiled so many of Forest's matches of late. The lack of dread was down to a few things: Dipswitch were pretty poor; our defence looked strong; and the ref, God bless him, didn't fall for Lawrence's infantile dives. Oh, and it was an away match, so lacked the awful pressure exerted by a home crowd which seems to have lost the ability to enjoy itself.

Yes, it was a relief to get an away win and a clean sheet, and certainly a relief for the players and their manager, but these questions didn't seem to raise themselves at all during the match. Forest didn't play like a side under pressure. They played with a disciplined competence, and occasionally with the odd bit of magic. It was as if they had rediscovered themselves.

Of course, it helped that Forest scored their first goal before everybody had sat down. A Dipswitch hoof upfield was met by a Forest player - was it Lam? I'm not sure - but whoever it was produced a proper, directed header to Osborn, who lobbed it forward towards Britt. To be honest, it should have been an easy ball to deal with, but the Dipswitch defenders cocked it up so badly that they found themselves woefully out of position as the ball broke back to Osborn, who found an unmarked Britt with some precision. Even then I thought Britt had been pushed too far wide, but a powerful and accurate cross shot reminded us, and their goalie, just what a lethal finisher Britt is. The cheers of the Forest fans sounded almost disrespectful, like a noisy mob invading a morgue.

Forest continued to threaten against a Dipswitch side who seemed to be ploughing through unforgiving earth. A couple of strikes from Pastrami who looked determined to get on the scoresheet, a free kick from Britt, a neat move which Osborn couldn't quite finish, a Perquis header cleared off the line... it was going well for Forest. The only real scare came when McGoldrick was released by some neat Dipswitch play, drifted into the box (with the young Worrall showing real professionalism not to foul him), and released a shot which Vlad the Impossible padded away. It was a decent save, but it wasn't, to be honest, a great shot. It was, after all, only McGoldrick.

Forest's second goal originated from a free kick by Lansbury. Instead of flighting it into the box, Lansbury clipped it to a totally unmarked Britt on the left. Britt's cross produced a chaotic sequence of laughable Dipswitch defending which somehow involved Forest's centre back Mills pretending to be a forward. The ball pinged around for a bit on the right until Mills found himself free to nod a header towards goal, or rather towards Britt, who had sneaked in to deftly nod it past their keeper. Or through their keeper. Their keeper looked like a batsman beaten by a devilish off-break. It was a brilliant poacher's finish, right at the end of the first half. The Dipswitch crowd booed their players off the pitch.

As a Forest fan, you knew what was coming. Mick McCarthorse would remind his players just how vulnerable Forest were under pressure, and he would urge them to attack us until we cracked. Well, they did attack, but it was lumpen stuff. Lots of balls into the box which were dealt with by Forest's three big blokes at the back, the odd dive from Lawrence which should really have seen him booked for being childishly stupid, and not really much else. Forest still looked the more incisive, when they could be bothered, and a clever move involving Lansbury, Lichaj and Osborn ended with the ball bouncing back to Pastrami, who smacked it hard against the post. I don't think I've ever seen a player more disconsolate at missing a chance, which is really testament to his longing to do himself justice. Pastrami played throughout as if he had something to prove, which he did.

Anyway, Forest's resilience, Vlad's dramatics and the general feeling that Dipswitch were crap saw Forest through without the usual alarms, and it was fun.

What it wasn't was a turning point. Turning points are a matter of hindsight. Talk of Forest suddenly "clicking", of Mister Mountaineer's plan finally falling into place, are more the stuff of hope than reality. Dipswitch weren't that good. It wasn't a great game. There will be trickier opponents. We'll have to wait and see what happens. We've been here before. Just saying, like.



GAME 18 NOVEMBER 25 2016 BARNSLEH 2 FOREST 5

Lucky? Really?

Well, I suppose we were lucky missing Britt, Pinillos and Lichaj. God only knows what calamities would have befallen us with those three on the pitch. Thankfully we had Fox to fill in at left back, and what a difference he made.

We were lucky that their second goal was called offside. It was a mighty close call, but the ref got it right for once, and then we all woke up to find that he had given it, which was doubly lucky, because it set up a tremendous match, and also allowed me to make an unappreciated quip about Marley Watkins ghosting in to score.

Forest's first equaliser was undoubtedly lucky. To start with, Pastrami's one yard return ball from Henri's free kick was accurate, which was something of a bonus. Henri's thump was so swift and precise it took their goalie completely by surprise, which didn't seem fair. It was a cunning piece of play, but Henri was lucky not to be booked for arrogant play.

Forest's second equaliser was even luckier. Seeing Fox break into the penalty area was like finding a fiver in a pub toilet (yes it was wet but dried out on a radiator) and his fizzing cross was so out of character it temporarily disabled everybody except Vellios's knee, which somehow managed to lob the goalkeeper from a yard or so. That was 2-2, though Forest were lucky not to be ten nil down, unless you counted the number of shots Barnsleh didn't have.

And the third goal was possibly the luckiest of the night. Barnsleh were desperately unfortunate in not realising that Osborn, that diminutive no-hoper, could cross on the run with such clinical venom, or that Henri, that showboating wastrel, could meet the cross with a powerful long range header which sailed past their luckless keeper. Barnsleh sagged to a man at the terrible unfairness of it all.

Forest's luck continued in the second half as they virtually ignored Barnsleh's pretty football (which deserved so much more, let's face it), and went on to score two more. Their fourth was once more a concoction of the gloriously unpredictable. Mancienne, never a wing back in a million years, pretended to be a wing back for about ten seconds, during which time he surged down the right, looked up, and crossed onto the head of the diminutive no-hoper Osborn. By a fluky alignment of circumstance, Osborn just happened to be the perfect height to glance it at the acutest of angles into the far corner. Of all the lucky breaks Forest had, Benny's not being three inches taller was possibly the luckiest of them all.

Barnsley's luck continued to be all bad. Watkins, the scorer of their definitely on-side goal, barged Lam to the ground and put his foot on him. It was merely an act of comradely affection, and didn't deserve the red card which followed. This was a devastating blow to Barnsleh, whose brave attempts to get back in the game by offering less and less threat were finally scuppered.

Not that Watkins' removal made much difference. Forest had already scored four. They had, in fact, beaten 11-man Barnsleh 4-2. They went on to beat 10-man Barnsleh 1-0, not 5-2 as was reported in all media outlets. The fifth goal came courtesy of a penalty engineered by the young Matthew Cash, a Noddy lookalike with enough energy and and fizz about him to defend and attack with equal success. His dart into the box was blocked by a Barnsleh player who seemed to have lost interest in the whole thing, or was perhaps irritated by being confronted by a well known children's favourite. Anyway, Henri scored the penalty with ease after the Barnsleh keeper unluckily dived the wrong way.

Yes, I suppose Forest were lucky. Lucky to have an away support which sang bumptiously and disrespectfully throughout, and especially lucky not to have a graceless sod of a manager who couldn't acknowledge one good thing about Forest's performance.

Well done Forest, well done Mister Mountaineer. May your well of outrageous good fortune never run dry.



GAME 19 DECEMBER 2 2016 FOREST 2 NEWCASTLE 1

Ten things we learnt about blah

1.   People like lists, because they reduce the ineffable complexity of experience to bits of information which can be readily absorbed by overloaded brains. Of course, if the listed item moves into a second sentence, or words like ineffable creep in at any point, things become more taxing.

2.   This match proved, if it still needed proving, that only the result matters. Everything else is just flim flam.

3.   Flim flam refers to pre-match predictions, match analysis, and post match reaction. This match proved, if it still needed proving, that there are too many variables at play, especially in Championship matches, for reasoned argument to cope with. Football has more to do with absurdity than logic. The notion that Forest have moved to the Dark Side is as valid as any debate about tactics or players. Over the last three games, Forest have played no better or worse than previously, have not consistently given the impression that there is a plan in place, yet have still won those three games. The only explanation is Sorcery.

4.   Newcastle are not as good as they think they are. They were a better side than Forest, but so they should be given their resources. However, there were fault lines in their side. Firstly, the man who made them tick, Shelvey, looked arrogantly influential, but never provided a major threat. He has always been little more than a showboating Nosferatu with the emotional restraint of a five year old. Secondly, they have problems scoring. Their goal was not the result of sophisticated manoeuvring, but of a series of lucky breaks. Young Cash was robbed by being pushed over, the resulting cross took a deflection which wrongfooted (we think) Mills, who tried to adjust but could only poke the ball out to Ritchie, who scored. None of this was planned, nor was it the result of dreadful defensive play. Thirdly, the Newcastle shirts were one size too small, an intentional ploy designed to highlight the beefiness of their biceps and pectorals and give them a kind of Premier League machismo which has no place in Championship football.

