Evolution is a tricky business. Usually it takes millions of years, but sometimes it can be kicked into high gear by some random cosmic event which is over in fifteen minutes.
Sometimes it can appear to be steered by a cleverly laid plan, but mostly it is the child of Chaos and Accident.
Forest fans have been waiting for some kind of evolution since Mister Arthur turned up, but the only thing we've been given is an unfathomable footballing style and some pretty appalling results. Not so much evolution, as regression.
It looked as if the regression would continue last night against the Ladies of Reading, as Chris Martin, probably unsettled by finding no excuse to dive, missed a sitter on two minutes. From then on the match turned into soup, the kind of primeval soup you get when hosts of non sentient beings swim around trying to outcrap each other. This soup was full of good intentions but flawed execution ( Brereton knotting his own legs, Dowell slicing his shot for a throw in, Brereton scoring an offside goal ) and terrible danger, usually from ex-Forest players who, as we know, always play better for their new clubs. Anyway, the soup thickened and the atmosphere got a bit more fetid until about the half hour mark, when out of the mud crawled something resembling football. It was a heartening moment, like seeing mud skippers drag themselves out of the water, as ugly as sin but bravely willing to give it a go. The Ladies' goalkeeper denied Brereton and Lolley and the crowd began to buzz.
Then Reading scored. This is where evolution gets a bit tricky. Many fans saw that goal as an extinction level event. "That's it, we're finished," they said, rather like the dinosaurs when the asteroid hit. But evolution is more complicated than that. Sometimes it reverses itself in order to go forward. Sometimes it needs a good kicking to get moving again.
The good kicking turned out to be not so much the goal against as the manager's half time team talk which, by all accounts, was brutally direct. Forest began the second half on fire, and the flame burned bright till the end. There were a couple of tweaks in formation, but by far the most important ingredients in Forest's growing superiority were passion and energy and a steely determination to do themselves justice.
Forest pressed the Ladies back, and, with some Tomlin-inspired cleverness, the chances began to rack up. A Tomlin free kick, a Colback thump, a drive and shot (of sorts) by Lolley, a shot against the bar from the accidental Darikwa, a cross from Osborn, a Darikwa blocked shot, a clever pass from Tomlin freeing Colback to cross,
the Ladies' defence (desperate now) clearing for a corner, Tomlin's corner delivered to Figuereido who headed wide. The old ground began to creak with anticipation.
And frustration too, as Reading Ladies repeatedly conned a monumentally stupid referee into slowing the game to a grinding halt, and what chances Forest carved out (for Cash and Brereton) went begging. But the pressure, from the intensity of the players and the crowd, became insupportable. If Forest had not scored, all life as we know it would have perished in a globe-bursting eruption of boiling mud, and evolution would have stopped dead. Thankfully, Lolley squared to Tomlin, Tomlin scored with a neat, confident finish, and the world was saved.
And what about evolution? Well, perhaps it's not such a tricky business after all. We've just been worrying about the wrong things, like tactics, formations, style, partnerships and all that kind of thing. We should have listened to Mister Arthur more carefully. When he went on about passion, courage, spirit and pride, we dismissed his words as the kind of fluff used by failing managers to deflect blame from themselves, but this match demonstrated how wrong we were. It would seem that no progress can be made without passion, and passion will begin to forge better understanding and technical ability within the team. That's how evolution works.
It's slow going, we know, but if Forest can replicate the intensity of that second half, they will be among the fittest who survive.