S E A S O N   2 0 2 0 / 2 1   M A T C H   R E P O R T S   A N D   S T U F F

GAME 1 : SEPTEMBER 12 2020
QUEENS PARK LADIES 2 FOREST 0

If you're wondering what the jar of jam is all about, then you obviously didn't read our report on Forest's Caribou Cup exit. In it we said: "It's like jam, isn't it? And it's pretty flavourless jam at that. It's very much the same flavourless jam that we were sold at the end of last season. It doesn't matter what ingredients Lamouchi is given, he just boils them down into jam..."

And so to London, where Lamouchi knew he needed a decent start to exorcise the horrors of Stoke, and all he gave us was more jam.

The trouble with jam is that you can't unboil it. If you add new ingredients, the old jam boils darker, more bitter and less wholesome. So against Queens Park Ladies, Grabban looked so boiled out that this latest of his "off days" is threatening to last as long as the rest of his career. Lolley has been boiled into glass. Yates has been baked, somehow, into a horse. And though Worrall and Figs started well enough, eventually they just melted away like they always did in the grand old days of Stoke.

So, although the fresh ingredients of Colback, Freeman, Blackett and Gabriel added some bite in the first half, it was inevitable that they would eventually be absorbed into the vat of bubbling nonsense around them. Colback seemed desperate to get carded. Freeman was taken off, presumably because he was being too creative. Blackett did okay, though his crosses were wasted. Gabriel seemed to be drowning at times. Things just ended up in the same sorry state as they were at the end of last season.

The reason for Lamouchi's bad jam, the sort that congeals at the front and turns to water at the back, is (1) a stubborn refusal to unclamp the team from its defensive approach which leads to a hollow midfield devoid of creative fluency, (2) an apparent refusal or inability to coach forward movement, which leads at best to a chaotic attack and at worst to no attack at all. If the attack is stagnant and the midfield hollow, the defence pays the bill.

There are other things wrong, of course, but they mostly concern pectin production, which is far too difficult for non-experts to understand. Conversely, there were other things right, like Freeman, and Ameobi, and two up front, and fifteen minutes of pressure during which we threatened to breach QPL's defences. But all these things will prove useless if they end up being boiled down into the unstructured mess of Lamouchi's jam.

I forgot to mention da Costa. I can't imagine why.


GAME 2 : SEPTEMBER 19 2020
FOREST 0 CAERDYDD 2

Before the Caerdydd match, Lamouchi said, "We need to be more organised, more compact, more aggressive and more solid." Just like overboiled jam. He did not say, "We need to be more creative, more fluent, more cohesive and more incisive." Because these words mean nothing to him. After the match, he said, "We had been working on defending corners and long throw-ins all week." Which is why Forest conceded from a corner and a long throw in. He did not say, "We spent a lot of time integrating the new players into our dynamic attacking systems." Because Forest prefer to get along without them, thank you very much.

It's all very confusing, isn't it? And confused, of course. Whatever the management team are doing to make the team "more solid" clearly isn't working. Indeed, as a third minute corner winged its way into the Forest box, Caerdydd's Kieffer Moore must have been slightly bemused to see defenders collapsing around him like wet cardboard boxes as he rose to thump the ball into the back of the net.

Of course, going behind so early gave Forest plenty of time to fight back. Sadly, they had little to fight back with. A midfield trained in the art of being bricks could provide little impetus. Lolley's shins were splintered, apparently, so once more he contributed little. Freeman and Sameobi did their best, but even when Grabban was presented with another sitter, he blazed over. With the Old Reliables, Grabban and Lolley, misfiring badly, and Yates and Colback unwilling to drive forward, Forest sank deeper onto their own defence and eventually did their cardboard box routine to allow Moore to bag his brace.

Bag his brace. What a stupid expression. It's from game shooting, you know. "I popped up to Dom Cumming's father's estate, where I bagged a brace," is a commonly heard boast in the Westminster bubble these days.

Anyway, Forest were much better in the second half. I don't know whether who told whom to do whatever, or whoever got pissed off and ended up doing what whosoever wanted, but they were definitely better. Strange, embryonic partnerships formed, the precursors to life as we know it in a proper football club. Forest pressed high, cutting off Caerdydd's major routes to goal and releasing midfielders (and sometimes even defenders) to do their own thing. Lyle Taylor grew quickly into an abrasively threatening hero. Shots at goal rained in. With a bit of luck, or a bit of composure, Forest could have had three goals in the second half. And (with a bit of luck) they conceded none.

I didn't actually complete the quotation from Lamouchi in that first paragraph. He said, "We need to be more organised, more compact, more aggressive and more solid, like we were last season." What he doesn't seem to have come to terms with is that Cash has gone, Lolley is injured and Grabban is fading. These three provided the threat which made Forest's counterattacking football work. But now it doesn't work, and Lamouchi has to find another way to get out of the jam he's got himself into (jam, gettit?).

That second half may have given him some clues. We'll see whether he found them or not on Friday.


GAME 3 : SEPTEMBER 25 2020
UDDERSFEEL 1 FOREST 0

Putting out virtually a whole new team was either a very clever Lamouchi ploy or a near-suicidal Lamouchi gamble.

On the clever side, if his shiny new Forest lost, he could always save his job by saying, or allowing his friends to say, that the players would need more time to gel.

On the gamble side, if his shiny new Forest lost to Uddersfeel, he was probably a goner.

So which one was it? To be frank, the question is beside the point, like asking whether Boris Johnson wipes his arse with his left hand or his right. The point is, as we said at the very beginning of the season, that no matter what ingredients you give to Lamouchi, he will somehow manage to boil them down into jam, and jam doesn't win many football matches.

You could see the boiling-down process working in front of your eyes. There was of course an initial vibrancy - Christie looked an exciting replacement for Cash, McKenna was assured and commanding, Mebbe So was cultured and comfortable on the ball, Blackett didn't look comfortable at left back but would undoubtedly be replaced by Ioannou in the next game, Arter was busy and effective, Ameobi looked dangerous in that slightly out-of-control way of his. Uddersfeel captain Hogg should have seen red for attempting to break Arter's leg. Ameobi's curling effort was well saved by Uddersfeel goalkeeper Hamer. Mebbe So almost scored on his debut. Things were going all right.

Except, of course, that they weren't. The boiling-down process was beginning to take effect. Lamouchi's defensive mindset was beginning to pull Arter back into the belly of the midfield, where Sow and Colback were already duplicating each other's job. Arter was supposed to be the box to box man, the link between midfield and attack, but he didn't seem to be doing much of that. Freeman was stuck out wide having virtually no impact. Taylor was stuck up top in frustrated isolation, just like Grabban used to be. If the center backs roamed forward, they were either told to get back in defence, or pass the ball backwards to a defensive midfielder. Amazingly, Lamouchi was somehow turning all this shiny new talent into the same old jam.

After half time, it got very bad. Uddersfeel's Campbell scored his 3rd goal in twelve months, the kind of strike you can only do with your eyes closed, and Forest went into full struggle mode.

Sow was taken off for everyone's safety to be replaced by Mighten, who had the impact of a moth. Grabban replaced Taylor and almost immediately put a chance over the bar. Freeman, who should have been moved inside to do some play-making, was replaced by an unfit Lolley.

The low point was reached when Diakhaby of all people almost scored twice - one shot being cleared by Colback, and a one-on-one being blocked by Samba.

And that's that - the match ended in a confusing mess of jam. It is so obvious that Forest lack a creator, a playmaker - Silva could do it but he's off, Carvalho could do it but Lamouchi won't let him, Freeman might do it but Lamouchi sees him as a winger, Arter might do it but ... well, I'm not sure he's that kind of player. And it's pretty obvious that Forest don't practise attacking moves but simply rely on individual cleverness to get their goals.

Blah blah blah - too much moaning. Not that any of this stuff matters. I can't even see this season's fixtures being completed, to be honest. Clubs are already starting to postpone matches. The whole economy's collapsing. The bin men are collecting bodies from the houses with crosses on the doors. The country is being run by a buffoon with poo on his hand. The right hand, in case you were wondering.


GAME 4 : OCTOBER 3 2020
FOREST 1 BRISTOLS 2

AT PIE MANSIONS...

What's going on, Vetch?

I'm sorry, sir, but I stumbled over what appears to be a cattle prod in the hall.

Mind not on the job, eh Vetch?

In a manner of speaking, sir. I recently had the most disturbing experience.

Not as disturbing as waking up in the boot of your own car, I'll wager.

I beg your pardon, sir?

Forget it, Vetch. Tell me about your disturbing experience.

Very well, sir. I was returning from the village post office where I had deposited several packages for collection, when I passed a band of common fellows camped in the south meadow. Three or four of the common fellows, grubby faced and wild of eye, were playing a skipping game on the lane, and as I passed I heard the words of the song they were singing. It went like this:

Sabri Lamouchi
Practised Tuesdy
Gave up Wensdy
Cried on Thursdy
Prayed all Fridy
Lost on Sat'dy
Packed on Sundy
Buggered off Mundy
Poor old Sabri Lamouchi

My God, Vetch, what can it all mean?

I presume these common fellows are privy to some dramatic news, or are from Derby. Either way, it's disturbing.

And yet, sadly, not surprising, eh Vetch? Mister Lamouchi is perilously close to being given the heave-ho. In fact, were it not for that spectacular goal from young Freeman, he would probably be on his way already. Mister Lamouchi. My God, he sounds like a ventriloquist's dummy. Come in and meet Mister Lamouchi. No, don't turn on the light.

Rather oddly put, if you don't mind me saying so sir, but I do think he is hanging on with some threadbare excuses. That performance against the Bristols did show some attacking improvement, but many people remain convinced that he has no idea how to coach forward movement. As far as he is concerned, attacking is something to do with aggression, shooting a lot, and the odd piece of individual brilliance. Forest's improved performance was based on these things, plus the Bristols easing off when comfortably ahead. Nowhere did I see the creative teamwork required to break open a resolute defence. People say the teamwork will come, given time, but I would suggest that if it does, it will be through the players' efforts, not the manager's.

And yet, Vetch, Forest might have won that match had the Bristols not had that Bentley fellow in goal playing like he was the Son of God. And there were some promising performances, after all. Ariata played reasonably well. Christie attacked well from full back. Freeman was something of a star. Mighten was not the moth I always thought he was. But the one who surprised me was that left wing back Yanu or whatever his blithering name is. Knows how to cross, that fellow. Perhaps these green shoots will flourish over the international break, eh?

There would be green shoots under any manager, sir. I doubt they will flourish under a manager who seems preoccupied only with mistakes, who says his players should "respect the plan" when the plan was designed for another team. One half decent performance will do little to stop a decline which began weeks before the season was paused. People said then that Forest looked in need of a break, but they were worse when they came back. Now it looks as if Lamouchi has another break to resurrect our fortunes, and I fear the worst.

Oh come now, Vetch, stop being a wet william. There are far worse things out there than a dysfunctional football team. The end of the world springs to mind.

Oh surely not, sir.

Oh yes, Vetch. The signs are all there. There will come a time when covid and climate change will have reduced humanity to scattered tribes being pursued by cows.

But not in the near future, sir.

Sooner than you think, Vetch. The cows are attacking already. Ask Doctor Portfolio. "If humanity survives to the end of this football season, then call me a thoroughgoing quack," he said. Good man, Doctor Portfolio. Sold me that cattle prod you fell over.


GAME 5 : OCTOBER 17 2020
BLACKBUm 0 FOREST 1
WE WON!
A friend said to me, "You know that feeling you get before a match..?" whereupon I said, "Let me stop you there, friend. Only a bigot or a simpleton entertains one feeling at a time. The healthy human brain is capable of juggling several, often conflicting, emotions in any given situation. That is why life can often seem confusing." My logic left him speechless, of course.

Take the game against Blackbum. How did you feel as the game approached? I'll tell you how you felt. You were slightly giddy at the prospect of Mister Christopher Hughton forging a new era at your beloved club by means of some kind of magic whose nature you didn't understand, but alongside this was a sheer dread that Forest were so cursed that not even Mister Christopher Hughton could perform a miracle against the in-form, free-scoring Blackbum, especially as the team he had selected looked disturbingly familiar, and Grabban was, disturbingly, captain. Added to these feelings was the excitement of signing Anthony Knockout, slightly tainted by the disappointment that the loan lasted only a few months and the flickering memory of calling him a cheating bugger when he played for somebody else. Then, of course, the Grosicki situation added a final hefty blob of confusion to the mix.

If you had mixed feelings before the match, the first half would tie you in emotional knots. There was this terrible underlying suspicion that nothing had changed. Forest had not been transformed into the fluent attacking powerhouse of your dreams. These traitorous thoughts had to be suppressed, somehow, starting with the obvious common sense dictated that Mister Christopher Hughton was not going to change things overnight. And if you looked hard enough, there were some subtle differences. Forest seemed to be trying to play a higher line. Colback seemed to be in control in deep midfield. The defence, especially McKenna, looked strong. The team seemed to have a good, solid shape, even though you've always been a bit hazy about the concept of shape. An eleven sided figure is called a hendecagon, apparently.

But the nagging doubts were still there, weren't they? Perhaps Forest looked sharper because they had simply had chance to train harder or, like Joe Lolley, get over their injuries. Perhaps the defence looked more secure because Blackbum, surprisingly, were rubbish. The only threat they produced was a shot from Brereton which barely reached Brice Samba.

And that lack of potency up top was still there, shuffling around ineffectually in the shape of Captain Grabban. You sensed there would be no more 20 goal seasons for him, at the same time wishing he would wake up and earn his place.

Well, things did change in the second half. After five minutes, Grabban floated across a delightful ball which Yates headbashed over like a wild horse. You were torn between thinking "Hard luck, young man" and "Typical Yates, missing a sitter." But at least you could sense a shift in the game, as if Mister Christopher Hughton had reminded them at half time that Blackbum were a bunch of tired old frauds whose early season form was about to desert them. Whatever he did say, Forest's confidence grew. Toby Figgis thumped a free header awkwardly into the ground, the ball being eventually snaffled by Blackbum keeper Kaminski. Sameobi almost got through with a shot speared in at the near post. Lyle Taylor's swerving shot was batted away for a corner. Sameobi's size twelves guided the ball onto Kaminski's crossbar...

