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Lancashire Red: Talking Points

23 November 2013

Regular readers of these reports may recall the last time we played this lot I remarked that the Dingles’ dump known as Turf Moor was – is – to date my most frequently away ground visited, and as is also well known, far from my favourite of venues. What I’ve not yet worked out is who – whether The Dingles or not – is the most frequently seen team to visit City Ground in the years I’ve been attending games. They seem to pop up often enough. On one thing there is no doubt: they are right up there as one of my least liked clubs, especially the way they seem to profit from dubiously-awarded penalties, as the curse of my first visit to that dump of theirs (78th minute pen from a header deemed handball) struck again today.

Never mind their form keeping them at the top of the tree. More worrying than that is our lengthening injury list which today got significantly longer. The flip side of that was an opportunity for the fringe players, illustrated by the inclusion of Marcus Tudgay on the bench, but the underlying message suggests the need for a boost in resources has now reached a critical level.

The Championship, Saturday 23rd November 2013, K/O 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest 1 v 1 Burnley
The City Ground

Clouding over, but dry
Away fans

A larger than usual travelling contingent from Dinglestown, suggesting more than a few fair-weather fans have jumped on the bandwagon at the mere whiff of a prospective promotion campaign. Not that they had much to sing about for long periods of the game today. Typical sing-when-you’re-winning mentality which would last barely a quarter of an hour.
I’m convinced they’re trying to set a record for the latest kick-off time to occur in normal circumstances – four minutes late today. Once again it was almost 3 o’clock before the teams were even out on the field let alone ready to kick off.
The Match
It was Chalobah who came closest to breaking the deadlock just before the end, but as we approached stoppage time we had something far more significant to worry about when Cohen collapsed in a heap in front of A-Block. It didn’t look good as the stretcher approached, but a minute later with Cohen back on his feet our hopes that it wasn’t too serious were raised as he came back on, but shortly afterwards it was clear he’d be unwise to continue and with a minute or two still to play he disappeared down the tunnel as we looked on anxiously.
The second half was one of the most one-sided displays of football I’ve ever seen not to produce a goal. Without looking at any stats, I guessed possession must have been close to 80/20 in our favour, with attempts on Darlow’s goal restricted to the odd break and rare mistake on our part (most notably Hobbs and Cohen reading each other wrong right after the restart, requiring Chalobah to show his class with a superb tackle). At the other end we laid siege on Heaton’s goal with several attempts going so, so close, but just failing to go all the way. The sight of the ball spinning in the six yard box had the Trent End screaming for someone just to poke it in, but as ever there was no one quite close enough. We always seem to look dangerous when we first break, but lack of momentum, not to mention sufficient red shirts keeping up in support invariably gives the defence time to fall back – something we’ve not been good at for quite some time now.
Half time, and a timely reminder there are things more important than football with a well-received parade of the latest heroes home from Afghanistan. I couldn’t help but imagine Burnley’s highly odious celebrity journalist-cum political aide fan squirming uneasily in the executive box whilst this was going on.
In the midst of this of course were eleven men in red shirts who, instead of letting the red mists descend in the way they had up in the stands, realised they had a job to do. It’s often been said in these columns and elsewhere that in seasons past (two years ago springs to mind here) that we would never have bounced back from this, the Dingles would simply have shut up shop save for a last minute coup de grace maybe and that would have been yet another in a long line of defeats. Today, while their fans hurt all around them they rolled up their sleeves and got on with the job of restoring parity. It was a few minutes before we found our rhythm again, but slowly but surely we started to press forward, and a couple or so minutes before the break our perseverance paid off. Paterson was having arguably his best game in a red shirt to date running the Dingles’ defence ragged, but following a jinking run it was an exquisite cross from the right that evaded everyone before finding Cox on the far post who was able to say thank you very much from point blank range and kill the atmosphere in the Lower Bridgford like a popped balloon. A timely, not to mention thoroughly justified equaliser it may have been, and more significantly it was Cox’s second in as many games which hopefully will get people off his back for a while. Significantly, I only recall him getting caught offside once today so maybe thinks might start looking up in that department.
So what happened? Burnley scored of course, though the circumstances could hardly be more controversial if you tried. Against the run of play Keiran Trippier ventures forward down the right and crosses. Gonzo dives to block it and the ball goes out for a corner. No, says referee Carl Boyeson after a heavily pregnant pause. There was no linesman’s flag (less than 20 yards away), and no shout from any Claret either on or off the pitch. Instead we see the ref pointing to the spot sparking howls of disbelief from the Trent End. Ironically before this game I had been thinking for the sake of my own health and for the safety of those around me it might be a good thing to try to maintain a calm demeanour when watching this stuff. But this just had me (along with everyone else of a Forest persuasion) so incensed that I was close to falling off the front of the Upper Trent in sheer rage at the injustice of the decision. The spot kick, inevitably despatched by Sam Vokes (despite Darlow going the right way) merely fanned the flames, especially with Vokes wheeling away in a manner akin to Matty Fryatt at Walsall eight years ago – worth a yellow card all on its own, but by now we all knew there’d be precious little we’d be getting from this ref today.
Billy was obviously keen to play the mind games by trying to lull the Dingles into a false sense of security before hauling Hobbs out of his sick bed and into the starting line-up. Good to see Radi reinstated also and he almost scored in the opening attack of what looked set to be a fast-paced game. Most of the action was at Burnley’s end, though with few clear-cut chances. It was a Lansbury free kick however which came closest when it crashed against the crossbar, and Cox also tested Heaton with a fizzing shot across goal, and all in all the prospects of breaking the deadlock at the right end seemed good.
Keeping the Vokes-Ings goal machine quiet was a major achievement, especially given the patched-up line-up. Forest’s reaction to going behind in such controversial circumstances was true professionalism, especially amid chants of ‘one-nil, to the referee, one-nil!’ Cox’s equaliser was just reward. The sustained attacking football in the second half deserved more.

The late injury to Cohen could well eclipse the lot. Defying the stretcher bearers to [briefly] come back on may well have given us hope, but if the injury is as bad as we fear then in terms of our promotion prospects this season it will be nothing less than catastrophic.

Jamaal Lascelles was a revelation and a total transformation from the tentative error-ridden player he was just a few weeks ago, combining brilliantly with Hobbs to frustrate the Vokes-Ings goal machine. Jamie Paterson was a constant menace and gave Keiron Trippier grief all afternoon as did Lichaj during the first half; Mackie and Gonzo constantly threatened down the right, whilst Darlow and Cohen continued to do what they do that constantly endears them to the fans. A useful contribution by Chalobah suggests we shouldn’t write him off just yet despite a somewhat underwhelming stint with us to date.

No-one in a red shirt guilty of slacking today, everyone played their part. Let’s just save it for the officials instead – see below.
Entertainment Value
6/10 – a lively encounter in which we more than held our own.

5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
Promotion Rating
2 – Still seven points behind automatic promotion – what’s worrying though is that it’s now two months since we last recorded a home win. That of course on top of our lengthening injury list…

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