January 13, 2016 by notjustpumpkinbread
There have been occasions in the past where the perceived abilities of a referee seemed to weigh against us, as if said official were wearing the shirt of the opposition under his own. I think it’s fair to say there were no allegiances displayed in last night’s game, just an utter lack of football knowledge.
In fairness, it did create a number of talking points from a game that, after the first 10 minutes, looked like it would cancel itself out – two teams that may well sit back and attempt to catch the opposition on the break. There were, at times, gaping voids in the middle of the park, screaming to be filled by those in the Garibaldi to wrest control of centre-stage. Meanwhile, Mr Dougie had a game plan and we were trying to stick to it. I say trying, because that “official” seemed to have other ideas – ideas that were apparently far removed from the beautiful game.
It was a strong and decisive starting 11 – three changes from our previous league fixture at The Valley. One clearly enforced due to our Henri’s unfortunate incident, while Mancienne moved back to his favoured position at the expense of Hobbs, leaving the door open for a full debut for Bojan Jokic. We also started with two up top, so Chris Burke dropped out of the match day squad, allowing Chris O’Grady to partner Lord Nelson.
I feel somewhat for O’Grady. Here’s a player from Nottingham who, by his own admission, thought he’d never get the chance to play for his home town club. This surprise loan spell granted that opportunity and after his debut at QPR we all wondered why the Brighton fans were glad to see the back of him. His work rate is clearly a high one, but not all he does seems to be working for him lately. Where every ball stuck to him in those first few games, it’s as if the double-sided tape he’d wrapped over his body has now picked up too much fluff. I, for one, genuinely appreciate his efforts and hope this man from Nottingham is afforded a little more recognition for his endeavours.
And what of the game? Well, we went behind to a lovely whipped in cross from the far side that beat Mancienne all ends up and was never going to be picked up by Matt Mills. Toral met the ball with his head in the centre of our penalty area and buried it. It was Birmingham’s first effort on target after 24 minutes and awakened us from our malaise. Prior to that, we’d had a couple of efforts of our own with O’Grady forcing a save from a header, while Ben Osborn was unlucky to hit the post after shooting from just outside the box, somewhere near the “D”. It was a strange one really, as no-one in blue had picked him up. The ball bounced to him after Mendes had been tackled and he had all the time in the world – he was just unlucky to find the woodwork!
It’s been a little while since we’ve found ourselves 0-1 down and it only took 6 minutes to restore parity. Lord Nelson won a free kick outside the area, David Vaughan delivered a great ball into the box and that dead-ball specialist that is Matt Mills summarily arrowed a header into the back of the net. I love it when a well worked situation like that comes together; it shows what’s been done on the training ground does pay off. Now, if only we were able to do the same for direct free kicks.
I can’t really say a lot more happened in the first half, There was some toil – from both sides – as well as some inexplicable behaviour from the ref. It certainly roused the crowd. A yellow for Mendes borne of frustration and in all honestly he was lucky it wasn’t something worse. A yellow for Lord Nelson for doing nothing more than challenging for the ball and in doing so coming into contact with a Birmingham defender. That he fell to the ground as if shot was enough for the ref to reach for a card – fooled again. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” That pretty much sums up the ref’s performance for the whole match.
So, 1-1 at halftime and onward to the second half. Clearly there were no more goals in this second stint, but the spectacle provided by our friend in the middle negated any thoughts of actually scoring. To call it a stop-start affair would be the mother of all understatements. The Birmingham defender responsible for Lord Nelson’s first half booking tried the same again and almost succeeded. We stood as one, vocally stupefied by what we were seeing. The official’s apparent thought process was thus:
“He’s caught him with an arm there.”
“The defender looks injured, I’ll book him for that.”
“Oh, hold on, it’s Lord Nelson of Oliveira, I’ve already booked him. That means I’ll have to send him off.”
“Hold on, the defender doesn’t actually look like he’s injured. I’ll just give him a telling-off instead.”
“Phew, saved that one. Well done me!”
Crisis averted. Then not longer later, David Vaughan got the ball kind of stuck in his feet and Birmingham’s goalscorer made a pretty good tackle to retrieve the ball. A large proportion of the Forest faithful bellowed for a free kick and were duly awarded one, much to the chagrin of Toral. That he was then booked for making a very good tackle just added icing to an already delicious looking cake. It beggared belief. Little did we know more was to follow.
And so it came to pass, as Birmingham sought to wrest control of the game and flooded the midfield with what seemed like more players than you are allowed on the pitch at any one time, their 6ft 1in striker stooped to head a ball at waist height. Unfortunately this was at the precise moment David Vaughan raised his foot to punt it away. Contact was made, their striker hit the deck like he’d just been told to duck-and-cover and the ref brandished a red quicker than Kris Commons devours a KFC. Un. Be. Lievable!!
There were various substitutions and lots of rear-guard actions as Birmingham pressed for a winner, but it remained 1-1. The game as football was a long time dead, replaced by a game as spectacle by a referee who had no business officiating at that level. It was good to see Jokic for the full 90 minutes; he looks like a sound replacement for Dani and was surprisingly up to speed for this demanding league. Mancienne and Mills once again looked like a reliable defensive unit, while Eric was made to sweat somewhat by Birmingham’s winger.
That Tesche is also up to speed after his long lay off is a testament to the medical staff and his will to succeed and together with an always solid Vaughan looks like he could cement himself a regular place in the starting 11. Mendes flattered once again, Ben worked his socks off as usual, Lord Nelson was unsettled by the shenanigans of that Birmingham defender and O’Grady dug deep. There wasn’t much work to be done again for Dorus, but he’s always reliable. Perhaps his distribution could have been better but there you go. Cameos for Ward, Gardner and Oliver Burke rounded things off to ensure we remain unbeaten.
It’s Bolton at home on Saturday. They’re struggling. It could be time to take all three points.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!