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.

MISTER EGG'S CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW




Forest 0 Stokes 0
The question as to whether any football was played in this match was overshadowed by the controversy over Stokes's kit. The purple colour (officially called "old lady's bruise") rendered the Stokes players semi transparent, a ploy to gain advantage sadly typical of Stokes manager Gary Rowatt. "He's always at it," complained one Forest fan. "Stupid kit, silly shoes - anything to distract attention from the terrible football he encourages."
There were a few chances here and there, a few passages of good play, some nonsense about a poppy, a penalty appeal which had Rowatt barking like a junkyard dog, but nothing which led to unbearable excitement or suicidal depression.
Forest manager Aitor Karanka said, "We gave them too much respect. My name is Aitor Karanka. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
Rowatt began, "In my opinion we were the better side.." after which there were a few sighs, somebody said "What a dick", and everybody left.

Sheep 0 W B Albinos 3
The Sheep's fart-generated bubble was well and truly burst by a rampant Villa in this humiliating defeat at the i-Pad stadium or wherever it is they play these days. Frank Lamppost commented: "We've had a great month and a game like this is actually a wake-up call and a reminder to all of us that, despite my trendy grooming and designer wardrobe, I genuinely don't know what I'm doing."
After Villa's first away win of the season, Villa boss Dean Smith said, "I told the players that today was an opportunity to draw a line in the sand. Some of them said there was no sand in Derby, but when I explained that I was using a metaphor they still didn't understand because most of them are thick. Still, this result gives everybody a Boost and that's the kind of chocolate treat everybody can enjoy because it's slightly rippled with a flat underside."

Norridge 4 Mewo 2
In a game which proved little more than how crap both teams' defences were, Norridge scored twice in injury time to take all three points. Why do people say all three points? Is there a version of three points which is somehow incomplete? Anyway, Norridge boss Daniel Farke said his side "proved they had been on the spirits" after the victory took them to the top of the Championship. Loins boss Neil Harris was furious with the goals which denied his side a first win at Carrow Road since 1968. He said: "My six-year-old daughter plays in an under-seven team, but that's my problem. I am the captain of the ship so I take responsibility but the players involved have to hold their hands up and say it's totally their fault, the useless sods."
Later, the host of Quest's EFL show, Colin Murray, made a distasteful joke using the Norridge boss's name (something like "Farke in hell") for which he will hopefully be sacked so we won't have to listen to his noisy face again.

Miserablebugger 2 Wigan Car Park 0
Miserablebugger boss Tony Pulis expressed his annoyance at two goal striker Jordan Hugill after he scored both goals in Miserablebugger's two nil victory over Wigan Car Park. "When we paid Preston ten million for Jordan," said Pulis, "I thought I could mould him into the kind of blunt, non-scoring instrument I prefer, like I've done with Assombalonga. Things were going well until today. Now he's scored twice he'll turn into some namby pamby hipster type with a diamond in his nose."
Car Park boss Paul Cook insisted, "The goals we conceded today were not because we were under pressure, but because we're crap. The reason teams like Miserablebugger are near the top of the league is not because they are any good, but because we are crap. It's all our fault, really."

Bristols 0 Preston Nob End 1
A gumptionless match was decided by Callum Robinson's goal in the 35th minute, whoever Callum Robinson is. The whole match was peopled by players no-one has ever heard of, like a channel 4 panel game, but that didn't stop both managers burbling on endlessly about the game as if their jobs depended on it.
Nob End boss Alex Neil described his team's "perfect performance" in that relentlessly dour way of his. Bristols Lee Johnson, on the other hand, sounded like somebody with a metabolic disorder, like Mickey Mouse. He squeaked on about having quality in the side but not having enough quality, about being thirteenth and going on a run but not looking likely to go on a run, until he contradicted himself into a small suitcase and was taken away in a van.

Q.P. Ladies 3 Bentforward 2
Both these teams seem to work on the principle of Accidence, where success or failure is stumbled upon with little or no input from a guiding hand. Matches between such teams often end up tipping over into absurdity, as was the case here.
Bentforward went ahead after a lousy piece of goalkeeping, QPL scored three goals in ten minutes in the second half, Bentforward pulled one back in the 80th minute, and QPL bums squeaked painfully for the rest of the match. None of this was planned.
QPL boss Steve McClaren said, "I said we'd have to win not just on the field but off the field," later explaining that he didn't know what this meant. New Bentforward boss Thomas "Frank Thomas" Frank said, " In the second half we had a blackout for ten minutes. Neurological disability is a hard taskmaster," later explaining that he didn't know what this meant.

Boremingham 3 Ul 3
See above report. Two insecure sides displaying an appalling level of defensive dimwittery does not constitute a "great match", as the noisy faced Colin Murray would have us believe. And Che Adams scoring a hat trick is no cause for celebration.
Boremingham's Garry "Laugh a minute" Monk said, "You can have bad games or under perform, but you need to be able to do your job and the simple basics," which means "We had a bad game, underperformed, and didn't do our jobs or the simple basics." Ul's Nigel Adkins was in similar mood. After his usual lecture on the intricacies of tactical deployment, he concluded by saying, "We had to change our shape and go more direct." That would be hoofball, then.

Boln 0 Abertawe 1
A stunning strike from Abertawe's Barrie McKay - his first and probably last goal of the season - settled this tie, which meant that Boln had lost four in a row without scoring for the first time in their history. Abertawe had little to boast about, however. McKay's strike was replicated by Boln's Ameobi, only for the forward to see his shot hit the bar.
The two managers were probably a bit too honest for their own good. Boln's Phil Parkinson responded: "I don't know what to say," before saying an awful lot. Abertawe's Graham Potter said, "You need a bit of luck, of course, which thankfully we had today," which was oddly downbeat after a win. The downbeat, by the way, is the first beat of the bar. The upbeat is the last beat in the previous bar which immediately precedes, and hence anticipates, the downbeat. Both terms correspond to the direction taken by the hand of a conductor. So to be upbeat comes to mean looking forward in expectation, while the downbeat is the beat that the upbeat looked forward to. This makes no sense, of course, but little does these days.

Reading Ladies 2 Dipswitch 2
Dipswitch couldn't hang on to their first win in forever as a Reading player whose name sounded like a Belgian yoghurt headed an 84th minute equaliser after the away team had led for most of the game.
Reading's Paul Clement declared, "I think we were fortunate to get in at the half", which was not a misprint but a reference to his players' complete inability to think their way down a one-way street. He went on to say that he was embarrassed by his team's first half performance and that he "couldn't get his head round it," by which we believe he was referring to the one-way street, though it may have been something else.
Dipswitch's new manager Paul Lambert spent the entire match having fits in the technical area, and his post match comments - "I thought we passed the ball great, we looked great, we controlled the game" were indicative of serious cognitive failure.

Blackbum 1 Rotheringham 1
Somebody once said that playing Rotheringham was like being trapped between two grindstones in a swamp, a fate which Blackbum came to understand as they laboured fruitlessly for most of this match. With fifteen minutes left, however, Rotheringham scored, an event which took even Rotheringham by surprise. Six or seven minutes later, to no-one's surprise at all, Blackbum's equaliser came from the unwashed foot of the well known anagram Bradley Dack.
Blackbum's Tony Mowbray mumbled stuff about "frustration" like a man with bees in his mouth, whereas Rotheringham's Paul Warne seemed peeved by Blackbum's equaliser because "the cross came along the ground, which as far as we're concerned is cheating."

WB Albinos 4 Leed 1
Leed's decline took a demoralising lurch earthwards as they were thrashed by an Albinos side emerging from their own mini slump. All the goals came in the second half, and left one irate Leed fan saying "How can you expect a goalie called Bailey Peacock-Farrell to save anything?" Kemar Roofe was another target of abuse after trying to cheat his way to a penalty. "It's all he can do," said another fan. "Ask Forest."
Albinos' Darren Moore didn't say much, but did a lot of inward smiling. Leed head coach Marcelo Bielsa said sentences, some of which were oddly circular whilst others wandered off into the grass looking for nub ends. Sometimes, it seems, you get what you deserve.

Undead 0 Wendies 0
This game took place on a Friday, and may as well have not taken place at all. Apart from a saved penalty, a lot of huffnpuff, the usual gale of bluster from Chris Wilder, and a brief appearance by the oddly translucent Wendies boss, there was virtually nothing to get excited about, unless you are a connoisseur of dread.
Dread? Yes, dread. Wendies dread sinking towards the relegation zone, wheras the Undead dread admitting that their days as a top six side are numbered. You can tell this from the increasing spitefulness of Wilder's comments: "I'm not walking away tonight feeling any disappointment about how my team has played and I would rather be in our changing room with the way that we played, the plan we've got and the way we moved the ball around the pitch than the opposition's." He's a bitter man, and it's going to get worse.

GAME 18: NOVEMBER 24 2018
UL 0 FOREST 2

There are many ways to skin a cat, but the way Forest chose to skin the Tigers was to prod at them really hard until they burst like a sack of walnuts.

Walnuts?

Yes, Pie, my least favourite nut. They say that walnuts may be the dried brains of pigeons, and I for one am not prepared to give them mouth room.

Well that's a weird thing to say, but what's it got to do with the match?

Nothing at all, Pie, except that most of the match was pretty dull, so I thought I'd spice it up with some walnut-based imagery.

It wasn't that dull, Stress. Forest played some neat, controlling football for the most part.

Yes, but Ul weren't exactly the dog's biscuits, were they? And it took far too long for Forest to break through. And when they did break through, it was courtesy of a shanked clearance and a lucky deflection. For me, Pie, it was a welcome but not wholly rewarding win, like drinking your own wee in the desert. You mark my words, Forest are heading for a much bigger challenge against Vanilla on Wednesday.

I mark your words, Stress, and find them as gaseous as a fracker's promise.

Missis Pie told you to put that in, didn't she?

Perhaps, but let us speak of it no more.

The best we can hope for, Pie, is a 0 - 0 draw under the Vanilla sky.

Did you know that Tom Cruise is shorter than his own leg?

I didn't know that.

True.

GAME 19: NOVEMBER 28 2018
VANILLA 5 FOREST 5

STRESS'S BLOGUE

The Fat Man will not be doing this report as he died after Vanilla equalised at 2 - 2, so it is left to me, Stress, to reassure our reading public that the world did not go mad on Wednesday night.

The world went mad on Wednesday night. Even though I predicted the score ("this game has got 5 - 5 written all over it" I said before the game, something which Pieman would confirm if he weren't dead), I was still shaken by the daftness of it all. Grabban kicked off the entertainment on three minutes with an exquisite finish from Lolley's cross - you know, real Premier League stuff - and three minutes later Lolley put through Carvalho, who controlled and shot past Vanilla's disbelieving goalkeeper with Premier League precision. We quickly worked out that if Forest scored every three minutes they would rack up thirty goals of such quality that the world would end in an explosion of honeyed hazelnuts or something, but sadly it didn't happen. On 11 minutes Abrahams was gifted a free header, and three minutes later Vanilla were level after the ball deflected off Abrahams and into the Forest net. A quick recalculation resulted in a final projected score of 12 - 12, which would be fun, but not as earth shattering as 0 - 30. "You can't have everything, I suppose," said Pieman, and promptly died. At least we think he died, but we were too busy counting goals to check.

That's what the match had become, simply a matter of counting goals. On 22 minutes, Cash ran on to Lolley's ball, somehow outmuscled two Vanilla defenders, and finished with Premier League panache. This lead lasted just over ten minutes, at which point Robinson was penalised for knotting his opponent's legs. Abrahams scored his third with a penalty kick even I could have managed. At half time the score was 3 - 3, which meant the final score was going to be 6 - 6.

Five minutes into the second half, Joe Lolley scored from about half a mile. It was a shot so powerful it seemed to move in several directions at once and hit its target before its journey began. "You don't get many of those in a bag of dolly mixtures" said Fat Man, or he would have done if he'd been alive.

