SEASON 2018/2019 REPORTS AND STUFF

STRESS'S BLOGUE

Dear Everybody,
Sorry we're late. What happened was that Fat Man's computer broke, and a bloke called Ted took it away to fix it. Fat Man says that computer blokes like Ted are not of this earth. Their sense of time is not like other people's, and they spill coffee on your carpet. Anyway, Ted took ages to fix it, but he did it, and here we are.

I said Fat Man should apologise for missing the start of the season because it was his computer after all, but he said I should do the first one because I was good with words and stuff and anyway it was a great honour to do the first one, so here I am.

It's been a fantastic start to the season, hasn't it? Fat Man says one twenty third of the season has already gone and we've amassed a meagre two points. He says parsnips are buttered by points, not fine performances. Fat Man says things like this because he is a miserable old sod worn down by false hopes and broken promises who cannot see that Mister Karanka has assembled a squad of players who will very shortly sprout wings and fly us to the promised land. Fat Man is so afraid of failure he won't let himself see that Forest did enough to win those first two matches, that their performances were dusted with brilliance, and that Guedioura has become more powerful than we ever imagined.

So now we're ready to go, apart from a few bits and pieces, like what to do with the video bit and changing the 888 on Marinakis' shirt. We go into the third game of the season against Reading Ladies buoyed by the hope that our parsnips will be liberally buttered and Fat Man's computer stays away from Ted's coffee stained fingers. Come on you reds!

GAME 3: AUGUST 11 2018
BIG SPENDING NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1
READING LADIES 0



Well, Stress, I see that Hillal Soudani helped big spending Nottingham Forest break plucky Reading's resolve and secure Aitor Karanka's first Championship win of the season with a narrow 1-0 success.

Yes Pie he certainly did. It was a smart goal from the expensively assembled Algerian which settled a slightly disappointing tie.

Yes Stress, your golden thighed generation had a difficult afternoon, didn't it?

What are you saying, Pie?

I'm saying that the people you described as demi-gods seem to have run out of poop already.

Too harsh, Fat Man. This was the third game in seven days, which is obviously part of a Football League scheduling conspiracy to knacker us before we've started, so it wasn't a surprise that there was a dip in form. Plus Reading Ladies spent most of their time and energy clamping our most dangerous players. Plus the whole point of having a big, talented squad is that substitutes make a difference. As soon as Soudani and Cash came on, you could feel the threat level rise. Plus we got three points.

Exactly. As I've always said, points are more important than performances.

But you make it sound as if we were really bad, which simply isn't true. We didn't just conjure up three points out of thin air, you know. We had to cope with a different and difficult situation, and we did. We got three points because of the performance, not despite it.

You may be right, Stress. Then again you might be wrong. But let's not argue.

So I can do my player ratings, then?

You know I hate player ratings.

I know, but how about I do the player ratings without the ratings?

I don't understand...

Great, thanks, here we go...

Pantilimon - Grew into the game, and made himself big to save from somebody. Get it?

No.

Figueiredo - Needs a few games to get back to his best, but he's as solid as a shit brickhouse.

Fox - Remember when Fox was Forest's Keogh? Those days are long gone now. A powerfully aggressive performance saw him crowned with the hero's toilet paper, and the crowd enjoyed his performance as much as he obviously enjoyed delivering it.

Darikwa - Did surprisingly well for a resident scapegoat. People who snipe at him should try playing at full back, the fat bastards.

Osborn - Did surprisingly well for a resident scapegoat. People who snipe at him should try playing at full back, the fat bastards.

Guedioura - Pep chose this game to descend from heaven and play as a mere mortal. Still mightily influential and stuffed with confidence.

Dias - One day everything this man does will result in goals of such quality they will be talked about until the seas boil. Not today though.

Colback - This was Colback's kind of game - one needing grit, security, and ginger snap, which he provided.

Carvalho - Love this bloke, cos he's clever, tough and intelligent...

...unlike Lolley, who is obviously as mad as a box of cocks. Once he remembers to switch his brain on when in a threatening position he will be effective as well as nobbishly exciting.

Grabban - Slow starter, strong finisher. Really needs a goal.

Cash - If Cash was a superhero he would be ElectroMan, tasering the villains into fuzzy-haired panic. It was his persistence that created and facilitated Soudani's goal.

Soudani - A real character. Not only is he a very good footballer (what a really well taken goal) but he obviously has a slightly manic sense of occasion. Is he tubby, or is he just puffed up with the joy of living? I don't know.

Robinson - I'm waiting for this bloke to get beaten by pace, so his opponent goes past him "quicker than you can say Jack Robinson." But I hope it never happens, cos it's a crap joke anyway.

The Crowd - Big. Red. Louder than a Train.

GAME 4: AUGUST 18 2018
WIGAN CAR PARK 2
EXPENSIVELY ASSEMBLED NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2

Oh come on, Stress, you have to admit it was a pretty awful performance.

Well of course it was, Pie.

