Ways To Lose

We all know the old adage about things happening in threes for better or (more usually) for worse. Forest supporters will be smarting for some time after three defeats in a week, culminating in that latest loss to Liverpool. Sometimes the manner of defeat hurts more than the loss itself.

My mum could have earned a degree in superstition. Don’t put new shoes on the table, don’t open an umbrella (she was the only family member who had one) in the house, don’t wear a hat in the house. The dreaded list of three had its place. Share news of a couple of things going wrong in the day and she’d have you hunting another to make the trilogy! It felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Professional footballers learn to live with the mantra of ‘one game at a time’ but they’ll be aware of patterns like consecutive defeats, ‘lucky grounds’ and ‘bogey teams’. Not that there should have been any clouds of superstition hanging over Forest’s last three defeats but they have been a painful reminder of some of the many ways to lose a match, given that the permutations are endless.

There are those defeats when the result spells out everything so clearly that you consign them to the filing cabinet of the past with a shrug of the shoulders. It’s a ‘bad day at the office’. A 1959, 8-0 thrashing for Forest against Burnley anyone? Or the 1962 hammering by Spurs? (9-2 for the record.) The more recent 5-0 defeat against Derby in 2014 might still smart on the basis of local rivalry but the likes of a 6-0 loss to Manchester City in 2022 are simply recorded as resounding defeats in supporters’ memories. No questions asked.

Last week’s fixture against Aston Villa initially took on the shape of one of those thrashings when Villa went 3-0 up inside forty minutes. It felt as if the Reds had been ambushed in some sporting sniper’s alley. As it turned out, they regrouped and pulled back to a competitive 3-2 before conceding a decisive fourth goal.

By Wednesday evening, Forest had decided to close ranks in their FA Cup game against Manchester United, keeping the all-important clean-sheet until an 89th minute strike by United (following a lengthy VAR review) changed a game that seemed destined for extra-time. A narrow margin defeat then, perhaps foreshadowing things to come at the City Ground on Saturday but who knew?

What we got on the day was a below-par Liverpool, whose best player was probably keeper Kelleher, and a Forest team looking solid and fast on the break. We also got missed chances from the Reds – again – and these become more costly as the season gobbles up more games. Still, a hard-fought 0-0 draw came to seem the likely result. And then, in a nano-second, a glancing header from Nunez and the game was lost. That’s another way to lose, victors and defeated being wafer-thin paper separated by a goal in an extra minute added to the time added to the ninety minutes!

Time is becoming ever more elastic in football. We know, though, that the nature of the Liverpool goal had more to do with the referee’s error in passing the dead-ball  to their keeper to restart the game after a Forest attack when they were in possession. A technical, complex decision? No, a basic error. That much should have been admitted and made public quickly. And where’s a correction-call from VAR staff when you need one?

As for ways to respond to losing a match, reactions may vary from the gracious to the outraged. What happened at the end of the game was an outburst of frustration from Forest staff that was ugly and did little for the image of football. And yet, given the number of times the Reds seem to have been on the end of inconsistent refereeing in recent weeks, the show of frayed tempers was not surprising.

Recently retired referees of international standing didn’t hold back their criticism of Paul Tierney’s performance. Mark Clattenburg called the dead-ball incident ‘a huge error’ and Mike Dean had it as ‘a monumental error’. None of this will change the result. And lucky charms, rabbit’s feet, and weird and wonderful pre-match rituals by players seeking good fortune could not have foreseen or account for a situation so blatantly at odds with the rules of the game.

However, when all is said and done, come the final whistle, the game is done. Move on to the next one. Forest will rue missed chances but can – should – use that as a springboard. Irrespective of bad luck and not getting the rub of the green, they have shown themselves to be capable of creating goal opportunities. That has to be translated into scoring them. For those of a superstitious nature, the curse of three has been shed. Forest’s fate still lies with the players on the pitch plus, of course, the outcome of the Premier league enquiry.

*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC action as Forest controversially fall short against Liverpool.

One thought on “Ways To Lose

  1. No point in var if it cannot correct these simple errors! But according to my walking colleagues it was not able to correct it. Shame for forest, the ref and var. What a joke

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