5.   When Lansbury tangled with Shelvey, Shelvey kicked out and probably missed. It is the duty of any player who has been the victim of malicious intent to signal as much to the officials. Lansbury could have done this by jumping to his feet and haranguing the referee, but we know that would have not have worked. Instead he chose to lie down as if injured, a tactic used so often in professional football that it has become routine. The moral outrage which followed from Newcastle quarters and others was laughable.

6.   Laughable, but understandable. Newcastle had had a really bad week, and the post-match reactions of their manager, players and fans reflected this as much as the match itself. Their domination of lesser mortals was not as secure as they thought it had been.

7.   Forest missed two penalties. They should have won four one. As it was, they had to rely on two scruffy goals, both of which resulted from mistakes from Lascelles, who seemed a bit angry at the end.

8.   We don't quite know how Forest are doing it, but they are on a roll. We see no reason why their success should not continue against the Sheep, because, as we have said, reason doesn't seem to be entering into it at the moment. The roll Forest are on has more to do with dice than anything else, so we look forward to seeing them in all their glorious unpredictabilty next Sunday.

9.   Our kitchen is finished. Well, apart from the tiling and the skirting boards and the flooring. But it looks a whole lot better than it did a few weeks ago, as does life.

10.   Forget the ifs and buts. If ifs and buts were coconuts we'd all be bloody monkeys. We won. Get over it.



GAME 20 DECEMBER 11 2016 SHEEP 3 FOREST 0

Well, that was pap wasn't it? Painful as the defeat was, it is important that we look for positives from a generally woeful performance.

Well, we did okay for a bit...

Nope, that's it really.



GAME 21 DECEMBER 14 2016 FOREST 1 PRESTON NOB END 1

Not being on Sky was weird, but nowhere near as weird as Forest's performance. You would have thought, wouldn't you, that the promised bounce back from the Sheep mauling would have been evident from the off, but no, we had to wait until the second half for some decent football. The first half was much the same as the second half on Sunday. It was bloody awful.

Gone are the days when teams were wary of Forest at the City Ground. Now, like Nob End, they try to pressure us from the off, in the sure and certain knowledge that at some stage our midfield will chase the wrong shadows and our defence will panic its way into an early grave. And so it went, with Nob End playing routine, energetic football (getting the basics right) and Forest stumblebumming around like nervous cattle (getting the basics wrong).

Thank God for Vlad the Impossible. Early on, Robinson latched on to a lucky deflection and would have scored had not Vlad sprouted extra arms and legs to block it away. Then another two saves from Browne, the second of which he tipped onto the post. It was remarkable stuff from the Forest keeper, whereas Nob End's Maxwell was having a much easier time, saving a weak shot from Osborn, watching a Cash volley fly wide, and dealing well with a better Osborn shot. Sadly, the occasional Forest threat seemed feeble in the face of Nob End pressure.

And yet Forest should have gone ahead just before the break. Lichaj, who seems to know how to play football, drove in a spectacularly accurate far post cross for Bender to volley home. Unfortunately for Bender, he was at the wrong end of the pitch, and his effort flew over. If Forest had scored then, it would have been a different match, because Forest would have scored, and Nob End wouldn't, but in this most cruel of non-parallel universes, the reverse happened. Nob End broke, Forest's levels of stumblebummery reached epic proportions, and some lanky troublemaker called Muckyneck fired home. It was a dismal end to a dismal half of football, and we all feared the worst.

It's a funny old game, though, and a few simple changes effected an immediate improvement in the second half. Perquis left the stage with his funny hat, Traore went to left back, Lichaj switched to his natural position on the right in what was now a back four. Lam and Vaughan provided double protection/springboard in front of them, and everybody else attacked. Simple, balanced and effective. Nob End's freedoms were largely curtailed, and Forest threat-levels increased. Hildeberto and Cash combined neatly to give the youngster a chance, but he was thwarted by Maxwell. Traore drove on and crossed to Cash, but again Maxwell denied him. Bender tried his luck, but a deflection took it wide. Bender wasn't having the kind of night a Rolls Canardly deserves, so Vellios came on and added that last bit of energy that Forest needed.

The pressure on the Nob End goal increased, until finally Lam's strike ended up in the back of the net via the post and Maxwell's heel. And don't talk to me about bad luck. It was just physics.

Forest then laid into the opposition in the slightly lunatic closing stages, with Vellios missing by a whisker, a possible handball on the Nob End goal line, Vlad the Impossible making a remarkable double save, and Baptiste clearing off the underside of his own bar. Despite their pressure, however, Forest could not force the winner. But you know that already, of course.

I have no idea what lessons are to be learnt from this game. Forest are such an odd bunch of characters it's impossible to predict anything about them with any confidence - you know, simple things like will a proper team ever form from such inconsistent parts, will they ever perform evenly over two halves, will they ever all perform well at the same time? The only thing I was certain of was that Simon Grayson's face has deteriorated alarmingly.

Anyway, takeover soon. So prepare, say a prayer, send the word, send the word to beware ... they'll be over, they're coming over, and they won't come back till it's over over there.



GAME 22 DECEMBER 17 2016 FOREST 0 WONDERBRAS 2

From the Post:

"They have come here and out played us, out headed us, out battled us – and it pains me to say that. I do not want to be coming out and saying that. But it is true.

"I don't want to point any fingers but, as a collective, we don't back each other up. We make individual mistakes and it comes down to determination. I have been relishing the challenge to come and play but I was a bit embarrassed to pick up the man of the match award. I don't think I deserved it – I don't think any of us deserved it, if I am honest.

"It was just a poor game for me to have to come and speak about. The fans are right – I have had a little scroll down Twitter at what they have been saying and they are spot on, in some of what they are saying.

"We need to do something quickly, otherwise we are going to be right down there and then it can be very hard to get out.

"I am not sure others (players) relish the opportunity as much as they should. I am relishing playing every game I am in the starting team. In training I want to head it, I want to kick it and I want to tackle. I want to be the best I can be. I don't think there are many players who did that today.

"The belief is there. When we go out on the pitch, the belief is always there that we can beat whoever we play against. We beat Newcastle – whoever we play we believe we can win.

"We have a lot of players out injured but whoever goes out there should relish the chance to play for the club; they should go out and give their best and it just didn't happen today."

Well said Joe Worrall, a 19 year old kid with more guts and pride than most at the club. We include Mister Mountaineer in that most. It's come to something when people's support for the manager is founded mostly on sympathy. He'd better up his game, they'd all better up their game, because we don't think there'll be much sympathy flying around when the Americans get to work.





GAME 23 DECEMBER 26 2016 UDDERSFEEL 2 FOREST 1

AT PIE MANSIONS...

For heaven's sake, Vetch, where have you been?

I'm sorry, sir, I've been tidying up Missis Vetch's room.

She's not had one of her turns again, has she?

I'm afraid so, sir, but brandy and restraints have settled her spirits for the present.

Well that's a relief, I must say. Now then, Vetch, what are you doing here?

You asked to see me, sir. Little Biddy Flightsome the scullery maid brought a message that you wished to see me.

We have a scullery?

I believe so, sir.

Well well well. So what do you want, Vetch?

As I explained, sir, you asked to see me.

What about?

I don't know for certain, sir, though the subject of football may be at the heart of your summons.

My God you're right, Vetch. How fare the Forestieris these days, eh?

Not well, sir, not well at all. Their latest defeat came at the hands of Huddersfield.

Good grief, Huddersfield? Don't they eat pigeons there?

They may well do, sir, but they also sport a thriving, well managed football club which is flying high in the Championship, one which proved too strong for our struggling outfit.

Dearie me. What happened, Vetch?

It was the usual woeful tale, sir. Too many injuries (they call us the Biscuit Boys, by the way) left us light in midfield, cumbersome at the back and isolated up front, which meant that most of the possession, quality passing and pressure came from the opposition. Still, we did manage to score first - a fine goal from Hildeberto, who broke free from some groping defender and flighted a delightful chip into the net.

Good man, Hildeberto. Always said so.

The Forest faithful celebrated mightily, but their enthusiasm was tainted by the knowledge that we would, as we always do, concede at least twice. As I remarked to an acquaintance at the time, in the good old days a winning lead would assure victory, but these days it is simply the precursor to inevitable defeat. And so it proved on this occasion.

Was there nothing of any cheer, Vetch?

Well, we did defend with a kind of haphazard resolution, sir. And we did score three goals. Sadly, two of them were own goals. Even more sadly, the two own goals came not from Huddersfield's penetrative qualities, (their finishing was not of a high order), but from fluky misfortune. Their equaliser came from a widly mishit shot which was headed onto our bar, only for Vlad the Improbable to bundle the ball into his own net. Their second came from some speculative punt which Mancienne diverted into his own goal. Mancienne was sent off later for bouncing the ball. And Osborn was taken off injured.