And you began to think we would never score. You began to persuade yourself that 0-0 was a decent result. You began to wonder whether Forest might give away some ridiculous 95th minute goal. Somewhere, another Forest disaster might be brewing beneath the miserable Blackbum sky.

And then, in the ninetieth minute, the old fraud Bradley Johnson gave the ball away, Freeman and Yates smuggled the ball out to Lolley, who cut inside as he always used to do in the good old days and unleashed a shot which deflected off the old fraud Bradley Johnson and into the net. The Forest players went ever so slightly mental as, I would imagine, did you.

You must be careful, though. Once the joy has faded, nonsense thoughts will try to muddy your composure. Blackbum were seriously poor, they will whisper, or Lolley's goal was a fluke, or there are still so many problems for Mister Christopher Hughton to fix. To combat these thoughts, simply remember the confidence which surged through the Forest players in the second half of that game, and recognise that, beside hard work and organisation, confidence is the gift that Mister Christopher Hughton can bring. That's the difference.


GAME 6 : OCTOBER 20 2020
FOREST 1 ROTHERINGHAM 1

Go on, Pie, read it out to me.

Why, have you gone blind or something?

That's a bit insensitive, isn't it Pie? What if I had gone blind, like suddenly, during the night ... you wouldn't be laughing then, would you?

I'm not laughing.

Like if you'd said "Can't you read?" and I'd said "No I can't. I tried to learn, but my school expelled me for being left handed." You wouldn't be laughing then, would you?

I'm not laughing.

And I'm not blind or illegitimate, so we're squits. Go on, read it out.

Okay then. Nottingham Forest were held to a 1-1 draw at home...

Not that bit, Pie. I know that. Get to the rue bit.

...as they were made to rue plenty of missed chances...

Rue. I love that word, Pie. Rue. Does it say Rotheringham were resolute?

No. Determined.

Poor effort that. Carry on.

Forest started brightly under the floodlights...

The floodlights were on because it was dark, Pie. The match started at 7.45 so it would be dark. Hence the floodlights.

It goes on about Christie and Grabban missing in the first five minutes, the better of the two chances falling to the talismaniac Grabban who lost his footing as he pulled the trigger...

He did what, Pie?

he lost his footing as he pulled the trigger... Presumably he shot himself in the foot.

Perhaps that's why he didn't play well, Pie, what with him having a shot foot and everything.

Anyway, it carries on about Yates mis-hitting a goal, but the linesman had already raised his flag for offside...

Because that's what they do, isn't it Pie? Raise their flag. For offside. Gritty stuff, this.

It says that Forest looked encouraging as they moved the ball about with a refreshing tempo, but can you guess what they lacked in the final third...?

A goal?

No.

Composure?

No.

What then?

The killer instinct.

Ah, the good old killer instinct. That'd be Grabban and his shot foot.

Meanwhile, the newly-promoted Millers also looked steady when in possession...

That's Rotheringham's nickname, Pie. The Millers. Do you know how they came to be called The Millers?

Because of the Hovis mill near the ground. Everybody knows that.

I don't like Hovis, Pie. There is no goodness in it, for it is dry in the mouth.

Rotheringham United took the lead in the opening stages of the second half courtesy of Daniel Barlaser's well-driven spot kick past Samba, who went the wrong way...

Who wrote this rubbish, Pie? Courtesy of, for goodness' sake. "I say, Mister Barlaser, would you do me the courtesy of scoring this penalty as, you see, Mister Samba appears to have gone the wrong way. Good fellow. Now if you could prepare me a large gin and lime, that would be splendid."

Anyway, the report goes on about how Grabban almost levelled immediately but didn't (shot foot), McKenna's header was blocked, Yates headed against the crossbar, Grabban poked, Freeman scuffed, and Lolley's effort cannoned off the post. The conclusion is that it wasn't going to be for Forest.

It wasn't going to be for what?

I'm not sure, but for whatever it was going to be, it wasn't.

That's for true.

The Reds' relentless pressure paid off and the breakthrough finally came in the 79th minute when Lewis Grabban was able to pick out Sammy Ameobi with a square ball on the edge of the six-yard box and he tucked the ball into the bottom corner of the goal.

Huzzah! Lewis Grabban comes good, overcoming a shot foot to put a square ball on a round plate for Sameobi. Well done everybody. Well done Lewis.

As the final whistle fast approached, Lolley's perfectly weighted through ball found Grabban who rounded the keeper and then drilled his effort into the side netting with the whole goal to aim at.

Bloody Grabban. What a Hovis.

Too harsh, Stress. He scored twenty goals last season, shot foot an' all.

No more excuses, Pie, for they have no goodness, being dry in the mouth. If Mister Hughton starts Grabban against the Sheep, he will live to rue it. There will be a lot of rueing going on. But that's not important. What's important is that we get Cocu the sack. That's what's important. Then he'll have the time to go and get his big eye fixed. Is that the end of the report?

No. It says the match finished.

Good God.


GAME 7 : OCTOBER 23 2020
FOREST 1 SHEEP 1

AT PIE MANSIONS...

It's not like the good old days, eh Vetch?

Oh most definitely not sir. What would that be, exactly?

This derby match business. Not what it used to be, I say.

I couldn't agree more, sir. Things are rarely as good as they were in the good old days.

Do you remember the good old derbies, eh Vetch? Proper occasions, they were. The rough and tumble, the mutual loathing, the threat of overwhelming violence, the baying of the crowd, the casual incontinence, the 5-2 beatings ... ah, those were the days, Vetch. Now look what we get. Something akin to an unwitnessed brawl in a pub car park. It won't do, Vetch. It won't do.

It was certainly a disappointing spectacle, sir, especially in the first half.

And do you know why, Vetch? Because this Hughton chappie got it wrong again. Picked two strikers who got in each other's way, with no one in midfield who could get it to them. Fundamental error, Vetch. Man should be sacked if you ask me.

That's rather harsh, if you don't mind me saying so, sir. Mister Hughton has only been in charge for three games. He hasn't lost a match yet.

That's no excuse, Vetch. Remember the Macedonian chef we had a few years ago? Tried to poison us with horse pancakes? You can't mess about with blackguards like that. Sacked him on the spot. The Forest players quickly realised that the 4-4-2 experiment was horse pancakes and let their frustration show. Gave away so many free kicks that one of them was bound to cost us, even if it was a fluke.

A fluke, sir?

Yes, Vetch. Remember the good old days, when Buster the shire horse used to haul a cartload of pig muck to the fields?

Before my time, I'm afraid, sir.

And remember the fellow who used to follow the cart with a bucket to pick up the spillage?

Hardly, sir.

That was Martin Waghorn, that was. Great big straw-chewing lump couldn't strike a clean ball if he tried. He'll certainly never score another one like his opener, mark my words.

Of course, sir. You must admit, though, that Mister Hughton got things right in the second half.

Only by accident, Vetch. Grabban's injury allowed Forest to play with one up front and that Knockout fellow to come on and cause havoc. Eventually that chap wearing the tea cosy scored our equaliser, but overall it was a very patchy performance. Three games is more than enough to get these fellows all oiled up and slick as snot, but it's not happening yet.

You may be right, sir, but I think the absence of a crowd - and in this case the absence of a full house - robbed the game of an atmosphere which could have lifted the players to greater efforts.

You may have a point, Vetch. Listening to the Derby coaches bawling obscenities was no substitute for real human contact.

You're right, of course, sir. And I'm sure your doubts about Mister Hughton will disappear in time as he grows familiar with the players and the players grow familiar with each other.

Not too familiar, Vetch. Oskar the Macedonian chef called me "mate" once. Sacked him on the spot. If you give these fellows too much rope they'll take what they need and throw the rest in the bin. I'm keeping an eye on this Hughton fellow, you mark my words.

I shall certainly mark your words, sir. Will there be anything else?

Got any pancakes, have we?


GAME 8 : OCTOBER 28 2020
LUTONTOWN 1 FOREST 1

Sometimes, when the football gets really boring, you can try and do a Trumpton Fire Brigade with the opposition team sheet. You remember Trumpton Fire Brigade? Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb. Well, Lutontown's Fire Brigade would consist of Shea, Rea, Dewsbury-Hall, Tunnicliffe, Collins and Lee. You have to include the substitutes, of course, otherwise it won't work.

Not that the game against Lutontown was boring. Some aspects were, naturally, such as Lutontown themselves, who view football as a study in advanced clockwork. Any team can play like Lutontown if you drill them hard enough, then you just wind them up and let them go.

Another boring aspect of the game was doing this report, not because we don't enjoy doing reports per se but because we hate saying THE SAME THINGS OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Forest start okay, concede sloppily to ruin the first half, come on strong in the second half and equalise. Match after match. Even having a man sent off didn't change the script significantly.

Another boring thing is this preoccupation with Forest "starting slowly". It's boring because, at least in this match, it's not true. Forest were doing fine. Knockout was causing real problems, Taylor came close to scoring, Forest's pressing forced Lutontown to clockwork backwards time after time. Then Lutontown scored from a sloppily conceded corner. No, Forest did not start slowly. What they did do was not score early, or even not score first. Some people are of the opinion that if Forest were ever to score first they would thump somebody ten nil. Other people aren't.

We don't like doing player assessments, but if we did we'd say that Brice Samba doesn't seem to have much to do these days apart from one good save. Christie is probably a better attacker than defender (great cross). McKenna doesn't mess about. Toby Figgis occasionally does. Ioannou seems to have fallen through several floors of rotten wood and landed in the cellar where the junk is kept. One thing he shares with Wayne Rooney, however, is that his team plays better when he's not there. Colback seems to be getting over his obesity problem, but he's not there yet. Yates, whose in-off got Forest their point, is just a big horsey man-of-the-match horse. Knockout is small, muscular and classy, like Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt. Sameobi continues to be as entertaining as a swivelling one man band, whatever that is. Lolley seems trapped in some weird phase-shifting experiment where he inconveniently drifts off into another dimension. Some say that, on occasion, you can see right through him. Taylor looks a good 'un, but will have to start scoring hat-tricks before we afford him Collymore potential. Jenkinson came on for Ioannou and, oddly, seemed more comfortable with his boots on the wrong feet.

We'll leave the problems about not scoring enough, gruesome kit, midfield selection, lack of subs etc, to Mister Hughton, because he's a better manager than we will ever be. We'll just wait patiently until Forest go nuclear, which we have every expectation of happening in the not too distant future.

Even without the Grosicki.


GAME 9 : OCTOBER 31 2020
MISERABLEBUGGER 1 FOREST 0

Let's keep this short.

That was one of those games which had "garbage" written all over it. The blame must lie, as it so often does, with Halloween's own Neil Warlock. First of all, he is still there, when he should be muckspreading his ideas about football behind some distant hedge. Secondly, his pre-match comments about Forest having the best squad in the league had such an unbalancing effect on Mister Hughton that the Forest manager instructed his team to play rubbish just to prove Warlock wrong.

There were many things which were troubling, but the most troubling thing of all was that nothing was learned from the game, no advances were made and no problems were solved. It was, literally, a pointless exercise.

Even trying Guerrero as lone striker and Bong at left back made no difference. The creativity levels in Forest's midfield are so low, they might as well play Pluto the Dog up front for all the service he gets. And although the much maligned Bong didn't disgrace himself, his contribution to the team dynamic was little more than a cautious occupation of space.

So, nothing new there. Nothing new in midfield either, with Colback obstructing things like a giant crab and Yates occasionally horsing it over or horsing it wide or horsing it to the opposition with suicidal enthusiasm. Nothing new at the back, where McKenna was tremendous but Toby Figgis could easily have got himself sent off and Forest's habitual and fatal lapse came when Christie fell asleep in that way he does. Sometimes he looks cool, but it's really just lethargy.

Nothing new in the lack of support for Knockout, who must be wondering which planet he's landed on, or the alarming deterioration in Freeman's game, or Sameobi's frustrating inconsistency, or Lolley's disappearing act.

Nothing new at all, not even the excuses. Frankly, Miserablebugger could have scored three, but at least they provided everybody with an example of how low you can sink in terms of quality and still beat Forest.

How can a club which, according to many people, have the best manager and the best squad in the league be that poor?

If they don't improve soon it might occur to some of us that many people are telling us lies.

And now here's Boris to tell us a few more.


GAME 10 : NOVEMBER 4 2020
FOREST 2 COVENTRICITY 1

We are Chris Hughton's Singing Band, we're Forest through and through,
And if you give us half a crown we'll sing a song for you.

It may not be melodic and the words don't always fit,
And though we try our best to rhyme it often comes out shit.

But here we've started brightly, our lyrics make some sense,
We're weaving two-touch harmonies in front of Cov's defence.

And after half an hour's worth of knocking on their doors,
Sow cudgels one across the box... and Scott McKenna scores!

We are Chris Hughton's Singing Band, we're Forest through and through,
We're one nil up at half time, and we don't know what to do.

"Here's what to do," the devil says. "You lose the will to play."
And, sadly, in the second half, the devil gets his way.

Now all creation turns to dust, ambition turns to rot,
The mighty Sow is heard no more, because his lungs are shot.

They score, of course. All singing stops. The midfield falls apart.
The finest singers in the league can barely raise a fart.

The clock runs down, the Reds hang on, the crowd left months ago,
The devil plants his poisonous seeds and watches as they grow.

But wait, with seconds left to go, Lyle Taylor breaks away,
He's bearing down on City's goal in one last frantic play.

An outstretched arm, a tiny push, a white mop hits the floor,
The Mop converts the spot kick and two one's the final score.

We are Chris Hughton's Singing Band, we're Forest through and through,
We'll sing them back to hell we will, the devil and his crew.

The song we sing's not tuneful and it doesn't say a lot,
It may not be much good, but it's the only song we've got.


GAME 11 : NOVEMBER 7 2020
FOREST 2 WICKHAM 0

Good things come in threes, they say. Some people say bad things come in threes, but that's just another way of saying that the three good things are happening to somebody else.