What do you mean, Well of course it was?

What do you mean, What do you mean? I agreed with you that it was a pretty awful performance.

Well that's something at least. Perhaps you'll now admit that things aren't going as swimmingly as you would like, or that Karanka's expensively assembled squad aren't exactly setting the world on fire, or that "Karanka's style of football" is nothing more than a thin gruel of hard work and the odd inspired accident.

Ha ha ha. You don't understand, do you, Pie? Ha ha ha. Once more you've allowed your own lack of faith to blind you to the truth.

The truth?

Yes, Pie. Let the cataracts of unreason fall from your eyes. Let the bile of disappointment drain from your gut.

I know I'm going to regret this, but what are you talking about?

I'm talking about The Grand Plan, Pie.

Well of course you are. Remind me, Stress, which particular Grand Plan would this be?

There's only one Grand Plan, Fatso, and it's being played out before your very eyes. All you've got to do is look at the Wigan Car Park game. We started off by conceding a goal within two minutes, didn't we?

Yes.

Something we've done before, haven't we?

Yes.

Almost as if we were doing it on purpose, eh?

No.

And then we played really badly throughout that first half, right?

Yes.

And Mister Karanka said "It was almost impossible for us to have played worse." As if we were doing it on purpose, eh?

No.

And then there was Grabban's penalty, which was saved.

I suppose Grabban did that on purpose too, did he?

All part of the Grand Plan, Pie. Don't you see a pattern emerging?

Yes. We're crap.

In a way. We are as crap as we can be. Now why would we make life so hard for ourselves?

Er...

BECAUSE YOU CAN ONLY KNOW HOW GOOD YOU ARE IF YOU KNOW HOW BAD YOU CAN BE.

Er, so we're playing badly on purpose?

Yes, Pie, to test ourselves. A squad of Forest's quality doesn't play like dimwits by accident. They must be getting worse on purpose. We now know that we can play pretty dreadfully and still get a result. Sooner or later we'll hit rock bottom, then the rise to glory will begin. You're still not convinced, are you?

No.

Tell me, Pie, what's the highest mountain on earth?

Everest, of course.

No. The highest mountain on earth is Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Everest stands 29,035 feet above sea level. Mauna Kea only stands 13,796 feet above sea level, but the mountain extends about 19,700 feet below the Pacific Ocean. Over half of it is submerged. That puts the total height of Mauna Kea at about 33,500 feet — nearly a mile taller than Everest. So you see, you can only tell how high something is by finding its bottom. Same with Forest. You can't reach the heights until you've plumbed the depths.

Well that explains everything. So we're getting worse on purpose to see how bad we can be.

Exactly.

Why don't we just play well?

I've explained all that, Pie.

No you haven't. All you've done is talk a lot of bollocks about bile and cataracts and plumbing somebody's bottom. If I didn't know better I'd say you'd been talking to Mister Thumb.

Mister Thumb has nothing to do with this.

It sounds like Mister Thumb. I can actually see his face drawn on your thumb.

I'm not prepared to discuss my relationship with Mister Thumb any further.

Very well. So when does Mister Thumb think Forest's plunge into mediocrity will end, and their rise to glory begin?

Mister Thumb has no opinion on such matters, but if he did, he would probably say that we'll thrash Boremingham to within an inch of their lives.

And if we don't?

Then we'll show the character to salvage another draw, and The Grand Plan continues to unfold.

I had a friend called Mister Thumb, Who lived inside his owner's bum, And when his owner needed words, Then Mister Thumb brought only turds.

You disgust me, Pie. Truly you do.

GAME 5: AUGUST 25 2018
OVERLY EXPENSIVE NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2
BOREMINGHAM 2

What do you mean, you've changed your mind?

I mean what I say, Pie. I've changed my mind. I've decided you were right, after all.

About what?

About Karanka. You were right all along. He's hopeless.

I never said he was hopeless.

Yes you did. You said he was a fraud, a charleston, fake nudes, and you were right, because everything you said about him was proved in the Boremingham match. He picked the wrong team because he didn't have a clue what the right one was.

Wait a minute...

You were right about him being a useless coach, too. It's obvious that the more time he spends with the team, the worse it gets.

Yes but....

And what kind of manager plays two plantpots in midfield, two rusty bikes at full back, leaves his best players rotating on the bench, sidelines Brereton while putting his faith in that bag of washing up front, reduces the playing style to hoofball, spends 70 minutes before admitting that something might be wrong, brings off Watson who in fact died sometime during the first half, then mutters something incoherent like "My name is Aitor Karanka. You killed my father. Prepare to die." to justify his decisions.

But the bag of washing scored a neat goal. Karanka did sort it out in the end. And we remain unbeaten.

No, Pie - I know you're trying to play devil's advocaat, but it won't work. You called it right in the first place. Karanka is a sham, like that emperor who wore those nude clothes and preferred geriatrics to the promise of youth. You were right to point out that one point per game leads to relegation. You were right to lead the boos at half time.