That sounds awful, Vetch.

It was, sir. Sad and awful and unfair and entirely predictable. It seems that whatever Forest do these days turns sour. They didn't play that badly against a confident side, they did frustrate the opposition and expose their weakness up front, yet still, by some sickening rolls of the dice, ended up defeated and further depleted for the battles to come.

So why don't they do what they always do, Vetch, and sack the manager?

If Mister Fazwaz was in charge, sir, I'm sure that is what would happen.

You puzzle me, Vetch. Where is Mister Fazwaz?

He's gone away, sir. Apparently. He is in the process of selling the club. At the moment, there is no executive at the club. We are a captainless ship. Hence the manager, Mister Mountaineer, keeps his job. That is why people say we are in limbo.

For heaven's sake, Vetch, this is terrible news. This is the kind of news which brings the mob to the gates, with their flaming torches and bad teeth and fungal nail disease. We must be strong, Vetch. We must stand against such pestilence till the flesh be hacked from your bones. Call the guard, Vetch, call the guard!

I'm not sure that we have a guard, sir. We do have Little Biddy Flightsome the scullery maid, but she may be pregnant.

I don't understand any of this, Vetch.

Neither do I, sir, though I suspect you may be over-reacting. Our new owners may well rectify the situation, one way or another.

New owners?

Indeed, sir. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the club has been bought by an American consortium.

Americans, you say? Americans? Don't talk to me about Americans, Vetch, always turning up late with their nylons and chocolate cigars. No wonder the scullery maid's pregnant.

You distress yourself unduly, sir.

I'll distress myself as duly as I please, Vetch. Leave me now, but before you go, tell me who the Forestieris play next.

Newcastle, sir, away.

More bloody pigeon eaters, eh?

Indeed, sir.



GAME 24 DECEMBER 30 2016 NEWCASTLE 3 FOREST 1

2016 was the year which was won by the stupid people. All the bright people ran for cover or fell through the burnt crust of democracy or simply died. So the match against Newcastle was a fitting end to the year, being influenced from top to bottom by stupidity and won by a club with the stupidest fans in football.

Newcastle scored from a free kick which was the result of a stupid decision from a stupid referee. The free kick took a ridiculous deflection and hit the back of the net, whereupon Ritchie celebrated as if he had just won the Buffoon's Cup. I thought that was that. I thought this red rump of a side, butchered by injury and catastrophic governance, would fold like an Amazon DCBW1168 CWF C5 FLANGELESS 406x302x1-70 B FLUTE delivery system. Forest, however, refused to be cowed, defended stoutly, counter attacked with occasional venom, and after one such penetrative move, actually equalised through the surprising boot of somebody called Dumitru.

How stupid we had been to write off Forest's chances, to criticise the selection of Dumitru who turned out, after all, to be something of a hero. How ridiculous to bad mouth a manager whose haphazard efforts suddenly crystallised into a workable plan. Here were Forest giving the rather blunt Geordies a hell of a game. Good God, they might even go on to win it.

But that was the daftest thought of all - the thought that these players under this manager could possibly deliver a performance which was not cocked up in some spectacularly idiotic way. This time the cock up was down to the combined stupidity of an angry Mills, a referee with a historic red card twitch, and a linesman probably influenced by the atmosphere of lumpen crassness pervading the ground. Anyway, Mills got sent off for an offence which could have been dealt with by a common sense warning, and the match became layered in stupidity like an overcooked lasagne. Some naff defending and a couple of flukes later, and Forest were finished.

It was a stupid game to end a stupid year. The current view is that Forest end 2016 reduced to a dustbin of a club by feckless ownership, managed by a man whose decency cannot be much longer used to defend a woeful record, with all their hopes founded on a takeover which is taking a hell of a long time to complete.

Hopefully, 2017 will signal the end of the Age of Stupid. At the moment, the signs are not good. The world used to have a way of setting itself right by some benevolent law of nature, but even nature, it appears, has had enough.



GAME 25 JANUARY 2 2017 FOREST 0 BARNSLEH 1

Writing Forest match reports these days is not a pleasant business. It's a bit like a condemned prisoner scribbling a few last thoughts before the hanging party arrives to unlock the cell door. But here goes...

I suppose you could say that Forest were unlucky to lose. I suppose they deserved a draw, if, for nothing else, their improved competence at the back. Having said that, Barnsleh could have had two or three goals in the first half - a half in which they showed the home side little respect. I suppose you could say Forest were unlucky to go behind to a speculative blast from Hourihane, though he was given far too much time and space to tee up his shot.

As an attacking force, Forest were disjointed and rather flat. I suppose you could say Bender was unlucky to have a smart goal ruled out for offside, Jack Hobbs was unlucky to hit the bar, Britt was unlucky with a header, Lichaj was unlucky with a thumping effort which veered off target ... but all these things amounted to was a display which produced no shots on target. In fact, the statistics were alarming: possession was roughly equal; Barnsleh had 15 shots to Forest's 10; Barnsleh had 5 shots on target to Forest's 0, 7 corners to Forest's 5, and committed 6 fouls to Forest's 13. It was difficult at times to work out which team was playing at home.

But, as I say, the match report seems almost irrelevant in the light of the enormous issues which circle around the City Ground. For what it's worth, we think Mister Mountaineer is the wrong man to manage Forest at this time. Yes, we know he has been shafted by Fawaz and by injuries and the lukewarm attitude of certain players, but at the moment Forest need somebody to galvanise what players they have into a proper fighting force, one whose members would shed blood for the cause. Mister Mountaineer, it seems to us, has the galvanic power of a potato battery. Results are everything, they say, and we can't imagine the Americans are too impressed with the results of Forest's Graeco-Arabian experiment.

Again, it's irrelevant what we think, because everybody's just waiting, still, for something concrete to happen. The City Ground is like a vast empty chamber where the manager's voice echoes tinnily in the void, full of pious wishes: We must continue to believe ... I expect Lansbury to play against Wigan ... No, I have not spoken to the new owners yet.

Meanwhile, we wait. We've been waiting, it seems, a very long time.



GAME 26 JANUARY 14 2017 BOREMINGHAM 0 FOREST 0

The game itself was very much a sideshow. While the main event carved out its grisly progress elsewhere, Sideshow Bob and his crew put on a performance which, though satisfactory in parts, did little to lift the prevailing dampness. They didn't play badly. They could easily have won against a Boremingham side which looked disjointed and uncertain, and showed defensive fortitude when the going got tough. It was just that none of it seemed to matter. Despite the magnificent support from the away fans, the whole thing ended up being neither disappointing nor uplifting. If it is remembered at all, it will be remembered only as Sideshow Bob's last match in charge, and even that significance is being blown away by the firestorm engulfing the big top.

I call him Sideshow Bob not out of disrespect, but because that is all he has ever been. He was hired under false pretences, given less and less to work with, and dismissed with contemptuous disregard for simple human dignity. Yes, we did not think he was the right man to get the best out of the team, but that was when we thought the Americans were bringing in Rowett. To sack him so peremptorily, with no replacement lined up, is simply stupid. But then we're used to stupid, aren't we?

And so the main event blunders on with the big top in flames and the audience running for their lives. The main event appears to consist of Fawaz scrabbling around trying to con some poor sap into helping him out of the desperate mess he has created. So far he's got Gary Brazil.

There'll be more of this. At the moment, it doesn't seem worth it.



GAME 27 JANUARY 21 2017 FOREST 1 BRISTOLS 0

There are so many people who care so deeply about our once great club. "I care deeply about our once great club," they say. Caring deeply about our once great club seems to be the height of fashion these days.

They were all over the place yesterday, lining up to care deeply about our once great club. Some of them cared so deeply about our once great club that they told anyone who didn't care as deeply about our once great club as they did to fuck off. Even celebrities turned up to show how deeply they cared about our once great club by actually turning up and saying they were going to tell those who cared not a jot about our once great club how deeply they cared about our once great club over coffee in Mayfair.