Anyway, the three good things that turned up simultaneously on Saturday were, in order of satisfaction, Forest beating Wickham, Biden beating Trump, and Barnsley beating Derby.

The match against Wickham began promisingly, mainly because Taylor looked sharp and, behind him, Guerrero was linking well from midfield. After coming close on two occasions, Forest scored after half an hour. Christie chipped over a cross which baffled the Wickham goalkeeper by travelling much further than it had any right to, and there was Taylor to stab in a header at the far post. It was a delightful goal. Even Taylor's celebration showed that he was a man who knew his business.

A minute later, Derby goalkeeper David Marshall passed the ball to somebody who might have been called Charlie Chaplin, who duly put Barnsley ahead. It was comforting to know that Wayne Rooney's return had indeed made the Sheep worse. These little pleasures sustain one in challenging times.

And then it was reported that Sleepy Joe Biden had won the U.S. presidential election, and that the days of the Giant Human Fart and his so called "family" of clockwork dolls were, if not gone, then certainly numbered.

After half time, Yates replaced Sow who, worryingly, seems to have less that 45 minutes of good football in him these days. Forest were pushed back not by good play but by mostly long range determination, but, despite bringing on some heavy bloke with a reversible name and Forest's own Garath McClearly, Wickham didn't really make it the "hard fought" game as the Sky reporter who probably wasn't there called it. There were a couple of easily saved shots and a bappy header which drifted wide, but that was all. At the other end, Guerrero demonstrated another string to his bow with a well-taken free kick which just cleared the angle.

Wickham may have thought they had a chance of equalising, but their hopes were deflated after 74 minutes when Taylor got his second. He retrieved his own misplaced pass and, from thirty yards out, went on a powerful, driving run into the penalty area and belted an unstoppable shot home. And suddenly there we were, me and Stress, back in the nineties, watching another powerful striker go on another driving run and belt another unstoppable shot home. You may disagree, but we think LT and SVC have much in common. It's a nice thought, and these little pleasures sustain us in challenging times.

While the Wickham goalkeeper was making fine saves to deny Arter and Knockout, a fine pass from somebody who might have been called Charlie Chaplin put through Adeboyejo, who curled a splendid shot past David Marshall in the Derby goal.

And so it ended. Forest went to 12 points. Derby ended up rock bottom. Kamala Harris couldn't stop smiling.

Of course, satisfaction is not the same as perfection. As the Forest goals went in, the isolated shouts of celebration echoed across an empty stadium, a momentary reminder of the times we live in. In America, Trump's noxious legacy will linger a while yet. And another bout of self-delusion may see Derby through their troubles.

But these things are for another day, and such a pleasurable thought sustains us in challenging times. Have a good break.


GAME 12 : NOVEMBER 21 2020
BARNSLEH 2 FOREST 0

That was a bit of a setback, wasn't it Stress?

Never happened, Pie.

What's that you say?

It never happened, Pie.

You're saying we weren't beaten 2-0 by Barnsleh, is that right?

That may well be exactly what I'm perhaps saying.

But that's ridiculous.

No more ridiculous than the so called "score". It's just beyond belief that Forest should be comfortable for three quarters of the game then Barnsleh somehow find two goals from nowhere. Where did they come from? Were they stolen? It's big-time suspicious. If that game had finished after 75 minutes, then...

But it didn't finish after 75 minutes, did it, because games last at least 90 minutes. It's in the rules.

And whose rules are they, Pie? A bunch of nasty, senile, stone-cold losers, many of them severely dead. No, quoting old men's rules won't stop me thinking that the whole thing was a terrible fraud from the very beginning.

Now you're just being silly. We watched the match on Sky, for heaven's sake.

But did we, Pie?

Of course we did.

But did we, Pie?

What the hell are you talking about?

The match we saw may not have been the match that was played. There are a lot of definitely not fake rumours that the match we saw was a repeat of the infamous FA Cup tie of 2001, played at Oakwell behind closed doors during the worst of the Barnsleh Umbrella Riots, which Barnsleh won 2-0. The game, not the riots. You can't just ignore truly powerful evidence because you don't like it, Pie.

That is not evidence, Stress. That's just bullshit.

Not according to social media, Pie. There you will find millions of decent, hardworking, totally not insane people who think Barnsleh rigged that match in a truly shocking and terrible way, and if that isn't good enough for you, I don't know what is.

Groan.

Did you say groan?

It's the only way I know of representing the sound of a groan without writing nonsense.

I think you may change your groany attitude if I tell you that, with the backing of a completely not spurious and untraceable crowd-funding website, I have instructed my lawyer, George Bodies, to present truly great evidence of terrible Barnsleh fraud to the Supreme Court.

George Bodies?

A highly respected solicitor from Worksop who made his name as a prosecutor in the Barnsley Umbrella Riots.

Didn't he used to run a barber's shop on Eastgate?

Not to my certain knowledge, Pie.

Well good luck with that, my almost completely deranged friend.

We'll see who's deranged, Pie.

Trump.

Did you say trump?

It's the only way I know of representing the sound of a trump without writing nonsense.

Okay.......

Okay then....


GAME 13 : NOVEMBER 24 2020
AFC MUFF v FOREST PREVIEW

This match report business has just got tedious, to be honest. It's got tedious because everything about Forest has become tedious - the desperate recruitment strategy, the inability of any manager to get these misfits to play as a team, the snide rumours about "trouble behind the scenes", the cyclical drift into trouble...

So we've has enough of recording defeats, and we'll devote ourselves from now on to producing Match Previews, which may occasionally make reference to football, though this is not guaranteed. Here's the Bournemouth one.


Bournemouth is one of only two towns in the British Isles which doesn't now how to spell itself. The other is that absurd Welsh place.

The area which was to become Bournemouth was originally a deserted heathland occasionally visited by fish. Bournemouth's growth accelerated with the arrival of a train, and it became a town in 1870. Part of the historic county of Hampshire, Bournemouth joined Dorset for administrative purposes following the reorganisation of local government in 1974. Through local government changes in 1997, the town began to be administered by a unitary authority independent of Dorset County Council, although it remains part of that ceremonial county. Since April 2019 the unitary authority has been merged with that of Poole, as well as the non-metropolitan district of Christchurch to create the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole unitary authority. These days, nobody has a fucking clue who is responsible for the bins.

The town was especially rich in literary associations during the late 19th century and earlier years of the 20th century. P. C. Wren, author of Beau Geste (starring Gary Cooper, Ray Milland and Robert Preston, in a story ostensibly about sand), lived there. Beatrice Webb, later Potter, lived and worked in the town. Beatrice Potter was the one who helped found the London School of Economics and The Fabian Society, not the Beatrix Potter who left us with the immortal line: “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were -- Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ”

J. R. R. Tolkien, spent 30 years taking holidays in Bournemouth, staying at the Hotel Miramar, where he would hold court in the bar making up daft stories for beer. He eventually retired to the area in the 1960s with his wife Edith, where they lived close to Rivendell. Tolkien died in September 1973 at his home in Bournemouth but was buried in the Last Homely House to the East, in Oxfordshire.

Percy Florence Shelley lived at Boscombe Manor; a house he had built for his mother, Mary Shelley, the writer and author of the Gothic horror novel, Frankenstein. Mary died before the house was completed but she was reconstituted in Bournemouth, in accordance with her wishes. The family plot in St Peter's churchyard also contains her parents William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, the heart of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, an early Singer sewing machine manual and a packet of pins.

Author Bill Bryson worked for a time with the Bournemouth Echo newspaper and wrote about the town in his 1995 work Notes from a Small Island, a document of such stylistic dreariness it found its way almost immediately onto GCSE English comprehension papers.

How such a weird place spawned a football team of any note is a matter for debate, though it seems fitting that they should avoid the run-of-the-mill title Bournemouth F.C., and opt instead for A.F.C. Bournemouth like the enormous pseudo-European ponces they are.

Still, they were easily better than Nottingham Forest, who are beginning to go through the motions of losing with a growing degree of efficiency.

Bournemouth 2 Forest 0. More surprises to follow.


GAME 14 : NOVEMBER 29 2020
FOREST v ABERTAWE PREVIEW

Tell me, Pie, what will you say when we are inevitably beaten by Swansea on Sunday?

I shall say, Ho hum ... never mind.

Ho hum?

Yes, I shall say Ho hum ... never mind.

Nobody says Ho hum these days.

Nevertheless, that is what I shall say.

Okay then - what if Forest struggle their way towards a point, only to concede in the 97th minute to lose 1-0?

In that case, I shall say These things happen.

And what if Swansea score after three minutes and go on to win 1-0 because Forest have no shots on goal?

Then I shall say It can't be helped.

Really? What about 2-0?

There's no point crying over spilt milk.

There is if the milk bottle smashes and cuts your toe off because you were making tea with no shoes on.

Then you would be crying over a severed toe, not spilt milk.

What if we lose 3-0?

Then I think Tomorrow is another day might be appropriate.

Really? All you can say after being thrashed by a bunch of fake Welshmen is Tomorrow is another day?

Well, Some you win, some you lose.

You certainly do.

You can't win them all..

You certainly can't. Fourteen nil.

What?

We lose fourteen nil...

Not to worry.

Twenty nil. The FA charges us with bringing the game into disrepute. Hughton is sacked. What do you say to that?

I shall say several things. I shall say Don't fret ... Chin up ... No harm done ... Life goes on. Personally, I prefer Life goes on because, you know, it does.

You've given up, haven't you Pie?

Not exactly given up, Stress, merely come to terms with the utter meaninglessness of football. Another Forest defeat only matters if you care. I choose to care about things that are worth caring about. You should try it. You'd be a happier person.

But...

As for now, whatever happens, Don't dwell on it ... Things will work out ... It's never as bad as it seems ... Worse things happen at sea.


And there we have it - Forest 0 Swansea 1. A full preview of our next surprising defeat, and reaction to it, will be with you shortly.


GAME 15 : DECEMBER 02 2020
FOREST v WATFOR? PREVIEW

There are many reasons to dislike Watfor?, the main one being Troy "Gobber" Deeney, a man who has an opinion about everything, and thinks that possibly concussed players should have the right to make instinctive decisions about the present and future state of their own brains.

The second reason for disliking Watfor? is that they're going to beat Forest with embarrassing ease. Watfor? are near the top of the Championship and just beat Preston Nob End 4-1. Forest are near the bottom and their confidence is in rags. Not so long ago (say, last year) Forest might have had the chance to pull off an unlikely victory, but this season - forget it.

The third reason for disliking Watfor? is that their victory over us will release a wasps' nest of spite and conspiracy. Forest will once more become a dustbinful of broken characters, managed by a man who "needs his own players" but won't get them, owned by some trigger-happy meddler who thinks he can build castles on foundations of sand.

The fourth reason for disliking Watfor? is that they've made me think about football again, when I'd vowed to give it up for Covid. To be fair, there's a lot of the beautiful game I've ignored, but things keep creeping through, like some of those non-league FA cuppers playing decent football. Or the recurrent phrase "Jack Grealish is the most fouled footballer in the Premier League" followed by "because he's a bloody cheat" which is whispered so quietly that nobody ever hears it. Or Fulham beating Leicester. Or Derby County, which turns out to be not so much a football club as a weirdly corrupt version of Mr. Blobbyland.

And finally, on this the eve of our fourth consecutive defeat, we can offer you only crumbs of joy and hope. The joy comes from Wazza's Sheep conceding another injury time equaliser. The hope comes from Preston, recently beaten 4-1 by Watfor?, going to Bournemouth and beating them 3-2. As Old Uncle Boff used to say, "Senselessness is the mother of optimism."

We'll see...

FOREST 0 WATFOR? 0

Signs of progress. Here's how they did.

Brice Samba: One of those goalkeepers who thinks that the Laws of Physics are simply an extension of his own will. His palming away of a cross and subsequent gathering of the return shot were, as far as he was concerned, planned events.

Cyrus Christie: Did his defensive duties satisfactorily, which meant that attacking opportunities had to be curbed, though that is no bad thing if it meant that he did his defensive duties satisfactorily, which he did. Could have attacked more. Whatever.

Toby Figgis: Did well, either because he is more comfortable playing alongside somebody who speaks proper English, or because Joe Worrall did much of his work for him. Both those things are unfair of course, but what happens when Scott McKenna returns?

Joe Worrall: Good to have him back, gob an' all. Splendid fellow.

Yuri Ribeiro: Bit hit and miss, but grew in confidence. We like Yuri Ribeiro, and he likes Nottingham Forest. Stay long and prosper, young man.

Ryan Yates: Still reminds us of a horse, but a more disciplined and defensively sound horse these days.

Anthony Knockaert: Plays like a faulty bulb, whose filament burns brightest before the bulb pops. As his name suggests, last night he ended up knockaert, a victim of Mister Hugeton's stubborn refusal to use subs properly.

Cafu: Did well. A receive, turn and run merchant of some quality. It's what happens after the "run" bit that needs work.

Ariata: Helped make the midfield work reasonably well, appeared to be wearing idiot boots, and got booked for objecting to Chalobah's life threatening tackles and pointing out what a vile bunch of thugs Deeney's crew actually were.

Joe Lolley: Spent the first half mulling over the purpose of life. Mister Hugeton explained to him at half time that life was simply a short precursor to a long rotting death, so he'd better make the most of it before it was too late. It worked. His second half contribution was substantial, and left him knockaert.

Lyle Taylor: Tremendous player, needs to score, deserves to score, great bloke, energetic, intelligent, likeable, passionate, but every match he ends up working with bits. It's amazing how many managers think strikers can and should do it on their own. Moves, Mister Hugeton, they need moves. Just saying like.

sub Sammy Ameobi: Managed to lose control of his legs almost immediately, and didn't have time to recover. Sammy needs at least ten minutes disentanglement time before he becomes properly functional.

Ref: David Webb (which was Jason Bourne's name before they started messing with his head) had to be escorted by security guards back to the Watfor? bus.

Unused subs: Far too many.


GAME 16 : DECEMBER 05 2020
READING LADIES v FOREST PREVIEW

There's far too much optimism around after the Watfor? performance, so here are some facts to smack that stupid grin off your face.