That's enough of that, Stress.

Spot on again, Pie. We've certainly had enough of that. We were promised the earth, and all we got was a dustbinful of mixed fruit and the return of the most frightening mascot in history.

Sadly, Stress, I never said any of those things.

So it wasn't you who said that Karanka was as inspirational as a plywood off-cut?

No. I would never hurl insults like that after a few games.

You're right, Pie. We should wait till things get really bad. I reckon two games is enough. That should be enough length to hang his rope over. Then you can write that letter to the Greek bloke you've been talking about.

What?

You know - "Dear Greek Bloke, This guy is another dud. Everybody says so. Please deal with him. Yours, Pieman."

You're sick, you know that?

I may be sick, but at least I don't hide my light under somebody's bush.

You're also unfathomably stupid.

I may be unfashionably stupid, but I know how to blow my own horn. Not many men can say that, Pie. .

Indeed, Stress. Indeed.

GAME 6: SEPTEMBER 1 2018
BENTFORWARD 2
NOTTINGHAM "MONEYTREE" FOREST 1

FAQ

Did this defeat signal the end of Forest's unbeaten run?

It certainly did. Not that Forest's unbeaten run was anything to be proud of in the first place. Forest's unbeaten run was a bit like a car with a bootful of shit. It's still a car, but its boot is full of shit.

Are Bentforward a good side?

Well, they were better than Forest today, which may not be the same thing. Of course, from Forest's point of view, using two mustardpots as defensive shields / attacking springboards was always going to fail, as was leaving Murphy wandering aimlessly upfield like Boxer waiting for the knacker's van. These and other things made Bentforward's job easier, but to say they are a properly good side assumes that there are properly good sides in the Championship, which there probably aren't. And good sides don't have to cheat quite as much as Bentforward did, or bring their own referee.

Do these Forest players just need time to gel?

If things gel, they turn into a wobbly homogenous mass, like jelly. A football team that gelled would be a horrifying sight, like a huge blob with half-recognised faces trapped in it. Of course, most people use "gel" because it's shorter than something like "form a coherent and effective unit", but that's only because most people are dim. Anyway, I was under the impression that this Forest team "gelled" almost straight away, hence the one or two fine performances at the beginning of the season. Since then, the performances have actually deteriorated, so on the evidence so far, the team is not so much "gelling" as separating. Soon they may dissolve entirely, spill over the edge of your faux-granite work surface, and pool in a sticky film on your kitchen floor.

Did Forest play better in the second half?

Yes, but only because they couldn't get any worse. The question implies that Karanka did something right at half time, which raises the question of why he insisted on playing mustardpot football in the first half. To be fair, Forest did try to defend higher in the second half, but the real change came with the introduction of Cash and Osborn, who introduced an energy typical of genuine Forest men - you know, like Brereton, Worrall, Yates, etc. People who care.

Don't you think Karanka will get it right?

I don't know, mainly because I don't understand much of what he says. Karanka employs the same kind of semi-coherent Eurobabble used by other foreign managers to avoid answering questions, so it's almost impossible to work out what his vision is. On the evidence so far, his preferred style seems to be based on experienced players trying to remember what made them good back in the day, and younger, more vibrant players trying to slot into a system that doesn't seem to exist.

Things are at least going well off the pitch, aren't they?

Yes, it is a great comfort to know that things are at least going well off the pitch. I shall make a banner. "Things are at least going well off the pitch" it shall say, and I shall flaunt it dressed as Robin Hood to enhance the matchday experience.

Will there be football next week?

Not real football. Ecuador play Jamaica next Saturday, so real football has to take a back seat. Also, UEFA have invented a new competition between national sides for the purpose of making more money for UEFA. It's called the UEFA Nations League, and it works like this:
Teams have been split into four groups of three, with the group winners then contesting the UEFA Nations League Finals dressed in ridiculous outfits and soundtracked by some irritating Europop shit in June 2019 to become the UEFA Nations League winners. Graham Norton will do the commentary. Sounds classy. So no, there won't be any football next week.

JET LAG ... CATCHING UP

GAME 7: SEPTEMBER 15 2018
ABERTAWE 0 FOREST 0

Where have you been, Vetch?

I have been far and wide, sir, following the Garibaldi in their ongoing search for fame and glory. Sadly, fame and glory are not to be found in Abertawe.

I could have told you that, Vetch. Many things can be found in Abertawe, but most of them are strangely misspelt. I presume the Foresters lost their way again?

Not exactly sir. They played reasonably well, but came away with a thoroughly goalless 0-0 draw. It was a disappointing outcome, considering that the better chances fell to Forest. In fact the better chances fell to Osborn, who missed. At least I think it was Osborn. Each game seems to comprise a different set of players, some of whom are strangers to me. One chap was even wearing a mask. And there was this sort of pretend striker who spent the match pretending to be the best striker in the Championship. And the team seemed full of raw-boned fellows who weren't afraid to commit the occasional violent offence.