Journalists were there too, (well, some were there in spirit rather than actually turning up because it was a bit cold), caring deeply about our once great club. Some were there to show how deeply they cared for our once great club by filling their pages with stories and pictures of people caring deeply about our once great club because they felt it was about time they stated the bleeding obvious to get the twatters off their backs. Other journalists cared so deeply about our once great club that they felt the need to say things like "If Fawaz al-Hasawi continues to repeat his mistakes and sanction the sale of Ben Osborn to Newcastle before the closing of the transfer window, the protests against his chaotic ownership will look like a meeting of the Women’s Institute knitting group." Such statements show a depth of caring about our once great club which us ordinary folk, who didn't actually realise that there were plans to sell Ben Osborn to Newcastle, can only admire from afar. According to this same journalist, Brian Clough was there, instructing the Kuwaiti to “get out of my club”, and Fawaz's attempts to find a new manager had been met with scoffery and uncontrollable laughter, and "Osborn leaving would be the Swan Vesta on the paraffin Trent." You can tell how deeply this journalist cares for our once great club by his Brexit-esque treatment of the facts and the research he has done into the composition of the River Trent.

This deep care for our once great club was evident during the match, which was attended by a surprising number of people who seemed quite supportive of the players. Of course, some decided to show how deeply they cared for our once great club by referring to everybody as being "shit" - players, ex-players, assistant managers, ex-managers, owners, the opposition, anybody who didn't think everybody was "shit". Ordinary folk can only stand back and admire the depth of care for our once great club which exhibits itself in such competitively venomous abuse.

Then there's Fawaz, out there somewhere, maybe in space, who cares so deeply about our once great club that he's virtually loved us to death. I don't begin to understand the man, but at least I know he cares deeply about our once great club because he says so a lot and he has employed somebody to look after the books and some bald bloke to help with shouting at the players. And then there's JJ Moores, who cares so deeply about our once great club that he makes a spectacularly derisory offer to buy it and proceeds to embark on a pr campaign designed to foment unrest against a deeply unpopular owner who cares so deeply about our once great club that he refuses to sell. It is difficult to tell which party cares more deeply for our once great club, but it is reassuring to know that they both have the long term interests of our once great club at heart.

Sadly, I sense that I do not care deeply enough about our once great club, because my abiding memories of the day will not be of protests or anger or abuse or the Trent being made of paraffin. They will be of relief that Mister Brazil reverted to a kind of default position in his choice of players, dismissing the rag bag collection of under-achievers in favour of the tried and tested, young and old, in their natural positions; disappointment that, for a long time, Forest's defensive fortitude and heightened competitiveness was not rewarded with much in the way of creativity or penetration up front, leading to the fear that nothing much had changed. But then, about half way through the second half, a foul on Cash resulted in a Forest free kick. Cash and Osborn stood over the ball, for all the world like two Artful Dodgers plotting some mischievous trick to play on the grown ups. Cash rolled the ball towards Osborn, who flicked it up and volleyed it powerfully past a Bristols goalkeeper who looked mildly surprised at the turn of events. Then there was Osborn punching the air wearing a slightly manic expression and Cash capering after him like an idiot and various players trying to pull Osborn down whilst others tried to lift him up. And the thought came to me that those two, those two Artful Dodgers, are the future of Forest.

It was one joyous, giggly moment in a day mired by cynicism. I am not stupid enough to think that the victory was a turning point in our fortunes, however. The future is still appallingly uncertain. But we are surrounded by those who care so deeply, so selflessly about our once great club that the actual football on the pitch will probably have to take second place to the various off field battles. Caring more than the next bloke is, after all, what football is all about.



GAME 28 JANUARY 25 2017 LEED 2 FOREST 0

We didn't go to this match because we had sad business to attend to. We were not surprised at the defeat - a bit disappointed that the enthusiasm sparked by the Bristols victory was snuffed out by the reality of us not being very good, but not surprised. The not very good bit, apparently, didn't apply to the first half, where we made the high-flyers look ordinary, but as soon as the dead hand of injury and fatigue touched us, we faded and failed.

We've just got to beat Rotheringham on Tuesday. If we don't, the whole thing will likely cave in. As for all the other stuff surrounding the club, well, it's a bit like Fawaz desperately trying to resuscitate a dying horse by spraying it with cheap air freshener. But the stink remains and the flies keep coming back.

We await developments with apprehension.



GAME 29 JANUARY 31 2017 FOREST 2 ROTHERINGHAM 0

What a glorious day, eh Pie?

Glorious?

Yes Pie, glorious. A glorious victory From Gaz and the boys, and some glorious transfer business from Lord Fazzer the Saviour of Mankind.

Well, I think it's a bit of a stretch to call the victory glorious, Stress. You didn't seem to think that things were going gloriously in the first half, did you? You said Forest were labouring, and that Britt looked like an upside down fat man.

I feel you must have misheard me, Pie. I'm almost certain I said that Forest were savouring the moment, and that Britt looked like an up and coming hit man. Anyway, the first half was only a pedagogue to the second...

Prologue?

...in which Britt did the business in a glorious return to form.

For God's sake Stress it was only bloody Rotheringham. If we hadn't beaten Rotheringham there'd be hell to pay. And what's all this Gaz and the boys tosh? What happened to Gary "No Hope" Brazil?

I feel you must have misheard me, Pie. I'm almost certain I referred to him as Gary New Hope Brazil. Even when he was failing miserably I could smell the potential steaming off his grizzled visage. And now, with the help of Lester Dexter and that Robert Plant bloke, he's masterminded two wins out of three.

You do talk some cock, Stress, but no greater cock than Lord Fazzer the Saviour of Mankind. Forgive me, but I thought you despised the man.

Never, Pie.

So Fazwazzock was a slip of the tongue, right?

Never, Pie. You see, I could see the Grand Plan unfolding when ordinary mortals saw only incompetence.

The Grand Plan.

Indeed. Let me tell you about a famous play by that bloke who invented shoelaces , Pie. It's called "Prince Hal and the Forty Thieves" or something. Anyway, there's this bloke called Prince Hal who pretends to be bloody useless so that everybody thinks he's bloody useless. Then, when he turns out to be brilliant, he seems even more brilliant because everybody thought he was bloody useless.

"My reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off."

Whatever, Pie. Anyway, this Prince Hal bloke - that's Fawaz, that is.

I see. So all the sackings, the court orders, the cash flow problems, the failure to establish a proper structure, the broken promises, the sale of our best players, the failure to re-invest, the take-over cockups - all these things were just a ruse. Fawaz's Grand Plan, if you like, was to look stupid for four years.

That's it, Pie, you've got it. It was all a roos, so that the world thought he was bloody useless, like that Prince Hal bloke. And now look what he's gone and done. In one day, one glorious day, he's risen from the fire like a Felix.

I'm sure you mean Phoenix, but tell me, Stress, how has he managed this glorious feat?

The signings, Pie, the signings. How Lord Fawaz must have slaved over a hot phone all day to gift us these top notch signings. There's that Tex bloke from Wonderbras, and Tishbola and Ross McCormackgate from Villa and the brilliant though rather odd looking Zach Clough from Boln, and Iggle Piggle from Chesterfield. That's a pretty impressive haul you've got to admit. And my sources tell me that a Civil Engineering Officer and a Scoutmaster are on the way. How fitting that we should call him Lord Fawaz the Saviour of Mankind.

Are you part of the Grand Plan as well?

I don't catch your drift, Pie.

So your being stupid isn't part of the plan, then? It just comes naturally, does it?

You'll see, Pie, and when the Day of Judgment comes, all you doubters and journalists and all the media cockroaches will fall to their knees and worship Lord Fawaz, Saviour of Mankind.

Do cockroaches have knees?



GAME 30 FEBRUARY 4 2017 FOREST 2 VILLA 1

Sometimes you wish you'd written the report half an hour after the match. If you had, you might have come close to the truth.

But you didn't. You waited to see the highlights and read the reports, and began to suspect you had gone to the wrong match.

You don't remember, for example, the match taking place in a mist of low definition video. You seem to recall that Forest had a monstrous amount of possession, but you must have been wrong, because the highlights revealed it was actually Villa who dominated the play. You got the impression that, because the match hadn't gone to a script which somehow involved Villa mullering that shambles from Trentside, Forest had won by some sort of fluke.

And then you watched the Sky interview with Bruce, and this confirmed that you really had gone to a different match. Perhaps you had inadvertently ended up at the Pirelli Stadium and watched Burton slay the mighty Wonderbras 2 - 1. These things happen, after all. Or perhaps the whole thing had been a dream.

Anyway, the Sky interviewer began with "Did the sending off change the course of the match?" This seemed an odd question to ask, especially when it was followed up with, "You were dominating up to that point." You could have sworn that both points were simply not true, but then again, you may well have been undergoing a psychotic episode at the time. You never even realised that Grealish shouldn't have been booked because he was kicking the ball to one of Forest's centre backs, a far cry from the petulant 30 yard lump you thought you saw. And his second yellow was "only" a mistimed tackle. And the ref couldn't wait to send him off all afternoon, because the crowd kept calling Grealish a tart, or something. All these facts seemed to have passed you by. Were you drunk?

