words: David Marples
Somewhat counter intuitively, it is possible for a coin toss to land neither heads nor tails but on its edge. Such an outcome is unlikely – around 1 in 6000 for an American nickel – but it is possible. Toss the coin long enough and eventually, a stalemate will occur.
In many ways, this was a typical Nottingham Forest 2017-18 away performance but, for once, without the concession of an utterly avoidable early goal.
Mark Warburton’s team came into the game either side of the halfway point – as is their wont - and managed to snaffle a goal at an important time in the game. It is oddly marvellous how Ben Brereton’s finishes look both unconvincing yet utterly convincing at the same time. The scenes of celebration in the away end when the ball nestled in the net were something to behold and treasure. Indeed, the performance as a whole was a continuation of the encouraging away display produced in the second half against Bristol City which, in hindsight of them holding proudly aloft the scalp of Manchester United, was a very decent performance.
Remember when you emitted high-pitched shrieks of pain at the sight of Forest playing it out from the full back areas? Such collective visible wincing is on the wane. No longer does it feel like we are constantly on the verge of gifting the opposition a comedy goal when seemingly boxed in. The players are clearly much more confident in their ability to play out from either full back position. Such small things like this take time and practice and if confidence on the ball in such difficult positions can eventually be transposed in all areas of the pitch, we could be some force. In time, of course.
Sadly, progress doesn’t manifest itself in shooting stars and epic pyrotechnic displays adorning world landmarks such as Sydney Harbour Bridge. Progress isn’t sexy and doesn’t look much like modern Hollywood’s version of sexual satisfaction in which everyone and everything all come together in a perfect moment of actualisation while accompanied by the obligatory fireworks. Progress is downright bloody boring.
Yet, squint hard enough and the signs of progress are there. The players are visibly buying into the playing methods laid down by Warburton. There is no 'going long down the line' in classic Nicky Eaden fashion, no hoofing down the middle for Daryl Murphy to chase fruitlessly (if it does go long down the middle, it goes to Murphy’s chest or feet), no player remonstrations with each other about where the ball should have been hoofed and no quarreling over who gets to take a penalty. It seems very much like a team in which each individual is doing their upmost to make it work. It doesn’t always work but there is a sense that they’re going to do all they can to make it work.
The work isn’t done; it never is and it would be foolish to get all misty-eyed over an away point at Preston – it’s hardly the stuff of legend about which we’ll be writing extensive nostalgic pieces in the future. But it’s very pleasing.
Approximately an hour after Forest claimed their first draw of the season, Jason Mohammad and Robbie bloody Savage baited Stoke City fans to phone in to their 606 show on Radio Five as apparently they all wanted Mark Hughes sacked last week. Given that Stoke beat West Bromwich Albion earlier in the day, the presenters wondered whether the phone lines were still up and operational in Stoke-on-Trent. They bemoaned the fact that they hadn’t heard from Stoke fans admitting that they were wrong and seeking forgiveness for being silly little football fans who knew nothing since they hadn’t played the game like Robbie bloody Savage had.
The whole thing reeked of a lurching game-by-game approach in which a win means legendary status and a loss means rank failure. No time for middle ground. No room for nuance. No space for rational thinking.
It is precisely this type of match-to-match kneejerk reaction from which we should – if we can – cease and desist. It is entirely possible that Stoke City fans are pleased about winning but feel that maybe they’ve seen the best of Mark Hughes’ tenure in charge – such feelings are not binary. In the same way, it is entirely possible to feel frustration with aspects of the way Forest play and results yielded yet be generally satisfied about how this particular cookie is crumbling.
There have been comparisons throughout the season (including here) with how the current campaign compares with the previous one at various stages of the season. In terms of results, performances, league position and points, it is better – albeit only marginally according to some of these criteria – than last season. It’s not heart doing flip-flops shout it from the rooftops better but nonetheless, better.
But a football club – especially this football club of ours – doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Sure, football is a results business and results tend to dictate how we feel about our football club, football as a whole entity and even our lives in general but there’s more to it than that…isn’t there?
Back in October 2016, Phil Juggins (of this parish) wrote about how our club was not just dying on its arse but slowly suffering from a thousand cuts. You know the state of play back then; you don’t need reminding. What we wouldn’t have given in those dark days for a club that at the very least, put on a façade of respectability, that didn’t make us feel slightly embarrassed when asked the dreaded question by a civilian, ‘how are Forest doing at the moment?’ leading only to an overlong explanation about ownership, player sales, short-termism and despair that precipitated a cocked head to one side gesture accompanied by the offer of a nice cup of tea and a biscuit in order to make us feel a bit better.
Now? Well, to spare you the holier than thou lecture and detailed breakdown of 'things that are better about Nottingham Forest Football Club’ since the summer, it feels better, doesn’t it? Of course such things aren’t necessarily tangible, measurable or quantifiable in a way that a play-off push or away wins or goals conceded are. It’s not a constant whirlwind of Tyler Walker Trent End goals or Stuart Pearce thunderbolt free kicks or Nigel Clough delicate touches or Garry Parker/Roy Keane goals in biblical rain. But it feels better.
So…a draw. It’s almost as if we’re a mid table, great on our day, poor on occasions, half-decent, promising but with some unresolved issues type of team. It’s been so long that the protocol of how to receive and react to a draw seems forgotten. What to do? Decry the failure of Jordan Smith to get rid of it? Vent your spleen at the inability of the defence to keep a clean sheet (again)? Celebrate wildly in anticipation of this being a turning point in the push for the play-offs? None of the above seems to fit though.
Yeah…a draw. Decent away point that.
Have yourselves a great Christmas. We are deeply grateful to anyone who has bought a copy of our not quite award winning thing. It means the world to us...it really does.
While you are here, Issue Six of Bandy is now available. We didn't win the FSF award for fanzine of the year but we did enjoy a free bar at the awards event. Why not buy a copy and tell us why we didn't deserve to be anywhere near such a nomination in the first place?
Issue Six celebrates the mighty John Robertson and contains an exclusive interview with the great man. If you ever bought a pack of Panini stickers there's a wonderful article in there which will transport you back to that beautiful feeling of ripping open a new pack and seeing a shiny in there. Remember Betamax? Johnny Metgod does. Remember Ron Atkinson noodling around in the away dugout? That away game against Dynamo Berlin? Did you hear the Reservoir Red Dogs podcast featuring our own Julie Pritchard? She's in this and every issue too and you really should read her work.
If you've enjoyed our podcasts or enjoyed reading these match reports, please support us in buying a copy of Issue Six here or even better, subscribing. Thank you.
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