The only way Reading Ladies get beaten is if you bury them with goals, three at least. That's three goals in one match. The same match. So, despite the Ladies' wobbly form, there is no question of a Forest win.

I was once in a meeting where a proposal to do something was made, and the boss said "There's no question of it, of course." A colleague of mine piped up with "Does that mean we're doing it or not doing it?" The boss seemed irritated by this perfectly reasonable question and snapped, "Did you not hear what I said?"

So to conclude: Will Forest get well beaten by Reading Ladies? There's no question of it.

READING LADIES 2 FOREST 0

Aunt Sally is a traditional English game usually played in pub gardens and fairgrounds, in which players throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman's head. Leagues of pub teams still play the game today, throughout the spring and summer months, mainly in Berkshire.

Yesterday, we were set up to be the Aunt Sally of the Sky Championship - or at least that's what it felt like.

Welcome to Sky's big match at the magnificent Madejski Stadium where football is coming home in the form of 2000 Reading fans here to cheer on their team and of course we're all hoping for a thumping win so that the occasion doesn't fall flat or anything like that so their opponents today are Championship pushovers Nottingham Forest who are here for purely entertainment value you understand because even their own fans (who aren't allowed out because they're all diseased) would admit their team is little more than a bag of ill-fitting bits and here we go...

Fifteen minutes in and Forest aren't playing by the rules at all but wait - there we go! It's comedy gold time as Brice Samba waves at the moon and Ryan Yates handles on the line, gets sent off, and gives away a penalty goal which was just what the doctor ordered as 2000 Reading fans celebrate and anticipate more goals against 10-man Forest in Sky's big match here at the magnificent Madejski Stadium.

In the second half Reading go further ahead with a simple header and to be honest it's all become a bit pointless mainly because the younger, more energetic, more talented, cerulean-hooped Reading players are actually taking the piss out of the toothless two times European Cup winners, but the 2000 delirious Reading fans don't care about any of that, they're just happy to be here again in the magnificent Madejski Stadium where football is coming home and Forest have provided the perfect shambles of an opposition which the situation required...

"Sky - giving you what you want."

Now I know it wasn't really like that - not all of it anyway - but it bloody well felt like it. It felt like some warped version of "I'm A Celebrity etc" where somebody had dressed us as an old lady and was taking pot shots at our head. And what really made me angry was that we fitted the Aunt Sally role perfectly.

The aim of the pub game is presumably to knock Aunt Sally's head off, and if we don't improve, I fear there's one manager whose head will roll before too long.


GAME 17 : DECEMBER 09 2020
NORRIDGE v FOREST PREVIEW

The Ballad of Something or Other

I met a young fellow all dressed in red cotton
A-walking to Norwich one dark winter's day
He carried a ticket with nought written on it
And seemed unaware he was going the wrong way.

He sang as he walked did the red-shirted fellow
A mournful lament that brought tears to my eye
"Oh let the boys win," in a voice almost hollow
"Oh let the boys win or I surely shall die."

There's gold in the mountain, gold in the valley,
Gold in the hillside just waitin' for me...
Gold in the river, gold for the takin',
I'd give up that gold for one sweet victory.

I saw him no more on that drear winter's evening
Though sadly his boys were defeated I hear,
And true to his word he did die from his grieving
Did die in the spring of his eighty fifth year.

There's gold in the mountain, gold in the valley,
Gold in the hillside just waitin' for me...
Gold in the river, gold for the takin',
I'd give up that gold for one sweet victory.

NORRIDGE 2 FOREST 1

Smartarses say there are five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think I've reached stage three, but as I don't know what "bargaining" is, I've replaced it with "confusion".

You may, as a Forest fan, be aware of the condition. It manifests itself in an overwhelming uncertainty about everything on earth.

I have no idea, for example, whether Forest played well against Norridge, or had simply found a more interesting way of losing. I remain confused as to how a team could defend stoutly for 45 minutes (and even create some chances) and then allow a cross to avoid everything except Ribeiro's head which, as we all know, cannot be trusted in a pinch. I'm not even sure what a pinch is. Anyway, pancake header, one nil to the Canneries.

Did Forest play well in the second half? I'm not sure. They certainly worked hard and played with some spirit. Lolley had a few promising pops, which might mean he's getting his confidence back, except that repeated painful misses might work the other way, so I don't know about that either.

Anyway, Arter got taken off for repeatedly kicking the ball in the wrong direction and was replaced by Knockout who scored. Did he mean to score, or was it just another wild cross that went horribly right? By now I was so confused I decided to adopt the view that Forest could actually win this, but I had figured without Worrall's head deflecting some Norridge player's speculator into the bottom corner of the net. Was this deserved? Was it unlucky? I couldn't tell you. It felt unlucky, but there's always the smartarse who will tell you that you create your own luck. Like much else, I don't know what this means. It sounds like bollocks, but you never know.

Some people say that the Forest players will come good, others say the opposite. Some say Mister Hugeton will sort things out, others say he can't. Evidence for these conflicting opinions is everywhere and nowhere. Confusion reigns in the hearts of men.

One thing's for certain: Norridge, who are one deflection better than Forest, are top. This must mean something, but I haven't got a clue what it is.


GAME 18 : DECEMBER 12 2020
FOREST 1 BENTFOR'D 3

What's wrong at Forest can be summed up in one word. Everything. Everything's wrong at Forest. Even the ground appeared to be collapsing during yesterday's match.

It starts at the top. Not with God, though I suspect he abandoned us years ago, but with the Greek bloke. It would appear that our Greek owner and his associates originally saw the Olympiakos-Forest axis as being mutually beneficial, except that now Olympiakos continue to thrive while Forest wither on the vine. It's no wonder when, after throwing so many magic beans at us, the owner gets angry when the magic beans don't grow. "But they're not magic beans," argues somebody of no importance. "All the magic beans have landed somewhere else. All we're left with is a bag of mixed pulses, and all they do is make you fart."

So it starts at the top, with a completely wrong-headed approach to recruitment and squad development. The next thing that's wrong is the manager.

I refer you to Nottmtails' pinned tweet about the managerial strengths of Chris Hughton:
1.   A guiding light to young players
2.   Handles big characters
3.   Makes players better
4.   Inspiring team talks
5.   An open door
6.   A clear philosophy

Sadly, none of these qualities have been evident at Forest. Young players are guided onto the bench, there aren't any big players to handle, not one player has improved, half time team talks are too late, the open door is presumably the exit, and his philosophy seems based on Einstein's definition of madness. You will notice that the golden list contains no reference to coaching or tactics, which may explain why his team looks suspiciously uncoached and occasionally tactic free. No, this will not do. While Forest's situation deteriorates, Hughton denies we are in a relegation fight. The manager is wrong.

The players are wrong. Look at the Bentfor'd match. Samba made some good saves but in the end was crushed by the appalling inevitability of it all. Christie was lost somewhere inside his own imagination. Toby Figgis suffers from narcolepsy, so must remain blameless. Lolley just looked broken. Arter seemed to be at odds with his own body, again. Ameobi looked threatening, like the crazy man at the door selling toothpicks. The "excellent" Taylor fired more blanks. Knockout got so wound up his brain popped, though his sending off may have proved to be personally convenient. Worrall did fine. Ribeiro went unnoticed, as did Guerrero.

Yes, they did better in the second half, but final balls were poor, crosses were misdirected, shots were wide or high, penetration was accidental and the defence collapsed twice more. After the match, slightly weird Bentfor'd manager Thomas Frank said, ‘It’s a big win for us because Forest are way better than they are in the table.’ He was, of course, lying.

The officials were wrong, but there's nothing new there. I have for many seasons now posited the existence of a "Forest Black Book", which is compulsory reading for officials before every Forest match. It suggests that Forest are a bit too "up" themselves, and need to be "knocked down a peg or two". Therefore, serious fouls against Forest players are to go unpunished, whilst protests against such fouls shall attract a hefty fine. Penalties shall be awarded, but never actually to Forest. Any advantage gained by diving should be encouraged, unless the diver is a Forest player. All Forest goals, apart from meaningless consolations, shall be ruled offside.

The fans, of course, have always been wrong. Years of misdirection and underachievement have driven them half mad in the belief that going to the toilet will encourage a Forest goal, or watching paint dry will make all the bad things go away. These are not healthy signs.

And so, having accepted that everything is wrong at Forest, we go up against the Wendies. The Wendies are worse than us, and we're at home, so that should be all right then. When everything is wrong, nothing can get worse.


GAME 19 : DECEMBER 15 2020
FOREST 2 WENDIES 0

Last night, Forest became good by accident.

There's nothing wrong with coming good by accident. It is, after all, the main driving force of evolution. Nobody planned that those weird arborial apes would end up becoming you and me, just as nobody planned that the necessary absence of Toby Figgis, Arter, Lolley and even Knockout would allow Mebbe So, Mighten and Sow to pump several thousand cubic litres of oxygen into a team that had become despondently stagnant.

Of course, going a goal up inside 5 minutes helped a little. There was nothing accidental about Cafu's vision, the little roll of the ball to give Ribeiro the time to make up ground, the perfect pass and the calculated strike into the far corner. It was a very classy piece of work, which was almost as surreal as Yuri celebrating in front of nobody at all.

After another neat goal was chalked off for offside, Forest were reminded of the fragility of things in general when Mebbe So pancaked a header straight to Wendy Harris. Thankfully, Harris's drive was straight at Samba, but it left a few "what ifs" hanging in the air.

Things got a bit fraught, as they always do with Forest. The ball zipped around the Wendies' goalmouth, under Taylor's studs, back from Ribeiro, off Taylor's flicked boot towards goal, only to be cleared by Wendy Dunkley. Frantic as that was, the final action of the first half was a bit heart-stopping. Wendy Bannan's cross was grazed on by Wendy Windass just out of the reach of Wendy Reach at the far post. Actually, he was never going to reach it, but what if, eh?

The second half was a strange affair. Sameobi tried a speculator from twenty odd yards. The threat of Bannan had been suppressed and possibly consumed by Samba Sow. Mighten's zippy runs were running out of zip. It was tempting at this stage to start worrying about the slenderness of the lead, but to be honest the Wendies looked impotent, probably cowed by the behaviour of their manager who had clearly gone insane.

But the real joy of the night came with the introduction of Lewis Grabban. If there had been a crowd, he would have been greeted rapturously. In the eighty sixth minute, he chased a return from Sameobi, robbed Wendy Lees of the ball, and, in the eighty seventh minute, slotted it home with the most subtle of glides. If there had been a crowd, the roar would have probably demolished the stadium. And no, I don't think it was a foul. It was simply that Wendy Lees got his body shape in a mess and paid the price. And no, I don't know why that Wendies bloke high fived Lewis. Perhaps he just wanted Pony Tulips to shout at him so he could retaliate with a sharp punch to the nose.

But, happy as the evening was, please don't get carried away. Remember, the Wendies were poor, and the game was sponsored by trial and error. Remember the what-ifs, and remember that accidents don't always work in your favour, especially if you fail to learn from them.


GAME 20 : DECEMBER 19 2020
MEWO 1 FOREST 1

Well done Alex Mighten! But all in all, that was not a good match. The pitch was bad, the ref was a dick, the football was nonsense. The whole thing was made worse by the news that Boris and his clockwork friends had invented a whole new virus to justify locking down London. I'm still not convinced this season's football will ever be completed. In the meantime, here are some...

THINGS TO DO DURING LOCKDOWN
THING 1: HOW TO MAKE COTTAGE CHEESE

1. Get a cottage.
2. Borrow a cow. A black and white one will do.
3. You can keep the cow in the cottage if you wish, though this is not strictly necessary, as cows are waterproof.
4. Make sure the cow has at least one udder. If it does not have an udder you may have borrowed a bull.
5. Prepare to milk the cow, using one of the following methods:
(a) Buy a portable electric vacuum-pulse milking machine from Amazon.
(b) Hire an eighteenth century milk maid with disturbingly big hands.
(c) Do it yourself.
6. Having decided that for various ethical, financial and historical reasons, "do it yourself" is your only option, procure a three-legged milking stool and a galvanised bucket.
7. Avoid the novice's mistake of sitting on the upturned bucket.
8. Milk the cow with your back to any possible observers. It is important that nobody can see what you're doing.
9. Put the milk in a pot, heat it and add vinegar. The vinegar will separate the curds and the whey. Find the nearest tuffet, and sit on it. No, only joking.
10. Strain off the curd, put it in a cloth bag, run it under a cold tap and squeeze out the excess liquid. Proudly put the resulting cottage cheese in a dish before deciding that it is in fact an inedible catastrophe. Leave the cottage. Return the cow. Buy a pot of cottage cheese from the supermarket.

Next time, how to repair frost-damaged brickwork.

Have a happy Christmas everybody.


GAME 21 : DECEMBER 26 2020
FOREST 0 BORINGHAM 0

Forest looked bright from the off, whereas Boringham wore green in a desperate attempt to disguise themselves as grass. Sameobi and Yates did shots and stuff, and Yates did a falling-over-backwards shot but missed. To be fair, throughout the match Yates looked like the only one who had turned up to training. Or maybe he trains in private while the others bond by throwing Pot Noodles at the coaching team. Anyway, it was fitting that he should be the one who should fail to beat the Boringham goalkeeper Neil Etherbridge with what is known as "a chance". Sameobi did some curling shots and stuff which Neil Petherbridge stopped with the ease of a Daily Express reader swallowing sewage, and the first half came to an unsurprising end. Forest had done reasonably well in the technical sense of not doing well at all but being better than Boringham, whose grass camouflage mitigated against fluent passing.

The second half was, from a Forest point of view, entirely forgettable. Chris Hugeton must be the only manager in English football whose team talks magically turn players into directionless idiots. He probably says, "Remember what we did in training," forgetting that what they mostly did was throw Pot Noodles at the coaching team. In short, Boringham took over. Sanchez tested Samba at his near post, and later tested him again after wandering unmolested through the Forest defence. Chris Hugeton brought on substitutes which miraculously made Forest worse. Right at the end, Toby Figgis almost scored in an attempt to make up for being picked, but didn't.

