words: David Marples
Despite being outplayed for large parts of the game, there is some consolation to be sought from Forest’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of the reigning FA Cup holders.
When a lower league side is up against a significantly higher placed side, a number of things have to fall in place in order for one of those much sought after FA Cup shocks to occur. You know the things: lower ranked side have to be ‘on it’, higher placed side ‘don’t fancy it’ and a huge dollop of luck.
This wasn’t a case of Forest fielding a weakened side or simply not turning up but more a case of Chelsea simply not making any errors. Unlike Hansel and Gretel, they left no breadcrumbs for Forest to pick up. Not a single one.
The feeling before the game was that Forest might be able to take advantage of the space in behind the Chelsea full backs but in order to do this, they had to find a second to win the ball, allow Matty Cash and/or Ben Osborn to get higher up the pitch and release the ball. Yet such a feat is exceedingly difficult when you don’t have much access to the ball.
Although the home side frequently doubled up on either flank and quickly released sprayed passes to either side, Forest simply couldn’t win much significant possession and when they did, were too deep in order to make much of it. Maurizio Sarri’s team adopted the shape of a big triangle with the wide base being at the forefront of the attack. At times, it was like being on the receiving end of an assault by an inverted Mr Strong.
Some away fans grew frustrated and felt that Forest should be attacking more and were sitting back. While the frustration was understandable, it is so very difficult to get on the front foot when you are in the grip of a sleeper hold. All of which was simply too much for two men in The Shed End who had contrasting views regarding Forest’s performance in the first half. At one stage, two grown men wrestled like self-important stags and nearly tumbled down the steep rake in the away end from the back of The Shed End.
Some football fans are just weird.
Besides, the team fielded by Sarri was far from shabby with the standout players being of young, English stock. Before he was withdrawn owing to injury, Ruben Loftus-Cheek ran the show, sending a shudder down the spine at the thought that he is unable to hold down a regular first team place. In addition, the much heralded but lesser seen Callum Hudson-Odoi sparkled and created the two chances that even Alvaro Morata couldn’t miss, despite his apparent determination to do so.
This bodes well for the future of the national team yet at the same time, the issue of providing such talent with game time remains. On the exceedingly slim chance that Chelsea decide they want to turn down overtures from Bayern Munich and loan Hudson-Odoi to a Championship side like Forest, that would be very nice indeed.
Despite Morata’s haplessness, The Reds did well to keep the score reasonable, especially given the makeshift nature of the defence that took the field. Once the game was won, Forest were able to get a foothold in the contest and once they did, showed glimpses of the kind of football we have seen on the road this season.
Issue Ten is out now and available to buy here and MSR newsagents on Trent Bridge and Angel Row where you will also find loads of Forest books and memorabilia to stick on your Christmas list.
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