I understand your confusion, Vetch. I hear the Foresters' recruitment policy is based on those cheap bags of stamps one used to buy when one started stamp collecting which contained brightly coloured triangular stamps from Mongolia and occasionally a stamp which looked rare enough to be worth a fortune but turned out to be fake.

That is an amusing but worryingly pertinent observation, sir. These are confusing times indeed.

But at least the performance was encouraging, didn't you say?

No sir. "Encouraging performance" is a phrase used by local journalists to gain easy access to the club's hierarchy, or to maintain the illusion that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, or to simply act as part of the club's public relations effort. In truth, an encouraging performance would be a 3-0 win. It wouldn't matter how they played then. They could butcher the opposition like the Mongolian hordes for all I care, as long as they won.

For all your long words, you're little better than a barbarian, Vetch.

That may well be true, sir.

Did I tell you I used to collect Mongolian stamps, Vetch?

Indeed you did, sir.

Brightly coloured triangles, they were. Completely worthless, of course. Odd folk, the Mongolians. They live in yoghurts, you know.

I did not know that, sir.

Yes they do. But that's not the issue here. The issue here is how long before you stop blithering on about these Foresting no-hopers and tell cook to make some dinner.

Sadly, cook died, sir. Of food poisoning, ironically. But she left your dinner warming in the oven.

Now that's loyalty to the cause, Vetch. Some of us could learn a lot from cook.

CAUGHT UP
GAME 8: SEPTEMBER 19 2018
FOREST 2 WENDIES 1

The "report" for this game can be found in the video box thing at the bottom of the home page. Thank you.

GAME 9: SEPTEMBER 22 2018
FOREST 1 ROTHERINGHAM 0

We have no knowledge of this game, what with its taking place during our return journey from somewhere that doesn't concern you so stop being nosey. However, other people do have knowledge of this game, and they inform us that Rotheringham came to park their bus because it was broken down eventually by persistence. We understand none of this, though we vaguely remember what buses were. Anyway, Grabban's well taken penalty won it, and that's us up to date, just in time for the League Cup match against Stoke which we won't be covering because we don't do cup matches unless we win.

We won. Next we play Burton. We won't do a report of that either. Unless we win.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
GAME 10: SEPTEMBER 29 2018
Blackbum 2 FOREST 2

This Championship stuff is no country for old men. The way things are going, I may not last the season.

Visiting Ewood Park is a bit like rediscovering some long forgotten past, an unpleasant place with its primeval mound of a pitch and its fervently incoherent crowd and a whole petrified swamp of dark football memories. Forest may have squeaked a few wins lately, but I didn't hold out much hope for them here.

So the game began with the two sides trying to press the pips out of each other until Forest got a corner and the life threatening stuff began. As the corner kick sailed over, a Blackbum defender did something unspeakable to Hefele and Forest were awarded a penalty. Grabban placed the ball with the confidence of a man who intended to strike it powerfully onto the top of the bar and away, and sure enough... It's this kind of thing which makes young men angry and old men ache, this shuttle between hope and despair. This was only the start of it.

Forest pushed hard for a bit until they did that daydreamy thing which Forest do, and allowed Blackbum to start running things. I say "Blackbum", but I really mean Graham and Dack. I am ashamed to admit that I thought Graham had packed it in long ago, and that Bradley Dack was somebody Blackbum had picked up living off road-kill by the M56. Turns out they are quite good. Dack had a couple of efforts which went too close for comfort, and so did Graham, one of which was saved by Colback's impossible flying header. Things were getting too stretched for an old man's comfort, and it went on like that, to and fro, till half time came as a relief.

The second half started well for Forest, whose attacking intent paid dividends with a smart goal from Grabban. Lolley drove down the right and crossed to Carvalho who nodded it back inside for Grabban to head home. The defiant snarl on Grabban's face spoke volumes about how snarlingly defiant he was, and the Forest contingent roared at the wonder of it all. Foolish young men began to think that this might be Forest's day. Old men just ached for the end of the game.

The game gradually sank into the kind of random lunacy which all Championship games sink into. Some Blackbum bloke scored what the BBC later described as "a stunning long range strike" when in fact it looked more like a badly directed cross, after which Blackbum really put the pressure on, presumably sensing there would be more flukes on offer. Forest clearances became less and less convincing until Graham combined with Dack to net a simple second.

There is a kind of peace to be had from the prospect of defeat. Young men may agonise over what might have been if the defence weren't so shit, but old men resign themselves to grumpy melancholy, blaming no-one but life itself. Despair has its own compensations. The real danger, as everybody knows, is hope.

Annoyingly, the Forest players wouldn't stop trying, especially Lolley, who had been a pain in the opposition's blackside all afternoon. Once more he burst into the box and drew a foul from the oddly positioned Rodwell. Another penalty.

