words: David Marples
Eric Lichaj’s red card was understandable - up to a point. We’ve all stubbed our toe and then spent the next ten seconds or so looking for something to divert our minds from the pain: some scream and shout, others hit a wall. Perhaps if there was a Burton Albion wide player, preferable Martin Samuelsen, standing around willing to be a punch bag for our discomfort, we too might choose to clatter into him if it made us feel better. Luckily for us, generally speaking, there are no Burton Albion wide players just conveniently hanging around for our convenience.
Just prior to the sending off, Lichaj was clearly wound up after getting clattered but no free kick was forthcoming. His options? Stay down injured and hope that the opposition boot the ball out of play, get up and ensure the ball is well away from danger or get up and take his frustration out on the nearest opposition player. His decision to take the latter option meant that the possibility of the Forest fans celebrating an actual goal on the away terrace receded into the distance quicker than a rising John Metgod free kick circa 1986.
As such, being reduced to ten men for an hour meant that little of note could be deduced from how this very embryonic team under Aitor Karanka is shaping up. Up to that point, the performance was a lot like a Brewers Fayre lasagna – solid if distinctly unspectacular. Tobias Figueiredo looked refreshingly no-nonsense at the back alongside Danny Fox, Ben Watson and Jack Colback patrolled the midfield like a pair of hungry foxes and Costel Pantilimon was in almost constant communication with his defenders. In terms of going forward, there wasn’t a lot on offer beyond Matty Cash’s industry and Ben Brereton’s barging around into opposition defenders. But then again, this is currently a struggling team playing away from home. As such, one is inclined to accept such a performance for half an hour as long as some kind of attacking intent is evident as the game wears on. However, once reduced to ten men, all bets are off and a clean sheet becomes the overall reasonable goal – anything else is a bonus.
Admittedly, Burton are far from setting the league alight and have been in rotten form. Should Forest be coming here and walking away with the points? No. Not in their current form, which is more alarming than a Tobe Hooper film.
Just under a year ago, Forest’s visit to the Pirelli Stadium yielded only a 1-0 defeat and deeply furrowed brows as a relegation battle went from an abstract concept to an actual reality. The wild bunch gathered together by Karanka seem better suited to grinding out points here and there than those assembled around a year ago. Looking back, it was the ability to chalk up home results that were the savior from February onwards this time last year with Forest’s only four victories after 4 February in 2017 all coming at the City Ground. Seen in this light, home fixtures on the horizon against Reading, Birmingham and slightly further ahead, Barnsley, start to take on even more significance.
Issue Seven of the award nominated Bandy and Shinty fanzine is on sale now. Featuring a lengthy and exclusive interview with Forest legend Frank Clark, it's a bit of 90s special so take our hands and joins us for a trip down memory lane to when football shirts were baggier than a Happy Mondays groove and more lurid than wasp vomit. You can buy a copy from MSR newsagents on Radcliffe Road or order one here.