They are hard work, these games, aren't they? Expectations have fallen so low that "three games unbeaten" is seen as progress, when everybody knows that Forest's progress is at best glacial and at worst a myth. Collecting clean sheets, Mister Hugeton, is an admirable pastime for clean sheet collectors, but does little to bring comfort in these perilous times.

In another disappointment, we apologise for not bringing you the promised "Things To Do During Lockdown" which, you will remember, was to be "Thing 2: How To Repair Frost Damaged Brickwork", but we received several emails complaining that "Thing 1: How To Make Cottage Cheese" had led to some quite severe domestic accidents and at least one hospitalisation, so that "Thing 2: How To Repair Frost Damaged Brickwork" has been postponed indefinitely.

By the way, the undoubted highlight of the match was Nob End's 96th minute winner against the Sheep. As one Sheep person said, "If Waggers didn't got sent off, we could of won." The truth, as they say, is in the pudding.


GAME 22 : DECEMBER 26 2020
STOKES 1 FOREST 1

Go on then, Pie, Read it out.

Why? You'll only take the peewee out of it like you always do.

No I won't Pie. I promise. Sprout's honour.

Okay then, here goes. A good second-half performance from Nottingham Forest saw them come from behind to earn a point against Stoke City this evening.

Come from behind. [snigger]

Chris Hughton made one change to the Forest side which drew against Birmingham on Boxing Day, with Knockaert replacing Alex Mighten who dropped to the bench.

Cos that's what we needed, a lack of pace up front, wasn't it Pie?

There was a quiet opening to the game with little in the way of goalmouth action.

You can tell this bloke was there, can't you Pie?

What?

I say you can tell this bloke was there. It's the detail, you see. He obviously felt it was important to register both the quietness and the lack of goalmouth action.

Are you being sarcastic?

Never, Pie.

... but Forest almost got some joy out of Knockaert’s superb set-piece delivery as Joe Worrall came close to prodding home from a corner on 16 minutes.

Yes, I remember that bit. Though I think he could have mentioned the part Grabban played in the almost goal. You know, the way he distracts the defence by not doing anything at all very much. Prodding is a funny word, isn't it Pie? Do you know, I don't think I've ever prodded anything in my life

I prodded a meringue once.

Really? What happened?

I honestly don't remember.

Is that right? You'd better get on with the report then.

Okay. A minute later and Brice Samba was called into action at the foot of his near post to keep out Sam Vokes’ flicked effort, but the Forest keeper was beaten from the resulting corner as Jordan Thompson’s delivery evaded Lewis Grabban at the front post and caught Samba by surprise as it snuck in off his shins.

O my God there is so much wrong with that sentence. For a start, there's no need for that and after later. And who uses the word snuck? What's wrong with sneaked?

It's like span, isn't it Stress?

What?

I say it's like span.

What's like spam?

No, span. People use the word span when they mean spun. Like in, "He span around to face her" which should really be "He spun around to face her."

That's the most interesting thing I've heard since your meringue story, Pie.

But nowhere near as interesting as your failure to comment on the delivery which evaded Lewis Grabban at the near post.

I've told you, Grabban's whole game is based on his ability to not do anything at all very much. If he doesn't do anything at all very much in the opposition's goal area, how can you expect him not to not do anything at all very much in his own?

Bit harsh that, Stress.

I say as I find, Pie. The truth is out there, hanging from the trees like chocolate sovereigns.

Of course it is. To continue: Forest started the second half well, moving the ball positively and working hard to create an opening. On 65 minutes Forest deservedly levelled the game as another excellent cross into the box by Knockaert was flicked into his own net by James Chester under pressure from Joe Worrall.

Don't forget the part Grabban played.

The match was being played in very difficult conditions as a thick fog descended, making visibility very limited.

Cos that's what fog does, doesn't it Pie? Limits visibility. In fact, you could say that limiting visibility is the main purpose of fog's existence. Its reason dirtier, as they say. The thicker the fog, the dirtier the reason.

Shut up, Stress. Forest were almost gifted the winning goal with five minutes remaining as the experienced Jon Obi Mikel inadvertently played a defence-splitting through pass for Cafu, who had read the situation well.

It might also have had something to do with Cafu's cloak of invisibility, being as what he was garbed in grey in a grey fog.

Fifty shades of grey, eh Stress?

We'll have none of that filth here, Pie. Finish it off.

Cafu controlled and shot goalwards from 15 yards out but Stoke keeper Joe Bursik was out quickly and got a crucial touch to divert the ball wide.

Open goal, Pie. Missed by somebody with the composure of a wet dog's leg. He could have won it for us, Pie. And we would have deserved it too. Okay, the first half was the usual tired rubbish from Hughton's dustbinful of Things That Once Worked, but the second half was much better...

Tobias Figueiredo got in a diving header which went just wide of the near post, Ryan Yates hammered over the bar and Knockaert broke through to fire wide with Taylor well-placed in the middle.

... much better, apart from the fact that we still don't actually score any goals. Which is why the future looks a bit bleak.

I wouldn't worry about the future, Stress. Either this season will be written off, or we'll all end up dead.

Well that's certainly cheered me up. Thank you, my fat friend.

Or maybe both. Anyway, against all the odds, here's to a better 2022.

Surely you mean 2021, Pie.

I say as I find, Stress. The truth is out there, hanging in the toilet like a politician's promise.


GAME 23 : JANUARY 2 2021
PRESTON NOB END 0 FOREST 1

From the evidence of this and recent matches, it is now clear what strategies Mister Hugeton is employing to bring success to Nottingham Forest.

It is obvious by now that Mister Hugeton and his coaching staff have no interest in or understanding of creative attacking play. Like many defensive-minded managers, Hugeton relies almost entirely on gifted individuals to create opportunities to score. If those gifted individuals do not exist, then they are replaced by those two dull fellows, Grit and Determination.

The only attacking method employed by Mister Hugeton is the use of wing backs. Christie and Ribeiro are encouraged to drive down the flanks and produce crosses. Sadly, these crosses have become frustratingly bollocks of late. Not that it would make much difference if they were more accurate, considering we have the only non-heading centre forward in the world. Carrying on doing stuff like this might seem nonsensical, but Mister Hugeton is a great believer in Perseverance.

Much use will be made of "the woodwork", although we understand that modern goalposts are made from reinforced aluminium. Nob End hit the reinforced aluminium twice. Many suspect that Brice Samba wafts away these shots in the certain knowledge that they will hit bar or post. Some suspect he uses force of will to bend the shots onto "the woodwork". These people are of course insane, but "the woodwork" will continue to be an important defensive element in Forest's resurgence, providing Solidity at the back.

Goals will be scored in non-standard ways. This is necessary as nobody in Red seems to be able to shoot properly. Non-standard ways include own goals (as in the Stokes game), or semi-fluffed penalties by nervous captains (as in the Nob End game). Other non-standard ways to look forward to are accurate headers from Ryan Yates, wildly off-target crosses which drift into the far corner of the net, comical goalkeeping mistakes and perhaps some fog for good measure.

An important part of Forest's improvement will be the habit of defending a slim lead by giving away free kicks in dangerous places in the ridiculous amount of extra time awarded to Nob End by a malicious referee. This kind of lunacy both builds Character and will provide an effective laxative when the crowds return.

Joe Lolley, fresh from his Goa'uld sarcophagus, will continue to be wheeled out until he believes himself to be a God. No kidding. According to those in the know, the naquada driven sarcophagus "can heal all illness and damage done to the body. Using it very occasionally produces no ill effects. However, when used regularly, the psychological side effects can include megalomania, intense notions of superiority, and flashing eyes."

If none of the above methods work, there is always the fallback position of everybody dying from the latest variant of Covid-19, grimly called the Doomsday Variant after it is discovered that the available vaccines offer no protection from it. Despite Boris Johnson's promise to destroy the virus with Spitfires, all human life ends in April 2021 and the football authorities reluctantly decide to curtail the season.

So there you have it. By depending on Grit and Determination, Perseverence, Solidity, Fluke, Character, Naquada and the Extinction of the Human Race, Forest should be okay, one way or another.


GAME 24 : JANUARY 16 2021
FOREST 3 MEWO 1

Well that was just odd, in ten or eleven ways.

1.   There's something really odd about watching crowdless matches. Crowd noise is a kind of filter which has the unusual effect of speeding things up and making them blurry. Without noise, things slow down and grow sharper. That's why crowdless matches have that weird slow-motion, high definition, empty swimming bath quality which we're not yet used to. It's either that, or all the players are tired and really clean. Or I've gone mad. Whatever.

2.   Three goals is an odd number of goals to score in one match. Forest often score one, which is odd, but not as odd as three. Forest last scored three in one match on Sunday June 28th 2020 when they beat Uddersfeel 3-1. On that day, two goals from Lewis Grabban moved Forest up to fourth, and 78 people died from covid.

3.   Forest played in an oddly convincing way. With Cafu threatening to look a bit like a playmaker and Sow finding time to stomp forward dangerously, Forest's midfield looked suspiciously like that of a proper football team. People have suggested that they may have "worked on things" in training, but this is unlikely to be true. The reason Forest controlled the match was probably that an oddly useless Mewo gave them all the time they wanted.

4.   Mewo were oddly useless. Without the brutal stupidity of their supporters, they seemed lost. Perhaps they are in transition, which is another way of saying that Gary Rowett is in charge, and he has as much idea what he is doing as any man who's had his left ear pinned forward for no apparent reason. Their kit seemed lost, too. I remember shirts like that from secondary school changing rooms. "Forgotten your football shirt again, Pogson? Here, put this on."

5.   Sameobi remains magnificently odd. I thought for many years that his eccentric playing style was caused by universal joints, but now realise he is built from the toughest rubber, like Stretch Armstrong. His wonderful second goal was made possible by an outrageous degree of flexion in his left shin and a foot like a spade. His celebration involved performing enormous rubbery leaps and grinning like Bluto...

6.   ...which seems normal compared with the odd celebration performed by Ryan Yates after scoring Forest's third. The goal itself, the neatest of flicks from what looked like a pretty shabby corner, was so rare and special that it reduced the young man to a state of manic and directionless enthusiasm. His gallop ended with an awkward slide and an obvious invitation to his team mates to molest him. It was the kind of oddly embarrassing thing you do when you've forgotten how to behave in a given situation, an experience shared by many forum members as the goals went in.

7.   What was really odd was the behaviour of the referee, Mister Stroud. Mister Stroud has a long and celebrated history of allowing West Brom's Jake Livermore to cripple Forest players, but in this match he seemed unusually muted, presumably because there was no crowd to play to, or Jake Livermore was off crippling somebody somewhere else.

8.   It's odd how often the meeja hypes up a manager and his team only to see said manager/team fall flat on their face. It's almost like cause and effect. And it's odd how often that manager and his team is Wayne Rooney's Dhabi County. They did it again, didn't they - all Rooney retires this and Rooney manages that before losing at home to fellow strugglers Rotheringham. Perhaps they should stop pretending to be an embryonic Man City, or even a proper football club, because they don't seem very good at it. Ask their fans.

9.   The oddest thing of all was the feeling of complete relaxation throughout the match. Not for a long time have Forest provided such a stress free experience. It would be nice to think we could have an equally smooth ride to safety, but the numbers at the lower end of the table offer no reason for complacency.

10.   Leed lost. To Brighton. At Elland Road. It's odd that the meeja keep harping on about them being "a breath of fresh air" while ignoring their obvious decline. It's also odd that nobody dares admit this decline is caused by Bielsa working his players to death. They're already starting to look knackered, like those donkeys on that charity advert. Perhaps we should send money.

11.   There's far too much Schadenfreude in this cake. It tastes of smugness and Germans. Be warned. It's Miserablebugger next.


GAME 25 : JANUARY 20 2021
FOREST 1 MISERABLEBUGGER 2

LIVE COVERAGE OF LAST NIGHT'S GAME

Forest wake up to find the game has started, just in time to deflect a Miserablebugger shot and clear their lines after the resulting corner. It looks like Miserablebugger are up to their old tricks of playing football with players who can play football in a team formation which they all understand. Forest, on the other hand, are dithering like old ladies trying to find their purse in a bagful of walnuts and false teeth. Tavernier nicks the ball and shoots from inside the box.

Eventually Forest threaten Miserablebugger's box, but Sameobi booms the ball towards Uranus. Back to normality, it seems. The same can be said of Christie as he launches yet another cross towards somebody else's anus far, far away. Things are not going smoothly, but at least Miserablebugger haven't scored.

Miserablebugger score. Forest give a startlingly good impression of nodding off as Howson crosses for Assombalonga to score. The Forest players look at each other and realise with horror that not only do they not recognise their team mates, they have trouble remembering what they're supposed to be doing there in the first place.

Trends begin to materialise. The ref begins to react to Warnock's swearing by punishing Forest players. Cafu begins to bugger up good chances, Grabban tries the old Forest trick of crossing brilliantly to himself who is of course not there because he's the one crossing it, and Ryan Yates misses a decent chance by heading it in every possible direction but the right one. The game takes a grimly comical turn when Assombalonga's header hits the post and rebounds off Samba's head to eventual safety. Forest try to match the humour by being laughably useless in attack.

Saville wastes another Miserablebugger chance. Cafu mis-controls a through ball. Cafu's corner is easily intercepted. Howson wastes another Miserablebugger chance. It comes as a surprise when half time comes and Cafu manages to get off the pitch without falling on his arse. This may sound harsh, but that's because it's meant to.

Sow is taken off at half time because he's been as bad against Miserablebugger as he was good against Mewo. He is replaced by Taylor, to form a Taylor/Grabban combination which has failed to work in the past and will undoubtedly fail in the future until Hughton realises that the number of strikers makes no difference if they're not getting the ball. Still, best to think positive when you're only one nil down.

Forest go two down. Assombalonga does brilliantly to release Saville who scores with confident ease. Assombalonga's career seemed to be going nowhere at Miserablebugger until Warnock sharpened him up. Warnock gets players playing. Just saying.

Things get worse. Miserablebugger start taking the pee. Another Miserablebugger shot hits the woodwork. The ref's decision making has gone the way of the fairies. Lolley limps on. Samba keeps it at two with a world class save. Yates is injured, and it looks serious. He is replaced by Mebbe Soh.