"You must have been heartened by the partnership of Codger and Hogan up front," went on the Sky interviewer, in no way trying to be conciliatory or sycophantic. This again jarred with your impression of there being no relationship at all, an impression confirmed by Villa fans, who complained that Codger barely acknowledged the existence of his strike partner. Still, these are the same Villa fans who thought Forest were the worst side they had played all season, which shows how much they know.

It was all very confusing. You must have been dreaming, after all, or temporarily deranged, or drunk, or at the wrong match.

Because in your version of reality, it did look like Villa were going to muller the shambles from Trentside for about half an hour. Hogan's dangerous, mazy run was just thwarted by a Forest defender at the death, and not long afterwards, Cash's mistake allowed Codger to score the kind of spectacular goal he would never score again. It looked bad, then. It looked like a team of expensively coiffured giants were going to take the red dwarves to the cleaners.

But, as with most things in life, it didn't last. In your completely distorted view of things, Forest gradually got some measure of control, and Villa began to fall back. Eventually, Ward's fizzing shot rebounded off their goalkeeper's chest, and there was Britt to slide home the equaliser. Somebody nearly punched you in the head at that point.

You seem to remember Forest having a lot of possession and Villa hoofing it from back to front in a travesty of counter attacking football. You remember Henderson being crap when the ball was in the air, but reacting with telepathic anticipation to bat away a point blank shot. You remember Grealish being a tart and getting sent off. You remember an obscenely expensive outfit failing to play like a team and being outfought by the energetic shambles from Trentside, a manager mis-handling his tactics and substitutions, and trying to kid yourself that Forest failing to create much was simply them waiting patiently for their chance.

You remember, vividly, Pinillos's cross flying in from the left in the dying gasps of the match, Britt holding off an expensively coiffured giant to head it perfectly into the path of some kid, and that kid poking it firmly into the net, whereupon somebody seemed to thump you in the ribs.

If only it had happened like that. If only Ben Brereton had worn the widest smile and ignited the loudest roar you'd heard in those parts for a long, long time, and made you wish you were seventeen again.

The fact that it felt like a dream probably meant that it was one. You'll wake up soon, and face the reality of a grimmer script. But not just yet, thank you.



GAME 31 FEBRUARY 11 2017 NORRIDGE 5 FOREST 1

< grump >

You know what "hostage to fortune" means?

Well, it's like a bloke in a Big Hat going into a town full of people who hate Big Hats. I don't just mean any old Big Hat, but a Big Hat like the topper worn by James Delaney in "Taboo", which by the way is a series as magnificent as his hat, as he swans around Victorian London flaunting his Big Hat in the faces of the King, the East India Company, and various other malign interests who are after his blood. Anyway, this bloke with the Big Hat goes into a town full of people who hate Big Hats, and before too long some concerned citizens take his Big Hat off him and crap in it.

In the week following Forest's victory against A Vanilla and leading up to the Norridge match, there was an awful lot of hostaging going on. Local journalists were keen to present Forest in a light which was so positive it bordered on the blinding. I say local journalists because the national journalists had obviously lost interest in a Forest who were suddenly doing reasonably well, preferring to dig into the malaise at Leicester like pigs snouting up truffles. Local journalists, as I say, were left on their own to sing the Forest song, so we got stuff about Ben Brereton scoring a lot of goals for Forest, comparisons to Paul Hart's crop of talented youngsters taking us to the brink of the Premier League, how Fox and Henderson were really very good, how Gary Brazil sounded much more like a manager than the last time around, how much more organised and disciplined the side had become under his tutelage, how much better they were playing (even at Leeds, despite the defeat), how much Brazil and his team deserved a proper go for the rest of the season because he was convincing the players how good they were, and how delighted they were to hear that Fawaz had appointed Brazil and Lester as proper manager and assistant because they fully deserved it.

This all led up to Brazil himself being in bullish mood going into the Norridge match. Nothing wrong with this, of course. If you've got a Big Hat, wear it. But make sure the Big Hat doesn't slip over your ears, because then you won't be able to hear the background noises.

And there were a lot of background noises. Fawaz's decision to appoint Brazil and Lester as first team managers was as much to do with the absence of other candidates as his faith in these two men. And prior to the appointment he was careful to say that he was willing to give them a go "as long as they don't fall back into the relegation zone". The fact that being offered the Forest job was like being invited in for a nice cup of tea by John Christie had been ignored by the journalists and by the new management team.

Doubts about the quality of the team were also ignored. We were led to believe that Fox and Henderson had been rehabilitated into the fans' good books, but many had doubts about their consistency. Many had doubts about the true strength of our midfield, too, lacking, as it did, a real general. But none of this registered in the new found optimism. The fact that Forest's victories were all tight, at home, and against struggling opponents was also dismissed as somehow having no relevance in the quest for an away result against a resurgent Norridge side. The fact that one injury could scupper Forest's plans, as it had done so many times before, played no part in management or journalistic projections.

So in we walked wearing our Big Hat, buoyed by journalistic praise about just how Big a Hat it was, and Norridge took our hat off us and crapped in it, five times.

Okay, so Norridge scored a couple of worldies, our goalkeeper got injured, Lichaj got sent off by a dismal referee, Forest had a decent goal disallowed and a half shout for a penalty dismissed, but these can't be used as excuses for what was, for the most part, a very poor Forest display. The midfield folded too easily, Hobbs didn't look comfortable, Fox was too easily bamboozled on the floor and, without the speedy protection of Mancienne, was back to somewhere near his worst. Henderson was back to being unreliable before he got injured, and we rarely looked classy up front. The class came from Norridge. Apart from McCormack and his wonderful finish, Forest looked a very ordinary bunch indeed.

So there are lessons to be learned from this enormous baby-step backwards. The footballing lessons have to be left to Brazil and his mates, but the biggest lesson is one of perception. To big this squad up as the new golden generation was premature. To imagine that this squad would inevitably rise up the table was premature. To praise Brazil and Lester and promote them as long term leaders was premature. To consider that some kind of plan was accidentally falling into place was premature. To promote the feel good factor as the main driver of future success was premature.

Everything is not all right, yet. Forest are still not free of a relegation battle. The mood of rose tinted complacency which was creeping in served us very badly indeed, offering us up as hostages to fortune in a very hostile world indeed. People should take off that Big Hat, and journalists should either stop implying that the future is rosy or just shut the hell up. Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

< /grump >



GAME 32 FEBRUARY 14 2017 COTTAGING 3 FOREST 2

Here are some pictures which sort of tell the story of the match. They are not our pictures, being as what our photographic team lost its phone, but they have been nicked from a national newspaper.

This is a picture of Pastrami after scoring Forest's first goal with a neat drive after only two minutes. He appears to be giving it the big I AM, but in reality he is refusing to celebrate against his old club, because that's what big I AM players do. Presumably that's why Brazil picked him, to score against his old club. It certainly couldn't have been his increased match fitness or competitive edge in training, because after his goal he faded like a cheap curtain. Also in the picture is Matty Cash, whose role in the team seems to be to celebrate every Forest success like a bonkers kid, as well as playing out of position not very well.

Buoyed by Pastrami's early strike, Forest pressed the Cottaging hard in the first part of the match, not so much because everything clicked and they suddenly became a whizz of a team, but rather because the Cottaging were suffering from a huge dose of ineptitude, or alcohol, or something. Forest had a few goes at increasing their lead, but failed.

Anyway, the Cottaging woke up and scored twice around the half hour mark. Both goals came because the Forest defence, after having been assured that it was good, suddenly remembered that it wasn't. Without Lichaj and Mancienne, it really looked fragile, and without much of a midfield to protect it, it broke. All the Cottaging had to do was pass accurately. In fact we're getting the distinct impression that any team which presses Forest with pace and almost any degree of accuracy will probably score. This is very worrying.

Still, it didn't turn out to be the St Valentine's Day massacre the headline writers had longed for, and Forest limped in at half time with only a one goal deficit.

In the second half, this happened...

Some young Forest player whose name we're not allowed to mention scored an absolute stonker of a header to bring Forest level. We're not allowed to describe how brilliant a goal it was, and certainly not what a brilliant prospect this young player is. This fine picture also shows Fox in the background peering after his cross like a golfer admiring a sweetly pitched shot, hoping nobody remembers that he defends like a golfer too. And there's Ross McCormacks too. Or should that be two? Missing from the picture is Matty Cash...

...No, there he is, doing his bonkers kid routine again. We don't know the youngster on his knees. Never heard of him.

