Despite conceding a first-half penalty, Nottingham Forest were unlucky not to take all three points against top-of-the-table Burnley. David Marples offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…
It seems like an age since Jamie Mackie sprang up jack-in-the-box-esque to side-foot into the top corner on a patch of green turf somewhere in Leicester. The world is a different place since that moment: rather improbably, a football has been found in the vast expanse of the Arabian desert bearing an imprint which looks suspiciously like ‘Nugent’; Gonzalo Jara Reyes has been sniggering discreetly to himself…a lot; a mysterious case of knee-ouch, which seems only to affect big, burly defenders in the Nottingham area, has been discovered; and Jamaal Lascelles has come of age as a Championship player.
The length of an international break seems to be in direct proportion to how your team fares in the last match before one. Lose this game and the feeling persists that frankly, it’s probably better if your team take as much time as they want before the next game — they might even learn how to trap a ball or make an accurate five-yard pass or sign Cristiano Ronaldo. However, win this game and the enforced break seems to stretch endlessly into the distance like a Johnny Metgod free-kick. It’s fair to say that until news of the injury crisis sweeping through our ranks, we would have liked to have played this game sooner rather than later.
No Reid, no Vaughan, a tired Jara Reyes and if Burnley’s bubble was going to burst — they remain 2/1 for promotion with bwin — it probably would have already done so by now. However, the first-half saw us play confidently with Jara Reyes and Lansbury bossing the midfield with the tenacity of a terrier and the class of a corgi. Indeed, Burnley’s most effective tactic was a well-executed long ball from left to right in an effort to exploit any space left behind one of Chris Cohen’s numerous lung-bursting forays forward.
Despite not really troubling the Burnley onion bag, we looked sharp and were moving the ball around nicely. And then one of those long diagonal balls saw us back peddling. All was not lost though as Jara Reyes scampered back to stop the cross: and stop it he did; illegally though apparently with his arm. This seemed harsh and the time honoured defence of ‘ball to hand’ was a phrase oft muttered, nay yelled in the Trent End. Was it a penalty? My dad has a philosophically insightful conclusion in cases such as these — it was, because the referee gave it. There can be little argument with this. Vokes stepped up and slammed it hard and low into the bottom of the net. This seemed unfair: we were doing well. It was also extremely unnecessary for Vokes to shush us to aid his celebrations: can’t you run away and celebrate with your own fans? We had enough of this from a certain Mr Dobbie a few weeks ago, thank you very much.
Toys, blankets and teddy bears were thrown obstreperously from the proverbial pram. For five minutes after this, we lost it a little and seemed to wander around dazed at the downright injustice of it all. However, we hung in there, dusted ourselves down, shook ourselves off and got on with it. Pleasingly, we played some of our best football: patiently probing until Paterson jinked this way and that before standing up a cross at the far post for Cox to chest in. A well-deserved goal.
And then another minor tantrum: for the first five minutes of the second half, we were all at sea. But this was short-lived as once again, we enjoyed territorial and possession supremacy for the majority of the second-half. Occasionally, Ings got himself into a good position by coming in from the right but Cohen had taken a double dose of magical tackling tablets this morning and they were kicking in. It seemed to be one of those days when it just wouldn’t quite fall for us. We ended up playing what looked close to a 4-2-4 towards the end and gave it a right good go. But to be fair, Burnley defended doggedly and skillfully.
Not to be downhearted though as there were so many positives to come from this game: Jara Reyes looked so comfortable on the ball that he wouldn’t look out of place in a World Cup team (what’s that you say? Oh…); Darlow’s super quiff looked immaculate; Lansbury looked good, I mean, really good; Chalobah at long last started to look like a player; and even Coxy seemed to be showing signs of recovering from his elongated sulk. I do hope super Chrissy Cohen is ok though. I like him. I really like him a lot. I might even be developing a bit of a man-crush on him. And who honestly could see us taking four points from Leicester and Burnley after THAT Yeovil display?
Not perfect but reasons to be cheerful.
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