Many people were injured in the following minute. Blackbum fans exploded like angry boils. Forest fans bit through their own lips. And amidst all the pain of anticipation, forward stepped Lewis Grabban.

Now consider for a moment what this would have done to Grabban if he had missed another penalty. Let's just say we would all have understood if he declined the invitation. He had already got his goal as a kind of redemption for the first miss, so there was no need for further risks. But, stubbornly, he grabbed the ball again and this time scored with the routine ruthlessness of a man in complete control of everything physical and emotional, and the younger Forest fans ate humble pie and worshipped him from afar, and the older ones sat down and prayed for peace. But peace would not come. Forest actually tried to win it. This side which had been on its knees after Blackbum's second goal, now stood tall and square and started throwing punches.

It was those last minutes when Forest threatened to win it that nearly killed me. If Guedioura had headed in the winner, I would certainly have died. I'm sending him a note thanking him for my continued survival.

In summary, this Forest team simply has more guts than sense. Somebody will have to tell it to back off and give the old men a bit of peace, otherwise they'll end up winning something and sending us all to an early grave.

WTF
GAME 11: OCTOBER 3 2018
FOREST 2 MEWO 2

In 1985 German physicist Wilhelm Thaddeus Franzen posited the existence of a particle whose presence could only be detected after it was no longer there. "Trying to measure or predict the properties of the WTF particle," noted one leading scientist, "is like ordering drinks for an unknown number of unidentified people you don't remember inviting in the first place, and then they don't turn up."

Forest are fast becoming the WTF particle of the Championship. You simply cannot predict what they're going to do, and even when they've done it you cannot convincingly explain what has just happened.

Leading up to the Mewo match, Forest were bumbling along quite successfully with three home victories in a row and a fairly creditable away draw at Blackbum. Spirit and confidence were high, and a home victory against struggling Mewo seemed a fairly safe bet. But then the WTF factor kicked in.

In the first half, Forest were mostly crap. Mewo's approach was primitive - get the ball into the box, usually by means of a free kick, for their bruisers to fight for. A sensible response from a superior footballing side would have been to play the ball quickly through them and cut them to pieces. Instead, Forest were slow and laboured, and indimidated into trying to outmuscle their opponents, thus providing them with a steady supply of free kicks. Forest's central defenders were shaky, Pantilimon had obviously been drinking, and Forest were lucky not to concede a small bagful of goals. The collective, bemused sigh of WTF was evidence that no one in the scientifically minded Forest crowd could explain what was going on.

After half an hour Forest went ahead with a blistering goal from Lolley, and things appeared to fall into place. "Ah," we grinned, "Forest have resisted the Mewo assault, and killed them with one moment of quality." It sounded good at the time, though everybody knew that Forest would have to do a lot better in the second half.

They did. They picked up the pace and moved with greater purpose. The lights went out for a bit, after which dark relief Forest got the second goal they craved from Carvalho's superb free kick, and the sentiment that Forest had now "killed off" Mewo seemed justified. As things stood, Forest were up to fifth.

Then it all went wrong. No one could put their finger on why, even though everyone sensed that something bad was going to happen. Pantilimon, by now completely drunk, waved alcoholically at a passing train as a high cross evaded him and was nodded home by Williams. WTF. In the 90th minute, Pantilimon (and, to be honest, everybody back there with him) cocked up again as a cross squirted through/under him to reach Gregory who tapped in. WTF. Gregory celebrated like a dick. WTF.

WTF indeed. No-one has yet come up with an explanation of what happened in this match - why Forest played so poorly, where the confidence went, why the defence seemed unprepared for the obvious, why Pantilimon was drunk, why the stars of recent matches faded in this one, why the lights went out, how much the ref was paid, what happened to all the white dog poo, and so on.

However, WTF also implies that this match cannot be used as a basis for future predictions, which is a kind of relief. To prove this, I rang up a scientist and asked him whether, after a forgettable home performance against Mewo, Forest had any chance away against Miserablebugger. I think you can guess what he said. "WTF?" he said, thus proving that everything I've said in this report is true.

GAME 12: OCTOBER 6 2018
MISERABLEBUGGER 0 FOREST 2

THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS MATCH WAS...

1. ...the fact that Forest were in control of things for 82% of the time. The other 18% was made up of unpunished Miserablebugger assaults, a host of bad decisions from a bent referee, one fluke that bounced off the bar, a half hearted effort from Assombalonga, and half time.

2. ...or the fact that Forest exposed the fraud that is Pulisball. People like Pulis have been reducing football to an industrial process for far too long. In this match, the soulless, regimented muscularity of Miserablebugger was no match for Forest's vibrant creativity. Pulis may have said his players were "a bag of potatoes", but he should check what his own fans are saying about him and his mind-bendingly boring approach to football.

3. ...or the fact that Forest were so brave. It would have been understandable if their confidence had taken a dent from the Mewo draw, but it didn't. It would have been understandable if, like so many clubs, they had been intimidated by Miserablebugger's home record, but they weren't. They could have sat in for a 0-0 draw, but at no time during the match did this seem to be their intention. They came to attack, and remained dangerous until the end.