Sadly, Figueiredo was sent off because the ref was feeling left out, and Vanilla duly scored a couple to go ahead 5 - 4. It was such a shame that sloppy defending kept undoing what a magnificent attack had achieved, but it seemed that the time had come for the sour compensation of heroic defeat. People would have cried if they had any bodily fluids left.

Forest didn't cry. They just got the ball to Grabban, who skirted round a defender and somehow slotted the ball home between goalkeeper and post. It was, once again, Premier League striking. And that, my friend, was the difference between Forest and Vanilla. Vanilla scored five decent Championship goals. Forest scored five Premier League goals. It was a heartening thought as those who were still living drifted away. We left Fat Man where he was as a kind of tribute to the epicness of the match. Sadly, he would never know what a treat he missed.

Anyway, got to go. There's somebody at the door.

GAME 20: DECEMBER 1 2018
FOREST 2 DIPSWITCH 0

An odd experience, this game. Forest did the business in the first half, looking clever, fluent and dangerous from the start. There was an occasional threat from Dipswitch's Jackson, but not enough to raise rhubarb on. Lewis Grabban, on the other hand, continued in the kind of form which could power a city. His first goal came from a strong Darikwa shot which the Dipswitch keeper couldn't handle, and there was Grabban to force the ball into the net. His second came when Darikwa hooked the ball across the goal, and there was Grabban to stab the ball into the net. Part of his success comes from the obvious talent of being in the right place at the right time, but most of it comes from the kind of alchemy that turns hard work into gold. At the moment, he couldn't stop scoring if he tried. Between his two goals, Joe Lolley tested the Dipswitch keeper with one of his bendy shots, and another fine Darikwa cross was headed onto the post by Dias.

The second half did not have the intensity of the first, mainly because Forest got bored and decided to play a game of "hit the woodwork" to further demoralize the visitors. A late Lolley effort was well saved by the Dipswitch goalkeeper who I keep calling the Dipswitch goalkeeper because I can't remember his name and probably couldn't spell it if I could, and Grabban was denied his hat trick by somebody else whose existence means nothing to me.

So why was all this an odd experience? It was odd because Forest's progress up the league is bringing problems of its own.

We've seen it before. Whenever things are going swimmingly, Dick turns up. Dick is the opinionated smart-arse who can dig out a problem where there isn't one and present it as solemn fact. So, for example, Joe Lolley is far too good for us and will be gone in January, probably to Villa. I did not know that, Dick. Oh yes, and don't be surprised if Grabban goes too. Really, Dick? Where to? Follow the money, says Dick, rubbing his nose. And Dick knows that Karanka won't be recalling Joe Worrall because they had a dressing room bust-up about chewing gum or something. Well I never, Dick.

There are Dicks everywhere. They even turned up on the Quest EFL show in the form of the comic duo Murray and Hologram. Murray commented on Karanka's "flatness" at the end of the game, to which Hologram burbled his sincere hopes that Marinakis was not putting undue pressure on the Forest manager before he trailed off into his homespun incoherence and the two of them continued to stir the pot like malicious gnomes.

Success breeds success, but it also breeds Dicks. Dicks talk rubbish, but it's unsettling rubbish. It would seem that these days you are not allowed to enjoy success for its own sake or in its own time, because there's a load of Dicks out there determined to poison your fun.

The best thing you can do is to knock their beer over on the way out. Sorry Dick.

AT PIE MANSIONS...
GAME 21: DECEMBER 8 2018
FOREST 0 PRESTON NOB END 1

So what's the excuse this time, Vetch?

Nob End "did a job on us", as the common folk say, sir.

I have many questions, Vetch.

I'm sure you have, sir.

First of all, who or what is a Nob End?

Nob End is a childish corruption of North End, sir. I believe it derived originally from a misprint on some idiot website. In fact, for a short while, Preston North End were known as Preston Nob End (misprint), since when the name has become a self fulfilling prophecy.

I see. So, in the same childish vein, I presume that "did a job on us" has something to do with faecal deposits?

Oh no, sir, no indeed. It refers to Nob End's success in exploiting our abilities, specifically the ability to miss a bucketful of chances, and the ability to concede goals from crosses.

So the Foresters achieved this defeat by their own efforts, eh Vetch?

Exactly sir. It had little to do with Nob End, or their so called game plan. Their manager said "We made the pitch narrow, and filled in the little pockets they like to play in."

That sounds devilish cunning and not a little suggestive of that song from the musical "Oliver".

It may well do, sir, but it had little to do with Forest missing so many chances. That was Forest's fault. The Nob End manager can fill as many pockets as he likes, but in truth his side were lucky enough to meet Forest on a poor day.

There is much poppycock spoken in football, is there not, Vetch? I used my new smart telephone to watch an interview with a manager who said it was imperative to score goals to win games. Funny name he had - Karanka or something.

That would be Aitor Karanka, the Forest manager, sir.

Good God, what happened to that bread fellow, the one who said everything twice?

That would be Mark Warburton, sir. He left last season. There have been many changes since Aitor Karanka came.

It's a funny name, Vetch, suspiciously funny. It smacks of foreign, indeed it does. All these foreign managers, weakening our native bodily fluids. Brexit can't come soon enough, I say.

That seems a little harsh, sir.

You can't tell what they're saying, have you noticed? They burble on after a match, and the interviewer pretends to understand out of politeness or embarrassment or something, but nobody really knows what they're talking about. There's that Peppo chap from Manchester City, and that fellow from Spurs with that name of his, and even Klopp who occasionally breaks out into Klingon. So now we have this Karanka guy, do we? There's no wonder the players don't know what they're doing.

You're right, sir. As usual your common sense approach has bored to the heart of the problem and given us hope for a more certain and successful future.

That's good of you to say, Vetch. You know, you should get one of these new smart telephones. They can do wonders.

Indeed, sir.

For instance, while you were at the match yesterday, I had a long conversation with some delightful young Russian ladies showing off their knick knacks and fripperies, and I thought to myself, why would anybody want to watch an expensive, uncomfortable and ultimately fruitless game of football when they could be having a long conversation with some delightful young Russian ladies showing off their knick knacks and fripperies for nothing? I tell you, Vetch, the world has gone mad.

Indeed, sir. Parts of the world are slipping into insanity before our very eyes.

So who do the Forest men waste their time playing next?

Frank Lamppost's Derby, sir, on Monday the seventeenth.

An encounter I would normally be eager to attend, but as you know, Vetch, the seventeenth is my birthday, and I shall be spending it abroad with Missis Pie.

In Russia, sir, amid the knick knacks and fripperies?

You forget yourself, Vetch. Take care I don't order you to clean out the stables.

I apologise for my poor attempt at humour, sir. I think I can reassure you that the Forest men will perform equally badly in your absence.

Of course they will, Vetch. We don't have any stables, do we?

No sir, not since the fracking accident.

GAME 22: DECEMBER 17 2018
FRANK LAMPARD'S SHEEP 0 FOREST 0

11 THINGS BLAH BLAH BLAH

1. Frank Lampard's Derby manager Frank Lampard is displaying symptoms of the Inferiority Syndrome which affects all Frank Lampard's Derby managers in this fixture. These include cranial rigor (commonly known as squashed face) which is associated with souring of the blood, relentless badgering of the fourth official, a barely civil acknowledgement of the Forest manager at the final whistle, and that excruciating whine of a post-match interview. Yes, Frank Lampard's Derby manager Frank Lampard is trying to cope with his new responsibilities by pretending to be a graceless, mean-spirited whinger, just like all the others.

2. Frank Lampard's Derby have always gimmicked up this fixture, but giving fans white plastic carrier bags to wave around was a bit lame, even by their standards.

3. Frank Lampard's Derby were a disappointment, especially to Sky. Frank Lampard's Derby played surprisingly little football, and quickly resorted to intimidation of Forest players and officials (as they do). Sky had no idea what was going wrong, so delegated the responsibility of misinterpreting events to a couple of idiot pundits.

4. Forest struggled for the first half hour, mainly because Frank Lampard's Derby players were throwing themselves all over the place, and Hefele couldn't kill any of them. After Frank Lampard's Derby ran out of ideas, and Hefele realised that killing was unnecessary and inappropriate, Forest went from strength to strength.

5. Statistically, Forest had more shots, more shots on goal and more corners than Frank Lampard's Derby. Frank Lampard's Derby committed twice as many fouls as Forest. If Grabban hadn't been so hell-fire determined to score, he might have scored. If Joe Lolley had taken a couple of ounces off that shot, he would have scored.

6. Frank Lampard's Derby's much vaunted attacking players were embarrassingly anonymous. Mount and Marriott quickly decided to take the day off, and Wilson failed to conjure up the glamour finish he has become so famous for among Derby hipsters.

7. As for the others, Huddlestone continues to be a fraud, like a tired old carthorse telling stories of how he nearly won the Grand National once in his dreams. Keogh continues to try to intimidate opponents with his other worldly appearance. Nugent continues to almost fluke a winner with his slack jawed pestering, but not this time, Nuge, and possibly never again.

8. For Forest, Yacob and Colback were a sinisterly effective pair of bastards. Pants was very much not pants. No Forest player let anyone down. Frank Lampard's Derby made sure it was not a game in which footballers would thrive.

9. The referee, Stroud, began badly, then progressed to being heart-sinkingly useless.

10. In all honesty, it wasn't a great match, but when Danny Fox sings, the world is a happier place. The only thing which makes these fixtures bearable is the heart-pounding, lunatic optimism of the Forest fans. They made a hell of a noise at Frank Lampard's South Park; the wall of song seemed to go on forever, just like in the old days.

11. Finally, forget it. There are more important matches to come, and better football teams to contend with than Frank Lampard's Derby.

GAME 23: DECEMBER 22 2018
FOREST 0 QUEENS PARK LADIES 1

BOLLOCKS

That, as they say, was bollocks. Everything about the match was bollocks - the lack of intensity, the lack of imagination, the lack of fluency, the lack of chances, the predictable inability to get the better of a very average side, the below-par individual performances, the opposition's customary set piece goal, the referee, the crowd, the weather ... everything. What was also bollocks was the fact that it was QPL's first win here since time began in 1934 when, apparently, Hitler declared himself Fuhrer and Bonnie and Clyde were shot to bits. Equally bollocks was Karanka's apparent inability to understand why his men played so poorly.

But the most bollocks thing about this mess was the bollocks that led up to it. "Jack Robinson has warned the rest of the Championship that Nottingham Forest will only get stronger in the second half of the season," crowed the Post. "And he said Aitor Karanka’s side are very much targeting a top two finish, not just a play-off place, as they head into 2019." Recent evidence, sadly, would suggest that this may well be bollocks. Since the win against Dipswitch, Forest have secured one point from a possible nine. They have not scored in three games. They are still susceptible to set pieces. I think the lesson to be learned here is that pre-match media stuff is mostly bollocks, and people should just keep their traps shut, unless they're going to give a downbeat interview to piss everybody off. "Jack Robinson has warned Forest fans that the club is at the beginning of its annual slide towards anonymity, so they can support us or boo us, we don't actually care." This, too, would be bollocks, of course, but at least it would be interesting.

But even more bollocks than all this is that pre-match media stuff feeds into expectations, and maybe into players' attitudes. A few weeks ago Joe Lolley was being lauded as a one man goal machine, a rising star with Premier League talent and ambition who was "happy" at Forest. Since then he has hit the bar and put some shots wide. Lewis Grabban was heading for a thirty goal season, but has not looked like scoring for three matches. Joao Carvalho was to be our midfield wizard, but against QPL he looked mentally knackered.

Hype is not the truth. The truth is out there on the pitch. Hype is the kind of bollocks which leads to frustration and disappointment. Hype tries to conceal the fact that Cash blows hot and cold, Osborn is not progressing, Guedioura misplaces too many passes, the side is not getting stronger, and Karanka (according to Stress, who knows a thing or two) has a fundamentally defensive mindset and does not bother greatly with the creative side of things. None of these problems are insuperable, but the pre-match bollocks which suggests, for example, that Forest should crush QPL like Big Tom the steamroller flattening cats into gravel and tar (this actually happened once in Worksop, but that's another story) may just have had something to do with the unwarranted smugness which infected players and fans alike.

