A sending-off and a late winner for Blackpool saw Nottingham Forest lose their second game in a row but hang on to sixth place in the Championship. Greg Hall offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
The first home match after the clocks shift backwards is, just as the last match of the season is always sunny to the memory at least, guaranteed to be blowy and just downright miserable. And so it turned out to be. I walked over Lady Bay Bridge a little flat and feeling a little out of touch and this was before kick-off. This was my first match since Derby due to illness and holiday and my attendance so far this year had been a little sporadic and underwhelming. I felt as if I personified Billy’s Red and White Army. Things surely had to pick up?
Those wanting to tune into a match report might wish to turn away now because in order to write a report on a match I need, well, a match for starters. There was a contest at the City Ground but that was between the Trickies and the following Tangerines to see who could endure the most stultifying brand of football. Ok this is a little harsh but by 30 minutes in I was wondering whether a jump from Trent Bridge or a burger from the concourse would be the quickest way to end it. So to the match…
Three things stood out of note from the match. Firstly, the ref, Michael Naylor. The first thing that struck was he appeared to be the illegitimate love child of Adrian Chiles. Unfortunately, like Adrian Chiles he was neither competent nor a pleasure to be around. The first 35 minutes can be summed up as follows: pass, pass, misplaced pass, pass, Blackpool player attempting a move from Dancing on Ice, James Corden’s brother grinned and blew his whistle. And repeat. Now John McGovern on the radio on the way home seemed to cut this middle-aged Olly Murs some slack and it is indeed true that it was a cast-iron penalty. But his level of incompetency, giving goal kicks for blatant corners, free kicks for obvious dives, and most annoyingly, that stupid grin when anyone questioned him as if to say, ‘I know, but who’s everyone looking at’, made my blood boil. I can’t comment on the penalty we could have had, my aging eyes just about saw Henderson go down but my initial thought was why would he do that? Maybe Henderson isn’t completely a stand-up guy, who knows?
Abdoun is proving to be a little bit of an enigma in these early days. There were one or two touches that were sublime and as he adjusts to the pace and tempo he may well flourish but his miskick and misjudgment that let in Bishop would have been an insult to schoolboys and girls. Due to the letter of the law Abdoun basically then got a red for attempting to touch up Bishop, although in all fairness he didn’t make a meal of it. Up stepped Ince for the penalty.
Now I have nothing against little Ince. I was intrigued when talk abound of his potential move Trentside. His dad, however, I couldn’t help but concur with the chants from Bridgford Upper. Probably the only joy I’ll take from this match was that I didn’t have to pay to see his unpleasant strutting in the technical area. Not that I would wish to see Holloway back there for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve never quite got everyone’s love in with Holloway. Sure he says some quirky things and displays the energy of a hamster on speed but, like a pre-teen musical craze, gets tiresome very quickly. Secondly, his Blackpool teams played good football. Better football than us at the time. I felt, as gutting as it was on that night in the play-off semi-final, that Blackpool were the best footballing Championship side I’d seen bar Redknapp’s Portsmouth side that had Merson working his ageing magic. I also loved the flair and abandonment with which they played. They played the game as entertainment and sport, not an attritional business, and although those play-offs hurt, I could watch them in the Premier League and think, fair play, give it to them! Not this Blackpool. Lacking ambition, lacking guile, making Forest look almost coherent. A penalty at this point was a real kick in the crown jewels.
I would challenge any Red or Tangerine to take anything out of that first 35 minutes bar them asking the question as to how either of these teams can challenge for promotion. The Forest website report laughingly has the words, ‘on top’ and ‘continued domination’ in relation to Forest’s performance. True, we had more of the ball and some neat passing but I can’t remember one genuine attempt on goal. But by virtue of the other side being far worse doesn’t equate to dominating. Anyway, I digress and Ince stood up to take the penalty which I think everyone in the ground knew he was going to miss. You do, don’t you? You just know.
So Forest continued Billy’s unfinished business of attempting to complete as many games as possible with 10 men. Apparently our squad is just that damn good? You know what, though. We have probably not looked as comfortable all season as we did with 10 men. We even had the more incisive attacking opportunities. Vaughan was immense in midfield and everything ran through him. There really was the air of McKenna in his pomp and he looks a seriously worthwhile addition. I was impressed with Jara too in a different position. Yet despite looking very comfortable and fired up Forest could be playing now and still wouldn’t have scored. The late winner by you-know-who wasn’t a surprise because it was so unthoroughly deserved by an unimaginative and negative Blackpool who allowed Forest to dictate pace and play with 10 men and a centre-half upfront (I don’t care what he or Billy says).
So these are strange times down Trentside. It was an insipid display. These happen. They will always happen. Just like getting men sent off. But both are becoming a slight habit for Forest. I’m a massive Billy fan and was over the moon on his return and this in no way questions his position – I’m not insane (we are sixth still for those suicidal Twitter moaners). However, unless my Twitter account isn’t working, Billy and Jim’s Friday night love feast seems to have stopped, Fawaz changing accounts, media wars, Billy definitely fatter but also seeming flatter? Hardly something rotten in the state of Denmark but nor running as smoothly as it should be. For sure, lots of new faces but the flip side is one damn fine talented squad that’s been there and done it for many years. Billy’s chopping and changing needs to stop and he needs to decide his best team. Sure, sending-offs don’t help and there is always a need for horses and courses but guessing the Forest team right now is like having a premonition for Saturday’s luck six balls!
And Billy, NO! Halford is not a striker! You could argue nor are some of the others. I’m not going to criticise adding another midfielder when Vaughan looks a mighty fine addition. And yes, stattos I am aware that we were second top scorers and the last side in the Championship to draw a blank. But midfield goals come in spells. They are called strikers and paid big money for a reason.
So RIP Blackpool’s elan because what I saw yesterday was akin to Hull. Sure, you might see success and sure, clean sheet and an away win but as a teacher once said to me, “you achieved that success despite you, not because of you”. As for Forest, well sixth is fine at the minute and the doom and gloom merchants can end it all by visiting the Forest concourse and ordering a burger. But equally dangerous are the rose-coloured glasses brigade. What Forest need now is some clear and honest reflection because at the minute I wouldn’t like to bet where either of yesterday’s teams will finish but top two it isn’t.
Follow Greg on Twitter: Follow @77Hall
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