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Lancashire Red Experience: Fine lines

14 September 2013

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a distinct feel in the Forest camp (dressing room and fans alike) of an urgency to get back on with the job of resuming winning ways following the international break. Rather like a child fallen off a bicycle for the first time there was a need to get back on quickly and put the disappointment of the defeat at Wigan behind us. The flip side of that was to cast our minds back six months when the fantastic run we were enjoying was interrupted by the international break and we were never quite the same after that. Hmm, don't want that again.

A look at the fixtures list and I doubt anyone should begrudge us to feel a little bit pleased with ourselves for finishing a challenging August in 4th place, and even the defeat at Wigan hadn’t really dented the feel-good factor that is currently taking Trentside by storm at the moment, although today's attendance looked surprisingly down on the previous two home games.

Today on paper at least looked our most winnable fixture so far, but most of us I suspect will have memories of some pretty frustrating encounters with The Tykes over the years, with only one fixture I can recall as being distinctly enjoyable, that being the rollercoaster win at Oakwell 13 years ago with the Blake-Lester partnership really coming into its own, and interestingly just a few short weeks before Andy Reid burst onto the scene with an impressive debut.

Speaking of time passages, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the opening day of the season all over again today, since a quick round of spot the differences would have clocked more than a few licks of white paint newly applied around the stands where drab grey concrete walls used to prevail and a whole new raft of advertising hoardings adorning BC Stand, not surprisingly with the logos now adorning the players’ shirts.

This of course was the first game since the transfer window – how prophetic were those words in my last report suggesting change where Guedioura was concerned? Not that I was actually wanting him to leave (unlike one or two players over the years I could mention) and although sometimes erratic in his shooting and tackling, the memory of that stunning winner he scored at Molineux last November firmly places him among the more popular players to wear the red shirt. Thanks, Adlene, and hope our next meeting will be a Prem fixture! Perhaps wisely BD had decided the secret weapon that is Greg Halford wasn’t very secret anymore and relegated him to the bench in favour of the returning Simon Cox, and Guedioura’s vacant place was filled by  The Moose for his first start of the campaign. In the technical area it was left to the ‘brothers’ Kelly to hold the fort while BD took his place in the stands next to Fawaz to serve out his one-match touchline ban imposed following the Wigan game.

So, another typically frustrating Barnsley fixture or something more entertaining? Here’s what happened…

The Championship, Saturday 14th September 2013, KO 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest 3 - 2 Barnsley
The City Ground

Dry and bright, probably the last time we enjoy conditions like this for a few months.
Away fans

