After watching Nottingham Forest being held to a goalless draw away at Bristol City, I realised how much we’d improved under the management of Chris Hughton. Far from perfect I admit but the primary directive of avoiding relegation is all but complete.
Watching Bristol reminded me of life before James Garner and Filip Krovinović, I saw a team with little ability to produce a forward pass, whose primary objective was to stifle their opposition. Not a criticism of the Robins but it was a tangible benchmark of our own progression.
The glaring observation on Forest’s part was our inability, as usual, to turn the screw in the final third and put the game to bed. It’s an issue that has dogged the Reds for a considerable amount of time and one that certainly doesn’t need pointing out by an eejit like me.
Rather than highlight our misgivings on the offensive front I’m happy to praise the positivity and progression thus far. Much to the surprise of many a reader, neither will I attempt to make Lewis Grabban a scapegoat for our impotency at Ashton Gate. Despite my misgivings regarding the bearded frontman’s credentials to skipper the side I didn’t see a lot wrong with his performance on Saturday. In fact, I thought his attitude was particularly good, like the player we watched under Sabri Lamouchi last season, chasing lost causes, but starved of chances.
Which brings me to our wingers, Alex Mighten and Anthony Knockaert. Despite plenty of endeavour and application they didn’t seem to produce an end product; that killer pass/cross. Knockaert certainly met his met his match in City’s Tommy Rowe who stifled the Frenchman at almost every opportunity. Although Knockaert has showed flashes of brilliance I can’t help but see the mercenary within him. The 29-year-old, despite his occasional wizardry, presents himself to be a “poor man’s Arjen Robben!” Harsh? Maybe a little but at the end of the day he’s not our property.
Alex Mighten on the other hand, he’s what I call work in progress. Admittedly, he too struggled to eke out any assist of note. Here is a young man who’s doing all the right things but someone who simply needs to clock up the mileage and learn on the job. I’ve spoken on the telephone with his father Eddie, a former NFFC apprentice himself, and I can tell you categorically that Alex will do well if he continues to listen to his dad. The application, attitude and endeavour are certainly evident; the composure and confidence will only come with time. That said, if you watch his shot against the base of the left-hand post again, look out for the brilliance of his speedy feet. The quickness of his footwork on the corner of the six-yard box was exceptional, in a years’ time those shots will be going on the other side of the post.
As I alluded to earlier, Forest looked the superior of the two sides, and it took City all their effort to prevent us from inflicting their eighth consecutive home defeat. I did find the Robins TV commentary very funny but vastly unsurprising when they quoted the following. “That was one of Henri Lansbury’s best performances in a Bristol City shirt!” Televised game, approaching contract renewal, facing former employer? The only three occasions in which you’ll expect to get a performance out of his lordship; overrated, overpaid and perpetually underachieving!
Going forward, I’m certain that we’ll finish no lower than 16th this term, the big question is whether we can retain the services of Messrs. Garner and Krovinović?
It’s far from perfect but the Bristol City game provided me with enough evidence to say that we are moving in the right direction.
*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Forest have a togetherness which they again shown at Bristol City.