December 7, 2015 by notjustpumpkinbread
Just like Reading last week, Fulham were sitting comfortably above us in the table – 13th to be precise and within nodding distance of the play off places – and with the goalscoring power of Messrs. McCormack and Dembele they were looking to be another one of those “tests” for the boys in Garibaldi. That Dembele didn’t make the trip was something of a pleasant surprise, with the 6ft 6in “lump” that is Matt Smith filling that forward role.
It was pleasing to see that Mr. Dougie kept faith with the team that dispatched Reading, albeit with an enforced change as Jack Hobbs served his one match ban for the two yellows he was shown in that game. I’d have put money on his replacement being Kelvin Wilson, but pleasant surprise number two was to see the name of Michael Mancienne taking his place in the heart of defence. I’ve got nothing against Kelvin – that display against Huddersfield was simply epic – but he seems to have lost his edge.
Anyway, you certainly couldn’t argue with the selection. Mancienne may have been out injured for some time – so there may have been a question about his match fitness – but he’s probably our best central defender. His move into the starting lineup meant the final squad place was filled with Robert Tesche, returning from his own long spell in the treatment room. Other than that, the bench was also the same as last week, which meant still no Jamie Ward – there’s talk of a back “issue” but little has been confirmed.
For all Fulham’s attacking threat going into the game, I still fancied we could do a job. With the wind playing a part in the proceedings, an opening 10 minutes of wayward passes as the players adjusted to the conditions meant there was little in the way of chances for either team. As the half went on, it was clear Fulham were having the lion’s share of possession and kept Dorus on his toes on a few occasions. A sharp header from McCormack, the obligatory headed effort from Smith and a deflected shot from McCormack as the half wore on all tested our Dutch keeper, but he was equal to the task.
As for the Mighty Reds, well we found it difficult to get into the game, unable to maintain possession. Unlike the Derby display where we allowed them to keep the ball in areas that were of no real threat, Fulham maintained pressure in our final third throughout the half. On the couple of occasions when we did break forward we looked dangerous. A nice cross from the left by Osborn was met at the far post by the advancing Mendes who seemed to be in two minds. The result was neither a shot nor a cut back and the chance was gone. Chris O’Grady thought he’d have a go from around 20 yards and while the shot was on target it was never going to worry the Fulham keeper.
So, 40 minutes had gone, Fulham were in control of the game and I was thinking that if we went in 0-0 at half time the visitors would feel hard done by. Time enough for us to regroup and still produce in the second half. Then we got a corner. Our Henri’s dead ball delivery this season has left much to the imagination, so when a deep ball flew beyond the throng of players occupying the penalty spot I wasn’t really that surprised. Maybe Eric knew this as he stood beyond the far post, watching the ball loop over his head. That he had the wherewithal to hoick the ball back over his head and in-so-doing put it back into the danger area was nothing but a good thing. Matt Mills rose like the proverbial salmon and headed the ball back across the keeper and all of a sudden we were 1-0 up! Not quite daylight robbery but it was close.
Cue the second half and a Forest team in the ascendancy. It took a mere six minutes for another opportunity to arise. This time Nelson Oliveira picked the ball up midway into the Fulham half, drove forward and unleashed a shot of such venom the Fulham keeper could do little more than block the shot. The subsequent rebound was pounced upon by the advancing O’Grady and Fulham were finished. It was great to see a strike partner following up on a shot from his fellow striker, something we have rarely seen from Forest in recent times. Unlike last week, when O’Grady’s goal was met with something of a half-hearted celebration from the City Ground – mainly because we didn’t actually realise it had gone in – an appropriate level of excitement with afforded his second goal in as many games.
You may wonder why I thought Fulham were finished so early into the second half. That’s not so much a statement of hindsight, more a reading of the situation. The combination of the first goal against the run of play just before half time, together with us getting a well-deserved second early in the second half proved too much for them. For all their possession play and good work, they were unable to make that breakthrough; a bit like us earlier in the season. The difference was, though, the utter capitulation of their game for the remainder of the match.
We were rarely troubled – save for a Cairney shot that Dorus duly dispatched – and Fulham were certainly there for the taking. Perhaps a more ruthless team would have pushed for more. In this time of development, when our team are slowly establishing themselves and perhaps, finally, bringing to fruition our manager’s beliefs about the way we should be playing, a certain reticence is understandable.
A quick series of substitutions from the 67th minute saw the visitors attempt to reinvigorate their chances and by the 71st minute they’d made all three changes. Little changed in their play though and 7 minutes later we had won a corner as we attacked the Bridgford End. This time Vaughan – who’d had a quiet first half but came back into the game in the second – swung a ball into the box that was met by the head of Matt Mills. 3-0 and Mills was on a hat trick!
We’d stuck with our hand until that point, but in the 79th minute, discretion was the better part of valour when a double substitution of Trotter for Oliveira and Grant for Mendes was implemented. With Trotter’s loan about to expire that may well be his last contribution in the famous red, while it’s nothing other than a pleasure to see Jorge Grant take to the pitch. With the more defensive-minded Trotter now on, we were going to see out the game and with Fulham visibly beaten why not?
We still had time for two more moments to cheer the wind-swept crowd though. Firstly, a welcome return to the pitch for Robert Tesche in the 87th minute as he replaced Ben Osborn. Like Vaughan, Osborn didn’t really look on it in the first half, but was certainly a live-wire after the break. The second moment of cheer came in the dying seconds of the game as our Henri delivered a lovely corner for that man Mills to duly loop a header goal-wards. The Fulham keeper could only watch on as it dropped over his head and the City ground faithful were poised to celebrate a hat trick for our centre half. Alas, it hit the crossbar and was cleared. Damn and blast are surely the words that crossed Matt Mills’ lips as he saw his effort rebound away!
And there we have it ladies and gentlemen. We’d scored three goals, maintained a clean sheet, won three games in a row at home, are now unbeaten in five at home and duly dispatched another team whose league position belie their actual abilities on the pitch. At this point I’d also like to congratulate the referee whose own performance was in stark contrast to last week. While both games were played in the same manner – that is to say without maliciousness – the Reading game afforded six yellow cards and a sending off. That official was too intent on breaking the flow of the game and reinforce his notion of who was in control. Fast forward a week and not a single card was shown.
We’re kicking off that 10 in 10 thing on Sky next. Away to Wolves on Friday night, followed by a trip to Blackburn on Monday – both of which will be shown live. Let’s hope we can push on now. There’s no International Break to upset any momentum we may have established, both teams are in that mid-table bun fight we’re entering and lie in the two positions above us. I’m not getting carried away, but my glass is half full and my Garibaldi Tinted Spectacles are firmly in place.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!
PS I met Chris Cohen before the game after he’d given an interview to BBC Radio Nottingham. He was a thoroughly nice and polite chap (why wouldn’t he be?) and didn’t even mind me taking a selfie with him. I’m a middle-aged man. I don’t do selfies. But for Chris Cohen I’ll make an exception! Thanks Chris!