So where does the not-bollocks lie? The not-bollocks is that Forest have spent a lot of money on a side which will almost certainly avoid relegation. That's about it, really, at least on the evidence so far. This bollocks of a match against QPL should at least have tempered our expectations, but I suspect the bollocks machine is aleady gearing up for the next match. Ah yes, there it is: "It would be just like Forest to go to Norwich and win. Ha haa!" That's the ticket!

So everything's going to be all right, because somebody said so. Have a Merry Christmas.

GAME 24: DECEMBER 26 2018
NORRIDGE 3 FOREST 3

BOLLOCKS Part Deux

This much awaited sequel to BOLLOCKS (see last report) did not disappoint. Wheras the original movie never broke free from its sombre tone, BOLLOCKS Part Deux was stuffed with the kind of excitement you might feel if you were caught in a macerator.

Sadly, we did not see it live. Me and Missis Pie were down at Stress's house for Boxing Day treats, which was preferable to travelling a thousand miles to the lands of the Flat People.

To be honest, Stress would not allow us to watch it, listen to it or catch up on reports of it at all. Yes, it had come to this. We had reached the stage where following a Forest game had become unbearably scary, like feeling a night-time rat scuttle over your shoe.

So we ended up watching Zog the Dragon with three year old Joseph George, until it was safe to check the final score on Stress's smartphone. Sadly, we had forgotten the cardinal rule that Forest matches always end at least ten minutes later than everybody else's, and when we checked in at ten to five, BOLLOCKS Part Deux was just about to crash into its bewildering climax.

"Norwich one Forest three," said Stress, with the unsmiling puzzlement of somebody who has been hit on the head with a mallet. "Wow," said Missis Stress. "Brilliant," said Missis Pie. "Two from Cash and one from Robinson," said Stress. "Zog," said Joseph George. "Unbelievable," said I, already thinking that my last report (BOLLOCKS) was beginning to look like the scribblings of a faithless idiot.

"Eight minutes of extra time," said Stress, with the unsmiling puzzlement of somebody who has been hit on the head with a mallet, again. This didn't bother me too much, until I recalled that Norridge always scored late, usually in extra time. Still no bother, until it dawned on me that, at Norridge, extra time meant as much time as was needed to secure a home result.

I won't bother with the details of what happened in those 8, sorry 9, minutes, because you'll have lived it, seen it, heard it, read it and had nightmares about it. After it was over, Stress disgraced himself by swearing in front of Joseph George who, thankfully, was still absorbed in Zog the Dragon. All of us were initially convinced that the ref must be as corrupt as Satan, but it soon became clear that Forest had crumbled messily under pressure, unlike Zog the Dragon, who had secured his future by becoming a flying ambulance.

But BOLLOCKS Part Deux still had some way to go. When me and Missis Pie got home and clicked on the relevant sites, we were dismayed to see that Karanka's position was "under scrutiny", and the social media sharks were gathering for a feeding frenzy.

I have nothing to say about this at the moment, but if they sack Karanka, then our attitude to such a decision will be made clear in the explosive revelations of BOLLOCKS III. Coming soon to a cinema near you. Or, hopefully, not.

GAME 25: DECEMBER 29 2018
MEWO 1 FOREST 0

READ ALL ABOUT IT

"...THE SPANIARD IS UNDOUBTEDLY FACING THE END OF HIS TENURE."

What's going on, Pie?

THIS WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE MEWO MATCH. I WOULD SAY WHO WROTE IT, BUT JOURNALISTIC ETHICS WILL NOT ALLOW ME THAT INDULGENCE.

Why the capitals, Pie? Are you shouting?

No, I'm not shouting. And they're not capitals. We journalists call them upper case letters.

So why is we journalist using them?

Well, I'm doing a piece on the Mewo match and its repercussions. I don't want our readers to confuse the report with my ordinary voice, so I've spoken the report in upper case letters.

IKEA used to do reaper cushions, but they stopped selling them because nobody knew what they were.

Can I continue, please?

Of course.

THE MATCH ITSELF WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT. FOREST BEGAN NERVOUSLY, CONCEDED A NINTH MINUTE GOAL, AND SPENT THE REST OF THE MATCH TRYING WITH VARYING DEGREES OF CONVICTION TO BREAK DOWN A DISTINCTLY AVERAGE CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM. THEY FAILED.

Did they really Pie? Well, you could knock me down with a reaper cushion. It's a good job you clarified what happened out there on the pitch in front of our eyes, it really is. Who knows what we might have imagined otherwise.

THIS GAME WAS SIMPLY A CONTINUATION OF A DECLINE WHICH HAS SEEN FOREST GAIN 2 POINTS FROM A POSSIBLE 15. PEOPLE SUSPECT THAT SOMETHING MUST HAVE HAPPENED AFTER THE DIPSWITCH MATCH WHICH TRIGGERED THIS DECLINE. I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THIS SOMETHING WAS. I KNOW EXACTLY WHY THE SPANIARD WAS SO DOWN IN THE DUMPS AFTER THAT GAME. UNFORTUNATELY, JOURNALISTIC ETHICS PREVENT ME FROM REVEALING THESE DETAILS.

So you're not going to tell people, eh Pie? That's not cool.

SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT THE CLUB SHOULD MAKE A STATEMENT, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, ABOUT THE SPANIARD'S FUTURE, AND THAT IT SHOULD BE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF JOURNALISTS TO PRESS THE CLUB FOR SUCH A STATEMENT. SUCH A VIEW MISINTERPRETS THE ROLE OF JOURNALISM. SUFFICE IT TO SAY THAT JOURNALISTS SPEND MORE TIME TALKING TO OTHER JOURNALISTS THAN THEY DO CONTACTING THE SUBJECT OF THEIR STORIES. IT IS IMPERATIVE, YOU SEE, THAT JOURNALISTS APPEAR TO KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING, EVEN IF THEY KNOW NOTHING. IN THIS CASE, HOWEVER, I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING ON. SADLY, JOURNALISTIC ETHICS PREVENT ME FROM REVEALING WHAT IT IS.

Oh come on, Fat Man, just tell people what you told me you'd heard from somebody else. All that stuff about Karanka not being one of us with his funny words and that unearthly name. People have a right to know.

WHAT I CAN REVEAL, HOWEVER, IS THAT THE SPANIARD'S FATE DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE RESULT OF THE NEXT GAME, AGAINST LEED.
See what I did there, Stress?

I don't think I understand anything that's happening any more.

What I did was make a statement that can never be proved wrong. It's a journalistic trick known as "The Unverifiable Truth" which underpins most quality reporting these days.

Of course it does. So when does Karanka go back to his mother ship?

AS FOR THE FUTURE, I SHALL CONTINUE TO COVER EVENTS BY SYMPATHISING WITH THE SPANIARD'S PLIGHT WHILST AVOIDING DIRECT CRITICISM OF THOSE WHO EMPLOYED HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE THEN CHANGED THE CONDITIONS OF HIS EMPLOYMENT LESS THAN HALF WAY THROUGH HIS CONTRACT FOR REASONS WHICH WE ACCEPT UNDER THE GENERAL HEADING OF "THAT'S FOOTBALL". THERE IS, AFTER ALL, NOTHING TO BE GAINED FROM ALIENATING EITHER PARTY.

So you're saying that Karanka is human, after all. And it's the fat shippy guy who's not one of us.

I don't know how you drew that conclusion from what I said, but you have every right to interpret it in any way you choose. That's the beauty of top journalism - vague as hell and slippery as snot.

But you're not a journalist, are you? You're just a dick.

Aren't we all, Stress? Aren't we all?

GAME 26: JANUARY 1 2019
FOREST 4 LEED 2

SO FAR, SO GOOD

Football can be an ugly business. Despite the fervent support offered to Aitor Karanka at the start of the match, there was an ugly undercurrent of rumour and speculation about his future. And it was ugly, because no-one was prepared to say who had fed these poisoned dainties to a cowardly and complicit press, and certainly nobody would take responsibility for the subsequent damage done to the team's morale and the manager's reputation. Even the gale of support for Karanka could not quite blow away the stench.

The football itself wasn't particularly pretty. Hefele's first minute injury meant that Yacob took his place at the back, which didn't bode well, though no sooner were the "sinking ship" metaphors beginning to circulate than Forest went ahead. Carvalho swung a hopeful ball down Leed's left, where Forshaw cocked up his back pass to the amusingly named Baily Peacock-Farrell in goal. Jack Colback chased down the ball, brushed aside the goalkeeper's feathery challenge, and rolled the ball home. People couldn't quite believe it.

In normal circumstances, you might expect that a home side being gifted a goal would have the confidence to kick on, but these were not normal circumstances. The nervousness generated by disruptive speculation was still there, both on the pitch and at the back of all our thoughts. And Leed hadn't got to the top of the Championship by being useless. So what followed was not pretty at all. It might have been exciting for some, but for Forest fans the stakes were too high.

Leed played the better football as they pressed for an equaliser. On occasions the Forest defence shuttled around like schoolkids, but somehow survived. It had all got a bit too open a bit too early. Alioski shot wide, Yacob headed just wide, Robinson got yellowed for almost fouling Harrison, Douglas put the resulting free kick wide as Pantilimon looked on like a disinterested spectator. The delightful Roofe had a go, Alioski headed wide, a Hernandez shot hit the delightful Roofe. It was not, as they say, going well for Forest.

But it was not going well for Leed, either. Despite all their tricks, fouls, dives and handballs, they were not getting results. Their growing frustration resulted in Phillips attempting to break Guedioura's leg, and he was off. You could be forgiven for thinking that the gods were turning their eyes from Dirty Leed, and smiling on the good guys, until you remembered that the gods were contrary bastards who would stab you in the eye for a laugh. Lolley was presented with a golden opportunity to put Forest two up, but Peacock-Farrell spread his wings and saved.

It was generally agreed at half time that Forest were lucky to be ahead, but that they now had an opportunity to use their numerical advantage to defeat the Championship leaders, secure their manager's position, and save the world from cowards and vagabonds.

About twenty minutes into the second half, Leed were 2-1 ahead. Their first goal came when substitute Clark, who looked about six, drove an eminently saveable shot under Pantilimon. Their second came when the Forest defence did their "let's all run the wrong way" trick, leaving an unmarked Alioski time to almost miss from a yard.

Football can be an ugly business, and after Leed's second it threatened to get hideous. They had played better with ten men. They deserved their lead. Perhaps all the effort to save Karanka's job wasn't worth it after all. It felt like everything was ready to cave in.

But, as Old Uncle Boff used to say, you can't grow rhubarb without horseshit, and somehow out of this horseshit of a game, Forest cultivated the sweetest crop you could imagine.

Three things contributed to Forest's resurgence. One was the support of the crowd, which did not subside. Another was the arrogance of the Leed manager and players in continuing to attack after they took the lead. The third was the professional pride of three players - Colback, Murphy and Osborn.

From a poorly cleared corner, Colback slammed home an unstoppable shot to equalise. It was his second goal, and just desserts for a man who had refused to be second best all afternoon.

Three minutes later, Osborn's corner was headed home with power and precision by Murphy, who celebrated like a great grinning bear. Again, the goal was sweet reward for an inspirational show of defiant professionalism.

By now the Leed insistence on throwing men forward had left their defenders exhausted. The irrepressible Murphy chased down a wide ball and reversed it into the path of Osborn, who jinked inside a leaden footed defender and smashed Forest's fourth into the far top corner.

Not much happened after that, except that Pantilimon made a world class save, and the delightful Roofe should have scored but failed to make best use of his hands.

Out of the ugliness Forest had crafted a thing of beauty. To beat the top team in such circumstances, under such pressure, was indeed a remarkable achievement - one which should, in a sane world, put to bed the speculation about the manager's future.

