words: David Marples
After a spluttering and stuttering opening, Joe Lolley did what Joe Lolley has not been doing so much in recent weeks but on this occasion, achieved peak Joe Lolley. He got on the ball wide left, cut inside, found some space and delicately smashed the ball into the net from range. A supreme example of Joe Lolley Joe Lolleying a Joe Lolley goal.
Prior to this, the game was scrappier than Scooby-Doo’s irritating nephew, beautifully exemplified by a Wigan defender hoofing the ball so high that it bounced off the top of The Brian Clough Stand…with a faulty satellite in tow.
After Martin O’Neill’s side hit the front, they settled down until Josh Windass’ speculative shot evaded Costel Pantlimmon’s shovel and bounced aggressively into the roof of the net. Whatever this game was, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Just after half-time, nerves were settled when Matty Cash latched onto a swoonsome ball from Adlène Guédioura and dispatched it into the bottom corner to put Forest back into the lead – one they rarely looked like squandering from then on. It was another sweetly struck strike from distance with pinpoint accuracy.
Not to be outdone by all this shooting from range malarkey, Guédioura then stuck one in the same bottom corner as Cash did from outside the box to cap off a hat-trick of sorts of laser-guided goals from distance for Forest.
Despite the penalty award and penalty save shenanigans, Forest got back to winning ways at the City Ground and chalked up their first home win since New Year’s Day and the first of the Martin O’Neill regime. In short, lots to be pleased about.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect is that the win was chalked up despite having only one recognised central defender currently available for selection, and even then, Yohan Benalouanne was playing only his second game for The Reds. Yet alongside him in the heart of the home defence was Jack Robinson, turning in yet another whole-hearted and astute defensive display.
Robinson has quietly gone about his business of week-by-week, increasing the suspicion that Forest have finally got themselves a very decent and permanent left-back – traditionally a problem position going back all the way to that guy who still makes you swoon when you utter his name or picture him with his big, beautiful and bulging thighs. Typical of Forest’s luck with left-backs, the Warrington born stopper has found himself shunted ten yards to the right to deputise in central defence and out of his left-back position as a result of Forest’s current paucity of centre-halves. Were it not for Benalouanne slotting in so comfortably and Robinson’s nous, O’Neill could well be in a bit of a pickle.
Although Forest conceded again at home, the defence once again turned in a more than respectable performance, despite it being only the second time the back five has played together.
Each man plays his part in this but one comes away feeling that it is Robinson who is the glue holding it together. Regardless of his position in the back line, his consistency levels remain high. BBC Radio Nottingham’s Colin Fray astutely observed that when Joe Lolley plays well, Forest play well yet perhaps it could be added that Robinson generally plays well. Full stop.
Various knickers got in unprecedented levels of curlicue over who was playing, who wasn’t and the standard of the referee. The absence of João Carvalho from the starting eleven doesn’t necessary mean that his skills are utterly discarded into the trash and neither does referee Alan Davies’ performance mean that the standards of officiating are at an all-time low. More likely, it just points towards the thought that it wasn’t their day – but their day will come.
Issue Eleven is with the printers and will be with you soon. We spoke to a former goalkeeper for The Reds with some fascinating stories to tell.
As usual, it is brimming with the usual long-form reads and stunning artwork.
In the meantime, you can still get your grubby little mitts on an exclusive, hand crafted Forest calendar here.