January 18, 2016 by notjustpumpkinbread
Well it’s all going rather swimmingly at the moment, don’t you think? I’d challenged the superstition deities by sporting my new third kit top – didn’t change anything else though, so it was only a minor alteration to my match day attire – and treated myself to a cheeky £1 bet on Lord Nelson to score first and the Mighty Reds to win 3-0! I don’t know about you, but I was having a great day! Traffic was light, I got to the ground early, shook Chris O’Grady’s hand and wished him well, then sat in my seat soaking up the majesty of our wonderful stadium. One change from the norm, insofar as pre-match stuff going on, was the two members of Forest staff appearing to test the firmness of the pitch. I’m assuming that may have something to do with our recent injuries or, perhaps, the type of studs/ blades required for the boots. I suppose we’ll never know unless someone in the media asks; and I’m not one of them.
So, three changes from our draw against Birmingham – how good a result does that look now after their fine away win at the iPro? – saw the inevitable absence of David Vaughan (suspended for 3 games) replaced by Gary Gardner, another start for Oliver Burke in favour of Ryan Mendes and Jamie Ward in for Chris O’Grady. 4-5-1/ 4-3-3/ 4-4-1-1. You can take your pick. A seemingly more flexible starting 11, we did at one point or another take up those formations during the game, but quite frankly that’s neither here nor there. It was a positive, strong team that showed desire in going forward and resilience at the back. That Jokic was starting only his second match belied his obvious quality to slot into an established defensive unit. He certainly looks like another superior signing and hats off to Mr Dougie and his team for unearthing him.
With Lansbury and Vaughan missing, some would be forgiven for thinking our central midfield area could look a bit thin, but take a bow Mssrs. Gardner and Tesche. I find it hard to believe Gary Gardner couldn’t get in a struggling Aston Villa team, but there you go. Alongside Tesche, the two of them looked assured and wholly dependable. With another couple of games under their belts, they’ll look even better; and that’s without even thinking about Chris Cohen in one of those positions. He came on for a tiring Tesche and slotted in nicely for the remaining 7 minutes of the game. With Ben on the left, Oliver on the right and Jamie Ward positioned behind Lord Nelson, we set off on our quest to wrest three points from a beleaguered Bolton and continue our heady unbeaten run.
Would the real Jamie Ward please stand up. I have to admit to being a tad underwhelmed by his performances so far this season. He’s shown what he’s all about in fits and starts, doing the necessary stuff and jabbing away at the opposition to let them know he’s there and getting under their skin. All the sorts of things he did while at that other club. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his efforts and commitment to the Garibaldi. But what we saw on Saturday was a sustained performance for 90 minutes; an igniter of opportunities; a tenacity to hound the opposition when not in possession; a will to run everything down; a speed of thought and quickness of movement that caused all sorts of problems in their final third; and an all-consuming desire to score goals. Admittedly, that desire to bag one for himself was sometimes to the detriment of his teammates, but those moments came after we’d scored 2 goals, so you can forgive him for wanting to get in on the act.
A good clearing header from Jokic saw Ward nip in front of a Bolton central defender and their defensive line was broken. With only the advancing keeper to beat, Ward poked the ball a little too far in front of himself, but had the pace to just nick the ball away before being clattered in the penalty area. It was a well won penalty, with the referee having no alternative but to send off the Bolton shot-stopper. Up stepped Lord Nelson and we were one up after 12 minutes and Bolton were down to 10 men. It was pretty much game over from that point, but let’s not take anything away from the efforts of Bolton’s performance. Neil Lennon clearly wants his side to play football and they retained the ball well on occasions. That they did very little with the ball in advanced positions was probably due to their reduced numbers. As Bolton lost possession we pressed the game looking for more goals.
It didn’t take long to get our second, with Ward once again showing his quality. Good work on our left saw him cross a high ball into the box for an advancing Oliver Burke to rise and head home his first career goal at the City Ground. Two goals for the Mighty Reds and two assists for Jamie Ward – we’d only played 16 minutes. As the half continued Oliver Burke used his power and pace to good effect, Jamie Ward didn’t stop working and shooting and Bolton were a beaten team. We had to wait until just before half time to be treated to a couple of corking efforts from that man Ward. First, Osborn turned provider, slinging a ball into the penalty area. It seemed that Ward had all the time in the world to tee himself up, culminating in a sweetly hit volley that was somehow saved by Bolton’s replacement keeper. Barely a minute later Ward found himself in space square in front of goal about 30 yards out with nothing on his mind other than to score. The resulting shot looped over the keeper and bounced off the crossbar! It would have been a worldy, just like his effort a minute earlier. He walked off the pitch to rapturous applause as half time was sounded.
So, what of the second half? It wasn’t quite the Jamie Ward Show of the first and we weren’t exactly pushed to an “all hands on deck” scenario. More attempts at possession from Bolton, more pressing from Forest. The back four looked comfortable and Dorus was pretty much a bystander. There were a couple of occasions when Bolton’s advances looked to culminate in something more, but stout defensive duties from those in the Garibaldi thwarted all attempts. It was great to see Tyler Walker take to the field on 70 minutes to replace Oliveira, but we had to wait until the 83rd minute before Ward got what the deserved. A break from the edge of our penalty area saw Oliver Burke release Osborn on the right. A quick ball through to the advancing Jamie Ward and he ran into the left side of the area with just the keeper to beat. Ward thumped the ball over the keeper which bounced behind the line after coming down from the underside of the crossbar. Job done. We looked for more but our efforts broke down in the final third. Mendes replaced Burke on 91 minutes but that was the only thing of note after we scored our third.
That’ll be 10 games unbeaten in the league, 11 if you include the cup game. We’re third in the current 10 game “in form” Championship table and have the longest unbeaten run of any team in all four English divisions. We may have drawn a few games too many for some fans, but I’m fine with those kinds of stats. Our biggest test will be Saturday’s game away to Middlesbrough who have won 8 of their last 11 games, but we’ve become a team that’s hard to beat. I would mention that Middlesbrough have only conceded 1 goal in their last 10 games, but that would be too much. So I won’t. We, on the other hand, have scored 16 goals in our last 10 games and that’s not something to be sniffed at. That would be one draw away from home Forest fans would be pleased with, I’m sure.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!