Anyway, that was the point in the match where a more confident side would have closed up shop and taken the point, but sadly Forest couldn't manage it, because they weren't so much confident as knackered after their first half efforts, they didn't have Mancienne to stop up the middle, or Lichaj to bollock people, or a proper goalkeeper to provide assurance. In one horrible moment of chaos, Vlad the Imploder flapped hopelessly at the ball, got in everybody's way, and watched a clipped shot end up in the net via poor old Jack Hobbs.

Poor old Jack Hobbs, who had spoken to the press about the Norridge defeat being a turning point after being specifically told by us to keep his mouth shut. That'll teach him.

Forest were a bit unlucky to lose this one, but the facts remain the same. Brazil has won three and now lost three. We are still in a relegation fight. The only consolation at the moment is that the Sheep are bottling it again, and we have the best centre forward in the Championship, whoever that is.



GAME 33 FEBRUARY 18 2017 FOREST 1 WENDIES 2

LAWS OF THE GAME

Following the controversy surrounding the interpretation of F.A. laws after this match, we decided to clarify the situation with regard to the way the rules will affect Forest for the rest of the season.

The Penalty Rule
If a foul tackle shall be committed in the eighteen yard box, and that foul shall prevent a goalscoring opportunity, a penalty shall be awarded. and the offender shall be shown a red card. Well, that used to be the rule, but the sanction was reduced to a yellow card on the grounds that under the old rule the offending team was being punished twice, a concept known as "double jeopardy". The "double jeopardy" in this case, presumably, was that the penalty was saved, and Forest almost immediately conceded at the other end.

The McCormacks Rule
If Forest are awarded a penalty, that penalty shall be taken by the McCormack twins, who shall be so exhausted by the run-up that their kick shall resemble that of some fop rolling an egg.

The World Class Rule
Any goal scored against Forest shall be either (a) a never-to-be-repeated world class strike, or (b) a never-to-be-repeated world class strike.

The Consolation Rule
Any goal(s) scored by Forest at any stage of the match shall be considered consolatory.

The Rule of Diminishing Returns
If Forest play well, they shall lose. If they play badly, they shall lose by more.

The Competence Rule
Any referee with an I.Q. of over 50 shall be barred from officiating in any Forest match.

The Slight Knock Rule
All Forest central defenders shall suffer "a slight knock" and perish in a ditch just outside Newark.

The Midfield Rule
All opposition midfielders shall be bigger, stronger, fitter, faster and more proficient at cheating than their Forest counterparts.

The Signings Rule
The rules about Forest signings are so complex they need a manual all to themselves, but briefly:
All summer signings shall be declared Brexit fodder, except for the particularly useless ones who will turn up occasionally and contribute bugger all. Only one of the January signings shall be allowed to play in any given match. The reason given for such selections shall be "the competition for places", or "a slight knock".

The Brazilian Rule
Any interim manager promoted to the full-time position because quite frankly nobody else would touch the job with a forty foot pole shall go on a run of defeats so horrendous it shall be known hereinafter as "Having a Brazilian".

The Cloud Cuckoo Rule
Any Forest player who shows promise shall be declared "not for sale" by a management team who seem to have forgotten who they are working for.

The Rule of Shit
As a general rule, all events influenced by luck, random contingency or which side of the celestial bed God has got out of that morning shall work to the detriment of Forest.

The Hat Rule
If Forest escape relegation, the more pessimistic among us shall be instructed to eat this hat.




GAME 34 FEBRUARY 25 2017 WIGGUM 0 FOREST 0

PFFT

Where on earth have you been, Stress?

Sorry, Pie. After the match I decided to kill myself, but it took longer than I thought.

Oh come on, it wasn't that bad, was it?

Yes Pie, it was. I seem to remember we had a shot at some point, but it may just have been a low flying pigeon. Things become confused when you've lost the will to live.

What did your friends Zeb and Pid think?

They were less unimpressed, on the basis that they'd seen worse. "We've seen worse," said Pid, and Zeb said, "Well at least we got a point." They're not great reasons for existence, are they Pie? I mean, they're not the kind of sentiments you'd want to find on your gravestone. "It wasn't much of a life, but I've seen worse."

This is all a bit morbid, Stress. I presume you're not ready to do a full match report?

On the assumption that something so dispiriting didn't deserve to live, I've decided to forget it, Pie, pretend it didn't happen. After a while, to take my mind off watching the game die , I spent my time making up collective nouns.

Of course you did. It's what one does, after all.

Do you want to hear them?

Not really.

Okay, here goes:

A Misapplication of Cloughs
A Clockwork of Osborns
A Runt of Vaughans
A Barrel of Britts
A Simplicity of Worralls
An Apprehension of Foxes
A Bristling of Lichajs
A small glass of Pinillos
A Promise of Breretons
A Pfft of Carayols
A Large Pair of McCormacks

Is that it?

A Bollocks of Brazils

Okay, that's enough of that.

A Depression of Wiggums
An Absence of Hasawis
A Consolation of Sheep
A Vomit of Leicesters

Come on Stress, pull yourself together. Things are never as bad as they seem.

A Stupidity of Trumps.

Things are sometimes never as bad as they seem. Who've we got next?

A Capitulation of Hoves.

Oh dear.



GAME 35 MARCH 4 2017 FOREST 3 HOVE 0

DOCTOR BRIGHTON AND MISTER HOVE

Football clubs with two towns in their name are by definition schizophrenic, like the infamous Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. One reason Forest won this match, in our opinion, was because Doctor Brighton stayed at home and Mister Hove turned up.

Mister Hove appeared to be feeling generally out of sorts, perhaps after being dosed with some pretty bitter medicine by Newcastle the other day. At any rate, they didn't look very convincing as automatic promotion contenders. Their prime attacking players, Knockout and Murray, despite some initial threat, got less and less joy from Traore and Fox and Worrall and the excellent Smith, their midfield seemed distracted by their own lack of effectiveness or luck, and eventually their renowned defence detonated suicidally. They looked like a side who, denied the rub of the green or a porous opposition, frustrated themselves into impotence. In the later stages of the match, they resembled a bloke angrily kicking a dustbin round an empty portakabin.

I suppose Forest's hard work and fighting qualities sapped their confidence, because, to be honest, there were stretches of the match where there was little else to show. It was turning out to be one of those matches which is described as "gritty", presumably because it was like drinking soup with gravel in it. Forest had a few goes from range but got nowhere. Hove tried to bristle their way into dangerous positions but lacked the confidence to finish anything off. The game had 0-0 written all over the scoreboard.

The defining goal came after about an hour. We say "defining" not because it defined the way the match went (as Hove claimed), but because it defined just how odd a game football is. This goal was just really odd. Cash found space down the Hove left, and pinged a cross along the floor towards Forest players waiting on the edge of the area. The first player, Lichaj we think, bamboozled everyone incuding himself with an awkward air-poke. The ball ran on to Clough, who swept it home with some grace. Or did he? Well yes, eventually. Britt thought he had got a touch and went roaring away to celebrate, whereupon the Hove players started kicking around dustbins and claiming offside. All this is irrelevant now, of course, but the peculiar event showed us three things: (1) Britt was a bit dim, letting his desire to score cloud his common sense - remember that penalty spat with Lansbury? (2) The intimidatory tactics of the Hove players was hard to stomach, and their prolonged anger did them no favours at all, and (3) Football's endless ability to throw up oddball situations was confirmed.

Point (3) seems to cover the second goal too. A backpass to their goalkeeper resulted in said goalkeeper deciding to have a quiet game of keepy-uppy, presumably because he thought he was good at keepy-uppy. Sadly, this game of keepy-uppy lasted only two goes, the last of which dribbled to Osborn, who bobbled it into the empty net. We think this drew the biggest roar of the day from the Forest faithful, relieved at getting a two goal cushion right at the end and delighted at the entertainment on show.

And the third goal came so late in the day it was missed by the old bloke nearby who had left ages ago to catch his bus. In the hundredth minute (or something) Brereton was brought down by Dunk, and Clough scored from the resulting penalty. And it was a penalty, mostly because it was Dunk. If anybody deserved to be penalised, rightly or wrongly, it was Dunk. We don't like Dunk.

All in all, we think this match told us more about Hove than it did about Forest. They certainly don't like it up 'em, for a start, which is eventually true of most self-entitled teams and sets of fans. They can rant all they like, it's what their team does next that counts. Same with Forest. This match will only prove to be a turning point if they carry on picking up points, obviously. Let's hope Bentford have been drinking the same crap as Mister Hove.



GAME 36 MARCH 7 2017 FOREST 2 BENTFORD 3

BALLS

It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Balls the Dog at the age of a hundred and something after a short illness.

Balls the Dog's most notable contributions to the site were an affair with Sergio Berlusconi and the development of the video streaming software, "Ballsplayer", which infected so many computers with an array of Flash-driven viruses.