Soh scores with a wonderful volley, reminding Hughton that he's probably the only footballer at the club with any genuine class.

Forest's attempt to grab an equaliser consists of Knockout playing the fart to get a yellow, and Ribeiro getting sent off for a petulant tackle born of frustration.

And that's that, and what that was was horrible. Aimless and gormless and horrible. All that stuff about Hughton guiding us to safety seems silly now that we're back fighting the dogs of relegation. Days like today make you wonder whether we've made any progress at all.


GAME 26 : JANUARY 30th 2021
FOREST 0 BARNSLEH 0

The worst thing you can say about a football match is that it's not worth the reporting.

So we won't bother with this match, then.

And even if we did bother with it, we'd realise very quickly that we were just saying the same things over and over again, as if Forest had its own ready-to-run template for garbage matches. Recording the tiresome inadequacies of the same old players twice a week is bad enough, but even worse is Hughton's insistence on hiding the truth with a million words, like pouring custard on a burnt and bitter plum pie. "Manager Chris Hughton had plenty to say after the match..." is a sentence we've come to dread of late.

There is hope, of course, but that hope does not lie with the majority of players or any of the management/coaching team. It lies with such as Krovinovic, who must have wondered what kind of ditch he'd slipped into, and the new lad Garner, who has yet to be tainted by Hughton's desiccating influence, and even Murray, who should at least add some heft to the weakest strike force in the Championship.

Still, at least me and Missis Pie have got our covid jabs booked in for this week. We had to do it by phone (thank you, tired young booking lady) after wasting an hour on a website which declared every booking "unavailable" before looping you back to the beginning. By Wednesday we should be immortal, which is nice.


GAME 27 : FEBRUARY 2nd 2021
COVENTRICITY 1 FOREST 2

That match reminded me of School Team football, us versus Saint Hilarious second eleven, Saturday morning on the Grimpen Mire in torrential rain. Five parents turned up, one of them swearing drunk. The football was surprisingly good until the unprotected leather ball got sodden and drowned in the centre circle lake. Conditions improved in the second half but the play deteriorated rapidly when they brought on the incontinent fat kid and the overaged lump who just happened to be the headmaster's son. We lost. Ah, those were the days.

The difference, of course, was that in this grown-up version we won. The first half was pretty good, apart from Cyrus Crusty falling over as their forward prepared to shoot, which he did through Toby Figgis's legs and past Samba into the goal. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at this point. But the cursing didn't last long, as Sameobi did his winger's job properly by not smashing it into some parallel dimension but cutting it back for Grabban to send everybody the wrong way with a neat angled finish. Now, it goes without saying, Grabban would go on a scoring run so prolific it would take us into the top six and everybody would have Mrs Darlington's Legendary Lemon Curd delivered by their milkman for the rest of their lives.

Indeed, Forest were playing some decent stuff despite the conditions, what with Garner and Krovinovic adding brains and energy to the midfield. The defence looked sound despite the early setback. Half time came and went, as half times do.

The second half was a different story. Coventricity brought on right winger Dacosta, Hughton brought on the fat kid on the left. Dacosta would go on to give Forest's left back Bong a torrid time, what with Bong getting no protection at all from the fat kid, who was far too busy wondering where his next breath came from. Despite the increasing threat, Cyrus Crusty managed to deliver a cross so wicked it forced the newly arrived Rose to thigh the ball into his own net. Huzzah for the men in red.

Things then went downhill, almost literally. As Coventricity flooded the midfield to deny Garner and Krovinovic space, the whole game tipped towards Forest's goal, and Forest's defence were put under increasing pressure. Cafu, who didn't do much, was replaced by Colback, who had a similar effect. Samba performed well in goal. Grabban headed off the line, though according to some this may be an urban myth. Freeman apparently exploded near a corner flag. Murray replaced Grabban, a substitution whose effect was so subtle it was lost on many of us, especially Taylor. Blackett came on to stomp out the threat of Dacosta. Samba extended the match by knocking an opposition player senseless, but after an eternity of extra time Forest survived. Well, survived is a bit strong, because with the greatest of respect to Coventricity they were pretty crap.

Wickham next. I once knew a bloke from High Wickham called Steve, and not everybody can say that. Now me and Missis Pie are going to be immortalised with Pfizer or the other one.


When I was a youngster living in a council house in Worksop, every Sunday I would notice a well built young man walking past our house and turning right into the next street. He was always, I remember, immaculately suited. I learned later that he was visiting his parents, but I had no idea who he was.

Shortly afterwards I went to my first Forest game, and there he was, barrelling down the right wing. I recognized him immediately. It was Peter Hindley. He walked past our house many times, but I was too scared to ask for his autograph.

Now he has died, and his passing brings great sadness, but I will always remember the smart young bloke and his talented team mates with enormous fondness. Thanks for the memories, Tank.


GAME 28 : FEBRUARY 6th 2021
WICKHAM 0 FOREST 3

AT PIE MANSIONS...

It's not how slow your body is, it's where you put it that counts, Vetch.

I beg your pardon, sir?

That Murray fellow, Vetch. They said he was too slow, but speed has nothing to do with it. Body placement is the thing. Look at his first goal. See how he keeps the ball on his right side, keeping his whole body between himself and the defender to his left. He even lobs the goalkeeper with his right foot. There is no way that the defender can get round him to block the shot, no matter how fast he is. Clever stuff that, from Murray. Army training, don't you know.

Army training, sir?

Army training, Vetch. It's what our infantry commander used to scream at us all the time: Body Weight and Body Placement! Fend off the bloody Cossacks on your left and kick their arses with your right. Worked every time. Look at that fellow Murray's second goal. Fifteen stone of British beef in the right place and they don't stand a chance. Went through the Cossacks like a bag of Nibbits. Do you remember Nibbits, Vetch?

I'm afraid not, sir.

I miss Nibbits, Vetch.

Are you feeling quite all right, sir? You seem a little distracted.

Actually, Vetch, I've just been for that Alfred Zeneca jab thing, and it's left me feeling a tad groggy.

Astra Zeneca, I think it's called sir.

I thought they made fireworks?

They used to, sir, but now they specialise in pharmaceuticals. Still, the Foresters' performance must have pepped you up a little.

Heft and placement, Vetch. Works every time.

Although, apart from Murray's goal, the first half was a bit of a trial, I think, what with the Foresters backing off and inviting pressure.

It's called forming a square, Vetch. Army training again. It's what our infantry commander used to scream at us all the time: If the Cossack comes hard at you, form a square! That's what the Forest fellows did, and the Wickhamites broke against the red square like a bag of Nibbits.

And in the second half, the Foresters took over completely, did they not?

They did, Vetch. I was impressed with many of them. The Knockout fellow seemed to enjoy playing with his old mate Murray and scored a splendid goal. Kroviniac was impressive for a Cossack. The young boy Garner is promising. The defence formed square well. Even the substitutes seemed to enjoy themselves. Yes, it was a happy day.

Although it has to be remembered that the opposition were poor, sir.

You're quite right, Vetch. We mustn't get above ourselves, as they used to say in the opium dens of Tim Pan. Especially that Hugeton fellow. Still don't trust the chap.

But sir...

No, Vetch, I refuse to dole out credit to a man who has turned Freeman into a Space Hopper. Do you remember Space Hoppers, Vetch?

No sir, but...

They were okay if you needed your coccyx displacing, otherwise they were bloody useless. As for the Hugeton fellow, we'll wait for a couple more matches before we start dishing out the raspberry jam, shall we?

If you say so, sir.

I do say so, Vetch. God I miss Nibbits. Can you still get them, Vetch?

I think not, sir. I understand that the nearest modern equivalent is something called Pom Bears.

Pom Bears?

Pom Bears, sir.

Good God, Vetch, I fear for mankind.


GAME 29 : FEBRUARY 13th 2021
FOREST 0 AFC MUFF 0

What's that, Stress?

That, my obese chum, is a Hughtonometer.

A Hughtonometer, eh?

A Hughtonometer. You're probably wondering what it's for.

Not really.

Then I'll tell you. It's for measuring people's satisfaction levels with the performance of Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton.

You surprise me.

I know. I just got fed up of people telling me how lucky we were to have him, so I decided to find a way to judge him scientifically. Hence the Hughtonometer.

I notice it's pointing at "undecided". Tell me, Stress, what does that mean, scientifically?

It means that the judgment parameters are conflicting, Pie. People are neither convinced nor unconvinced by his performance.

But surely people can see an ongoing improvement during Mister Hughton's tenure. Look at the match against AFC Muff. That was a more than satisfactory performance against a top six side.

Yes, Pie, the team played reasonably well. Sadly, the Hughtonometer does not measure the team's performance, but that of the manager. And even in this match, his contribution was questionable.

What are you talking about, you silly man?

There's no need for that kind of abuse, my fat accomplice. It's not me who informs the Hughtonometer, but the Facts. and the Facts are as follows. The only contribution Mister Hughton made to the AFC Muff match was to fail to bring on a substitute to force a result.

What?

All the positive stuff came from the players themselves. The fancy free kicks - can you imagine Mister Hughton inspiring and organising such creative moves? Of course not. Can you imagine him telling Kron'c and Garner and Knockout how to generate sequences of tricky interplay? Of course not. All Mister Hughton does, all he has ever done, is recruit the players to do his job for him. Hence Murray. I would suggest that Mister Hughton doesn't have much of a clue about creative play, but his new players do. And I would remind you that management is so much more than just recruitment, and the ability to talk for endless hours about nothing in particular.

Hang on a minute. Forest just denied a top six side a shot on target...

Yes, and if it were not for Mister Hughton's defensive coaching skills, he would slip firmly into the "rubbish" section of the Hughtonometer. And before you repeat the "top six" stuff again, I must say that AFC Muff were a huge disappointment. All they had were Stanislav with a couple of wanky efforts, Shane "I've Never Actually Scored During A Match" Long, and Wilshere feeding off a rapidly dwindling supply of reputation. And a manager who even looks temporary. If Mister Hughton wasn't so packed with defensive stuffing, we could have won that match.

This is nonsense, Stress. Everybody but you can see how much better we are under Mister Hughton. Your "scientific" Hughtonometer is just a reflection of your own miserable opinion.

Not so, Fatso. Let me leave you with the most important fact of all. If the Wendies were to win their game in hand over Forest, Forest would be a mere two points above the relegation zone. Two points. If that is progress, it is the progress of a snail across a motorway. What is that?

That, my darling boy, is the Hughtonometer Mark 2. It's for measuring people's satisfaction levels with the performance of Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton. As you can see, based on purely scientific parameters, he's doing quite well.

You mock me sir.

I do indeed, sir.

Then let Swansea decide!

Swansea it shall be!


GAME 30 : FEBRUARY 17th 2021
ABERTAWE 1 FOREST 0

This is like watching a horror film in an empty cinema. No matter how skilful your protagonists, how brave, virtuous and deserving of high reward, down there on the sidelines a monster is waiting to open its head and, through several rows of the sharp, broken teeth, bellow its triumph into the hollow darkness.

Forest are certainly brave, virtuous and deserving of high reward. The arrival of Krovinovic and Garner has generated a surge of self belief in the team which takes Abertawe by surprise, reminding me very much of better days when a Billy Davies' eleven travelled to Caerdydd as the underdogs and attacked them to death. After a cautious start in which Abertawe's Hourihane shoots feebly wide, Forest start creating opportunities. There is Knockout, who seems to have been re-enthused to the point of madness, putting in a beautiful cross which evades Grabban and has to be flapped away by Abertawe keeper Woodman. There is Christy, cutting it back to Grabban who lays it off for Krovinovic whose shot is deflected for a corner. From the corner, Toby Figgis's header is cleared off the line. There is Garner finding Grabban who fires it across goal to where Grabban should be. Ribeiro and Knockout combine to come close. Lolley and Grabban set up Krovinovic who fires over. There is Knockout, profiting from another clever set piece routine to fire a shot onto the crossbar and away. At half time, Forest have proved to be the more dangerous team by far.

Abertawe, on the other hand, flustered by Forest's incisiveness (not incision, you will notice), have resorted to a style of football as ugly as the monster on the sideline. Their desperation has been aided and abetted by referee Geoff Eltringham, whose reputation for being clinically blind is known far and wide. If this is all Abertawe have to offer, a sane man might think, then the league table must have been turned upside down.

The second half carries the same theme - chance after Forest chance created and spurned. Knockout heads wide, Lolley has a couple of shots, Grabban screws one agonisingly wide, Cafu sets up Grabban who can't get his shot away. The match is building to some kind of crescendo with Knockout, Garner and even Worrall carving out chances.

But this is a horror film, remember. No matter how brave, virtuous and deserving of high reward Forest have been, the script dictates that they will never score. Not only that, but a momentary lack of concentration allows Abertawe's Roberts to head past Brice Samba for an 87th minute victory.

"I'm not going to worry too much about how it looked," dribbles the monster on the sidelines, before opening its head, grinning through several rows of the sharp, broken teeth, and scuttling off into the hollow darkness.


GAME 31 : FEBRUARY 20th 2021
FOREST 1 BLACKBum 0

We don't do player ratings, but if we did...

BRICE SAMBA   Just before half time, Armstrong's effort hit the post, hard. Idiots who claimed that "Samba was rescued by the post" might as well have said that all goalkeepers are saved by that part of the world which isn't inside their goal. Or perhaps they simply don't understand that our goalkeeper's influence over physical and biological processes such as velocity, direction and wood is for him a mere matter of will. In other words, the post, rather than saving him, was given purposeful existence by his permission. There is also a suspicion that he gave away the penalty so that he could show off by saving it. Armstrong should be grateful that Samba gave him the opportunity in the first place.

CYRUS CRUSTY   People's opinion of Cyrus Crusty ranges from his being the worst footballer since sliced bread to his being a slice of bread. Even within this one match, balancing his good play (a shot against the woodwork) against his mediocre play (his struggles against the comedy duo of Armstrong and Brereton) leave one undecided. The trouble with Cyrus Crusty is that you can only judge him over very short periods, say every five minutes, because you can't be sure what the next five minutes will bring. Rating him over 90 odd minutes is impossible. We also think that his legs may be too thin.