So far, so good.

GAME 27: JANUARY 12 2019
READING LADIES 2 NINE-MAN-FOREST 0

You've not read it?

Read what, Pie?

The letter.

What letter would that be, Pie?

The letter from Forest to its fans.

That's us, isn't it, Pie?

It certainly is, Stress. Would you like me to read it?

I can hardly wait, Pie.

Dear Nottingham Forest Supporters...

So it was written in green, was it, Pie?

No, I'm just reading it in green. Shall I continue?

I can hardly wait, Pie.

Dear Nottingham Forest Supporters,
I am writing on behalf of the board of Nottingham Forest to apologize for the appalling display by our players in the two nil defeat to Reading on Saturday.

I like this letter, Pie, because it's polite, and it displays an understanding of football equal to my own. It was an appalling display, and we did lose two nil to Reading Ladies. Read on, Pie.

It would be wrong to lay the blame for this dreadful performance solely at the feet of the players. As acting manager Simon Ireland said, "They wanted to show that they could move on." The real blame, it is clear, lies with departing manager Aitor Karanka.

Do you know, the less I think about it, the more I agree with what this bloke says. I started by having sympathy for Karanka, but now I think I hate him.

But you haven't heard his reasons yet.

Oh I'm sure they'll be acceptable, Pie.

After destabilizing the club for many months, Karanka decided to abandon the team on the eve of an important match. This unforgiveable behaviour left the players confused and demoralised, and led to their lamentable performance at Reading.

Of course. You know, I found it hard to believe that Karanka could damage our club so badly, but now realise that he carried on doing so even after he left. I believe this because this bloke says it's true in long words, and that's good enough for me. How about you, Pie?

Oh I agree, Stress. I'm convinced by his arguments because they're in green.

Is there any more, Pie?

There is, Stress. Shall I read it?

I can hardly wait, Pie.

Karanka's campaign of disruption began in October, when Our Owner visited the training ground to offer encouragement and advice to the players. Since that time it quickly became apparent that Karanka had no interest in promotion, and worked tirelessly to hinder Our Owner's ambitions. Our Owner appointed several technical assistants to aid the manager, but to no avail. It was with great regret that the board were eventually forced to accept the manager's resignation.

My God, Pie, it's all so clear now.

Evidently, rumours have been circulating that Our Owner's expectations were unreasonable and that Karanka was forced out. As the representative of a board which is proud of its ethos of honesty and transparency, I can assure fans that these rumours are untrue. If you speak to the players and the local media, you will soon realise that we are all working towards the same end.

He's right, Pie. Anybody who bad-mouths Our Owner should be shot, in my opinion.

The board is now busy selecting a new manager for this great club. We are sure that the successful candidate will attract the full support of you, the fans. Remember we are all working together to put this great club where it belongs. To think otherwise would be unproductive.

You know, Pie, I don't think I've ever been so confident in the competence and honesty of Our Owner and His Board. I'm sure you feel the same way, don't you Pie?

It all depends, Stress.

On what, Pie?

On whether you've read the last sentence of George Orwell's dystopian novel Animal Farm.

I don't know what any of those words mean, Pie.

It goes as follows:

The creatures outside looked from Marinakis to Hasawi, and from Hasawi to Marinakis, and from Marinakis to Hasawi again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

GAME 28: JANUARY 19 2019
FOREST 0 BRISTOLS 1

BORROWED TIME

He called the greatest archers to a tavern on the green,
They vowed to help the people of the king;
He handled all the trouble on the English country scene,
And still found plenty of time to sing...

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men,
Feared by the bad, loved by the good,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.

Excuse me, I'm one of the greatest archers, could you tell me where a tavern is?
Which tavern is that then?
It's a tavern on the green.
They're all on the green. Where else would they be, up a tree?
I see, so could you tell me what time it is?
Well I could, if I hadn't lost my Rolex. You're not from round here, are you?
No, but I was supposed to meet Robin Hood at a tavern on the green at a particular time of day.
Robin Hood? I know him. He's the bloke who ponces around the English country scene on his horse singing about himself.
That's the fellow. Where can I find him?
Get yourself down to Surrey, find the Nettlefold Studios, and ask for Richard Greene. Only, if you do find him, tell him to stop inviting the greatest archers to a location so vague it could be anywhere between Worksop and Retford.


I am old enough to remember The Adventures of Robin Hood with Richard Greene and that theme song. I am old enough to remember Joe Baker's skill and Frank Wignall's elegance and Peter Hindley visiting his mum and dad in the next road. I've lived through the miracle years of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. I probably even touched the face of heaven at some point, but I've forgotten when that was or, indeed, whether it really happened in the first place.

Anyway, you may have noticed that in the last few years things haven't been going too well, mainly because of the cyclical stupidity of the owners. And so, after another bout of unelective brutality, we have Martin O'Neill.

I am now old enough to be honest about my feelings. The appointment of Martin O'Neill filled me with sadness. I suspect he was appointed to appease those fans who thought Karanka deserved longer in the post. Here was a ready made legend, a reminder of the good days, a resurrection man trailing clouds of glory from the past. How sad it would be if this turned out to be nothing more than emotional and commercial manipulation of the supporters. I did not like the thought of a club legend being used in this way.

I was uneasy about so many things. I did not like the fact that he had been absent from club football for so long. I did not like the stories about how primitive his preferred style of football was. I did not like the fact that he knew so little of the club's recent history, admitting surprise at and ignorance of the frantic turnover of managers. I did not like his acceptance of his conditions of employment - promotion or bust, eighteen month contract, probably reduced to four for good behaviour.

I did not enjoy his first match in charge, against Bristols. A certain amount of dislocation was to be expected, but 4-4-2 was not a wise choice of formation. Overall, Forest were too narrow and too slow. Despite Martin O'Neill's reputation as a grand master of motivation, and his Tigger-like behaviour on the touchline, the Forest players seemed flat. I didn't like the fact that the new boy, Benalouane, looked better than most having had virtually no team training at all. I did not like the fact that Bristols' obvious superiority stemmed from their having developed a team over several seasons under the same manager. I did not like the slackening of the crowd's enthusiasm. I did not like the sad inevitability of defeat.

But the main thing I did not enjoy was the degradation of our past. Before the match, it seemed that all the national and local press were interested in was Martin's relationship with Brian Clough. "Tell us that story again, Martin ... What did you learn from him, Martin ... I presume you have no problem embracing the past, eh Martin?"

And so out came Martin O'Neill to the roars of the Forest faithful, dragging forty years of invisible baggage after him, and that cheesy, ridiculous song rang out in celebration of something so old it was filmed in black and white.

How long before the hype is ditched, and Mister Marinakis comes sniffing around again?


And while you're there, ask Sheriff of Nottingham Alan Wheatley how he keeps his moustache so trim. And you might remember to get Maid Marian's phone number if we'd invented phones. But above all, tell whoever's responsible for that bloody song that he's living on borrowed time.

GAME 29: JANUARY 26 2019
FOREST 3 WIGAN CAR PARK 1

We don't do player ratings, but if we did, we'd tell the truth...

Costelimon Panti
We have three pine trees in our garden, all grown from rooted Christmas trees. They have grown far too tall, and I have this nightmare that a strong gale will send them crashing down onto various cars parked in the street, just like Panti falling sideways to try and save Windarse's shot and allowing it to brush under his hand in a shower of needles. He did make amends by making some brave saves, especially the penalty save from Average Joe Garner. It was a wank kick, to be sure, but Panti managed to retain his body shape in the right place, which made it look as if Garner had driven the ball into one of those pine trees we were talking about. (64.7/100)

Saidy Janko
He suffered one or two disconcerting absences of rational thought, but people have almost stopped noticing. He had plenty of room to skip down the right wing from where he could cross dangerously to some phantom bloke who failed to capitalise because he wasn't there. (62.3/100)

Yohan Benalouane
Despite his odd shape, Yohan had another solid game. We like him - there's something reassuringly capable about him, like the car mechanic we used to go to who never found anything wrong with our car except the windscreen wipers, because he had an obsession with windscreen wipers. A hardworking, trustworthy bloke in a boiler suit, just like Yohan, except the mechanic never got belted in the face by an opposing goalkeeper or got booked for nothing by the stupidest referee since the last one. (70.5/100)

Jack Robinson
Jack wasn't greatly tested, but did a sound enough job. We sense he's a better left back than centre back. We sense he's a better left back that Osborn, but we're not allowed to say that. He's actually a very good footballer for somebody who may never have existed. It would be pleasing to point to a historical figure called Jack Robinson, but we can't. It could well be that there was an actual Jack Robinson who was reputed to be quick in some way, but, if that's the case, any reliable record of him has disappeared. (60.7/100)

Benjamin Osborn
They tell us he was involved in the first goal, but we didn't notice that. He ploughed a busy furrow down the left side, but didn't produce much apart from a few palpitations when he was caught out of position. We like Benjamin Osborn, but he badly needs a new centre back so he can lose his place to Jack Robinson. Apparently we're not allowed to say any of this, so forget it. (55/100)

Joseph Lolley
Joseph Lolley is one of those players whose mercurial form is reflected in the mercurial favours of the fans. When he doesn't score, people mutter words like "dud". When he does score, people seem happy to worship him. He is, of course, half way between these two extremes. He scored a tremendous goal to set Forest on their way, but a true god would have wielded a really big hammer and battered Wiggum out of existence, which he pointedly did not do.(77.8/100)

Madeleine Guedioura
In general, we don't know what to make of Guedioura. He's the kind of bloke who would chase a big mad dog around a supermarket. He might knock over all the stacked cans, but occasionally he would catch the dog in spectacular fashion. In this match, he caught the dog. He swept through a beautiful splitter of a pass to set up Matthew Cash, then, having been given specific orders to stay back, he surged forward and slammed in Forest's third. (80.4/100)

Benjamin Watson
Benjamin Watson did what Benjamin Watson does very well. We are convinced that nobody is better at doing what Benjamin Watson does than Benjamin Watson himself, and this was once more confirmed in this match. Benjamin Watson is the kind of player who, were he not to play, would be replaced by somebody else, but this somebody else would not be Benjamin Watson. Some say thank God we've got a Benjamin Watson, otherwise we'd have to make difficult decisions about what to spend his wages on, like a big lawnmower. (54/100)

Jack Colback
Jack Colback did what Jack Colback does very well, part of which is being far better than Benjamin Watson, and another part of which involves getting booked ten times already so he will miss the next match. It's a good job we have a ready made replacement in that new lawnmower. (76.81/100)

Matthew Cash
A very good performance from Matthew Cash, who went some way to solving his balance problems and added a tremendous driving energy to the match, constantly finding himself in striking positions (and missing) until he got the goal he deserved which, oddly, was exactly the same goal as the other two. (83/100)

Daryl Murphy
Murphy filled the space available to him efficiently, and once more confirmed the quantum precept that the nature of space is contingent on what exists within it. For example, if you walk into the space occupied by a heavy wooden door, you will probably hurt yourself, but you would never expect the heavy wooden door to contribute significantly to a football match, something the manager seems reluctant to admit. (41/100)

Lewis Grabban
Grabban was given about twenty minutes to prove he was so much better than Murphy that he should never have had to prove it in the first place.

Claudio Yacob
Yacob came on late for Guedioura and gave away a penalty, which was a good deal more than Benjamin Watson did.

The Match
We applaud the victory and the increased confidence, but disagree with the stupid idea that the result justified the selection. And that's all we've got to say about that. Except the ref was a dick, as usual.

GAME 30: FEBRUARY 2 2019
BOREMINGHAM 2 FOREST 0

AT PIE MANSIONS...

Where on earth have you been, Vetch? You look terrible.

I'm sorry sir, but my recollection of recent events is somewhat sketchy.

You've been drinking again, haven't you, Vetch?

I'm afraid that may be the case, sir.

And what exactly has brought you to this sorry pass? Not that you need to tell me. It's that damned football team, isn't it?

