Make Or Break Season For Forest?

Nottingham Forest returned to Championship action at the City Ground for the first time since March 6, 2020, in front of a 25,000 strong crowd, however, if this season fails to bear fruits of any kind, those supporter numbers will rapidly decline.

The stage was beautifully set as swathes of red jerseys poured back into our famous old stadium to face Bournemouth. There was a real undercurrent of anticipation and excitement around all four stands, and the question on everybody’s lips was “will the roar be louder than that heard when Stuart Pearce emerged from the tunnel against Blackpool in 2014?”

For me, personally, it was quite surreal to be back behind the microphone providing commentary. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed it until the ball began to ping from end to end in true Championship fashion.

In my opinion, Forest made a great account of themselves in the first half and shouldn’t have gone in a goal down at the break. Like most of the home supporters, I was hugely impressed by the new boys, Philip Zinckernagel and Jordi Osei-Tutu, who both played on the front foot and took the game to the opposition. That is a rarity at Nottingham Forest given our recent history, without being too critical it seems that 4-2-3-1 and cautious optimism is the order of the day.

Of course, as I’ve said many times before, it’s so easy to criticise and overlook the positives. The performance of the new lads was a big plus and had Ryan Yates’ shot been an inch to the right, we’d have a screamer to be revelling over.

On reflection, the loss to Bournemouth was a bad one in the grand scheme of things, given the decimation of their squad due to injuries nothing less than a draw was acceptable. It was so typically Forest too; all the good work cancelled out by individual moments of opposition quality and avoidable error.

Brennan Johnson was very quiet in midfield, which only fuelled the Carvalhogate debate even further. Such is the expectancy of modern football that supporters almost demand excellence from their heroes as a rite of passage. Although I’m not a big fan of NFFC’s record signing, it would be remiss to avoid the fact that he should have been given more game time last Saturday. That’s certainly no indictment on Johnson, who I’d pick 9 times out of 10 over Carvalho, but when it’s not your day, it’s not your day.

Another bone of contention regarding player selection is undoubtedly the goalkeeper jersey. Again, without being knee jerk or uber critical, Brice Samba has arguably been at fault for the winning goals in both Championship matches. Similarly, to Johnson, I’m a huge fan of the Congolese stopper and won’t be calling for his head after 180 minutes of league football. However, competition for places is the order of the day in professional football and if the lack of concentration continues then Ethan Horvath is ready and waiting.

Perhaps the most apparent observation of Saturday’s defeat was the of the holding midfield pair, both Jack Colback and Ryan Yates played well, doing essentially, what a holding midfielder should do, winning the ball and giving it to someone who can play. For me, this is the biggest elephant in the room to address for Nottingham Forest if you’re adamant on playing 4-2-3-1. Just because you choose to play two defensive midfielders there is no rule stating that they must both be identical. Two words; James Garner. If we’re able to procure his services again those forward passes will make a huge difference, as witnessed by all and sundry last season.

As I said earlier, you won’t catch me laying the boot in or calling for the manager’s head after a couple of games, especially whilst Dane Murphy has barely had time to decorate his office. There may well be a drive to recruit intelligently and push us up the table by season’s end and I wish for nothing more.

The pandemic has offered up a free hit as far as attendance figures are concerned, through sheer desperation the supporters have returned en-masse to the City Ground despite an atrocious last campaign. The reality for Nottingham Forest going forward is as follows; if this season, like countless others in the last 22 years, ends in abject failure those loyal fans will refuse to be burnt again and attendances will plummet!

Steve Corry

*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Forest fans v Bournemouth were left feeling disappointed.

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