Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest showed a positive attitude, calmness on the ball, and fighting mentality as two early goals in each half earned them a superb three points, against an off-best Aston Villa.
The First Half:
The saying goes: “Start as you mean to go on,” and my quite literally, Forest embodied this, and shone in the opening moments of the game. An early attack on the edge of the Villa box leads to a pass to Harry Toffolo, who places a beautiful ball into the on-running Ola Aina, who superbly knits the ball into the bottom left-hand corner – quite the way to score your first goal for the club, and at the City Ground also!
Forest’s bravery to not only attack early on, but throughout the first half is something which is commendable, but should, in my view, become the norm for this Forest team. After the goal, Forest would continue to work hard, get forward, and apply the pressure to Aston Villa — you could get the feeling they were edging for a second, even with the fear of Villa counter-attacks.
Villa would control the majority of the possession, and come close on the odd occasion: most notably, the run of Matty Cash receiving a Douglas Luiz cross, only to send the ball far high of the goal. Chances came for Villa, but Forest’s excellent defending – from all defenders – can be credited for stopping any of the close calls becoming more than simply a close call.
A superb first half for Nottingham Forest, but a nervy second fourth-five minutes ensued.
The Second Half:
Once again, Forest started in excellent fashion; on the 47th minute, the 2nd minute of the second half, Orel Mangala receives a superb ball from Harry Toffolo, and proceeds to replicate his goal at Elland Road last season, this time, with a twist: Martinez’ attempt at a save goes horribly wrong, and rebounds into his own goal. Two goals for the Reds, two assists for Toffolo, and a magnificent effort from the in-form Belgian Star, Orel Mangala.
However Forest would change the game plan in this half, ever so slightly. Rather than pressing a bit higher, and attacking more, Cooper opted for a slightly more cautious approach – not quite as cautious as that of the game against Luton, which was ultimately the undoing, but rather lower the lines, and break on the counter where possible. Villa had many shots in the second half, and a large majority of the possession, but even with this, they didn’t make chances pay — possession is only useful if you use it, shots are only worth talking about if you score them.
Some may look at stats, such as possession, and say: “A dominant game for Villa, just not clinical enough,” and while I’d agree that Villa weren’t clinical with the chances they had, in order to fully understand quite how good Forest were, stats simply don’t do them justice. The recoveries, the tackles, the chances – Forest did a lot, and earned that win – by no means was it an even game.
Now with more tough fixtures to come, the pressure has lowered slightly: beating a side who could’ve gone fourth, and now sitting in mid-table – Forest are much improved, and today proved that. Cooper seemed to play the football he wants to play, and that the fans want to see – the hope is that he’ll replicated this in games to come.
Big games ahead, but today puts Cooper’s men in good stead; the dream of achieving more is certainly not dead.
*Article provided by Jamie Martin (Head Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Nottingham Forest players celebrate their win over Aston Villa.