It may well be, sir.

How many times have I told you, Vetch? Following this shambles of a club will leave you with a pickled liver and an empty purse, not to mention a shredded nervous system and various other diseases graphically depicted in Madame Tussaud's Waxworks in the good old days.

You may well have a point, sir, apart from the Waxworks reference, which I do not fully understand.

There's no may about it, Vetch. You may think of me as a foolish (though surprisingly handsome) old fellow with a tenuous grip on footballing matters, but let me tell you, I know exactly what's going on at this Forester's club of yours.

You do?

Of course I do. And in the interests of saving both your liver and your soul, I'm going to tell you.

Sir, I would be grateful if ...

Don't mention it, Vetch, and try to stand still. Having forced out this Basque chappie, the Fat Controller and the Corned Beef Man expected to employ this Jackanapes fellow to drive the Foresters to promotion. Sadly for them, this Jackanapes fellow turned them down, so the Fat Controller and the Corned Beef Man panicked and employed your man O'Neill and your man Keane in what has amounted to little more than a public relations stunt designed to placate supporters who were desperate only for stability.

A stunt, sir?

What else can it be, Vetch? You don't seriously think that employing your man O'Neill was a footballing decision, do you? You don't seriously think that the Fat Controller and the Corned Beef Man expected your man O'Neill to develop a fluid and expansive pass-and-move style which would see the Foresters surge towards promotion, do you? You don't seriously think that your man O'Neill was appointed for his "enthusiasm", do you?

Well, I ...

Just take a good long look at that Birmingham match, Vetch. Why do you think your man O'Neill chose Murphy and Watson? I'll tell you why. Because he knew so little about the club and its players that he chose the only two players he was familiar with, and who probably bent his ear from the start. Did Murphy and Watson play well? Only if you consider that a pair of fence posts are an integral part of a forward looking team.

But sir...

Why did the team have the creative drive of a broken lawnmower? Why were the Forester supporters crying out for the Carvalho fellow after twenty minutes? Why did your man O'Neill sing the praises of Yacob as a born leader a week or so ago and then drop him? Why did the new chap Milosevic go all gushy about a manager who wanted him and how he was going to get stuck in straight away, then play like an amateur? Why did it take seventy minutes for your man O'Neill to work out that something was not right? Why did the team play so much better when Carvalho and Bonatini and Grabban came on? Shall I tell you why, Vetch?

No doubt you will, sir.

Because, even if your man O'Neill had bothered to do some research on the club and its players, he would still have been the wrong man for the job, Vetch. Wrong man, wrong ethos, wrong style, wrong favourites. And I'll tell you something else, Vetch.

Please sir, I ...

If your man O'Neill doesn't adapt his approach soon, he won't be here next season. But then, perhaps that is the Fat Controller and the Corned Beef Man's plan. Which makes your man O'Neill's employment here a short term publicity stunt, as I said.

I fully appreciate your point of view, sir, but I feel your assessment of our situation is a little harsh.

That's because you're clinging on to hope like a drunk sucking at an empty bottle, Vetch. You do realise I'm only saying these things for your own good, don't you?

Of course, sir, and I would express my gratitude with greater fervour, were it not for the fact that I am in danger of being...

Oh my God, Vetch, what have you done?

Sick on your shoes.


Will Vetch be sacked? Is Sir Pie right in the head? Does Madame Tussaud still do those horrible disease waxworks things? Does any of this matter? Find out in the next thrilling instalment of "At Pie Mansions", whenever that is.

GAME 31: FEBRUARY 9 2019
FOREST 2 BENTFORWARD 1

FAQ

What was the score in this important match?

The score in this important match was 2-1 to Forest. This was a tremendous result because apparently Bentforward have been victorious in 8 of the last 7 such fixtures, and were on an unbeaten run of 10 out their last 9 games.

Well that may be nonsense, but how would you describe Forest's performance in this important match?

Awful. I mean, not all the time, of course, but in general it was awful. Much of the time Bentforward were so much better than us that people in the BC stand were quietly killing themselves out of sheer embarrassment.

Well that may not be entirely accurate, but how would you describe the difference in quality?

Bentforward played football. You remember football? That business where you pass to one another. Bentforward's passing was slick and accurate, their interplay clever and intuitive. Forest rarely bothered with any of that. Most of their passes were clearances.

So how do you account for the result?

I can't. I found the whole experience confusing. I suppose you could say that Bentforward's fancy dan football was easy on the eye but never overwhelmingly threatening against a determined defence, whereas Forest's less complicated approach created quite a few chances (the majority of which were missed) against Bentforward's flimsies, but that doesn't really reflect how inexplicably odd this match was.

Odd, you say?

Odd, I say. The goals themselves, for example. Was Milosevic's long ball up to Grabban a hoofy bloop or a brilliant piece of targeting? And how did Grabban know that a defender and goalkeeper would tie themselves in knots, leaving him free to shoot the ball home? And did Grabban miss the "penalty" because he knew he would get the second one? And how did the Bentforward keeper miss Lolley's corner to allow Molly Vague to head Forest's second? And that Bentforward goal, that toe poke into the corner past a bemused Pantilimon, was either an instinctive piece of brilliance or an insulting fluke. No one will ever know the answers to these baffling questions. There were other bafflements, of course, concerning selections, or a style of play which many have described as "dog-ball", but these things must be whispered in secluded groves, beyond the ears of calculating men.

What are you talking about?

I've no idea.

So have you nothing good to say about the performance at all?

There were some good shifts. Grabban was a dangerous nuisance all day. Young Yates was full of energy and taught Watson a thing or two. Milosevic looked promising. I'm not quite sure what Forest were trying to do, but by God they showed a lot of fight in not doing it.

After all, it's the result that counts, isn't it?

No.

What do you mean, no?

You never hear anybody say that after a defeat, do you? "We played crap, but it's the defeat that counts." No. That's the trouble with playing dog-ball - you have to win, because winning is the only thing that justifies the method. As soon as you fail, the criticism comes down like knives.

Fifteen matches left. Isn't it time for the Big Red Train?

If we beat WBA midweek, I promise that the Big Red Train will come thundering down the tracks like it did in the good old days.

Huzzah.

Which means there's no chance.

GAME 32: FEBRUARY 12 2019
WASTEBAGGERS 2 FOREST 2

GEOGHEGANPRESSING

They call it geogheganpressing. It is named after the famous Gaelic footballer Connor Geoghegan, who bewildered his opponents with the intensity of his play and an appalling disregard for personal hygiene. It is similar to the German gegenpressing, but whereas gegenpressing involves pressing to retrieve a lost ball with a view to maintain possession and create possibilities, geogheganpressing involves pressing everything everywhere until it starts having fits and sometimes dies. Not everybody likes geogheganpressing because it is difficult to spell, leads to the selection of less creative but more robust players, isn't pretty, and is physically exhausting. Forest tried it last night, and almost pulled off a fine victory.

It took six minutes for the high press to work. The Wastebaggers were trying to fancy-pants their way out of a defensive corner, with Forest players harrying them like street corner dogs. Eventually Osborn prised the ball away from them, and a moment later, after a blindingly good piece of skill between Colback and Grabban, Yates scored with an in-off.

The bewildered Wastebaggers took an awfully long time to recover, and even when, half way through the first half, they began to enjoy more possession, it amounted to virtually nothing.

After a half time talk which probably consisted of "Stop trying to be swanky bastards and get some hard work done", the Wastebaggers started the second half determined to push Forest back. A stunning off-the-bar volley seemed to shake the geoghegans out of the visitors, and a few moments later the Wastebaggers had equalised with a complete mess of a goal provided to them by Watson. Yes, Watson. I know Watson gets a lot of stick, but clearing the ball a couple of yards like an old drunk collapsing in the park will not enhance his reputation. Anyway, we began to fear the worst.

The geogheganpressing was by now morphing into something a little less pressing as tiredness set in, but defensively Forest were as sound as stone. It was grand to see the back line performing so competently after such a short time together. Their security provided a platform for the team to move forward, and after an hour a Robinson long throw caused enough consternation in the Baggers' defence to allow Yates to rip one in off the post. Brilliant. Though Yates has a right foot bunyon which hooks all shots, he will do well here.

It all went a bit blurry after that. Grabban should have scored. The Wastebaggers threw everything at Forest, though to be honest their stock of everything was a bit limited. They are like most of the top sides - nowhere near as good as they think they are. The Forest defence worked hard to keep them out, but they had nothing particularly difficult to deal with. Grabban and Yates had run themselves to water and had to be taken off. On came Yacob (to deal with troublemakers) and Murphy (to fill space).

And a minute or so before full time, Dwight Gayle appeared to jump through a hedge of Forest players to win himself a penalty. Everybody knew he'd cheated, especially himself. And that's what it was - cheating. The mainstream reports will use bland and cowardly terms such as "a controversial decision" or "simulation", but it was just plain cheating, and Forest were robbed of two points at the death, just like in the Leed game. What made it worse was that Forest were denied a more legitimate penalty in injury time when Gibbs pulled on Lolley's shirt. Perhaps he too should have jumped through a hedge.

And don't say "Ah well, that's football", because if it is, football's becoming a cheats' lottery refereed by idiots which sooner or later won't be worth watching.

Well done Forest. Stay angry. It's not over yet.

GAME 33: FEBRUARY 16 2019
NOB END 0 FOREST 0

Well that was a sort of game, wasn't it? I mean, it took place in a sort of stadium made of pipes and string in front of a crowd of sorts, so it was probably some sort of game. It wasn't the sort of game you would call brilliant, or remember for longer than half a journey home, but it wasn't the worst game ever. The worst game ever was probably one of the weekend's F.A. Cup ties, all hyped to buggery by the media and all ending up as flat as my Uncle Harry's thumb.

It was the sort of game full of raw-boned endeavour but short on quality. Nob End sort of attacked for a bit but soon realised that they were not properly equipped to deal with a giant goalkeeper, a couple of genuinely frightening centre backs, and full backs who rarely left their stations, so they sort of backed off and hid behind each other. Forest sort of took over after that, in that sort of huff'n'puff way of theirs, and soon began threatening to miss as many opportunities as they normally do. The up-front combination of Murphy and Grabban began to look sort of effective, what with Grabban being a dangerous nuisance and Murphy cleverly hiding his contribution behind his bushel. Grabban actually had the ball in the net, but it was the sort of goal that referees disallow because it was offside. Grabban had another chance later, but it was the sort of chance which is saved by the goalkeeper, and so it was on this occasion.

Half time sort of came and went. In case you were wondering, my Uncle Harry was a wonderful bloke who once gave me half a crown during Bob-a-Job week. All I had to do was carry a few planks of wood to the bottom of his garden, where he was hammering them together with fat nails. I think he may have been making a coffin. Anyway, he swung the hammer, missed the nailhead, and flattened his thumb. There was a lot of blood, and he sent me home.

The second half sort of chugged along for a bit. Nob End had a Pott shot on the hour mark, but Pants saved it with the magic of geometry. With twenty minutes to go, Forest went back to eleven men when Carvalho replaced Murphy, and with ten minutes to go Lolley had the ball in the net. Sadly, it turned out to be the sort of goal which had to be disallowed because it afforded Forest an advantage, and the Referees' Handbook dictates that any circumstance which affords Forest an advantage cannot be tolerated. You get the impression that Forest will have to score four to win one nil, and I'm not sure we've got four in us.

To be honest, I had no idea whether the referee had been "successfully deceived" by the goalkeeper simulating injury, because by that time I was preoccupied with the paralysis in my bum. It was that sort of game - the sort of game which is forgotten in a stretch and a sigh. I'm not even sure what happened in the last ten minutes.

They tell me Forest are moving in the right direction, and they should know, so I sort of agree with them. We are definitely looking like one of those sides who can "look after themselves", but I hope this is to be used as a platform for better things and not just an end in itself. I just don't want to pretend to enjoy the sort of football that reminds me of paralysed buttocks and split thumbs.