As an implacable critic of Gary Brazil's selection policy, it is fittingly ironic that he passed away shortly after Bentford scored their third goal on Tuesday evening.

Balls the Dog is survived by his half-brother Bellend, and God knows how many unrecorded offspring around the world. A short ceremony to mark his passing was held in somebody else's back garden.

Meanwhile, Forest still find themselves threatened with relegation after a dispiriting performance against an organised opposition with a coherent game plan.



GAME 37 MARCH 11 2017 BURTON DOWN 1 FOREST DOWN 0

GHOSTS

CHAPTER 37

"This station is full of ghosts. Not the floaty kind or the noisy ones that rearrange your kitchen, you understand, but the kind that don't exist. The thing is, they don't exist everywhere, in the brick and the rusted metalwork and the grime on the stained glass fanlights and the paint peeling off the damp wood. And because they don't exist everywhere, you hardly notice their non-existence at all, except for the things they don't whisper to each other."

"What the hell are you talking about?" asked Mister Strum.

The Olde Manne sighed. "Unless you're a dog, of course," he said. "A dog could probably hear them."

"But I'm not a dog," said Strum, confidently.

"Exactly," said the Old Manne.

"I had a dog once, but he died." Strum took a quick look round, then buried himself deeper into his heavy coat. Around the two seated figures, the old station continued to decay soundlessly. If there were ghosts, thought Strum, they were making a damn good job of not actually being there. No, the only ghosts in this god-forsaken place were the two of them, there, waiting for the next train.

"When's the train due?" asked Strum.

"Any time now," said the Olde Manne, for the fifth time. Strum glanced at the station clock, which had showed two minutes to six for the last forty years. Time moves slowly when the clocks don't work. The only certainty, thought Strum, was that the train was late, very late. Perhaps it wouldn't turn up at all, which would be one less thing to worry about.

Then, at two minutes to six precisely, they heard a blast of steam from down the line. They both stood up to watch the train enter the station.

It didn't so much enter as lurch in, like a drunken uncle. It was a sorry sight, more black than red, its metal pitted and bruised by outrageous fortune. It drew only two carriages, and through the filthy windows the odd face peered out at them, looking grey and forlorn, like prisoners. The engine subsided noisily thirty feet ahead of them, and the driver was already standing on the footplate, waiting.

"I've been fackin expecting you," he said. As they approached, they saw a face pale as sin, whose angry eyes never quite seemed to find their mark.

"This is the train from Burton, is it?" asked the Olde Manne.

"Course it fackin well is," said the driver.

"What happened?" asked the Olde Manne.

"What the fackin ell does it look like? It was a fackin shambles, as per usual. Anyway, like I said, I've been expecting you."

"What do you mean?" asked Strum.

"It's what always appens, innit? Get into a fackin pickle, as per usual, an you two fackin relief drivers turn up to save the fackin day. Well you're welcome to the whole fackin shambles, I can tell you."

And with that he was off, skittering through the litter, some of which he kicked at vengefully, into the darkness, like a ghost.

Strum got that sinking feeling again. His knowledge of human anatomy was sketchy at best, but the sinking bit seemed concentrated around his stomach, which slipped downwards and pressed queasily on his intestines.

"Well that was rude," said the Olde Manne. "And quite unexpected."

"Really?" said Strum.

"Yes," said the Olde Manne. "I thought Burton was supposed to be a breeze. I thought there was supposed to be A Plan."

"Oh, I think I know what The Plan was," muttered Strum, in the most sarcastic tone he could manage.

"I don't know what you mean," responded the Olde Manne, innocently.

It would have gone on like this for some time, were not Strum's thoughts interrupted by a station announcement delivered with the tinny hollowness of a p.a. system in the process of burning out.

The train now standing at platform one is the five fifty eight to Warsaw, calling at Charleston, Peterbugger and Rochdale.

Strum stared at the Olde Manne. It was plain that he had heard nothing, which meant that Strum was hearing things which didn't exist. Ghosts didn't exist, so it must have been ghosts. Strum congratulated himself on the soundness of his logic, but the terrible words he hadn't heard made up his mind, once and for all.

"We really shouldn't get on this train," he said. "Not this time."

The Olde Manne listened to the settling of heavy metal, and watched two or three pale passengers step out of the carriages like people who were uncertain of what they were supposed to do next.

"You're right," he said. "This would be suicide. In the words of a recent acquaintance, fack it. Let's go home."

And they turned to go. Around them, the litter scurried haphazardly across the platform in a sudden breeze, and the ghosts carried on not existing with the kind of stubborn persistence only appreciated by dogs.



GAME 38 MARCH 18 2017 FOREST 2 SHEEP 2

NOTES ON A SMALL DERBY

The atmosphere was tremendous, putting us in mind of the good old days when the atmosphere was better than it has been since the good old days. It was a sign that this match was as vitally important as any in the recent history of vitally important matches. Etc.

Forest's goal after 4 or 5 minutes was explosively significant. It gave the Forest players that surge of confidence which would allow them to play the way the new manager oviously wanted them to play, whilst reducing the Sheep to an ashen faced shambles for most of the first half. The goal came from a Pinillos cross into an eighteen yard box which Rowett had obviously instructed his troops not to defend at any cost, and Zach Clough nicked the ball home, while goalkeeper Carson looked like a man who had embarrassingly wandered into a women's lavatory.

Sadly, the early goal and Forest's ensuing dominance also convinced our success-starved fans that we were going to batter the Sheep into a fleecy pulp. "We want five!" somebody cried, only half joking.

Forest played their passing game exquisitely, but only because Rowett had obviously instructed his troops to give Vaughan all the time and space he needed. But despite the stupidity of the Sheep's game plan, Forest couldn't make their superiority tell. This, of course, was, is, and will continue to be, worrying.

The Sheep belatedly found a little threat, mainly through the efforts of man of the match Tom Mince. However, we are convinced that the reason Mince misses so many opportunities is that each one provides him with lingering solo camera time. Instead of being mobbed by team mates, he can gaze wistfully at the cameras wearing that why-isn't-my-obvious-quality-rewarded-with-a-goal look so beloved of narcissistic underachievers.

The second half was just stupid, just really stupid. Conceding two goals to those two characters was just unforgiveable. Vydra does nothing, nothing, except score against Forest, and Nugent is a grinning, slack-jawed journeyman who will probably never score another goal in his life. Both goals should have been dealt with by the Forest defence, which once more went frustratingly absent at critical moments.

Those twenty minutes or so when Forest seemed certain to throw away a match they could be winning were tough indeed. It felt like standing behind a truck filled with the rubble of Fawaz's terrible demolition of our hopes, and the tipper was beginning to rise. When the rubble finally cascaded onto us, we would be buried in the bottom three, down amongst the dead men.

But despite the protests of stupid people, the crowd was in general supportive, and the Forest players recovered their determination to fight back. This was made easier as Rowett had obviously instructed his troops to stop all this silly attacking business and secure victory by falling back. This was not a wise move, considering the crapness of the Sheep's defence.

As time ran out, and the tipper truck prepared to shed its load, Fox headed wide, Vellios thumped one against the post, and Brereton was denied a penalty. Beneath the oohs and aahs there came that familiar undercurrent of creaking sphincters. Then came the goal - a corner swung in, the Sheep defence under obvious instructions, again, to mark the wrong people, and there was Pinillos to bullet home an unstoppable header. The ensuing roar was so intense it was more like a crack. Pinillos was buried in a chaotic, sodden pile of bodies, people ended up in the wrong seats, and somewhere else, Nob End equalised against Blackbum. The tipper truck stalled, at least for the next fortnight.

Despite the euphoria, obvious problems remain. What to do about Britt? How to maintain a decent passing game under pressure? How to stop losing away? These are, of course, Mark Warburton's problems, but we like him, because he may sound like a south London car salesman but is so obviously a proper manager with a proper support team and such a clear idea of how he wants Forest to play that we trust he will get the best out of the players. He should have been here earlier.

As for Rowett, well, he has the impossible task of trying to figure out what "The Derby Way" is, apart from a convenient excuse for sacking people. Good luck to him.



GAME 39 APRIL 1 2017 NOB END 1 FOREST 1

All we can say is, if Forest go down this season - and they might, because football is stupid - then it will be truly heartbreaking. A few weeks ago we wouldn't have said that. The season was just sliding into oblivion; hope was being edged out by desperation, and there was that horrible stink of inevitability about Forest's decline. Then, we were becoming resigned, and "heartbreaking" was not the word we used to describe what might happen. Now, it is, because somehow Forest have shuffled off the fear and pressure to play their best football of the season. If they carry on like this, despite the fact that football is stupid, they should be okay.

