Nottingham Forest (A) – The ACN Review

18/03/21

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Biggest Positive

People sometimes complain that local radio commentary can be a bit biased. That’s usually because of an excessive enthusiasm for the home side, but the BBC Nottingham team spent an extraordinary amount of time praising Norwich. “Absolute joy to watch”, “men v boys”, “Forest can’t match them for football” – and that was just in the space of one minute at halftime. You can’t say it wasn’t earned though – the first half was among our best football of the Farke era. It was – whisper it – Premier League quality stuff.

Midweek Moan

It seems a bit churlish to complain about missed chances but what else is there to gripe about? During a first half in which Forest had apparently decided to focus on practising their defensive routines only, we could have had four or five. Kenny McClean’s saved shot after a beautiful reverse pass from Cantwell was a sublime team move, after the quality of near-misses in recent games, we’re close to needing an ‘almost-the-goal-of-the-season’ contest. 

Moment(s) of the Match

Two moments in four minutes, ending the game before Forest had really had any possession of the ball. Teemu Pukki is on flames, and Kieran Dowell is warming up nicely. 

Farke Watch

The timing of the arrival of the 2042 Balloon d’Or winner couldn’t have been timed better to give Kieran Dowell the start his substitute performance against Wednesday deserved. Other than that, it’s steady as she does with Rupp remaining in the team but moving across, and putting in a very strong showing too. Ahead of the internationals-imposed crunch run of games, Farke will have been relieved to have been able to rest key players like Hanley, Gibson and Skipp given how little they had to do during such a comfortable game.

Special mention to Chris Hughton. He doesn’t play football the Norwich way, as we learned the hard way. But he is the nicest man in football, something I was able to confirm in person when I met him at a fundraiser for the Labour party (and the fact that he was there was, in itself, another reason why he’s a top bloke.) Let’s hope for his sake that Forest can avoid relegation, and start a rebuild. It’s a proper club, that one.

Random Star Performer

Kieran Dowell might have timed his run perfectly. We had high hopes for him at start of season but he’s looked a little lost in his injury hit season. His performance on Sunday earned his way into the team, his confident play will mean he should keep his place against Blackburn, and his beautiful long-range goal will win him some headlines. The goal might even get the merch maestro minds at ACN towers whirring for a Dowelldinho shirt. He now has a chance to fight his way into a Premier league starting lineup if these last two games can be built on.

Summary

The BBC commentators described the Forest plan as “stifle Norwich and then hit them on the counter.” It’s a good plan but to do that you need to stifle Norwich and you need to be able to counter attack. Forest managed to do neither in a first half that was as one-sided a game of football as you’ll see at this level – and that’s not to knock Forest as much as praise the Canaries. Teams can try to press high and get played through by a midfield that is simply humming at the moment. Or they can sit deep and invite us on – which Forest tried to their cost. Both approaches have merits, neither work when we play this well.

Our 2018/19 season was special in its own unique way. It was incomparable. This season has at times felt more business-like. We were consistently winning without playing brilliantly, and ‘finding a way.’ But since the blip (of three draws and one defeat), they have clicked into another gear, playing sublime football that is as easy on the eye as any of our best performances under this manager. We’re coasting back towards the premier league, with a stronger foundation for the challenge of staying there, and we’ve done it all while staying true to our values. I pity the youngsters who are falling in love with this club for the first time, lulled into the false sense that it will be like this forever. But all of us can sit back and enjoy it, counting down the days to when we’ll be back together in Carrow Road, and to say thank you to this extraordinary team, and this extraordinary manager. 

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