Football can be a – and well, is – a very cruel game. While it can bring you unrivalled joy and happiness, it can also bring you devastation and anger in equal measures.
These are feelings known all too well by all sets of supporters nationwide – from Arsenal to Yeading. Nottingham Forest experienced both sets of emotions last season, with the triumphant return of a club legend as manager and a blistering start soon turning into a disaster.
Thankfully, that level of despondency has yet to hit the red banks of the River Trent this season – instead, it’s currently being replaced by a cautious wave of optimism, and some good old fashioned frustration.
Frustration none more evident than in Forest’s last two league fixtures – a 2-1 home loss to Middlesbrough and a 1-1 draw away at Huddersfield Town. Of course, the scores don’t tell the story.
Boro are hotly tipped to go up this season, with a brilliant squad at their disposal and a manager in Aitor Karanka who as a player, went to the very top with Real Madrid and studied profusely under Jose Mourinho as assistant manager after retiring. Yet despite the players on hand, Forest very kindly gifted Boro two goals in the first half, which proved to be decisive – despite having a lot of opportunities to change that. In the second half, Boro barely got out of their own half as they faced wave after wave of Forest attack – but despite this they hung on, as a glorious one-on-one that was easier to score went begging by Ryan Mendes, and when given the chance to equalise following an outrageous handball, Henri Lansbury missed a penalty.
Then came a distinctly average Huddersfield Town, who with a team full of experienced cloggers, set to work on Forest. For all of Town’s possession, it was Forest who had the better of the first half – with more shots on target than the home side, and a goal to boot. On that first half display, Forest didn’t look like they’d concede if the game was played for a week straight. A superb resilient defensive performance from all four of the back line was proving effective…then the second half started. Forest sat back deeper and their opposition got more half chances than they were allowed in the first. Despite this, Town didn’t really create anything clear cut from open play, and goalkeeper Dorus de Vries didn’t have a lot to do.
Until a few minutes from time that is, when a hopeful shot from distance took a wicked deflection via Jack Hobbs off the frame of the goal and over the line for Huddersfield’s equaliser – an equaliser perhaps deserved on possession, but not really for anything else. Without wanting to sound bitter, last I checked goals won you football matches, not aimlessly keeping the ball. To make matters worse, a few minutes prior to the goal, Chris Burke hit the post and Chris O’Grady, while managing to steer the rebound on target, picked out Martin Crainie on the line, who subsequently cleared.
So when manager Dougie Freedman said after the match that he felt his Forest side wasn’t getting what they deserved, he was right. I could easily be writing this blog saying that Forest took six points from two tricky games on paper, instead of just the one. However, as we all know, that’s football. You don’t always get what you deserve. It’s worth noting though, that it feels like Forest are in a vastly superior position to where we were under Stuart Pearce.
Whereas now you sense the side are getting unlucky and it could well turn around, before it was down to archaic tactics and bad play. In fact, bad doesn’t do it justice as it was a style of football so woeful and shockingly poor it wouldn’t have looked out of place ten leagues lower.
Which makes recent comments from Pearce all the more surprising. It would appear that he’s bitter at the moderate success Freedman has found with the side, as he has now twice decided that Forest will not make the play-offs. He first made the claim last season, which was due to his errors , and now – even though we’ve just entered October – apparently Forest don’t have a fit 20-goal-a-season striker and as such, will definitely not finish in the top six.
Pearce’s logic that a side needs striker who scores for fun is merely a myth, especially when the Cardiff City side who blitzed the league in the 2012-13 season’s league highest scorer hit just eight goals. Not to mention he completely ignored Nelson Oliveira’s pedigree and Chris O’Grady’s style of play which opens up space for other players to grab the headlines.
Obviously, he’s entitled to his opinion. As a club legend, his opinion will carry more weight as well. However, I struggle to see why he feels the need to pipe up and take a dig at a side clearly doing much better than it was when he was at the helm. Maybe this is the issue, maybe he’s jealous at how things have panned out, and maybe he feels he should have had this sort of form – who knows?
Anyway, next up is another tough match as the Reds welcome Hull City to The City Ground – and by doing so, a much loved academy graduate will return. Michael Dawson comes back to the red side of the Trent for the first time as a player since leaving in 2005, and the former England international is hopefully guaranteed a brilliant reception. Maybe he can score an own goal for old time’s sake, but in any case, a win will certainly ease the frustration of the past fortnight.