words: David Marples
This kind of thing has happened before and no doubt it will happen again.
13 December 2000. Forest face Huddersfield Town at home with a chance of moving into the top three. Owing to tickets being £5 and Christmas very much on the horizon, a bumper crowd of 28,372 fans rock up to the City Ground in full expectation of witnessing lift-off for David Platt’s team and probably queuing up after the game to snaffle up a half season ticket.
Under Platt, Forest were on a run of seven wins from nine games. Huddersfield were struggling under Lou Macari and would be relegated come the end of the season. 9,000 fans more than usual squeezed through the turnstiles in bullish mood.
Ben Thornley, Kevin Gallen and Peter Ndlovu lined up for the Terriers. Chris Bart-Williams, Ben Olsen, David Prutton and Andy Reid started for Forest – Michael Dawson and Marlon Harewood were on the bench.
Goalless at half-time, three second half goals in eight minutes for the visitors lifted them off the bottom. This was their third successive win. All Forest had to show for their efforts by the end of the evening was an Andy Reid consolation goal, a missed opportunity and a deep sense of frustration. Even worse, there was no social media on which to vent frustration and point the finger of blame. A letter to the local MP (Kenneth Clarke) might have relieved some anger but certainly wouldn’t have helped matters.
All of which brings us to the Norwich game. Since August, the Canaries have clicked and despite a defeat against Stoke City just before the international break, arrived in good form.
The Streets would have us believe that ‘It was supposed to be so easy’ while Coldplay warned us that ‘Nobody said it was easy’. Somewhat disappointingly, Coldplay stood on the right side of history.
A bright opening by the home team reached its apex when João Carvalho dinked the ball to Lewis Grabban to wallop in. A goal so delightfully fierce that it should have counted double. If only Joe Lolley’s strike had gone in rather than come crashing back off the bar, Forest might have been out of sight.
Yet from then on, it was a very difficult afternoon as Daniel Farke’s team stuck to the plan: neat and tidy in possession with a view to working the ball quickly and effectively behind the full-backs in an effort to get Jordan Rhodes in front of the goal six yards out with a ball at his feet. Generally speaking, the plan worked well and when it didn’t, there was always the ‘lob the ball in from a set piece’ tactic to trouble the home defence. Sadly, a sure-fire thing.
Despite an early concession, Farke didn’t panic: “We started poorly in the game and I got the feeling they were on the front foot, how we turned the game completely says a lot about our mentality and our togetherness.”
Farke also acknowledged the difficulty in beating a team that rarely gets beaten: “They are one of the favourites for promotion and it's such a tough place to go, a sell-out crowd, it's tough to beat them.”
It was a stuttering display from Aitor Karanka’s team, epitomised by the fact that rather unusually and despite the early flurry of chances and pressure, they forced precisely zero corners while Norwich forced 12 with Alex Tettey outstanding.
The great thing about this league is that you get a quick opportunity to make amends, to do better, to show what you are really capable of. Besides, this league is chaos theory in action anyway as six of the top seven sides going into the weekend were beaten.
One day – one fine, sweet day – a bumper crowd will be rewarded with the mother of all home performances. It has happened before (Ipswich Town on the last day of the season) and it will happen again. In the meantime, we’ll settle for a home game in which we don’t concede two goals.
Issue 10 will be with you very soon.