4. ...or the fact that every Forest player deserved the man of the match award, but especially Joe Lolley. Joe Lolley played with destructive brilliance, like a shaped charge. Whenever he got the ball, jaws dropped and Miserablebugger fans prayed to their wasteland gods. His cross for Grabban's second was perfect, his goal a thing of beauty wrapped round a sledgehammer. The last Forest player I saw exert such a bristling influence on a match was Antonio.

5. ...or the fact that we still can't tell what "type" of manager Karanka is. This is, in fact, a good thing, because it suggests he has allowed Forest's style to be shaped by the players, not by some rigid formula (see Pulis). It also suggests that the "never wanted him in the first place" brigade are having to make stuff up to moan about.

6. ...or the fact that Forest won despite the referee. This particular specimen was one of those refs who makes mistakes and doesn't have the good grace to acknowledge them but rather lashes out spitefully at his critics. Or perhaps he just read "The Referee's Guide To Shafting Forest" which we understand is compulsory reading in official circles. And don't waste time moralising about Jack Robinson's dive. Of course he dived (not, you will note, "dove". "Dove" is not the past tense nor even the past participle of "dive". "Dove" is a bird). As he had already been booked for pointing out an obvious refereeing mistake, he obviously calculated that the odds on him hoodwinking the incompetent dick from Leicester were quite high. What he didn't realise was that it was only Miserablebugger players who got away with murder. It was simply a naive miscalculation.

7. ...or the fact that Forest are progressing under the radar. Read the mainstream reports on this match, look at the videos. It's as if a decision has been made to cut off the oxygen of Forest's publicity by reducing reports and highlights to a bleak, uncontroversial minimum. This is a good thing. As soon as some media jerk realises we're doing quite well and decides to do a "feature" on us, we're screwed. I prefer the softly softly catchee monkey approach, though I've never understood why anybody would want to catch a monkey.

8. ...or the fact that we can relax for a couple of weeks without having to chew the bitter cud of defeat. Next up it's Norridge at the City Ground, then Boln away, then Leed away, then (after the Burton cup match) two home games against Sheffield Undead and Stokes. After that, things get difficult but, as Uncle Boff used to say, we'll burn those bridges after the horse has bolted the stable door.

GAME 13: OCTOBER 20 2018
FOREST 1 NORRIDGE 2

AT PIE MANSIONS...

Ah there you are, Vetch. I want a word with you.

Really, sir? Is there a problem?

Indeed there is, sir, indeed there is. The new cook has just been to see me. In tears she was. Says you've been swearing at her, and her being "only a poor gel what tries 'er best", as she put it.

She exaggerates, sir. I was simply showing my exasperation at her inability to open a packet of McVitie's Chocolate Digestive biscuits. The wench did not realise there is a handy tear strip around the top of the packet.

An inability to open a biscuit packet doesn't merit the barrage of abuse you subjected her to, though, does it, Vetch? There was more to it than that, wasn't there?

I don't know what you mean, sir.

Yes you do. It was the football, wasn't it? I assume a poor result at the City Ground was the cause of your wretched temper, was it not?

It was, indeed, a loss, sir.

Tell me about it, Vetch. It may vent some of your frustration. Also it will provide me with the information I need to convince the idiot Stress that I actually attended the game. I would go, as you know, were it not for this bone in my leg.

Very well, sir. Frustration is certainly the word. We began so well, you see. Carvalho was a rapier and Lolley was a cleaver, and it came as no surprise when Forest scored after five minutes. The goal itself was a minor work of art, with Carvalho lifting the ball over the Norridge defence into the path of Grabban, who slid the ball confidently home. For the next ten minutes, Forest threatened to overwhelm their opponents, and if Lolley's drive had bounced into the goal instead of back out into play, who knows what would have happened. After that, however, things got messy.

I seem to have heard this story before.

It seemed to me that the decline began when one of their forwards shot and hit the post. It hushed the crowd, and the only thing worse than a hushed crowd is a very big hushed crowd. The players' reaction was weird. At first they seemed to be suffering from a delusion of invincibility that grows over an unbeaten run, so instead of working hard and closing down they decided to ride their luck. When some German fellow missed a sitter, they must have reckoned they were going to get away with it. The crowd, however, were not convinced, and their anxiety communicated itself to the players. The second half was very uncomfortable. Norridge grew increasingly dangerous, Forest fell away like undercooked pastry. After an hour or so a Norridge free kick caused confusion and Klose scored.

Not the German ex-International striker Miroslav Klose?

No sir, a different one. It was obvious by now that Forest would struggle to hang on for their customary draw, and another Klose goal finished them off.

Another Klose? Not the German ex-International striker Miroslav Klose?

No sir, the same one as before. Forest couldn't even manage their default 2-2 draw. It was damnably frustrating.

And who am I to say was to blame?