Let's hope the next match is better. It should be. Sort of.

GAME 34: FEBRUARY 25 2019
FOREST 1 SHEEP 0

The atmosphere was remarkable. It was like being in a football stadium wired to an EMP generator, full of people with scarves and great big banners making the kind of noise that splinters concrete and intimidates the Sheep into limp submission. Which it did.

A day or so ago, MoN said something like "Derbies can be dominated by the fear of losing, but we need to win." So he selects the most defensive team since the Jim Bowie XI of 1836. This "say one thing - do another" approach is becoming a feature of MoN's management, but as long as it keeps working, it's okay with us. He obviously knew that an open game would favour the Sheep, who thrive on space and flukey goals. So he shut the game down and strangled the Sheep to death. There was something satisfyingly cruel about it, if you're into that kind of thing.

My God, this is a tough Forest side. If we were to feel sorry for Derby, it would be because coming up against Colback and Yates and Watson and Benalouane and Milosevic and Pantilimon would scare the crap out of human beings, never mind sheep. Those two centre backs deserve their own comics. Here's one...

We shouldn't get too carried away because, brutally efficient as Forest were, the Sheep were gravely disappointing. We had heard great things of Tobermory at the back but he turned out to be a bag of nothing special. Wilson of Liverpool, who had been lauded as a miracle man earlier in the season, was revealed to be none other than Bob Cratchit's son Tiny Tim. And Huddleston? The BBC's opinion was that "Huddlestone's slick passing and ability to see and execute a pass, short or long, helped create several promising situations before the interval," which we found surprising until we remembered that most BBC commentary is written by a drunk in a pub in Wandsworth who fell asleep watching Sky. As far as we could see, Huddlestone was just some woolly fellow who ran out of credibility years ago. Other people played for the Sheep, of course, but nobody knows who they were.

The reaction of the two managers was revealing. MoN had the twinkly eyed buzz of somebody who knows he may be on to something good. Frank Lamppost seemed to be in a deep sulk which has flattened his head for weeks now. Some Sheep fans believe he is destined for Chelsea (thus explaining his lack of enthusiasm), but they have to ask themselves why Chelsea would even think about employing him. We just think he's realised that managing Derby is about as rewarding as living in a ditch.

Having watched the replay, we realise that Forest's goal was not the clumsy bundling effort we initially thought, but a very accomplished piece of work indeed. Okay, the header by Ogle Bogle was a clumsy bundle, but Murphy's flick across goal was clever and well directed, and Benalouane's finish was mighty sharp for a man with iron boots.

We thought Keogh's over-reaction at the end was both sad and hilarious. The rage was of course synthetic, designed to divert attention from another woeful display. A good dust-up always changes the narrative, of course, but this time it didn't work. Or maybe he is just unstable. Sadly, he didn't cry, or end up on his arse.

We shall see what the future brings. At least that sickly fear of failure seems to be receding as the defence grows stronger and stronger, but we would like to see better ball retention in midfield - it's the most efficient way of releasing pressure and conserving energy. At the moment, we're just Ireland with better players, and that's just plain exhausting.

Our man of the match was Roy Keane, because he's mesmerising.

GAME 35: MARCH 2 2019
STOKES 2 FOREST 0

Some years ago, we became so frustrated by Forest's inconsistency that we almost ran out of things to say. We solved the problem by asking the Six Fat Chinamen to give their views on a match. After the defeat at Stoke, we find ourselves similarly nonplussed, so once more we have invited the Six Fat Chinamen to provide a philosophical perspective on Forest's progress.

The First Fat Chinaman

I did not attend this match, for I spent the day laughing at my own hat, but I am told it was a negative affair. I suspect that the Forest management has fallen into the trap of mistaking hard work for effectiveness. I, for example, have never worked hard, but I have ended up with a laughably big hat. Having said this, I am no expert in the arts of football, so I would graciously refer you the Second Fat Chinaman, whose acuteness in this area is well known, especially to himself.

The Second Fat Chinaman

I would remind the First Fat Chinaman that sarcasm is irony's retarded cousin, and that a laughably big hat bears no comparison to a sack of something which could be millet and a handful of gold. As for the match, it is clear to me that Forest's lack of a decent goalscorer let them down badly, and will continue to hamper them until Grabban returns. The pressure on Lolley, both from the opposition and his own manager, has resulted in a continuing barren spell, and Murphy is suffering badly from the effects of gravity. For further comment, I give way to the superior insight of the Third Fat Chinaman, who will no doubt be juggling his balls.

The Third Fat Chinaman

At least I have balls. Golden ones, at that. I have little to add to what has previously been said, except that Forest's starting elevens appear designed not to lose, which makes little sense in the circumstances and doesn't augur well for the rest of the season. Not that I am particularly knowledgeable in this area. I do like smoked cheese, however. I would love some smoked cheese now, but they don't give us anything to eat here. I mean, you can't eat gold, or laughably big hats, and something which may be millet is for budgerigars, whatever they are. But for now, I will make way for the superior footballing know-how of the Fourth Fat Chinaman.

The Fourth Fat Chinaman

I too carry balls of gold, like the Third Fat Chinaman, but they are smaller and I do not feel the need to brandish them like an ostentatious dick. I also carry a sack filled with something which may be millet. Yes, I am aware that the Stokes match, both result and performance, were a crushing disappointment after the sheep-slaughtering and the happy news about the City Ground refurbishment. But that's the problem, isn't it? The publicity is outstripping the reality. No feel-good factor ever scored a goal. No hype ever mended a dead cat, even if you back over it in the mistaken belief that you can somehow reverse the damage. But there you go - I know more about cats than football, which can't be said of the Fifth Fat Chinaman.

The Fifth Fat Chinaman

I'm sorry, you have been misinformed. I know nothing. I don't even know what this thing is draped around my neck, though I suspect it is another sack of something which may be millet. I also carry a fan, which is useful if you sweat a lot after carrying a sack of what may be millet. Anyway, the only thing I know about football is that Derby really should book a spot at the Edinburgh Festival, and Brendan Rogers' hands are far too small for his head. Whether Forest end up in the top six is a question of juggling more variables than a basket of snot, and I'll leave it in the capable hands of the Sixth Fat Chinaman.

The Sixth Fat Chinaman

I'm the philosopher of the group. Carrying a basket of snot above my head is something to do with Zen, like meditating on the nature of cement. That's what Forest need at the moment - a bit of Zen. Just as Emperor Xhi-Xhian convinced himself that he was several people living in a kettle, Forest should realise that to gain three points they must become three points. This would avoid the stress of expectation which is crushing them and lead to the sunlit uplands of mental disintegration. Having said that, this is only part of the solution. The man who has the comprehensive answer to Forest's problems, the man who has his finger on the truth of Forest's future, is the Seventh Fat Chinaman.

The Seventh Fat Chinaman

There is no Seventh Fat Chinaman. There are only six. This is just a picture of the Third Fat Chinaman.

GAME 36: MARCH 9 2019
FOREST 3 UL 0

DON'T GET ME WRONG...

When somebody starts with "Don't get me wrong...", you know they're going to say something which swims against the tide of popular opinion.

Don't get me wrong, I think MoN is doing a fair enough job, but to attribute this victory to his clever substitutions is a bit daft, because it beggars the question as to why he wasted seventy minutes of everybody's life in the first place.

I've heard the argument that Murphy and Bonatini were played simply to grind Ul into exhausted submission, before MoN played his masterstroke to finish them off. My mate Occam reckons there is a simpler explanation: MoN just got it wrong, again.

This is my only gripe about the game. Everything apart from the first seventy minutes was great. Don't get me wrong - not everything about the first seventy minutes was dire. The big crowd was in good heart. The lad Pele looked strong and composed. Yates' enthusiasm occasionally spilled over into tomdickery. Colback was different class. The midfield did fine. The defence did fine. But up front there was little guile and much blockage, and sadly most of us were bracing ourselves for a scoreless afternoon. Lolley headed a good chance tamely over. Yates tried to handball it into the net. Milosevic's header was well saved by Marshall, who has thwarted us in the past. It was just going to be one of those days. When we found out that Bristols were losing and Wendies had equalised against Derby, it seemed that another opportunity to make progress was being squandered.

Names began to change on 54 minutes. Martin and Pugh changed to Campbell and (alarmingly) Goebels. This made no difference to anything, except possibly to remind MoN that substitutions were allowed. Ansarifard came on for Bonatini in the 59th minute. This made no difference, except possibly to remind MoN that this wasn't the substitution most people wanted. It was not until the introduction of Carvalho in the 68th minute that Forest began playing with eleven men, the universe set itself right with a satisfying click, and the Fat Controller nodded his approval.

Benalouane boomed one of his extravagant diagonals from left to right, where Darikwa controlled the ball neatly and delivered it towards Ansarifard in the Ul penalty area. Either Ansarifard or his marker poked the ball backwards, to where God had placed Carvalho, who smashed a thirteen million pounds volley off both posts into the goal. There was of course high delirium, but it must be noted that the reaction around me was not "great substitution from MoN" but rather "that's what he can do, MoN." The "great substitutions" argument came later, when all the doublethinking set in.

Anyway, Forest started to enjoy themselves after that. Lolley's low bending drive bounced out from the post and Ansarifard banged it home with commendable sharpness. Clever interplay between Carvalho and Colback forced an Ul defender into a rash tackle, and Joe Lolley got his goal from the penalty spot.

So a day which looked like another wasted opportunity was salvaged by ten minutes of quality. If Forest can continue to exploit that quality for the rest of the season they might just squeak into the play offs.

So who will start against Villa?

GAME 37: MARCH 13 2019
FOREST 1 VILLA 3

FOREST PLAYERS "DISMAYED BY BREXIT CHAOS"

After Nottingham Forest's 1-3 home defeat to Aston Villa, manager Martin O'Neill explained that his players had been badly affected by events in the House of Commons.

"As soon as they heard that a majority of MPs had voted for the Spelman Amendment (Amendment A), the players were visibly shaken," he said.

He admitted that Brexit chaos was not the only thing that contributed to his team's below-par display. "The Facebook outage didn't help," he said. "And climate change, of course, what with all these disruptive weather patterns bringing down a tree near Blackpool."

Forest fan Gary Balding, co-producer of the fanzine This Is Bollocks, agreed. "Martin O'Neill is a Forest legend, and he knows what he's talking about," he said. "You could see how edgy the foreigners were, for example, suddenly finding themselves trapped in a country run by effing lunatics. And poor old Murph has never been the same since the Irish backstop fiasco. It's amazing that, despite the incompetence of our so called government, we're still only 3 points off the playoffs."

Among other Forest fans, however, there were dissenting voices. Some referred to the gulf in class between the two sides, whilst others pointed out O'Neill's haphazard approach to tactics, but Balding dismissed these views as "peripheral". "Nobody takes any notice of these people," he said. "They go on and on about football, yet fail to see the wider picture of disintegrating confidence in the democratic process and the effect this has on professional athletes. I'd like them to tell me how the Forest players are supposed to perform effectively when their elected representatives are busy bringing the country to its knees."

O'Neill admits that his side's next match, against bottom of the table Ipswich, is one which Forest must win. "I say must win, but that's not necessarily true," he confirmed. "If we win, it was always a must win game. If we don't, it wasn't. No, what really concerns me is that Saturday is the 227th anniversary of the assassination of King Gustav the Third of Sweden, who was shot by Count Jacob Johan Anckarström at a masked ball at the Opera. Being reminded of that kind of thing could really knock these players for six."

GAME 38: MARCH 16 2019
DIPSWITCH 1 FOREST 1

IN PRIVATE

So nobody can hear us, you say?

No, Stress, nobody can hear us.

Are you sure?

Yes.

Are you sure?

Yes.

Are you sure?

Yes I'm sure. Nobody can hear us. I've even put In Private on.

What's the In Private On?

It's a function which makes you disappear. Nobody can see what you're doing or hear what you're saying. It's absolutely foolproof.

So the In Private On is on now, is it?

