Frenzied Forest felled

When the first word which comes to mind to describe the events of a game is “feisty”, it is a reflection of an afternoon of excellent entertainment, not all of which was wholesome but which was thoroughly engaging.

This only really applies when your side wins, but a pulsating encounter brimming with tension, perceived injustice and simmering violence excites the emotions in a way that our many  bloodless Premier League experiences could not.

Forest, a good side still reeling from last weekend’s humiliation by Wednesday, clearly believed that redemption was not only possible facing lowly opposition but inevitable. This rather ignored the quite remarkable impact on a severely damaged club of a management team who have resonated deeply with supporters who instinctively know a perfect fit when they see one.

Brushing aside a long and pervasive injury list, which seems, thankfully, to be easing, the Cowleys’ values of hard work, organisation and preparation permeate and bring long lost hope back to a battered and bruised, yet ever supportive, fan base.

Instinctively understanding the brutal demands of a division which offers precious few opportunities to breathe in a relentless schedule, is stuffed with clubs with entitlement bursting from every seam and those who invariably throw huge amounts of cash at their forlorn ambition, they will sweep the ludicrously out of character and wasteful spending from a club which succumbed to the tawdry excesses of the top flight not only to no avail but to near disaster.

A relatively benign first half hour saw the visitors dominate proceedings and the hosts struggle to gain a foothold. Forest had several threatening incursions, usually involving the returning Joe Lolley, perhaps the epitome of Town’s foolishness when the quality of his successors is considered. Ultimately, the ex-Kidderminster man suffered a frustrating afternoon but his fundamentally honest and potentially damaging performance served as a useful cautionary tale for the higher ups at Huddersfield Town. There were reasons he was popular despite the infuriating interruptions to his career in West Yorkshire.

Despite Forest’s bright opening half hour, which was actually preceded by a far post chance for Mounié latching on to an excellent Bacuna free kick, Grabara remained untroubled through it; not that the lack of accuracy from their dangerous raiding was any comfort to the home support as their team struggled to get in to the game, despite some decent forays down the left by Bacuna.

When Town finally began to threaten the opening goal arrived remarkably quickly and undoubtedly against the run of play. A brief period of pressure brought a corner which was swung in high and towards the far post out of reach of Samba (who had previously picked out a cross, entertainingly, with one hand) to the towering leap of Mounié. The ensuing melee involving Chalobah fell perfectly for Schindler whose unerring strike found the top corner.

Forest, possibly enraged with the injustice of it all, responded with a beautiful effort by Ameobi which curled just outside Grabara’s far post and tensions started to boil over thereafter. Two animated benches, with Nicky Cowley and Forest’s coaching staff contributing to a mounting atmosphere of invective and vituperation, culminated in one of football’s glorious traditions; a tunnel punch up. Though Danny Cowley had words with his counterpart, the main protagonists were Mark Hudson and Dawson of Forest. Brooky the kit man was never far from the action either, taking well earned respite from having training tops chucked at him.

The fracas played nicely in to the hosts’ hands. Still short of a left back and midfield options, relying on the heavily built Mounié to press up top and round pegs in square holes, their often blatant disruptions to play designed to interrupt Forest’s flow were in danger of being overruled by a previously indulgent referee. Better by far to allow their opponents to self combust with seething anger.

Some of Forest’s challenges throughout the game were, to put it mildly, robust. Saw hacked at Bacuna for a deserved booking, the same Town player was assaulted but the advantage played by the referee lead to him forgetting the identity of the perpetrator and how Watson was only booked for a late, high two footed lunge on Hogg is anyone’s guess.

Town were hardly innocent in a rambunctious, febrile second half but their sins of time wasting and bookable but hardly dangerous challenges paled in comparison to Forest’s enraged reactions to perceived injustices.

Forest’s frustrations, on and off the field, lead to their downfall. The home side’s best period of the game came after the break and an early goal, which should have been followed by a crushing third, ultimately settled the encounter.

Playing past and through their frothing visitors, Town finally imposed themselves and a blocked Mounié effort lead to a corner. Having already lost their set piece goal cherry on the half hour, it still came as a shock to see Town convert directly from a corner. Mounié, harbouring a dry spell of Western Australian proportions, peeled away from his marker to the back post and met Grant’s excellent delivery to double the lead.

The goal did nothing for Forest’s collective fragile temperament and, soon after, Hogg was unceremoniously dumped into the advertising hoardings by Silva. Unperturbed, the veteran midfielder, who was excellent in a game pretty much made for him, was quickly extricated and offering his hand to his counterpart in acknowledgment of the well executed assault. The same could not be said of the ball girl who felt the brunt of the incident and was lead off for treatment (she was OK, thankfully, and was later compensated with a dressing room visit and signed shirt). 

It may have been in the spirit of solidarity that the other ball personnel proceeded to infuriate Forest players by delaying returns and, in one comically marvellous moment, one of their number bamboozled an enraged Semedo. Delicious.

Town really should have put the game to bed in the 15 minutes after doubling their advantage. Bacuna came in to his own with some dazzling footwork in this period; his talent is raw and occasionally misdirected but with guidance he has a great future. An interaction with Grant nearly brought a goal of stunning elegance, exchanging passes in the area the leading scorer was thwarted by a good save when freed by Bacuna’s intelligent ball.

Grant also had a seering effort just beyond the far post which matched Ameobi’s first half attempt.

Bacuna himself weaved in to the area with a scintillating run only to run out of space and attempt a Rabona which fell straight to the keeper. Ineffective but audacious, the attempt showed the promise of Bacuna which is intriguing and exciting.

Grant was felled by yet another heavy challenge and Kachunga, unspectacular but very effective with Simpson defensively, finally succumbed to injury at the third attempt by a very physical Forest side who were lucky to finish with a full complement.

By the time Kachunga limped away, Forest had capitalised on their fading opponents but the nature of the goal was infuriating. A corner was conceded and Town simply failed to organise quickly enough to deal with the hurriedly and very effectively taken kick; Worrall ghosted in to an area normally defended by Mounié but the striker had barely arrived to get in to position.

Encouraged, the visitors proceeded to take over and with Lolley prominent, Town were indebted to two excellent saves by Grabara to preserve the three points.

In an attempt to quell Lolley’s growing threat (he forced one of Grabara’s saves with a good effort from just outside the box), Bacuna, who had rather abandoned his defensive duties leaving the excellent Hadergjonaj exposed, was sacrificed for the return of Jaden Brown with Flo moving up but it was perhaps a mistake to throw him in to the prevailing situation and Lolley rather tormented him.

Grabara’s blatant time wasting was inevitably punished and the home side teetered on the edge for much of the last 15 minutes but they came through the period despite Forest’s return to playing football instead of frantically trying to exact revenge.

While the left side of the defence crumbled, Schindler and Stankovic were superb, as they had been throughout, while man of the match Hogg and Chalobah offered supporting resilience to claim 3 hugely welcome points.

It could be said that Forest’s superiority in the closing quarter of an hour deserved a point but this rather ignores their abysmal and persistent fouling; defeat may teach them a few lessons.

A scintillating game with incident galore ended in Town’s favour and with 7 points from 3 games in trying circumstances for the Cowleys, the resurrection is truly underway.

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