Take your pick, sir. Blame the international break, the bloated expectations, the over-sized crowd, the lack of a deep lying creative midfielder instead of one of the two deep lying plantpots, the extravagantly wayward goalkeeper, the manager's cockeyed substitutions. It was just a very bad day all round.

This all sounds like the tortured whining of a sick man, Vetch. Doctor Sock would be the man to see if he hadn't inconveniently died. All I can advise is that you pull yourself together. And find me a new cook. This steak pie tastes like animal waste.

Very well, sir.

Sometimes I wonder whether life's worth living, eh Vetch?

True, sir. And yet we go on.

Sometimes for too long, rather like the German ex-International striker Miroslav Klose. Who would have thought it, eh Vetch?

Nobody sir. Nobody at all.

GAME 14: OCTOBER 24 2018
BOLN 0 FOREST 3

THE END OF THE WORLD

Easy, eh Pie? That was easy, wasn't it, wasn't it. Tell me it was easy.

It was surprisingly easy, Stress. And yet...

And yet? What's that mean, Pie?

Oh, nothing.

You can't say that, Pie. You can't wee in the pool of my heavenly joy and say it's nothing.

God forbid I should wee in your heavenly pool, Pie, but something's been troubling me.

Something about the match, Pie? I couldn't see much wrong with it, to be honest. I loved the way we broke forward for Lolley's goal, like red liquorice torpedoes, and Lolley hammering it into the top of the net astounded even some Boln folk, who are not easily astounded, being dull of eye and slow of wit.

Yes, it was a sumptuous goal, Stress. And yet...

And yet Forest eased off again, didn't they Pie? Eased off like a long trump after a hill of beans.

Well, yes they did, but that wasn't the real problem.

It was Lewis Grabban missing that penalty, wasn't it? But he redeemed himself later didn't he with a really smart finish, then had the guts to take a second penalty which he put away neatly. Nothing wrong there, Pie.

Not wrong, Stress, but...

I know ... Boln were so useless that Forest's victory was as worthless as a long trump after a hill of beans.

They were pretty useless, Stress, but I take nothing from Forest's performance - it was exciting and thoroughly professional. No, I have no complaints about the performance. I have questions about Pantilimon, and how a football ground can double as a University, and manager Parkinson's graceless post-match drivel ... but these are trivial things compared with...

With what, Pie? Tell me what ails thee, Pie, do.

With the end of the world, Stress.

The end of the world, Pie?

Yes Stress, the end of the world.

Not the end of the world, surely.

Yes, the end of the world.

But, the end of the world...?

I can see by your mindless repetition that you're having trouble coming to terms with this, so let me explain. The ancient Mayan peoples of Central America worshipped a god called Catawatapetl, who created the universe by throwing time into the abyss like an endless fishing line. According to Mayan belief, time never travelled in a straight line but curved back on itself, eventally returning to form a tight decreasing spiral, like a liquorice wheel. Where these time lines touched, the echo of events filtered through from the earlier age to the present age, something which came to be called the cyclical nature of history, or history repeating itself. Do you begin to see the problem?

I certainly do, Pie. Not enough liquorice.

Now at first these points of echo would be millions of years apart, but as the spiral grew tighter the echoes would be nearer. Which brings us to September the 29th, and the 2-2 draw at Blackbum, in which Grabban missed a penalty, scored one from open play, then bravely scored from a second penalty. Now to October the 24th, and the away victory at Boln, in which Grabban missed a penalty, scored one from open play, then bravely scored from a second penalty. There's the echo. There's the problem.

We're running out of liquorice?

Surprisingly, yes. The time spiral is extremely tight now, what with events echoing themselves after less than a month. At this rate, in less that three weeks the spiral will end, and time will run out. Everything that happens in that last microsecond will repeat itself into infinity, which is another way of saying that everything stops. The end of the world.

Good grief, Pie, how many people know about this?

Just you and me, Stress. I think it's better we keep it between ourselves, don't you?

At least with its being three weeks off, we've time to beat Leed and hoard all the remaining liquorice. But you're right, Pie - better keep it to ourselves for now. Otherwise people might start thinking you were a bloody lunatic, and we wouldn't want that, would we?

GAME 15: OCTOBER 27 2018
LEED (1) FOREST 1

HEART OF DARKNESS

The clues are everywhere. The women with the voices of men, the men with the legs of goats, the flies which bite, the bleached, unsmiling faces. This is Elland Road. This is the heart of darkness.

There's something wrong with the crowd. Its roar is deep and ugly, like dead men angry at being disturbed.

The game begins, and you realise very quickly that the only way to play against Leed is to stand up to the desperate, bullying arrogance of their players and their crowd, which is exactly what Forest do. Not content with standing, they push on, win a corner, and score. Lolley's corner dips into a crowded box where Jack Robinson stoops to glance it into the net. The Forest section explodes like a bonfire in a wasteland. The Leed crowd retreats into a sullen silence. Listen carefully and you can hear the flies.

