August 8, 2016 by notjustpumpkinbread
Well, as season openers go that one pretty much had it all, would you agree?
It’s been a bit of a strange lead-in to the season for me. A fellow season ticket holder rang me last week and asked whether I was excited about the season ahead. It was a fair question, but one I couldn’t really answer. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with a new Forest “fanzine” called Bandy & Shinty – you may be familiar with it by now. Don’t worry though, I’m not going for the hard-sell.
My reason for mentioning it is because with all that stuff going on – and despite being aware of the personnel coming to our great club – I’ve had very little time to consider the impact of these matters. My thought process over the past couple of months pretty much reads like this:”
“Director of Football you say?“
“And a ‘Coach’?”
“These aren’t the sorts of decisions Fawaz makes…“
“What’s happening with that Greek bloke?“
“Oh, ok. We’ve signed them.“
“Oh, and him.“
“Not heard of them.“
Clearly, these aren’t bad things. Quite the opposite in fact! An air of professionalism was rearing its (nicely formed?) head. Then the Fawaz-effect reared its (probably) ugly head.
“Nil capacity? What the flippity-flip does that mean?“
“It’s a reduced capacity now! Who does that affect?“
Just when we thought we were clawing our way back to some kind of respectability, we slip back into the mire.
The irony didn’t stop there either. An announcement by the club via Twitter around 12pm on matchday stated we had “sold out“. Just think how many we could have got in the ground if our erstwhile Chairman was on top of things?
Yet, despite these latest shenanigans, that “air of professionalism” and general sense of excitement from the Forest Faithful surrounding the opening game shone through. I don’t think I’ve heard a rendition of Mull of Kintyre quite as vocal as that. There was a tremendous atmosphere around the ground, for pretty much the entire game. The Lower Bridgford were in fine voice and the rest of the ground followed suit. It was heartening to witness.
That team sheet read like a who’s who from the Nigel Doughty Academy. Congratulations to Matty Cash and Alex Iacovitti for making their senior debuts and together with Jorge Grant, Ben Osborn and Oliver Burke, no fewer than 5 academy products took to the pitch. Was that too many? Possibly. Did we care? Not really. That 5 home-grown players were deemed to be good enough to start the game – and despite a few little injuries to other players – it’s nothing but heartening for the future of this great club.
So, together with the always dependable Dorus in goal, Matt Mills and summer signings Tomas Lam and Hildeberto Pereira made up the back 5 together with Iacovitti. A strong looking midfield lineup saw our Henri sitting behind the other 4 Academy lads with Britt up front.
It was a fluid front 6 with Cash covering nearly every blade of grass and grasping his opportunity with both hands. One thing I took away from yesterday was his pace – he’s definitely not slow!
I like Jorge Grant, but he was somewhat absent in the first half and it was no surprise to see him make way for another summer signing, this time the (possibly exciting) Pajtim Kasami at half time. In fairness he did play an instrumental part in our first goal, picking up a deflected, long-range shot from Henri inside the box and blasting the ball across the face of goal for Britt to poke home.
So, something that was by no means a surprise was seeing Britt get on the score sheet after 23 minutes to put us 1-0 up. A couple of strong challenges on Dorus prior to this went completely unnoticed by the referee, the second of which caused the big man to land awkwardly and have to be stretched off. We were then saying “Hello” to another summer signing in the form of goalkeeper Stephen Henderson.
It took Burton 4 minutes to get back into the game, with those defensive frailties coming to the fore. The inability to clear a corner led to Burton equalising; then 3 minutes later a poor attempt at clearing the ball from Henri some 35 yards out saw the ball break to none other than Chris O’Grady – a season long loan signing for Burton – who calmly took the ball into the box and squared for Burton to slot home a second. Quite where Mills and Lam were is anyone’s guess.
Some minor grumblings amongst the fans were allayed as a breathless first half was drawn to a close. Lam popped up on the far side of the pitch to pick up a short corner and equalised with a (speculative) cross-cum-shot from just outside the box, beating the Burton ‘keeper at his near post. Possibly unsighted by a fellow teammate, it would still go down as a bit of a goalkeeping nightmare.
Parity was restored and we had 15 minutes to gather ourselves.
So, Grant off, Kasami on and let’s see what we can get up to.
Kasami’s appearance brought a sense of control to the team, with the ability to spread the play while still having the wherewithal to offer himself up. The pace of Pereira and Burke on the right was a sight to behold and they were clearly enjoying themselves. Burke seems to have got even quicker. At times, balls were played onto him that no mortal man could possibly catch and the Burton left back was having a torrid time. He’s a work in progress, but by-(insert deity here) he’s an exciting prospect!