It didn't seem like that in the first ten minutes. Nob End are nothing if not enthusiastic, and McGeady prompted them into a few threatening moments which their non-McGeady strikers couldn't finish. Then it became plain that Nob End are nothing if not ordinary, and Forest went about the business of dismantling them with the kind of slick, clever football we all thought had been locked away in some old codger's memory. But there we were, passing and moving and making room and playing with freedom ... oh my God, if we had played like this all season...

Forest's goal came as no surprise, really. Zach Clough, who was doing for Forest what McGeady was trying to do for Nob End, turned and zipped a pass through for Assombalonga, who somehow controlled the ball, outpaced his marker, and biffed it home. Britt's celebration was an explosion of defiance and relief, and we all praised the Lord that he was on the way again.

Forest should have made it two just before half time. Brereton, who spent most of the match making grown men wet their pants, received the ball in the centre circle and surged past several defenders (who seemed non-plussed at their own incontinence) to find himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He might have passed to Britt, but remember that seventeen year olds think they can do anything, and he chose to shoot. His shot was too near the goalkeeper, who saved. This was one of the chances Forest had to increase their lead, and one of the reasons why these last games might be more squeakybum than they need to be. Quite simply, Forest need to score more when they're on top.

The second half was not so bright from Forest, though Nob End were far from being the better side, as claimed by Grayson. Anyway, Nob End are nothing if they aren't McGeady, and the irritating little fellow equalised with a smart finish. "That's that then," concluded Stress, implying that Forest would now crumble. But they didn't. As in the first half, they recovered, got stronger, and took the game to Nob End. Clough almost slipped one past Maxwell, Osborn's curler flew just wide, Vellios cracked one at the goalkeeper, Vellios and Cash linked up dangerously, Osborn's corner caused the Nob End defence to evacuate whatever poop they had left, and a Ward free kick flew rather absurdly over the stands.

Nob End had their chances, of course, but overall Forest were, as many of their fans said, much more dangerous.

What was so refreshing was that Warburton had sent them out to play with style and to win, and had obviously given them the confidence to do both things. What was disappointing was that they didn't win because they didn't score the goals their performance deserved. We hope they prosper, because it's nice to be proud of your football team again.



GAME 40 APRIL 4 2017 WONDERBRAS 1 FOREST 0

So this bloke says Avatar is the best film ever, and I say I've seen that film ten times, and it's still disappointing.

Stress...

And he says "What do you mean, disappointing?" So I say "Well, it doesn't make any sense. That bloke at the end was dead, so how come he ends up alive in the body of a giant blue cat?" And he says they weren't cats, and I say well they looked like cats.

Stress...

And he goes on about them being from Pandora, and the transference of the life spirit by some magic tree, and I make some joke about Pandora's box which really upsets him.

Listen, Stress...

So he says that Avatar is the highest grossing film ever, and I make a joke about it being the grossest flim ever, so he gets all fired up about me not appreciating the technical qualities of the film, its texture, its super-realism, and I say it comes across as a lavish digitised cartoon which has as much credibility as a comic book.

Yes, but...

Oh he didn't like that one bit. So he gets all huffy and sneery and says "Okay wise guy, what do you think is the best film ever?" He called me wise guy, Pie. Nobody says wise guy any more, do they?

No, but...

So I say High Noon, and he says High Noon? and I say yes, High Noon.

High Noon?

Yes, High Noon. I explain to him that High Noon is memorable in every way that the plastic posturing of Avatar isn't. The characterisation is superb, the acting sublime, the grainy monotone perfectly conveys the stripped down bleakness of its moral dilemmas, and the cranking up of the tension by simple, disciplined repetition of action, clock images and the wonderful music is unmatched in filmic history. That shut him up, I can tell you.

I wish you'd shut up.

I beg your very pardon, Pie?

Look, Stress, this is supposed to be a match report. It's not supposed to be your account of some post-match quarrel with a random stranger in a pub. So where's the report?

Well I didn't much see the point, Pie. Everybody knows what happened. We lost one nil. There's not much else to say.

But this is a football website. It's supposed to be about football.

Well I could spin a few truisms about Golden opportunities lost, or Fine lines or Only results matter, or any of the same old guff, but in the situation Forest are in, it all seems a bit pointless at the moment. Nothing we say will change what has happened or will happen. As Doris Day once sang in the worst film ever, Que sera sera. She's still alive, you know, Doris Day.

I see what you're doing, Stress.

Really, Pie?

Yes. You're retreating from the situation. You can no longer face the seriousness of Forest's plight, so you're retreating into denial, into some slumberworld where nothing matters. It's not healthy you know, Stress, not healthy at all.

I beg to differ, Pie. It's a darn sight more healthy than shitting your pants twice a week on the off chance that football starts to make some kind of sense. Anybody would think the whole bloody circus is real.

But of course it's real.

No it's not. Well, yes it is, but only in the sense that Avatar is real, like some vapid and expensive illusion which goes on too long and ends up leaving you disappointed.

Oh dear.

Give me High Noon any day. No giant blue cats or magic trees, just a classically simple tale where you care about the good guys, and the good guys always win.

I'll drink to that, Stress. But only after you've seen a doctor.



GAME 41 APRIL 8 2017 FOREST 2 UDDERSFEEL 0

B O O M

We would like to record our gratitude to the following people for their contribution to the exhilarating victory over Uddersfeel. Thanks to..

Mister Jamie Ward, for his relentless endeavour, and his relentless tendency to shoot straight at the goalkeeper which finally paid off when he shot through the goalie's legs for the second goal.

Mister Ben Brereton, for being 17 but looking and playing like a 24 year old. The way he brushed off defenders like midges, the way he crossed on the run to set up Ward's header, the way he slipped the ball across to Lichaj for the first goal - all these were mere highlights of a performance which terrified the Uddersfeel defence. We thank him for being so very good, and for staying with Forest for at least three more seasons.

Mister David Vaughan, for reminding the Uddersfeel midfield that he was quite capable of rearranging their body parts if they didn't show him the respect he deserved. To the delight of the fans.

Mister Christopher Cohen, for continuing to be as strong as an ox, yet retain the composure to always look forward and slip/drive/cudgel the ball through to players in space. Stay fit and well Mister Chris - your day may still come.

Mister Armand Traore, for his demonstration of sheer Premier League class. The injury seemed a bit disheartening at first, but we understand it was mere fatigue/cramp.

Mister Joe Worrall, for having so little trouble from the Uddersfeel forwards that he was able to miss two goalscoring opportunities by fractions.

Mister Matt Mills, for appearing so bemused at having so little to do that he ended up doing very little with reasonable competence.

Mister Ben Osborn, who may well have found his best position at wing back. Mister Ben suffered earlier in the season by having to take on too much responsibility, but now that other players have stepped up we may see the best of him.

Mister Eric Lichaj, for being the coolest dude on God's green earth: solid in defence, fearless going forward, increasingly dangerous in the box, and business-like in his non-celebration of the goal. Every team would like an Eric Lichaj, but we've got him.

Mister Zachariah Clough, for continuing to bring cleverness and threat to Forest's forward line. Once he gets a bit beefed up there will be no stopping him.

Mister Jordan Smith, whose lateral reflexes were lightning quick from beginning to end.

Mister Britt Assombalonga, for showing so much hunger you got the alarming impression he might end up eating the odd defender.

Mister Aaron Tshibola, for reminding us what he looked like.

Mister Michael Mancienne, for swatting a dangerous drive off the line with the nonchalant grace of an occasional hero.

Mister Mark Warburton, for so many things. For looking, sounding and behaving like a proper manager. For saying things like "Ben Brereton understood his geography", and "Defend from the front, attack from the back". For giving the players the confidence to play in a system which combines discipline and ambition, and one which relies on intelligent movement and penetrative passing. Simple things, delivered by a man with experience, rock solid belief, and a genuine empathy with the players.

Mister Dean Whitehead of Uddersfeel, and that Uddersfeel defender who chickened out of a challenge on Jamie Ward, for being crap.

Mister Tim Robinson, referee, for being crapper.

The Uddersfeel fans, for refusing to accept that Forest were by far the better team, both tactically and individually, and preferring to fall back on the excuse that they have suddenly become useless. Such bitterness is a rare delight.

Mister Fawaz al Hasawi, for keeping his nose out of business which doesn't concern him.

Derby County, for driving the deplorable Boremingham closer to catching distance.

Mister Mark Warburton, again, for reminding us and the players that we must beat Blackbum on Friday. We do not think he is the kind of man who will allow his players to lose focus.

COME ON YOU REDS - DO IT!









Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.