words: David Marples
As frustrating as it was watching Forest once again fail to stick the round thing between the white things, the performance against Brentford was a better one than those away at Millwall and Middlesbrough.
In the first half, Forest were dynamic in actively seeking to score. There was a belief that they would succeed in doing so, a belief that was sorely lacking in the previous two games. Conceding early away from home naturally inhibits confidence in your ability to score, especially when it’s been so goddam long since you did so, yet after an early flurry from Brentford, Forest came forward with intent and purpose.
That determination to defend their own goal also made a welcome re-appearance last night with more last-ditch tackles and blocks than Colin Hendry in his pomp. It was far from Paola Maldini clean shorts defending but when you’ve conceded four relatively cheap goals in the previous two games, dirty shorts defending is welcome with open arms.
Crossbars were struck, posts were scuffed and chances were created. Yet with each opportunity remaining unconverted, confidence slowly ebbed away, culminating in Ben Brereton’s inexplicable decision to turn back into traffic when clean through on goal rather than just leather it and hope for the best. Actually, maybe ‘inexplicable’ isn’t the correct word – he looked a little drained of confidence by this point after seeing his excellent effort hit the bar in the first half and maybe subconsciously, he felt the pressure of ending this Steve Cotterillesque barren run as he bore down on goal. Or maybe he backed himself to pull off a Ricky Villa dribble and finish – maybe it was hubris and confidence in his own ability that prevented him hitting it early doors. Either way, an excellent opportunity was squandered.
From then on, a clean sheet became even more desirable but having defended well for the most part, Henrik Dalsgaard nodded in from a Josh McEachran – so addicted to loan spells that he has five on his cv - corner in the 81st minute to maintain Brentford’s hopes of gate-crashing the play-offs and in doing so, extending Forest’s winless run to 64 games and a goalless streak that dates back to the Jurassic era.
In terms of team selection, it seems that Aitor Karanka is using the remaining games to have a look at each player at his disposal: Apostolos Vellios and Barrie McKay saw some rare game-time in the preceding away games and last night, AdlèneGuedioura got his boots dirty. There is a very strong sense that notes are being made, rule are being run and judgments are being cemented with a view to next season.
One thing is certain though: the deeper and longer a run such as this persists, the harder it is to break free.
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 90s special so take our hands and join us for a trip down memory lane to when football shirts were baggier than a Happy Mondays groove and more lurid than wasp vomit. Re-live that memorable European sojourn: Paul McGregor's goal, Steve Chettle scoring in Munich and all that. You can buy a copy from MSR newsagents on Radcliffe Road or order one here.