His work-rate was rewarded 4 minutes into the second half when Kasami took a free kick about 4 yards outside the box. His first shot cannoned of the wall and his resulting effort was deflected towards a waiting Burke inside the box. As it dropped, Burke hit it first time and saw the ball nestle into the far corner of the net leaving the Burton keeper wondering “what just happened?“
We were 3-2 up and but Burton weren’t out of the game. They pressed and forced a despairing save from Henderson, while Mills and Pereira threw themselves at shots inside the box to deny Burton the opportunity of testing our newest ‘keeper again.
Most of the Burton attacks were from our left as they looked to exploit Iacovitti’s inexperience at senior level. There were times when he looked a bit exposed, but minutes on the pitch will sharpen him up to this level of football. Going forward he looked very bright in the second half, but I’d have liked him to look up a bit more and spot Benny in space in front of him, rather than look inside to offload the ball. In fairness though, these are minor grumbles. Overall, you couldn’t have asked for a better debut for the 18 year-old.
So, neat tricks – from Kasami & Pereira – and (attempted) rainbow flicks – from Benny – proved those in the Garibaldi were enjoying their time in the afternoon sun. While Burton threatened they didn’t really look like scoring – but better teams would have – and it was just a matter of time before we got on the score sheet again.
Another lightening-quick break down the right this time saw Burke turn provider to the overlapping run of Pereira into the box. His goal-bound shot was deflected by the outstretched leg of a Burton player – diving despairingly – and ballooned over the head of their stranded ‘keeper. He watched helplessly as the advancing Britt helped the ball into the net with a cushioned header. It was nice to see Britt and new boy Pereira exchange a (not) well-rehearsed goal celebration – they had 2 goes at it – and cemented the hope that these new summer additions were integrating nicely with an established squad.
An injury to Pereira on 85 minutes saw Montanier abort the appearance of Apostolos Vellios as he waited on the touchline and turn to Eric to replace the right back. It was a bright debut for Pereira and options abound with him, Eric and Burke all able to provide pace and advancement down the right. Personally, I’d prefer Eric over Pereira as I think he’s a better defender, but there’s no doubting the Portuguese’s abilities. Maybe Eric could provide a bit more stability at left back if Iacovitti needs to be rested, but who knows. It’s a nice position to be in, but disappointing for Eric and he’s not done anything wrong to be left out of the team as far as I can see. Time will tell I suppose.
Burton had to have the last word though, with a nice, early cross whipped in from the right for them to head home a third in front of their travelling support. We were deep into the 4 minutes added time by the referee, so there wasn’t an upset on the cards. It had been a nice ding-dong to start the season.
So, what did I take away from our first win of the season on a glorious August afternoon? Well…
Kasami looks class.
Lam is NOT a centre half.
Matty ‘The Dash‘ Cash is quick.
Viscount Pereira of Hildeberto is fast.
Oliver ‘Wings On His Heals‘ Burke is faster.
Stephen Henderson might not be the quality of goalkeeper we’re used to.
We’re a “work in progress” with all those signings and it was great to see the “Return of Britt“. He is out-and-out quality and the longer we can hold onto such a natural goalscorer the better it will be for us as a club with ambitions. The use of 5 Academy players worked well – on the whole – and we may be looking at exciting times ahead. We’ll have to wait and see. Everything is still possible at this point in the season, but everybody seems to be saying the right things and are trying to do the right things. That can be nothing but a good thing for us.
A quick note. I did see Steve Sutton taking his place back on the bench after returning from the dressing room post-de Vries injury. He spotted someone in the Director’s Box and gave the thumbs-up, so hopefully all will be ok. The appearance of a hobbling de Vries in the second half to take a seat on the bench drew a nice reaction from the crowd and the player himself, so hugs all round people, we might be alright.
Also, great work from ‘A’ Block with the “Nigel give us a wave…” chant. It got the desired reaction – thank you Mr. Clough – and the follow-up of “Nigel, Nigel, Nigel” was classy.
The season has begun! There’s a Tuesday night League Cup game at Doncaster to navigate before our Friday night appearance on Sky away to Brighton. Hopefully the free travel will help get as many fans down there as possible. I’ll be there too, talking to anybody that’ll listen about this new-fangled Forest fanzine we’ve come up with. If you see someone brandishing this…
…come and say “Hello”. It would be nice to meet some of you. There’s the Forza Garibaldi boys putting a great deal of effort into creating the right kind of match atmosphere also, as well as the Nottingham Forest Supporter’s Trust. We’re all trying to pull in the same direction and bring a sense of togetherness and belonging to this great club of ours. Long may it continue.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!