Flickering hope follows Forest felling

Perusing Town’s opening fixtures was immediately accompanied by dread and a desperate search for some rational theory why we wouldn’t be stranded in the bottom 3 with Sheffield Wednesday whittling away their point deduction disadvantage.

A slightly unfortunate but wholly unconvincing defeat against Norwich was followed by an exceptionally poor, dispiriting defeat at Brentford’s new home destroying any lingering, preposterous hopes that a new coach and a new way of playing grafted on to the remnants of failed squads from miserable seasons past could defy reality.

And yet. 

Victory over a disappointing and often confused Forest garnered the 3 points which suddenly makes Town’s return from a daunting schedule, well, not too bad. 

Overall, the performance was encouraging, if uneven. The principal takeaway was the collective effort and energy which smothered Forest in the second half and led to multiple players appearing in the box – a phenomenon we have all but forgotten. This included 6 (six) when Frasier Campbell was left alone to strike a beautiful winner, which would have been far less likely had he been alone, as many of his predecessors have been.

All would have been different had Hogg’s reducer on Arter been spotted in the early minutes. Raking the ex-Cherry with a highly aggressive, probably heart felt, studs up challenge, Town’s veteran extracted revenge for the last meeting with the annoying nark. Hogg needs to ensure he doesn’t jeopardise the team’s chances in such a manner again, but many of us couldn’t help feeling a frisson of vengeful delight.

A progressive opening ten minutes saw Town pinning the visitors back without creating any chances and it was the visitors who shaded a scruffy first half and, but for two saves by Hamer, would’ve taken a lead in to the break. 

The first of these was outstanding. Ameobi drifted across Town’s back line, turned Crichlow and hit an excellent curling shot bound for the top corner. Arching his back, Hamer was equal to the effort and tipped the shot over the bar; perhaps he can use that moment to resuscitate his quite dreadful reputation amongst the support (which he acknowledged post match, to his credit)?

His second save was more routine but just as important as Mbe Soh was left alone at a corner to head towards goal. The poor set piece defending was more worrying than the actual effort, which was not powerful enough to beat Hamer but it was the last attempt Forest managed on goal as the tide turned.

A weak Koroma effort which was spilled by Samba nearly presented Frasier with a tap in but he couldn’t quite reach the ball before the keeper dragged it back and took a bang on the head for his efforts.

Town rather missed Hogg who went off injured after picking up a booking with his replacement, debutant Eiting, feeling his way in to the rough and tumble of English football and were the team more appreciative of the half time whistle.

The break allowed Town to regroup and a very acceptable second half performance subdued the visitors. At the back, Stearman and Crichlow became a much tighter unit and the youngster’s elegant display – ruffled just once by Grabban, who replaced the disappointing and ineffective Lyle Taylor – bodes well, even if Sarr’s arrival is likely to limit his chances in the immediate future.

Eiting settled in to his number 6 role and more than hinted at an ability to add some measured class to a midfield which has been sorely lacking quality to date. His impact promises to improve those around him with a far greater range of forward passing than the limited alternatives available to Corberán so far.

324 minutes in to the season came Town’s first goal and it was a tension relieving beauty. Mbenza, who showed some rehabilitating promise at times, found Toffolo, who was breaking in to the area at pace, with an excellently weighted pass and with plenty of home players in the box, the left back was able to pick out the unmarked Campbell, whose balletic volley flew past Samba.

It was reward for an energetic and, crucially, collective, start to the half which caught the visitors on their heels. Eager pressing, discipline and desire changed the dynamic from a relatively flat first half performance and Campbell’s busy front line work was rewarded with a highly attractive winner.

Forest had little in response. Grabban had a decent effort which just cleared the bar and, late on, he troubled Critchlow but couldn’t draw a penalty winning foul from either the youngster or Hamer which was a possibility.

Easily quelling the visitors’ increasingly desperate efforts to equalise, Town broke late on and should have put the game to bed as an Eitling ball released Koroma down the left. Eagerly pursued by 3 team mates in support, but only 2 Forest players, the winger fed substitute Diakhaby whose first touch was too heavy, allowing Samba to position himself well and block the shot. The danger wasn’t over, however and Pipa squared a disguised pass to Koroma who couldn’t quite get the ball past Samba, hitting his trailing leg and out for a corner.

Disappointing as the failure to convert 2 excellent opportunities was, the fact that Town were attacking in numbers so late in a game they had worked so hard to win was testament to their fitness and desire. The paucity of goals and the lack of a striker capable of approaching prolific remain problems, but if the style of play creates numbers in the box like this, there is hope.

If Sarr is the marauding centre half Corberán desires, if Eiting can provide calm quality to deliver better transition and the collective can provide a team greater than the sum of its, to date, limited parts, early season fears may dissipate.

Eiting, in particular, is an intriguing addition. Can he encourage more creativity in Pritchard (who worked hard but still regularly infuriated; his set piece deliveries being particularly woeful), more discipline from Bacuna and release the pace possessed by the squad?

Overall, the performance was far from perfect but the release of tension, the handful of positives and the possibilities provided by new blood shine some beams of light through the gloom.

2 thoughts on “Flickering hope follows Forest felling

  1. Decent report as usual, Martin.
    Just two points…
    Eiting not Eitling
    Fraizer Campbell, not Frasier (and you referred to him regularly as though that were his surname!)
    Sorry to be pedantic!
    Keep up the good work. 👍🏻😊


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