It certainly is, Stress. You can say what you like. Nobody will hear you.

Are you sure?

Don't start that again. Just say what you want to say. Nobody here will judge you.

Well, Pie, you know how delighted I was when MoN was appointed?

Yes, I remember it well. Your ears were bleeding.

Yes, and do you remember that you had doubts about him?

Yes. You called me a farting traitor. You said I was Karanka's whore. I think you were having a fit.

Well, you may have been right.

No need to whisper, Stress. What was that you said?

You may have been right.

Right? About what?

About MoN. I'm not so sure he's the right man, Pie. I'm not even sure he's a good manager.

Well hush my mouth, Stress. What exactly has produced these doubts? Is it just the disappointing results?

No, Pie. I think he may be the Black Spot.

Would that be the fungal disease which attacks roses? Or the pirates' death sentence from Treasure Island?

Don't be silly, Pie. Everybody knows that everything the Black Spot touches turns to soot. Believe me, Pie, I've thought long and hard about this, and I've come to the conclusion that MoN is the Black Spot. Oh I don't suppose he wants to be the Black Spot - I mean, who does? - but everything he touches turns to soot. Look at the last game against Dipswitch. MoN broke up a decent centre back pairing and turned it into soot. He picked that Molly Vague character, and everything he did turned to soot, or some similar waste product. This Vague guy gave away a goal, and couldn't even score the goal he scored. Same with Murphy, who has always been a bit on the sooty side anyway. I tell you, Pie, MoN has got the Black Spot good and proper. He says Yacob has captaincy potential, then doesn't play him. He praises Pele to high heaven, the man's form disintegrates. He says Lolly reminds him of John Robertson - kiss of death for Lolley's goalscoring record. He encourages his players to go and win, then picks a side not to lose. He gees his players up at half time, and their game turns to soot in the second half. It's as if everything he says is contradicted by reality. You watch, Pie. This stuff about getting some decent refereeing decisions sooner or later is virtually guaranteed to make them even worse. Soot, Pie. Everything he touches turns to soot, even referees. I'm beginning to wonder whether he hasn't turned Grabban to soot. The weather's certainly gone sour since he came.

These are harsh and unjustified criticisms, Stress, and although they may contain a grain of soot, they are in general unbalanced and slightly delusional, and I hereby disassociate myself from them.

Ha ha, no need for that, Pie. We've got In Private On on, remember?

Yes, well, about that, Stress...

Gosh, where am I?

What do you mean, Stress?

I remember now - I tripped and fell, banging my head against yonder fire iron. During my dazed state, I may have said many incriminating things about soot, when what I meant to say was that the football under MoN is a remarkable improvement on the dross served up by the Spaniard who shall not be named. I don't see how anybody in his right mind can think differently, but if they do, they can count themselves as no friend of mine.

That's the spirit, Stress. Do the right thing. Keep the faith. Toe the line. That sort of thing. Otherwise people will say it's the fans' fault.

People are funny, aren't they Pie?

Funny as soot, Stress. As Old Uncle Boff used to say - "Better safe than sooty", eh?

Ha ha, Pie!

Ha ha indeed, Stress!

I didn't mean it, all that Black Spot stuff, you know.

Yes you did.

Bugger.

GAME 39: MARCH 30 2019
FOREST 2 ABERTAWE 1

REDEMPTION

If you think that The Shawshank Redemption is an extended metaphor for Nottingham Forest's fortunes, and who's to say it isn't, there is one line in it which specifically refers to this match against Abertawe:

Andy Dufresne, the man who crawled through 500 yards of shit and came out clean at the other end.

Andy Dufresne, of course, is Nottingham Forest; the "500 yards of shit" is a fair description of the match itself; and the "came out clean" refers to the ultimate, possibly undeserved, victory.

Some of you will be reading this and thinking, "This is harshly unfair" or, possibly, "Who's Andy Dufresne?" To you I say that the contents of the sewage pipe down which Andy Dufresne crawled are a fairly accurate representation of Forest's performance, being mostly an aggregate of formless waste occasionally speckled with carrot.

"Formless" is the key word here. It's all very well for Mister MoN to encourage his players to "go out and win it". I could do that - "Go on lads, go out and win it", I could say, with immaculate conviction. What I couldn't do would be to develop the methods, style and partnerships designed to get the job done. It seems that MoN is struggling in this area too. Forest's attacking method these days seems to rest on three stools - the long ball, the set piece, and individual brilliance. Teamwork, creative partnerships and possession football, the things that make football worth watching, don't seem to rate too highly with Mister MoN. The result is a style of football that fails to exploit the abilities of the better players and is difficult to watch.

The statistics are revealing. Abertawe had twice Forest's possession, twice Forest's shots on target, and half Forest's fouls. There were times when Abertawe skipped through our midfield like squirrels dodging trees, and if they had been the kind of squirrel which could shoot properly they would have embarrassed Forest good and proper. As it was, for all their clever play, their finishing was poor, and even their goal came via a deflection. This of course provides fuel for the "results are more important than performances" argument, but this argument is as boring as its converse: "performances are more important than results." It would be nice to see Forest winning and playing well, wouldn't it?

Anyway, Forest won because they converted two Lolley corners with spectacular efficiency. The first inswinger reached Murphy at the near post and his header sailed beyond the Abertawe goalkeeper into the far side of the net. The second inswinger reached Molly Vague, whose powerful, twisting header gave the Abertawe goalkeeper no chance. Why Forest couldn't start with the steered enthusiasm it generated after going one nil down is a question I'll leave you to answer.

So Forest ended up slithering out of the sewage pipe and being cleaned by the rain. They now lurk 2 points below the play-off places. This, of course, is a cause for hope, and as Andy Dufresne said at some point in The Shawshank Redemption to his mate Morgan Freeman, "Hope is a good thing, and good things never die." Well they do actually, especially if you spend too much time crawling through 500 yards of shit with no guarantee of coming out clean at the other end.

GAME 40: APRIL 6 2019
ROTHERINGHAM 2 FOREST 1

CONSPIRACY THEORY

Forest's drift towards mediocrity is proving to be fertile ground for conspiracy theories. Here are some of the ones circulating at the moment.

THE DENIAL THEORY
This is the theory which insists that Mister MoN is doing nothing wrong, and that the perceived decline in performance is a myth spread by traitors and terrorists. Supporters of this theory (like the Nottingham Post) point to the Rotheringham game and blame the performance and result on virtually everything other than the manager, such as the players, the referee and the posts (twice), all of which conspired to make Forest look awful. Denial theorists maintain that Mister MoN should be given millions of pounds next season because he has a few good stories about Brian Clough.

THE P.R. STUNT THEORY
This theory is based on the idea that Mister MoN was only appointed as part of a public relations stunt after the Aitor Karanka cock up. What better way to appease a confused and disappointed fan base than to appoint a club legend whose relevant experience in no way fitted him for the job but that didn't matter as long as season ticket sales were maintained and anyway if he failed which he probably would he would be gone by the end of the season. Nobody actually believed that "I was impressed by his enthusiasm" stuff, did they?

THE ENTROPY THEORY
Entropy is the measure of a football club's thermal energy per unit temperature that is unavailable for doing useful work. Because work is obtained from ordered molecular motion, the amount of entropy is also a measure of the molecular disorder, or randomness, of a system. This theory measures Forest's entropy as being high, as very little useful work is being done under the disordered, or random, guidance of Mister MoN.

THE ALIEN THEORY
There's always an Alien theory, isn't there? This is a particularly silly one, in which aliens send a poorly coded automaton (Mister MoN) to earth to test the gullibility of Forest supporters. Many of these supporters are impressed, concluding that "he speaks well" whilst failing to realise that much of what he says is contradictory nonsense. He brings a companion (Mister Keano) whose job seems to be to put the frighteners on anyone who disagrees with Mister MoN or stand in front of Rotheringham throw-ins. This theory is based loosely on the plot of "The Day The Earth Stood Still", a 1951 science fiction film starring Michael Rennie. The film was re-made in 2008 starring Keanu Reeves for no apparent reason.

THE MEDIOCRITY THEORY
This theory is based on the perception of Mister MoN's ability to get mediocre players to play above themselves. Sarcastic connections between "playing above themselves" and "hoofball" aside, the problem with this process is that good players must be cut down to average before it can work. So, decent enough players like Milosevic, Yacob and Carvalho, who refuse to lower their standards or are somehow foreign, are sidelined until they conform with the minimum requirements of soul destroying mediocrity. Occasionally, bursts of proper football still break out during matches because the dumbing down is not yet complete, but such occasions are growing less common.

THE MASONIC THEORY
This is a rather sinister theory which suggests that footballing matters at Forest are controlled not by Mister MoN but by a Brotherhood of seasoned professionals who exert some malign influence over the management. The nature of their leverage is not clear, but dressing room gossip suggests that Mister MoN has very little say on matters of selection. Either that or he just falls out with people at random.

THE ALCHEMIST THEORY
Sometimes called the "Cunning Plan" theory, this idea rests on the proposition that Forest's standards continue to decline in order to lull the opposition into a massively false sense of security. This being done, Mister MoN will then turn shit into gold and, by dint of complete surprise, garner victory after stunning victory. Sadly, only three people ever believed this rubbish, and two of them have had to have operations on their head.

THE MALIGNANT FAN THEORY
This theory has cropped up on a regular basis for about thirty years. It suggests that everything going wrong at Forest is down to the fans, whose unmet expectations quickly lead to bitterness, and bitterness mitigates against success on the pitch. It must be true, for I myself have spent thirty years labouring under a crushing sense of guilt at not cheering every reverse, every crap manager, every stupid board decision, every match I abandoned before the end. I must learn to expect less of my football club, before I fall mad in a ditch and prey to vermin.

THE BREXIT THEORY
According to this theory, football was better when it was played in dubbined boots with nailed studs on icy pitches in short sleeves and we owned India. This was the game Britain invented, a game designed to test endurance and character and how often you could head that ball before concussion set in. A British game, not the poncy glove-wearing nancy boy farce it became when we joined the European Union, with its tactics and its catenaccio and its gegenpress and pasta salads.
In case you were wondering where this is going, the answer is absolutely nowhere. That's why it's called the Brexit theory.

GAME 41: APRIL 9 2019
WENDIES 3 FOREST 0

THE BOFFINGTON POST

FOREST BOSS VOWS TO CHANGE BRITTLE MENTALITY

Martin O’Neill says he will change the ‘brittle’ mentality at Nottingham Forest, after seeing them show their fragility in a painful 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday. "I will change the brittle mentality at Nottingham Forest, after seeing them show their fragility in a painful 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday," he said.

He insists it is his job and he intends to resolve that. “This is my job and I intend to resolve that," he said. And he maintains that words like "intend" and "resolve" are not big words ."These are not big words here," he said, but went on to display a sketchy understanding of the function of words in his assertion that "These are not just words to be said."

He went on to say many words, some of them big.

He explained that fans came to support the team. “We have fans coming here to support the team," he said, but made the point that whatever opinions they had were of no interest to him, because it was his job to change the mentality at this club. “My job is to change the mentality at this club and I will do that. I intend to do that," he said. He made no comment on the view that it was his incompetence which had wrecked the players' confidence to start with, because we didn't dare ask him. Neither did we dare ask him how he intended to change their mentality, because we feared the answer might be something to do with Roy Keane.

He said they had hit some tough times and there might be a realisation of what lay ahead. “We have hit some tough times and there may be a realisation of what is ahead," he said. We could have asked him to explain exactly what this meant, but we once more we preferred to leave it hanging there like an unspecified threat, or maybe just a bunch of big words, because to probe further would have been just sooo embarrassing. I mean, when somebody says “But it will change; the mentality will change at the club and that is for starters,” it's not the kind of stuff you question, is it? All you can do is paraphrase what he says, then quote it, and tacitly agree with his conclusions, even if you're not absolutely sure what they mean.

