Two goals from Britt Assombalonga and Matty Fryatt saw Nottingham Forest beat AFC Bournemouth 2-1 to take an early lead at the top of the Championship. Fraser Ball offers a fan’s eye view from the Goldsands Stadium…


I’d not been to a Forest away match since my student days when I saw Sheffield United beat us 4-2 in 1991. I must have been so traumatised by this that I hadn’t travelled away from Nottingham to watch a Forest match since. Given I was working in the South, and at a loose end, I made a late call and managed to get a ticket for the game.

Some 1,300 of the Forest faithful made the long (well, a lot longer than mine) trip to the Goldsands Stadium on the South Coast to play AFC Bournemouth in front of a sell-out crowd. An impressive effort for a midweek game it has to be said. Bournemouth were riding high at the top of the early Championship table with two wins out of two and their supporters were in a confident mood.

The Goldsands Stadium is nice and compact and the pitch was in superb condition, although it seemed a lot narrower than the City Ground. It looked well suited to a team that likes to play a fast-paced passing game.

A couple of changes to the starting line-up saw the impressive Mancienne return at centre-back and Fox move back out to his more natural left-back position. Lichaj also came back in for Jack Hunt which was a bit of surprise given his impressive start.

When the action got underway Bournemouth were very quick off the mark and moved the ball at a very fast pace. Antonio and Fox were getting overrun by Smith, Ritchie and O’Kare who were linking very well with Callum Wilson.

Bournemouth were playing through our back four with ease and Darlow made a number of great saves to keep us in the game. Under constant pressure we defended a number of corners with Mancienne, Hobbs and Darlow keeping them out well. A free-kick from Ritchie on the right saw the ball miss everyone and strike the post. And a stinging drive from the rebound was blocked by Fox throwing himself in front of the ball.

The first-half was practically one-way traffic with Bournemouth looking increasingly dangerous. There was only one decent chance of any note for Forest when Antonio beat Smith down the left flank and got a good cross in only to see Assombalonga head tamely over the bar.

Burke had been getting used to the pace of Hunt making runs outside of him, but with Lichaj not fully fit and concentrating more on his defensive duties, it was hard to see where the chances for Forest were going to come from.

When the half-time whistle went it was a bit of a relief. A chance to regroup. I think most of us would have settled for a draw at that point given the possesion stats that were stacked up against us.

Lee Camp spent the half-time break doing another warm up on the pitch, he had that little to do. At least that gave a small section of our fans the chance to enquire about his wife. They also asked after his old teammate David McGoldrick. Who says we aren’t compassionate enough to ask about the wellbeing of our ex-players?

The second-half saw a couple of changes in personnel and formation with Hunt coming on for Fox and Antonio making way for Osbourne. Lichaj moved over to left-back and Fryatt dropped back to the left-side of midfield.

To me, this showed the biggest change that has happened in a short space of time at Forest. Pearce (and his team of coaches) have got the ability to pick a team that can adapt to a change in tactics and move to Plan B quickly and efficiently.

The first 15 minutes of the second-half showed a more balanced game with Forest winning a lot more of the midfield battles and retaining possession a lot easier. However, this didn’t count for much when a ball into the box got tied up between Darlow and Burke and the loose ball fell to Wilson who side footed it home from five yards.

This didn’t dampen the spirits though and the fans got right behind Forest despite the home fans kindly reminding us that they were top of the league. We were starting to get more and more of the ball now. Osborne was playing really well and mopping up a lot of the loose balls.

A free-kick was won in the left corner by Assombalonga after holding the ball up well. Reid played in an inviting ball and Assombalonga, despite leaning backwards, managed to get enough power on a header and force it in off the far post. A great finish and Britt is quickly becoming a firm favourite with the fans.

So, 1-1 and I think most of us thought we would accept that as the final score. But five minutes later, after some neat football, Hunt received a great back-heel from Burke and then beat their left-back and got a cross in from the byline. The impressive Smith was overpowered by Fryatt at the back post who headed in. 2-1!! The home crowd were absolutely stunned. The travelling army were going barmy.

In the remaining 15 minutes there were a few chances for either side. Assombalonga having the best chance after some delightful skill to control a long ball followed by a low drive that was well saved by Camp. However, Osborne and Cohen were tidying everything up in midfield and not letting Bournemouth have a chance.

A late goal by Derby (oh the irony), who were losing to Charlton, meant that it was in fact Forest who were now top of the league. Well, it was only fair we updated the situation to the Bournemouth fans. There were so many positives to take from the game and a great result which just would not have happened last season.

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Image: Courtesy of franky242/

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