words: David Marples
This is how we roll now: when faced with an away game against a struggling team, no longer do we feel that a comedic shoot-yourself-in-the-foot, implosive meltdown lurks ominously in the forefront of our collective heads.
That’s not to say that such a thing will never happen again – after all, this is football and specifically, the bewildering and unfathomable Championship. But just to say that there was a sense of calm and confidence before, during and throughout this game that certain things would happen: Forest would dominate possession, Joe Lolley and Matty Cash would at some stage swap wings, Costel Pantilimon would keep a clean sheet, Lewis Grabban would score a goal and the ball would stick to João Carvalho’s feet like a big bucket of Solvite. The only eyebrow-raising occurrence was seeing Jack Colback burst beyond the Hull defence on numerous occasions like a marauding but slightly confused young vanguard.
It was all very comfortable – no alarms, no surprises. Forest quickly settled into their game, keeping possession and effortlessly switching the ball from each side of the pitch with an occasional moonraker of a pass from Michael Dawson, lazered out to Jack Robinson deep into enemy territory after attention was deliberately and effectively shifted to the opposite wing. On the occasions that Hull won the ball, Claudio Yacob shut them down like that really scary teacher in the corridor who you suspect is a little mentally unstable and would happily offer you and all your mates out for a fight if only he didn’t have to wear a stupid lanyard.
Control is all well and good but a goal or two is always required in order to take the points. Just when, for a fleeting moment, one wondered whether starting with two defensively minded players in the middle of the park would be enough to break a team down, Forest deployed something akin to a power-play and stepped it up. Pleasingly, it didn’t take much of this kind of thing to break down a flimsy home defence. Grabban poached a goal and Joe Lolley cut in from the right to beat David Marshall in the Hull goal – albeit rather fortunately but in mitigation Marshall was a very busy man in the second half.
According to Goodbrand Stats, Grabban (10 goals) and Lolley (4 goals) have scored 14 of Forest’s last 17 league goals. Instrumental in that achievement is the contribution of Carvalho as his understanding with both Lolley and Grabban has reached the telepathic stage. Squint a bit (okay, a lot) and it sometimes looks like Brescia circa 2001 when Andrea Pirlo was spraying the ball hither and thither while Roberto Baggio had the football tied to his feet on a string.
Forest could and probably should have scored a few more goals but there was never a feeling that Hull were going to fight their way back into the game, partly as a result of the home team’s woefulness but also owing to the control Aitor Karanka’s team had over the game.
A challenging season lies ahead for Hull: only Frazier Campbell looked like he had a plan and it was surprising to see Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki – two players so impressive against Forest on previous occasions – so ineffective.
One expects a more stern test at Villa Park in midweek and it was perhaps ever so slightly frustrating to find out that this away win and clean sheet wasn’t enough to hop a spot into sixth position in the table. No matter for now: as manager Karanka said as much, the focus should be on performances and this was a thoroughly pleasing and dominant one.
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.