words: David Marples
Did we learn nothing from Molineux last week?
We know how this goes: sizeable, expectant crowd rocks up expecting the champagne football to flow liberally against supposedly inferior opposition. Instead, sizeable expectant crowd rocks up and witnesses Bargain Booze Prosecco slopping around all over the place before ending up face down on the high street in a puddle of their own vomit.
The first half really wasn’t very good. Hull pressed vigorously in every part of the pitch – a fairly standard tactic that for some reason seemed to bamboozle the balls off the away team. The opening goal from Jarrod Bowen – a player who impresses in every performance – was well taken, if slightly fortunate in taking a deflection on the way into the top corner before nestling agonisingly in the adjacent bottom corner of the goal. However the second goal was a comedy of deeply tragic errors.
When Jackson Irvine looped a hanging cross beyond the far post, it seemed like one of those situations in which your internal monologue utters, ‘we’ll deal with that’, especially when your peripheral vision spots Danny Fox stationed around the aforementioned far post. Yet inexplicably, Bowen out jumps Fox to delicately nod the ball back across the face of goal. Still though, no major panic since both Joe Worrall and Michael Mancienne are stationed on the six-yard line, ready to clear the danger. No matter. Nouha Dicko – blessed with a deep well of talent yet height distinctly lacking from such attributes - smartly nips in between the two to glance the tame header from Bowen beyond Jordan Smith.
That electrifying Sunday evening against Arsenal suddenly felt like a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…
You know the story has been pretty duff when a double substitution is made at half time: Andreas Bouchalakis and Mustapha Carayol hooked for David Vaughan and Zach Clough.
You sense the story won’t end happily when the bloke in front of you repeatedly yells, “Number 43 – you’re shiiiite.” Just to be clear, this was a Forest fan yelling at the Forest goalkeeper whose surname is Smith. It’s an easy name to remember and even if you are unaware of his name, it’s worth taking a punt on it and going with the most common surname in Britain. Or you could just repeatedly shout abuse at him. Your call, I guess.
You feel that there will be no dramatic twist when you see Kieran Dowell and Ben Brereton hit the post. Such feelings are confirmed when you witness Hull goalkeeper David Marshall pull off a flawless impersonation of that Peter Shilton save in 1978 at Highfield Road, with Worrall playing the part of Mick Ferguson.
Yet let this not give the impression that Forest were unlucky here – they weren’t and the score line gives the performance a touch of gloss. Hull probably should have scored more and created a glut of chances throughout the game. What’s more, they comfortably won the lion’s share of 50-50 challenges, precipitating nervousness in the away side whenever they did manage to win possession.
It is natural while traipsing away into the foreboding Hull night to question how a team can be so inconsistent, how a team can bloody the noses of the FA Cup holders and the runaway league leaders yet be so ineffective against a struggling Championship side. Inconsistency is nothing new to this current iteration of Nottingham Forest; this performance simply reminded us where we are – a mid table Championship side capable of occasionally tearing it up yet equally likely to infuriate you as much as standing in cat piss moments after you’ve slipped on some brand new socks. Deeply frustrating but in some ways, entirely expected.
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