A poor turnout for a semi-local fixture, and were nowhere near to filling the corner stand in Lower Bridgford.
Kick-off two minutes late………anyone?
The Match
Did it matter? Did it heck! Our special guest Mr Medley (having given his pitch-side interview at HT) was certainly getting his money’s worth today, and yet it was not so long ago he’d have seen nothing to spark chants of LTLF (last season springs to mind) and this latest rendition gave clear indication that at last the job was done. FT, and not even a horrendously extended diversion (caused by the closure of Wilford Lane) was going to dampen my spirits. Amazing how growing frustration can dissolve into elation in just a split second. Nice one, Hendo!
A change was needed and Ned responded by sending on Jamie Paterson who was soon denied by Barnsley’s 12th man in the form of Mr Wood Work. Further changes came five minutes later with the introduction of Abdoun for some fresh creativity and Hendo for his first taste of action since scoring that last minute winner at Ewood Park last month. Still we pressed, forcing Barnsley to defend deep, but even though this might just be another one of those days when the ball would not go in, we really put them under pressure by forcing corners, with deliveries from Reidy from the right and Abdoun from the left to mix it up a bit. It was from the third of a quick succession of these that the timely breakthrough came with six minutes to go. Reidy’s kick sends the ball over towards the far post, it finds Hendo who heads it well. It all seemed to happen in slow motion given how long it took to hit the back of the net, suggesting the angle at which it was headed across goal.
The second half continued in much the same fashion, with Forest very much on top until Moussi started doing impersonations of the recently departed Algerian, culminating in a free kick from 35 yards being conceded dead centre for a trip on Dawson. From that distance it would take something special, which is precisely what Cywka did when he sent the ball sailing into the top corner, just like one of those TV adverts that used to feature David Beckham, and well beyond Darlow’s reach. Not part of the plan by any means, though undeniably a cracking goal.
So after the initial feeling of being stung by losing the lead so quickly, the game settled (if that’s the appropriate expression) into an end-to-end encounter with both sides intent on committing players forward. It was during a Forest attack a minute into first half stoppage time that the lead was restored when Mackie was brought down by Ramage slap bang in Reidy territory in a similar position to where he scored at Wigan. The ball sailed in from the right and took a slight deflection off Etuhu before landing in the far corner. Another exquisite delivery which ought to have been logged as Reidy’s 4th goal in as many games instead of the own goal it was officially classed as.
But instead of being deservedly three up inside 20 minutes we were pegged back to 1-1. I was still texting home with Cox’s strike when Perkins went down (a tad too easily IMO) under a Moussi challenge, and O’Grady gave Darlow no chance from the spot. Fears of a reprise of two weeks ago when our lead at the DW was short-lived sprang to mind, though in reality Darlow was rarely troubled throughout the afternoon. Apart, that is, from a heart-in-mouth short back-pass early in the second half causing him to intercept O’Brien and send the ball into one of those horrible loops into the air towards goal. Fortunately Hobbs was covering and was able to head the ball away.
Barnsley showed early on they were not here to simply make up the numbers and for the first ten minutes or so were by far the more organised and made their presence felt in Forest’s half of the field early on. That all changed once Forest appeared to get properly into gear and threatened every time they went forward. By the time we actually took the lead just after the quarter-hour mark we might well have been three up after Cox was denied by the woodwork having beaten Tykes’ evergreen ‘keeper Mike Pollitt after being set up by some brilliant Radi trickery, and shortly afterwards when Mackie was thwarted by Pollitt himself with a spectacular save. The breakthrough came with a combined effort when Mackie’s driving shot was spilled by Pollitt, giving Cox the ideal chance to finish from six yards. Cue a hearty launch into Lost That Lovin’ Feeling made all the more special in the presence today of Bill Medley of Righteous Brothers’ fame.
Forest’s sudden upping of the tempo just when it was necessary put the right pressure on Barnsley which eventually bore fruit. The timing of Forest’s substitutions was pivotal, bringing on Hendo and Abdoun for the tiring Cox and the increasingly lacklustre Moose respectively to give us the lift just when we needed to call on something special to get us over the finishing line. 100 per cent home record still intact. Chasing despondent Latics fans back up the A50/M6 later on – payback for their fortuitous win over us a fortnight ago.

A distinctly soft penalty to concede so quickly after taking the lead. As always some better finishing would have had this game put to bed by half time (how many times did we hit the woodwork today?), but that’s not to detract from the entertaining game which it was, though anything less than a win would have been a travesty today.

Another captain’s performance from Chris Cohen – simply outstanding. Another significant contribution by Andy Reid, not just for the set pieces which, like a fine wine, get better with age, but the link-up for the frontmen is really starting to make things happen. A worthy winner of August’s POM award.

Moussi – had a great first half then faded badly, and was arguably at fault for both set pieces conceded leading to Barnsley’s goals.
Iain Williamson – was better than the referee we had at Wigan (though that wouldn’t be difficult) but bought Perkins’ going down for the penalty far too easily, along with several other Tykes’ shouts.
Entertainment Value
8/10 – A sending off or a disallowed goal and this game would have had just about everything. Easily the most enjoyable fixture against Barnsley since that ding-dong 4-3 win at Oakwell some 13 years ago, yet could so easily have ended in frustration had it remained all square and less than what Forest’s performance deserved. A fine line indeed.

5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
Promotion Rating
1 – With Blackburn doing us a favour by holding The Dingles at Turf Moor we were able to climb to third place behind Blackpool and QPR who both won, though it has to be said that neither of them have really had an opening month of fixtures as challenging as ours. Yes, it’s still early days, and the chasing pack now includes our mutton molesting neighbours as derby day looms large, though we do at least have two comparatively winnable fixtures before then, especially if we can work on our finishing a little more, though there was a distinct improvement in the final third today.

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