I’ve often said that an international break can help or hinder your club given their form leading up to one, working on the premise that it eases the pressure of a losing streak, whilst alternatively, stifling the momentum of a side in form.
For once I took the unfamiliar vantage point on my sofa having been ruled out of commentary thanks to four broken ribs.
Much to my surprise, Forest kicked on from the flattering win at Birmingham to produce their best performance of the season at home to Blackpool. Testament to Steve Cooper, it’s impressive enough to have turned around a seemingly hopeless situation in such a short time scale, but to then build and improve on that after what seemed an eternity is clear proof that the Welshman is the real deal.
The seasiders were no mugs either, coming into the contest having won three of their last four. So, I fully expected a cagy draw and certainly not the cohesion and comprehensive dominance that unfolded. From the outset you could see that the Reds were once again taking the game to the opposition and asking questions of the Blackpool defence, which included the former Derby man Richard Keogh. As expected, the City Ground faithful were less than welcoming to former Republic of Ireland man which is an understatement to say the least.
Blackpool seemed happy enough to sit and weather the Forest attacks for the opening exchanges and barely threatened at the other end, and this lack of ambition would result in them deservedly falling behind to a wonderfully orchestrated goal by Forest. Joe Worrall’s, Ronald Koeman-esque, long, diagonal ball was beautifully controlled and dispatched by Lowe for Brennan Johnson to smash home at the Bridgford End. Let’s dissect the goal and appreciate the freedom and expression of it in comparison to that of previous management; If we go back exactly a month to the home defeat by Middlesbrough, could you have envisaged a goal being scored six seconds after leaving the boot of our centre half? No, me neither. Let us also consider that the three players involved in the goal v Blackpool were all on the field of play under the former manager against Boro. If Worrall looks up, right of centre in his own half, in that Boro game, all he sees is a stranded and outnumbered Lewis Grabban. Fast forward a month, and the Hucknall man has Lowe and Johnson making runs on the shoulders of the Blackpool defence in the inside left and right channels respectively, with Zinckernagel and Grabban in close attendance by the time the ball hits the net. In a nutshell, six seconds, two passes, four players committed, and one goal scored! It’s called taking the game to the opposition but for now we shall call it the Cooper effect.
Without doing a disservice to Blackpool, they were very organised and had sporadic chances of their own prior to their equaliser in the fifty third minute. Jerry Yates was on hand to pick up an absolute gift as Brice Samba and Djed Spence collided seconds before he smashed home from close range. As Steve Cooper said, in as many words, you cannot legislate for individual errors, but it’s imperative that you learn from them.
Inadvertently, the set back of conceding such a goal provided the almost full City Ground with a newfound belief in their team. Every Reds supporter I spoke with told me they were still confident of regaining the lead at that point. Again, rewind a month or so ago, you knew that if we conceded a solitary goal, the best we could hope for was a draw, scoring two was simply out of the question.
Forest’s winning goal had similar traits to the first with Worrall once again starting the move, his wonderful Crossfield ball on the outside of the right boot was sublime. Special praise for the goal scorer too, Lewis Grabban peeled off beautifully after holding the play up for others to join the attack from which he finished. It’s fitting that both Worrall and Grabban weren’t content to rest on their laurels, but were hell bent on finishing what they started. Although Worrall was unlucky not to have scored himself It’s once again indelible proof that the ethos of the side has completely changed for the better.
At this point you’re wondering why I’ve not mentioned the other outstanding performers from Saturday’s game. The fact of the matter is how collectively excellent Nottingham Forest were against Blackpool; my brother said that as he made his way from the ground, he overheard varying nominations for man of the match. Colback, Yates, Grabban, Worrall and Lowe all in the mix and any of the aforementioned would have been fine by me.
Bizarrely, the most pleasing thing for me on Saturday was the impact of the Forest substitutes, all three slotted in seamlessly. Despite entering the fray late on, James Garner, Alex Mighten and Joe Lolley all made telling contributions to secure a third win on the bounce. Again, credit to the gaffer here; making just one sub in the final ten minutes of a game in which you’re only leading by a goal is tricky, but to make three can completely upset the apple cart. It’s huge call for any manager but Cooper made the correct one again. Garner immediately pressed the opposition on the edge of their own box whilst Mighten, and Lolley in particular, went for the jugular. Anyone remember Gil Dias?
For many of the whopping 27,946 strong crowd it was a throw back to the Forest of old, and they certainly played their part by providing an electric atmosphere. So too the Blackpool fans who were outstanding, official numbers say they brought 1,795 but it felt like many more as they further enhanced the buzz inside the stadium.
Sure, there’s still things to improve upon and inevitably there’ll be defeats along the way, but one man summed up the current situation perfectly; Jack Colback, a fella who’s waited patiently for his return to selection nailed it with the following statement, “It felt like a real football club again!”
*Article provided by Steve Corry (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Forest have a togetherness which they again shown at Bristol City.