Following an Easter period at Nottingham Forest which has seen goals, a sending off and a penalty, they now find themselves 7 points clear of the relegation zone with 4 games to play. Forest are home and dry now, surely?
Ahead of the Bristol City game, there was optimism, uncharacteristically, encouraged by the recent performance against Crystal Palace. Steve Cotterill had finally found the way to win, regardless of whether he luckily stumbled across it or not. Being at the City Ground this season, ‘optimistic’ has been scarcely present in the language of a Forest fan.
But for this game however, things couldn’t be more different. Not many teams can claim to be as desperate as Forest this season, but Bristol City were certainly one of those few, and they were undoubtedly in a negative frame of mind when they came to Nottingham, and it reflected in the way they played.
Forest, lining up with 5 in midfield, ran the game from start to finish, unfortunately though, it was the final ball that was the downer on proceedings. With Lee Camp having nothing to do for the majority of the televised game, the moments he had the cameras on him, had to grabbed with both hands. Well, if he’d actually done that when the cross came in, he wouldn’t have had to draw himself into the siatuation he consequently found himself in. Having not caught the cross, Camp felt he owed it to the team to regain possession. Only, this wasn’t really the time, or in fact the place, to even attempt to snatch the ball from the opponent. With his head running around in circles, and with the spotlight well and truly on him, he rashly dived in and gave away a needless penalty, which was duly converted.
Having dominated throughout the match, Forest found themselves behind. Whilst Forest continued to control, there was something missing. That man was Marcus Tudgay. With Guy Moussi getting worse as the clock ticked on, it was evident to the majority this substitution had to be made, and fast. Cotterill though, had other ideas. The main idea being not to bring on a 2nd striker, until the 85th minute. Baffling to many, but not a suprise. With the Bristol City goalkeeper having the game of his life, it just wasn’t to be, and City escaped with victory.
Moving on to Peterborough, with the points difference from the relegation zone now being an alarming 4 points away, this game was now a must win. With 3000+ Forest fans making the short journey, the Forest players could always be assured the atmosphere would be rocking. With the fans fulfilling their side of the contract, it was down to the players to show us they had the nerve and steel to depart from Peterborough with a win.
There’s many attributes and characteristics that can contribute to winning a football match, and you’d struggle to find anything missing from this performance. First of all, there was the neat, slick passing, ensuring the ability of McGugan, Guedioura and Majewski, were all used to their maximum. Despite starting extremely brightly, Forest were guilty of not finishing off their chances. A problem they’ve had all season, hence the position they’re currently in. With the home team on the back foot, it looked like it would be Forest’s day, and so it proved to be. Blackstock receiving a great cross from McCleary, to smartly turn, and intelligently slot home. With Forest on top, and looking solid at the back, it looked like it was going to be convincing. Half time came, and Forest deservedly went off to a rapturous applause.
Forest continued with their tidy football in the 2nd half, although the referee was soon to have a say on matters. With the ball loose, McCleary went for it, enthusiastically to say the least. From where I was, it was perhaps a little unnecessary, to go to the floor, with the other option to remain stood, and shield the ball to block potential pass options for the opponent. In spite of this, the referee still acted overly sharply to show his red card, not giving himself any thinking time, and vanished McCleary from the game.
After this, it was all about the grit and determination from those in red. With McGugan and Reid tiring, they were withdrawn for former Peterborough man Scott Wootton, and the man that can ‘eat you alive’, George Elokobi. With these defensive, influential figures on, it was clear Cotterill planned to defend, and defend they did. Robustly going into tackles, the players looked up for anything that was to be thrown at them for the remaining 20 minutes. They showed remarkable energy and passion in the remaining minutes, particularly inspired by Adlene Guedioura who bossed the midfield, ensuring he covered every blade of grass.
Big George Elokobi was performing admirably at the back, often marching forward, when he felt like it. The Peterborough players looking reluctant to stop him, unsuprisingly. Lynch was a stalwart in defence, getting rid of everything that came his way. Chris Gunter was doing the job of two men, rampaging forward into right midfield when necessary.
Despite the moment of daunt when the ‘4 minute added on card’ was put up, Forest calmed down nerves, looking composed and disciplined, as they kept possession convincingly, to see out the game.A superb victory, duly celebrated passionately by the Forest contingent, and the players. From showing the pretty, easy on the eye element to their game, they soon appreciated they had to make the transformation into tough, battle-like characters, and to a man, it was achieved.
Having criticised Cotterill for his bizarre decisions against Bristol City, it’s only right he gets praised for his commendable decisions against Peterborough. The subs were timed to perfection, and additionally, the tactics dished out to ensure victory, were equally as brilliant.
With 4 games remaining against Blackpool, Reading, Hull and Portsmouth, 1 win from those would just about see us secure. Maybe, just maybe, we can be going into the final few games with reason to celebrate, and relax, although this is Forest, so I remain on my toes.