So, for example, his assumption that he will be here next season can be tacked on to the end of a sentence, as in: O’Neill says he will address that brittle edge - and believes he can do so with the current squad and some new additions in the summer, which is the syntactic equivalent of jumping through a tube train's doors at the last second to avoid your pursuers, or in this case to avoid some very awkward questions about his increasingly perilous position.

After a while we get bored of paraphrasing and just let him have his head. "I said to you recently that, if players want to get better, they have to listen,” he said. “I have been in this game a fairly lengthy time now, I have had ups and downs, but also lots of really decent success, both as a player and a manager. And I think what I am saying to the players is spot on. They have to take this on board. Even the older players who might not feel they have much more to learn - they still can; they can still improve.”

So they're not listening. Perhaps they're deaf, or simpletons. It's all their fault. Perhaps they have questions, but are too brittle to ask them, the cowardly sods. Perhaps they are a bit pissed off by incomprehensible selection and omissions and tactics, but they lack the guts to stand up to the management. Perhaps they have stood up for themselves, and find themselves out of favour.

Anyway, the match was crap overall (though apparently the Reds won the first half with some "excellent" play), Forest began to look like a bunch of individuals who had forgotten to train together or in some cases to train at all, substitutions and reorganisation were the product of sheer panic, and it became a thoroughly Megsonesque evening all round. Not that we suggested any of this to O'Neill, because he can get a bit tetchy if you challenge him.

So we'll just leave it at that. We hope that the words were simple enough for you and the paragraphs suitably short. It seems we have nothing to worry about, because O'Neill will sort it. "You have nothing to worry about, because I'll sort it," said Martin O'Neill, after seeing Nottingham Forest show their fragility in a painful 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

And if you understand any of what he said, do get in touch.

GAME 42: APRIL 13 2019
FOREST 1 BLACKBUm 2

THE BOFFINGTON POST

"I MAY HAVE GONE MAD" ADMITS FOREST BOSS

After a third consecutive defeat, this time at the hands of Blackbum Rovers, Forest manager Martin O'Neill admitted that he may have gone mad, but was all right now. His admission came after he was questioned about a baffling series of events which saw a left back playing at centre back, a defensive midfielder playing at left back, the left back moved forward to play in midfield to be replaced by a midfielder at left back, and a creative midfielder brought on to link up with a striker who wasn't there any more.

"It was an experiment," said the Forest boss. "I've been experimenting with recreational drugs, and I may have gone mad. Strange things happen in football, don't they? I'm all right now, though."

To be fair, there were occasions when Forest's play suggested an accidental degree of understanding and organisation, but overall they performed with the random determination of rats in a box.

This is what happened. Molly Vague kicked the ball, but it went over the bar. Blackbum's Bradley "Road Kill" Dack kicked the ball, but Pantilimon saved it. Lolley kicked the ball, but Raya saved it. Pele ran a long way and kicked the ball over the bar. Dack kicked the ball wide. Rothwell kicked the ball and it went into the goal, after Pantilimon was surprised out of a day dream which involved nakedly swimmin' with one-legged women. The crowd groaned.

Forest immediately stormed back as Cash took aim from inside the penalty area and missed by about a week, the same week it took for Grabban to make up his mind before another goal chance went begging. Yates kicked the ball, but it was blocked. Appiah kicked the ball, but it went wide. The first half ended after Cash crossed brilliantly to nobody in particular.

In the second half, Blackbum went close before going even closer and scoring. The crowd groaned again. The mood of incipient murder was partially alleviated moments later when somebody, nobody is sure who, scored for Forest. This made the game interesting for as long as it took to realise that it wasn't interesting at all. Cash missed a sitter, Dack hit the woodwork after a good save from Pantilimon, Lolley's cross couldn't be converted by Murphy, Murphy's header was blocked, Lolley hit the side netting, then shot over the bar. There were boos at the end.

Forest manager Martin O'Neill said "We had glorious chances today and spumed them all," later admitting that "spumed" was a misprint for "spurned", and "all" should have been "all but one". "The game should have been out of reach," he continued. "They were really good chances, but we spumed the lot of them."

O'Neill went on to explain that everybody would get a chance to show what they could do except for certain individuals whom he had taken against for no reason at all, that they would now get ready for next season, and that things would get better when the goblins left the Palace of Eternal Light. He was then helped away to take a phone call from some Greek bloke.

GAME 44: APRIL 22 2019
FOREST 3 MISERABLEBUGGER 0

BIBLICAL EGG

We're sorry we didn't do an Undead report, but we were so dispirited after Forest's fourth defeat in a row that we decided to kill ourselves forthwith and without demur, didn't we Pie?

That's right, Stress, forthwith and without demur.

So we drowned ourselves in our own sorrows, and our bodies washed up two days later in the Elephant Man near Tuxford.

The Elephant, Stress, not the Elephant Man. It used to be called the Green Man, but they changed it to the Elephant. Don't ask me why.

But why, Pie?

Probably because there's no such thing as a Green Man, but Elephants are real.

Of course, Pie. But let us speak no more of Elephants, and return to the matter in hand. Who knew that the game against Miserablebugger, widely predicted to be Forest's fifth defeat in a row, would turn out to be an Easter miracle, like the chocolate egg from the bible.

Certainly not me, Stress. The last thing I expected was a biblical egg.

Nobody did, Pie, nobody did. And do you know why?

Because it was a tasty confection?

No.

Because it was oval and wrapped in foil?

No.

Then why, Stress, why?

Because Mister Grumpy...

Forest legend Martin O'Neill.

...picked the right side, one full of players who played it on the floor, who could combine sensibly with each other, who could finally unpack their skills, and who played with enthusiasm and fluency. It was the real Forest, Pie, not the thuggish shambles Mister Grumpy...

Forest legend Martin O'Neill.

...had tried to create.

So how come he picked them then?

Who knows, Pie? Probably a mixture of pressure and accident, like an ill timed fart. But whatever the cause, the result was spectacular.

It certainly was, Stress. The City Ground blazed red in the sun, and we knew from the kick off that this was going to be a special day.

A special biblical egg in the face day for Mister Grumpy,

Forest legend Martin O'Neill.

Pie, what with the out-of-favour-for-no-reason Carvalho showing him what a real footballer could do, and the out-of-favour-for-no-reason Milosevic scoring a beauty, and the out-of-favour-for-no-reason Robinson playing a captain's innings. And everything worked. The wing backs worked. The midfield controlled things with confidence. The defence had few problems. It took a while for Karim Answerphone to get going, but even he showed enough promise to be considered for future selection. Everything clicked, Pie.

It certainly did, Stress. But for me, the best bit was Carvalho's trick of feinting to move the ball forward, then stopping as a defender lurched across him, then shifting the ball forward to continue the run. I've seen him do it before. It's like he freezes time for himself while the world hurtles out of control around him.

He is certainly a special egg of a player, Pie.

He certainly is, Stress. It was a tremendous performance all round, albeit against a Miserablebugger side hobbled by their own depression.

You'd think Mister Grumpy...

Forest legend Martin O'Neill.

...would be pleased, wouldn't you Pie?

Well he was, wasn't he?

Not really. He said "That was us at our best, but what we want is at times when we're not at our best to be able to cut it. That's something that's been missing at this club for a long, long time." It's almost as if he wants us to be bad, to justify selecting the old lags he favours. I tell you, Pie, I don't think this performance has changed Mister Grumpy's...

Forest legend Martin O'Neill.

...outlook at all.

You may be right, you may be wrong, Stress. I'm just glad we won. After all, I didn't want to have to kill myself again forthwith and without demur.

Gosh you're a card, Pie, with your words and stuff. Ha haaa.

Okay.

Ha haaa ha.

Stop it now.

GAME 45: APRIL 27 2019
QPL 0 FOREST 1

AT PIE MANSIONS...

Been to the match, Vetch?

I have indeed, sir.

I would have gone myself, you understand, but unfortunately I've been suffering from man-flu, which apparently is the worst kind of flu a man can get.

Really, sir?

Really, Vetch. Doctor Portfolio told me so. Good man, Portfolio. He has a sympathetic ear.

And an expensive one, too, sir, I don't doubt.

What's that supposed to mean, Vetch?

Simply that one may be expected to pay a little more for the very best treatment, sir.

Nicely done, Vetch, nicely done. Now tell me about the footballing match will you?

Well...

And keep it brief, will you?

I shall try...

Because sometimes you go on a bit, you know.

Forest won one nil at Queens Park Ladies.

Is that it?

More or less, sir. There were very few highlights. The goal itself was remarkably good, the result of a blizzard of one touch passes which allowed Karim Answerphone to finish coolly and powerfully.

We have a player called Answerphone?

Er, certainly sir. His goal was one of the highlights. The other highlight was the penalty save by Pantechnicon.

We have a player called Pantechnicon?

Certainly sir. We even have a defender called Molly Vague.

It is a strange world we live in, Vetch. Is there anything else to say about the match?

Not really, sir. The Ladies pretended to put pressure on us and all that sort of thing, but apart from Matty Crash spinning around like a clockwork train, there was little else of note. Except, of course, that this was Forest's first away win, and the first time Forest have notched up consecutive wins since we beat Trumpton.

Trumpton?

You remember, sir? The famous victory against Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb?

Well of course, Vetch. Who wouldn't? However, let us not dwell on past glories, but turn our gaze to the future. What are our chances next season, Vetch. Shall we do well?

I have my doubts, sir.

Dear me, why so, Vetch?

I am as yet not convinced by our current manager, Forest legend Martin O'Neill. As well as queering our play-off pitch, I believe he manages more by accident than design.

How do you queer a pitch, Vetch?

It is an odd fact that most people, when entering a market hall, tend to veer to the right, thus favouring the stalls pitched on the right. In order to correct this situation, the stall holders on the left would drop dog turds on the right hand side to encourage a reverse in the traffic. This was called "queering the pitch".

Are you making all this stuff up, Vetch?

I would never do that, sir.

I'm not so sure, Vetch. As far as I recall, it was Pugh, Hugh, Barney McGrew.

No sir, it was definitely two Pughs. They were brothers, I understand.

Hmmm...

GAME 46: MAY 5 2019
FOREST 1 BOLN 0

GOD PRESERVE US FROM REASONABLE MEN...

Old Uncle Boff did not like reasonable men. He used to say that they impurified our precious bodily fluids. "Listening to reasonable men," he would say, "is like being given a chemical lobotomy."

He would have hated the last match-day experience. Despite a dispiritingly drab performance on the pitch, the reasonable men were out in force, insisting that a win was a win, that three wins on the trot was an occasion for optimistic celebration, that finishing ninth was as much as any reasonable person could have expected at the start of the season.

Old Uncle Boff would have begged to differ, probably violently. He would have asserted his right to aggressively resist the bland reassurances of feeble men. He might have bottled people. We will never know, because he has been dead for years.

Despite being dead, however, he's got a point. The match ended up being fairly dismal. All that stuff during the week about finishing the season on a high and putting on a show for the fans bubbled up and away like farts in a bath. To suggest that Forest, for whatever reason, played beneath themselves, does not work, because Forest have rarely been good enough to make that choice. And in the end, "it wasn't that bad" is the kind of feeble excuse generated by people who wouldn't think twice about impurifying our precious bodily fluids in the first place.

Old Uncle Boff would simply want us to come clean. He would want us to admit that it's been another disappointing season. The mid season change of manager, designed to give us a chance of reaching the top six, backfired badly, mainly because the manager who now calls for greater creativity bled the creativity out of the side at the most critical time.

As for next season, well, Old Uncle Boff had no time for predictions. He said that people who made predictions did so because their lives were little better than an empty grate. He insisted that any decision which required consideration of more than three variables was pointless and probably impossible, and we agree with him. We assert our right to have absolutely no idea which way things will go, and to hope for the best while remaining unconvinced of MoN's ability to avoid the worst.

And that's that. We'll keep up to date with world events over the summer in the form of our sister publication The Boffington Post, but until we meet again, as Old Uncle Boff used to say, mine's a double.








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.