TOBY FIGGIS   Toby Figgis is turning in some decent performances these days. It is rewarding to see his perseverance (not the Mars one) paying off. Despite the fact that the Blackbum bullies tried to target him, he did not cry. Some people think that his burgeoning confidence stems from the influence of partner Joe Worrall, with whom he may have fallen deeply in love. Or maybe he's just profited from a run of games, which is a blessing considering the Inexplicable Absence of Scott McKenna.

JOE WORRALL   Rarely do we use the word magnificent, so we won't use it here, but Joe Worrall is growing into a player of Beckenbauer-esque proportions. Except that he doesn't ponce around letting his thuggish minions do his defending for him, like Beckenbauer did. No, he is a proper defender, our Joe, who can anticipate, tackle, head, pass and threaten the opposition's goal with equal skill. Hang on a minute - he's becoming Michael Dawson, isn't he? Anyway, Blackbum striker Sam Gallagher (all 64 feet of him according to one Blackbum forum) gave our Joe very little trouble.

YURI RIBEIRO   If you break into the City Ground hours after a match's conclusion, you will see Yuri Ribeiro running up and down his left wing like the world's toughest rabbit. His team mates smile and say "He just loves running, so we leave him to it." Against Blackbum, this perpetual motion machine was effective at both ends of the pitch, occasionally at the same time.

CAFU   We suspect that Cafu's job has something to do with him playing near James Garner, a function he performs with some degree of assurance. Apart from that, his performance against Blackbum was unexceptionable. Unexceptionable, not unexceptional. Pay attention.

JAMES GARNER   Rarely do we use the word magnificent, so we won't use it here, but James Garner, young as he is, is almost the complete footballer. His most telling attribute is his Zen like manipulation of time itself. He quite literally "does things in his own time", while everyone around him labours to keep up. Sadly, he does not have the same influence over wood as Brice Samba, or else his glancing header would not have boinged off the crossbar. If he had scored, we would have been tempted to describe his performance as magnificent, but he didn't, so we won't.

ANTHONY KNOCKOUT   Ever since the new players arrived, Anthony Knockout appears to have been driven insane by his own enthusiasm, or perhaps by an excess of Red Bull. He is so wired you get the impression that he is a danger to anyone who gets in his way, including his own team mates. His energy can be misdirected, as when he left Samba little choice but to give away a penalty, so he should probably stay away from the defence. We were relieved when his shot was cleared off the line, because we feared that scoring would cause him to reach critical mass. He faded later, having a surprisingly short half life.

FILIP KROVINOVIC   He didn't have his best game against Blackbum, but Filip's influence, generated by his spirit and energy, was still strong. Still, why can't these players score? Are they goal blind? Just because you get kicked half to death by some Blackbum bellend doesn't mean you can't summon up some composure at critical moments, does it? Jesus.

ALEX MIGHTEN   Nicknamed "Mighty Mouse" for reasons which are too complex to go into, Alex Mighten won the match for Forest by pouncing on a stray ball on the edge of the box and hammering it via a non-specific body part into the net. The youngster sometimes overplays his hand, (or rather, his feet), and does tend to fade, but scorers can be forgiven anything, especially when they smile like the sun.

GLENN MURRAY   Glenn Murray is a bit like the nicest Godfather you will ever meet. You don't like admitting it, but he can forge a free kick out of thin air and a yard of mud, a skill which would be deadly if his team mates could shoot straight. Still, one nearly led to a goal, and he nearly scored himself, which is a couple too many nearlys in a team which scores too many nearly goals. Come on Glenn, score a few proper goals. Make life easy.

LYLE TAYLOR   Lyle Taylor came on to a quiet reception at the City Ground as he replaced Murray in the 58th minute. He should have scored from Crusty's rebound, but only nearly scored.

LUKE FREEMAN   Luke Freeman replaced Mighten in the 68th minute but did not see much of the ball as it was generally below his belly line. Sorry, cheap joke.

RYAN YATES   Ryan Yates replaced Cafu in the 68th minute but did not see much of the ball because of Freeman. Sorry again.

TYLER BLACKETT   Tyler Blackett came on when Knockout finally blew up in the 87th minute, thus becoming a record fourth substitution made by manager Chris Hugeton.

STEVE COOPER   Yes, we know that Steve Cooper didn't make an appearance in this game, mainly because he's the manager of high flying Swansea, but we just wanted to point out (spitefully) that the day after his team undeservedly beat Forest, the BBC website decided to do a big splash on Cooper's Swansea and how wonderful they were and all kinds of bosh like that. Roll on a few days and the ugly buggers get thumped 4-1 by lowly Uddersfeel, thus proving that they really are as rubbish as we knew they were and that Uddersfeel got the goals we should have got. And the BBC are rubbish as well.


GAME 32 : FEBRUARY 23rd 2021
ROTHERINGHAM 0 FOREST 1

In another life-threatening experience, Forest edged past lowly Rotheringham in a muscular encounter at the New York Stadium.

In the first half, despite Forest's obvious superiority, chances were at a premium, possibly because they were playing in that rather inane blue kit or it could have been the hurricane or Rotheringham being a bit neanderthal or other stuff. Rotheringham threatened first, with Ihiekwe blooping a header over Samba's bar and Smith blooping wide from twenty yards, but Forest surged back into the game with a cracking effort from Crusty, an offside goal from Murray, and a Knockout free kick magnificently saved by Victor Johansson who may be related to Scarlett Johansson but whether he is or not is none of your business so stop thinking about her.

So where does this life threating experience thing come in? Well, that was another forty five minutes of fruitless endeavour. Lots of offsides and near misses and tangible threats but no goals. Under such circumstances, as you know, doubts creep in. Will we ever score? Will Rotheringham nick one? Will the icy fingers of relegation start playing with our nethers? Thoughts such as this are toxic, bad for blood and brain and heart.

In the second half, Knockout looked to have curled in a certain goal until Johansson pulled off another smart save of which Scarlett would have been proud, and finally there was relief all round when young Ryan Yates latched on to a looping ball and, like a sturdy horse, forced the ball home from an offside position. The ref had got so bored with the wind and whistling for offsides and the odd murderous assault that he just shrugged his shoulders and ignored the protests.

Now came life-threatening experience number 2. Rotheringham got really angry for some reason and started making life difficult for everyone. Freddie Laptop almost connected with a hard cross and buggered up another opportunity by losing control of his legs or something. As usual, the match was heading towards one of those "anything can happen" Championship scraps which, if left unchecked, can lead to digestive catastrophe. Things began to get a bit handbaggy. Despite a fine effort from Lyle Taylor and a free kick from Joe Lolley which even Scarlett Johansson could have clutched to her chest, the stress never really relented as Rotheringham's Smith bounced a header off the bar in the closing stages.

They are not healthy, these matches, and until Forest find a way of scoring more freely, they never will be. Still, the next match should be a lot less stressful.

I have done some research on Scarlett Johannson, simply to discover whether she is in fact related to the Rotheringham goalkeeper, but it appears she isn't.


GAME 33 : FEBRUARY 26th 2021
SHEEP NATION 1 FOREST 1

Nine things that we may have learned if we'd been paying full attention and not been distracted by Missis Pie swearing at a half knitted scarf.

1.   This game was disappointing. These games have been disappointing for a while now. There are many reasons for this: the absence of wounding, the lack of atmosphere, the over-hyped expectations, the half forgotten smell of beer on concrete. But the main reason is that Derby have become irritating rubbish.

2.   Derby are irritating rubbish because (a) they are rubbish, like a skipful of discarded fish, and (b) they are irritating, like a skipful of discarded fish which, no matter how hard you hit them, refuse to stop flopping around, like that pike on the banks of Clumber Lake that time.

3.   Derby have nothing to offer except a kind of floppy resistance (see fish) and an enormous amount of flukery. The "thunderous" drive from Kashmir Richards (the one where he controlled the ball with his hand first) which equalised the scores was of the same order as Waghorn's "thunderous" free kick at the City Ground. Neither of these feats will ever be repeated by these players. If you asked them to repeat the shots, they would fall over and flop around like stranded fish, possibly making a "woo" noise as they did so.

4.   The first 20 minutes of the match was a distressing mess, mainly because Derby played car-park football with no discernible purpose, like fish. Being attacked by fish, particularly the car-park variety, is confusing until you decide to do something about it, like score.

5.   The technique displayed by James Garner for his shot on goal was of a very high order. That displayed by Derby goalkeeper Marshall for his attempt at a save was not. He was almost immediately replaced by somebody with hands.

6.   For most of the rest of the match, Forest were so superior it was actually embarrassing. In this regard, if you watch the highlights, do not think they offer in any way a fair reflection of the match as a whole. They do not show the guts of the match, the bits Derby don't want you to see. They do not show the bewildering fluency of Forest's play, the assurance of Cafu, the trickery of Knockout and Krovinovic, the slick promise of a confident and increasingly coherent side.

7.   And yet for all that, Forest couldn't kill the fish. Not even the fish in a barrel which Derby had become. For all Krovinovic and Knockout's world-beating fancy dannery, they seemed unable to deliver the final blow by either shooting accurately or feeding the striker. It is a real problem, this. Even when Forest were playing like Barcelona, you knew they needed to score at least one more, because even fish can conjure up the odd fluke. It is this failure to score more goals that is hampering Forest's progress towards domination over all fish.

8.   Stop blaming Toby Figgis. The odd mistake by a vastly improved defender is not the problem. The problem lies at the front end. Score more goals, the odd defensive mistake becomes irrelevant.

9.   Wooney appeared to have discovered sense when he angrily admitted that his side was lucky, then reverted to dimwit mode with his assertion that 1-1 was a fair result. But enough of Wooney's tentative grip on reality or indeed the relentless whining of the Rams ... Forest have bigger fish to fry, starting with Lutontown on Tuesday.


GAME 34 : MARCH 2nd 2021
FOREST 0 LUTONTOWN 1

Nil. Nothing, nought, naught, zero, love, duck, zilch, zip, none. Not one. Not any. F*** all.

Nil is the shortened version of the Latin word "nihil" which means nothing. It occurs these days in words like "annihilate", which means reduce to nothing, and "nihilism", which refers to the belief that life means nothing. A lot of football clubs have Latin mottos containing the word "nil", such as the now outdated "Arsenal nil", or Forest's "Nil desperandum" (another f***ing blank sheet), or, of course, Derby's "Nil By Mouth".

Not many people know this, but there is an organisation called the "Brotherhood of Nil". It is named after a thirteenth century monk called Nil, who was given the job of protecting a local bawdy house. This was usually considered a prize job for a monk, for obvious reasons, but Nil took his job and his faith seriously, and steadfastly refused to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh. He was, in fact, the very first man who couldn't score in a brothel, and as such became the patron saint of rubbish strikers in an association known as the "Brotherhood of Nil". You will find Forest's Grabban, Taylor and Murray among its members.

Nil, or nought, or nothing has some gruesomely fascinating qualities. In one sense it is the original round number, but conversely it may not be a number at all, unless you're into computer stuff which is your own fault and always ends badly in a dark and smelly room. The really scary thing about nought is that it can reduce everything connected with it to dust, without lifting a finger. For example, nought multiplied by three is nought. Through no fault of its own, three is reduced to nothing by association with nought. Similar things happen to Forest. No matter how well the team plays, if it can't score then its efforts are reduced to nothing. All that sparkling stuff produced by Knockout and Krovinovic and Garner becomes wasted energy. All those complacent boasts about steamrollering Lutontown, all that fairy talk about reaching the play-offs, all turns to dust. Even Derby's four nil thrashing by Caerdydd brings no consolation at all. Derby were away to a side in tremendous form. Forest were at home to a very average outfit. Both lost. Both scored nil. Some might say that Derby's nil was better than Forest's.

I think it's best to say nothing, hope for nothing, boast about nothing. Do not over-egg the influence of a manager whose input into his strikers' development is minimal because he considers goalscoring is some kind of voodoo which can't be coached. Pray that at least one of our strikers starts to realise the advantages of hitting that barn door, even if he has to stay behind and coach himself to do it.

In the end, the only positive we can take from Forest 0 Lutontown 1 is a negative. If we fail to take these opportunities to pull away from the bottom, we're in trouble. If we fail to score, we deserve what we get, which is nothing. Nought, naught, zero, love, duck, zilch, zip. F*** all.


GAME 35 : MARCH 6th 2021
WATFOR? 1 FOREST 0

What positives can we take from this match?

I hate that question. It's of the same order as "we should treat defeat as a learning opportunity", or "there are no problems, only challenges". I hate its smug assumptions, and its snide inference that anybody who criticises should be dismissed as inferior. You see, if you respond to the question, "What positives can we take from this match?", you'll end up with a half truth, and half truths are as appealing as a hair pie.

But picking positives seems to make people happy in these troubled times, so we'll play that game for a while.

Some may criticise Hughton's pairing of Bong and Freeman on Forest's left as a selection disaster, but we are all for giving players a chance. Giving players a chance, especially unfit and unreliable ones, is the kind of long term player development an ambitious club needs. Playing Ryan "Horse" Yates, too, provided a solution to the problem of when to bring back injured players soon enough to guarantee that they'll have a really bad game. The inevitability of Watford's goal midway through the first half gave Forest the opportunity to switch to plan B, which involved Watford gradually backing off out of boredom or pity. The fact that we knew the game was lost because Forest don't score goals offered a fair degree of certainty in an uncertain world.

There are other positives. Murray's unwillingness to turn up in the penalty area was a persistent source of confusion to everybody, including, importantly, the Watford defence. The successful introduction of Cafu and Lolley proved that mistakes are there to be learned from, and then forgotten or ignored. Then we must consider the courage displayed in putting Watford under pressure with not the slightest prospect of scoring. And, of course, only losing 1-0 to an in-form, top of the table team is not to be sniffed at. Yes, it's always good to be beaten by a team which is patently better than yours.

The biggest positive of all is that, despite what the pessimists say, we don't really have to worry about relegation. All you've got to do is endlessly chant "There's no danger of going down with Chris Hughton" and safety will be assured.