Leed come back hard, as you knew they would, but Forest's defence remains disciplined and organised and tough as teak. Leed labour to create anything at all. They manage a deflected shot and a couple of wide efforts, but little else. Cash tries to bite back, but in his excitement he drives his right foot shot wide.

In the second half, the pressure on Forest increases. There are reasons for this. Forest's problems are aggravated by their own forwards' inability to threaten or indeed hold the ball for any length of time. And then Leed come forward with the increased desperation of frustrated creatures. But by far the greatest danger to Forest is history.

History at this place is malignant. The sickness which took hold when Brian Clough refused to embrace the institutionalised cynicism at the heart of Revie's philosophy has eaten the soul out of this place. You can feel its influence in the manic baying of the crowd and the Leed players' orchestrated protests at every decision of an increasingly intimidated referee. Still Forest's defence holds firm, and you could be forgiven for thinking that they might just hold on for three points. Somebody says, "The only way Leeds will get anything out of this game will be through cheating, or an incompetent official."

Never a truer word, eh? All the rottenness of this place is focussed into one moment as Roofe arms the ball into the net. The cheating is bad enough, but the cowardly complicity of the referee and the linesman is shocking.

The cynicism bleeds into the post match interviews. Kemar Roofe suggests it might have been "ball to hand". Leed manager Bielsa comes up with "I can’t judge it because I haven’t seen it. If we talk about what is legal and illegal, we also have to talk about the intentions. This field is at the limit of the border. To say a player cheated we need more to be certain about things. I never think a violation of the rules is something we should praise, but I never judge with such manner the behaviour of a player. I haven’t seen it." Nobody knows what they are talking about, but everybody knows they are lying.

You know you shouldn't be surprised by any of this. It's simply a reaffirmation of how hollow this club has become. As you walk back through the biting flies and the barking women and the goat footed men, simply reflect that Leed's chances of success are severely limited by their appalling classlessness, and that this damned club has to come to the City Ground, where they will be made to understand the true nature of justice. Until then, let them stew in their own pus.

GAME 16: NOVEMBER 3 2018
FOREST 1 UNDEAD 0

PERFECT

First Half

Guedioura's mishit clearance gave Oliver "Look At My Body Shape" Norwood the chance to send a drive ten yards wide.
Lolley's cross-shot was whipped in with menace but Undead keeper Henderson claimed the ball, thus neutralising any menace there may have been before there wasn't any more.
Robinson blocked a shot from Paul Coutts which may have been powerful and on target but nobody knows because it was blocked by Robinson.
Guedioura's free-kick reached Lolley at the far post. His dipping volley would have provided a spectacular opener had it been a yard lower, but it wasn't, so it didn't.
Cash received a yellow card for what looked like a revenge challenge on John "Nasty Piece of Crap" Fleck. Cash went on to hit a decent shot which was blocked by Jack "Hand Ball" O’Connell.
John "Nasty Piece of Crap" Fleck's corner reached John Egan who headed off target with the kind of inaccuracy the Undead seemed to manage instinctively all afternoon.
From a poorly cleared corner, Robinson could have done better with a chance he didn't do very well with. The first half, in other words, was full of this kind of stuff. You just knew it would be described as "cagey". People seemed confused about how the Undead had reached the top of the table.

Second Half

Cash continued to exude unfulfilled promise as he lofted the ball cleverly over Undead defenders then shot like a kid with one of those Frido balls which bend away weakly like a Frido ball.
An hour in, the Undead brought on David "Easy Rider" McGoldrick to increase their forward threat, which he didn't.
Lolley went on a dangerous run to feed Cash, whose shot was blocked by Freeman. At the other end, a Sharp header reminded us that he was playing.
The match, in other words, was going nowhere, mainly because both sides were being a bit useless near their opponent's goal. Forest were being a bit Cashy and wasteful. The Undead were aggressive but awkwardly talentless. What the match needed was a bit of brilliance. It came in the 70th minute.
Carvalho picked up a ball out wide, ghosted past Freeman and delivered a devilish ball across the Undead box at head height which Grabban skim headed inside the far post. The big crowd, having been notably supportive all afternoon, roared their defiance at the Undead. The Undead players looked to the referee, as if expecting one more favour, but life's tough at the top, especially when you don't know how you got there in the first place.
Nothing much happened after that. In injury time there was some silly pinball in the Forest penalty area, but Woodburn ended up poking the ball wide enough to remind us that the Undead lack of talent ran deep.

Old Uncle Boff used to say that one nil was the perfect score. Two nil meant you probably should have scored more. Three or more nil meant the opposition was as useless as Japanese whisky. But one nil was indicative of a tight game in which one moment of supreme cleverness tipped the balance and sent the opposition home to Sheffle to find that someboy had cut down all the trees.

So that was the difference between these two sides in the end. The Undead, according to their manager, were average, wheras Forest, according to Old Uncle Boff, were perfect.









Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.