words: David Marples
On too many occasions this season, Forest have scribbled and doodled on their very first page in their brand new exercise book, resulting in them ripping it out but leaving a visible small tear, evidence of a botched start. Against Newcastle at the City Ground, Forest managed to write the date and title in their very best handwriting and underline them without leaving a smudge.
It was always going to be interesting to see how this team fared if they could get their noses in front early, allowing them a bit of wriggle room to settle and use the pacey wide players to counter attack effectively. For the most part, Forest did precisely this and reduced Newcastle to a series of huffs and puffs while fashioning numerous presentable chances at the other end of the pitch.
It wasn’t just an excellent and very Daryl Murphyish goal that was a key factor in Forest progressing in the League Cup, a number of players turned in excellent individual performances. There were numerous candidates for man of the match - Michael Hefele was worthy winner of the official award – yet it was Murphy’s performance that was arguably the most significant in the victory.
The Irishman harassed, chased down, held the ball up and was a big old general nuisance to the Newcastle defence all evening, allowing his team a foothold higher up the pitch than they have been allowed to enjoy for sustained periods in most previous games. As a result, João Carvalho was able to enjoy more possession in a central position from where he was able to do very sexy João Carvalho things. For the first time, it seemed like Murphy and Carvalho were on the same wavelength and hugely enjoying each other’s company: João pouring the Prosecco while Daryl necks a pint as they cuddle up on the sofa watching an episode of Grand Designs.
Carvalho covered some ground. At one stage, he ended up at centre back with Sam Byram at left back and Michael Hefele in midfield. It was in this situation that Byram sustained an injury when pulling off an outstanding tackle but let’s talk about total football and nevermind that Forest were back-peddling after their own corner came to nothing.
Rafael Benitez’s team seemed to succeed in playing an unusually high amount of passes straight out of play, which is testament to Forest’s pressing game and was much more coherent than it has been in the past. Indeed,Gil Bastião Dias’ clinching goal arose from him pressing and dispossessing Kenedy in midfield. Dias’ confidence to chip after fluffing when put clean through earlier in the game was a delight to watch. Chuck in the fact that Joe Lolley completed more dribbles than a teething toddler and it all added up to a highly encouraging performance, aided and very much abetted by Murphy’s very definition of a right old shift being put firmly in.
In commentary, Don Goodman called it ‘a very very good Nottingham Forest team’. He wasn’t wrong and Aitor Karanka will be mainlining Ibuprofen in order to deal with the mother of all selection headaches.
When Hefele declared, ‘I think this is a beautiful night here at the City Ground’ and gently patting Cash on the head while tapping his shoulder, it was as if he had just seen his newly adopted surrogate son succeed in tying his shoelaces on his own for the first time. Lovely stuff.
Issue 9 is now on general sale. You can buy it from MSR newsagents or click here to have it delivered. It features exclusive interviews with Ian Woan and Brian Laws and much more. We are also selling some lovely merch too. Have a look here.