Forest's next two matches are at home against Reading Ladies and Norridge. We see these games as an opportunity to learn even more from our inevitable mistakes in order to move forward in a meaningful way and illustrate once and for all the power of positive thinking.

See you on the other side.


GAME 36 : MARCH 13th 2021
FOREST 1 READING LADIES 1

AT PIE MANSIONS...

Where have you been, Vetch?

I'm sorry sir, I've been dealing with the Gas Man.

The Gas Man?

Yes sir - the British Gas engineer.

Ah, the Gas Board. Those were the days, eh Vetch? Gas holders with movable lids. Men on bicycles in dark blue uniforms with a peaked cap and a large bag of spanners. Do you remember Vetch? Do you?

I'm afraid not, sir.

Of course you don't. It's all pornography and electric chairs these days, isn't it? So what did this Gas Man of yours want, eh Vetch? Try to sell you a smart meter, did he?

No, sir. He came to fix the central heating boiler.

We have central heating?

Yes sir. The boiler was leaking and losing pressure. The Gas Man, called George by the way, called the other day and discovered that water was leaking from the diverter valves. He said he would send for the parts and effect a repair the next day, which was today. Today he also discovered that the water pressure taps were leaking too and in need of what he referred to as "new loops". Fortunately the required parts were readily available in his large van. The upshot of his visit was that we have a perfectly functional central heating boiler.

That's an interesting name, isn't it Vetch? George Bytheway.

Indeed sir, George was a very interesting fellow. He spoke at length about...

Wait a minute, Vetch. Weren't you supposed to be watching Forest on that stoptap computer of yours?

Laptop, sir. Yes, indeed, I was watching the match against the Reading Ladies, but to be honest I found the Gas Man's conversation much more interesting.

Good grief, Vetch, that doesn't sound promising. I suppose you'd better tell me how the match went. Briefly, mind. None of this forty seven per cent possession garbage.

Very well sir. In brief, Forest started without captain Worrall, but with the returning McKenna. Also with Lolley, who played well until his hamstring snapped.

Ah, the old Armstrong Siddeley, eh Vetch? That's what we used to say, you know. "Sorry chums, the old Armstrong Siddeley's buggered again."

Murray had a chance, Reading's Joao should have scored but ended an unopposed run with a tame shot, Lolley drove wide then broke, as reported earlier. A cunning corner routine involving kicking the ball reached Joao again, but this time his shot was so weak he almost caught up with the ball himself, before seeing it bounce off the foot of the post. After some to-ing and fro-ing in the second half Forest went ahead with a Reading own goal which Murray tried to claim as his own. Somebody called Puscas should have equalised for Reading, Ameobi had a cracker saved by the Ladies' goalkeeper, then fired one wide, Reading hit the post, Joao headed over, and eventually their equaliser came when Meite shot straight at Samba who sadly wasn't there. Reading should have gone on to win it, but Forest were lucky.

Anything else, Vetch?

Forest lost their sponsor.

That was careless. Anything else?

People were unhappy that the manager brought on Freeman when a defender would have been the sensible choice. People are growing suspicious of Freeman's employment conditions.

Anything else?

The odd single point will not see Forest safe. Derby lost, but we are in no position to gloat. The standard of our football is little better than patchy. Reading have a manager called Veljko Paunovic, but no one knows why.

I see. Perhaps we should sack this Hugeton fellow and employ the far more interesting George Bytheway, eh Vetch?

Indeed, sir. Perhaps then the football would become as interesting as the deployment of diverter valves, or the introduction of new pressure tap loops. Did I tell you that he spoke at length about...

Oh shut up Vetch, and bring me a Waitrose Cream Sherry, matured and fortified for ten minutes in plywood barrels just outside Colchester, there's a good chap.

Very well, sir.


GAME 37 : MARCH 17th 2021
FOREST 0 NORRIDGE 2

And so it happened that a one-eyed man came out of the west and said to them, "Lo, on Tuesday did the Derbyshire Sheep trail at half time by two goals to Bentfor'd, but they did rally in the second half to score two of their own and gain a point. And on Wednesday did the Queens Park Ladies trail at half time by two goals to Mewo, but they did rally in the second half to score three of their own and gain three points."

And they did say to the one-eyed man, "You speak in riddles, o one-eyed man. Tell us your meaning plainly or begone."

The one-eyed man said, "On the same Wednesday did the Forest trail at half time by two goals to Norridge, but there was never a shitting dog's chance of them coming away with anything but a defeat."

They did protest, "For was it not Norridge that the Forest were playing, the same Norridge that was stuffed fat with parachute money, the same Norridge that had won nine games in a row and was seven points clear at the top of the table? Tell us how the Forest were supposed to compete with such as these?"

And the one-eyed man looked sadly upon the ground, and said, "I remember the old days when such words would never have passed your lips. I remember the Forest going as underdogs to Caerdydd and Ul and Wet Brom and, yea, places greater than these, and winning by dint of furious determination and prideful spirit."

Then they grew angry, and said, "Begone old one-eyed man, for you speak words we do not wish to hear and about the old days and stuff!" And they picked up stones with which to stone him, but he would not go.

"I will speak!" said the one-eyed man. "I may have only one eye, but all I hear are the words of defeat. For lo, we have not a shitting dog's chance of getting anything against Norridge, so let us rest important players, and suffer a sudden and wholly unsuspicious bout of injuries, so that we may lose and somehow paint our loss as a harvesting of resources. I tell you, these are the words of confusion and despair."

And in their anger did they throw stones at the one-eyed man, but he would not go.

"Listen to me," said the one-eyed man. "You are in grave danger. You are being led by a methodical but spiritless man into a wasteland of dwindling form and hapless tactics. I may have only one eye, but I remember the stink of decline when I smell it."

Yea even the women and children did throw stones at the one-eyed man, but he would not go.

"It was not the defeat to Norridge that mattered," said the one-eyed man, "but the manner of it. If the manager and players approach the next games with the same disjunctive attitude, then the Forest are in dire trouble. I may have only one eye, but I see danger more clearly than any of you."

They would not heed the one-eyed man's warnings, for they were deaf to many of his words and did not understand others. And they talked of next season, and the task Steady Chris Hughton had of recruiting and moulding a promotion-ready squad, and of how the next time some one-eyed man started bad-mouthing the Forest manager it would be the hangman's rope for him, by jingo.

The one-eyed man walked away unharmed, for every single stone the people had thrown had missed by several yards. In a country as blind as Forest's strikers, the one-eyed man is perhaps king after all.

The moral of this story is: when you've waited all your life to get old and grumpy, make the most of it.


GAME 38 : MARCH 20th 2021
BENTFOR'D 1 FOREST 1

I realised yesterday that the best way to feel a bit better about your club was to compare it with the other arseholes. And by God there were a few of them around on Saturday.

Forest played reasonably well. I wouldn't go so far as to say very well, but well enough to match the overweening arseholes of Bentfor'd. Indeed, for the first ten minutes Forest were giving Bentfor'd quite a bit to think about, until the first dollop of arsehole stew landed on their plate. I refer, of course, to the penalty.

It may or may not have been a penalty, I don't know, but let me cast a few doubts. Only an arsehole would conclude in less than a second that it definitely was a penalty. Such people include the referee, who was triggered like a wired frog, and, sadly, quite a few Forest fans, eager to illustrate how right they were to target the hapless Bong. The fact that the debate carried on through the whole match and beyond should confirm to any sane person that jumping to such a decision was unwise in the first place. And then, if you look at the incident itself, it is still unclear to me at what point Bong applies enough force to drag Toney down so violently. It may be unclear to me, but not to the arsehole on Quest, who declared that Bong grabbed his arm once, then grabbed his arm again, then dragged him down, dismissing any doubts with a contemptuous chuckle. I can't put a name to the bald fellow, but he must have bloody good eyes. Perhaps he should at least have second thoughts, and consider perhaps that Toney might have swung himself to the ground and almost pulled Bong with him, and that Toney is not a stranger to these situations. But second thoughts are unlikely from the kind of last minute deadheads who rock up to the Colin Murray show. To add to my anger at the hurried decision, the penalty itself looked borderline legal, and Toney's strutting arrogance was somehow typical of Bentfor'd's arseholery.

I was also suspicious of the Alex Mighten booking for diving. Again, there was a rapid consensus from the empty glass brigade that he had dived, but a slow motion replay showed a defender's foot making contact with Mighten's foot. Even the commentator noted it, implying at least that the booking was unfair. It annoyed me again that the decision was so rapid, and that the Bentfor'd defenders once more dismissed any doubts with a contemptuous chuckle, just like baldy. Arseholes.

You may have noticed that I am angry, but this is a good thing. It's been a long time since I got angry in Forest's defence, and the Bentfor'd match gave me the opportunity to feel that anger again. What irritated me greatly was the media focus on Bentfor'd and the almost complete sidelining of Forest's efforts. It's a bit galling that we've come to accept such media favouritism. The highlights largely featured Bentfor'd counter attacks and some apparently hapless misses which turned out to be outstanding blocks from Christie and Bong. The highlights failed to feature Garner's play or Grabban's miss or the closest of close things from Christie. You got the impression that they only showed Forest's goal (a great cross from Bong, a flick from Grabban, a Bentfor'd mistake, a superb finish from Krovinovic) to highlight the Bentfor'd mistake. The BBC grudgingly accepted that Forest's equaliser was "deserved" in a report which went on to virtually forget us. Colin Murray declared that the least Chris Hughton would expect was for his teams to be "resolute". It was like being fancied by the ugly twin.

Biggest arsehole of the day turned out to be Bentfor'd manager Thomas Frank. Thomas Frank is probably Danish, but his accent places him anywhere between Germany and Vietnam. This, and the fact that he seems to be quivering with anger, makes it difficult to pick up the rhythms of his speech, thus making much of what he says incomprehensible. I did pick up on the "should have won three nil" sentiment, though he uttered the words so rapidly he seemed to be eating them. Perhaps he was embarrassed, I don't know. I do know I'd be embarrassed if I looked like one of the mad-eyed European terrorists from Diehard. The mad eyes, presumably, come from the haunting fear of missing out again, just like they did last year.

Anyway, to sum up. I am still not ready to put my full faith in Hughton. I still know that we are not yet safe (we are only two points ahead of Derby, whose fans seem to be suicidal). I still know that a few of these players continue to disappoint. But while we are surrounded by grossly annoying arseholes like Frank and Bentfor'd and the assorted football meeja, I shall begin to cherish my own club all the more, whether they deserve it or not.


GAME 39 : APRIL 2nd (GOOD FRIDAY) 2021
CAERDYDD 0 FOREST 1

The thing to remember when you're watching the highlights or reading the reports of a Forest match is that these days Forest don't really count for a great deal, especially when they're away to a side pushing towards the top six. So instead of praising us for a perfectly executed win, they come up with the deliberately unflattering "Forest ended their six-match winless run" which "eased their relegation fears". We are also told at great length that Caerdydd were without their "influential leader Sean Morrisson" who had heroically played through the pain in their triumph over Swansea, suffering from a variety of ailments including a pulled calf, one severe blister, and damage to the Achilles tendon. In no way was Morrisson's absence presented as an excuse for Caerdydd's defeat, simply as a partial explanation of why Caerdydd hadn't taken full advantage of a "struggling" Forest who were surely ripe for the picking. Curtis Nelson replaced injured skipper Sean Morrisson as Caerdydd went in search of a second successive victory against a Forest side without a win in six. Yes, just a reminder that Forest hadn't won in six, in case you'd forgotten. And Caerdydd were pushing for a play off place. And Sean Morrisson wasn't playing. He had a blister, or something.

You must also remember that hopelessly biased accounts are guilty of selective omission and interpretation. So, Caerdydd's first effort is described thus: "Caerdydd had the first clear-cut chance as both sides went on the front foot from the off. Kieffer Moore steered Ciaron Brown's long ball into the path of Harry Wilson, who surged forward and found Leandro Bacuna on the edge of the box, but the midfielder's shot was saved by Brice Samba." The verb "steered" is a bit of an ambitious description of what Kieffer Moore did, Ciaran Brown's long ball represented the entire substructure of Caerdydd's attacking guile, Harry Wilson's pass was over hit, forcing Bacuna wide, and Bacuna's shot had the venom of a bubbly fart. But the threat was there, what with Caerdydd pushing for the top six, even without the blistered Sean Morrisson, and Forest winless in six matches.

Forest's goal was mentioned in passing. "But it was Forest who landed the first blow..." said Sky, almost as if they expected more "blows", especially from Caerdydd, who were, you may recall, aiming for the play offs. "Cyrus Christie caught auxiliary wing-back Joe Ralls napping to get free down the right side and sent a low cross into the path of Garner, who steered the ball into the back of the net." So it was Joe Ralls's fault, because he was only an auxiliary wing back, the real wing back having herniated himself at the sight of skipper Sean Morrissey's gangrenous blister. If the real wing back had been playing, the pinpoint accuracy of Christie's cut back would never have been a factor, neither would the proper football that led to the goal, nor the atrocious marking that allowed it. A real wing back would have been secure in the conviction that struggling Forest were looking over their shoulders at the relegation places and were incapable of scoring quality goals or indeed of resisting the raw-boned intimidation of a side charging towards the top six with knees and elbows flying.

The second half was, to be honest, fairly poor stuff. Forest's defending was resolute and their game management encouraging. Caerdydd were just determinedly predictable, like muscular artillery. Of course, Sky focussed on Caerdydd's goal attempts - a "fizzing drive" from Will Vaulks which did not go in the net because it missed, a Christie block from a Moore shot which did not go in the net because Christie blocked it, and a last minute header from some Hell's Angel bloke which did not go in the net because it missed. None of these efforts would have missed had Sean Morrisson not been out with a blistered calf or had Joe Ralls not been so damned auxiliary.

I'm glad we beat Caerdydd, not because we played some decent football or that it was a team performance of determined quality or that the three points was a welcome relief, but because it provided a glimmering memory of the good old days, when we went away as underdogs and won, leaving the assorted media struggling to find excuses for their favourites' defeat.

Still, it would have been interesting to play a Caerdydd team which included influential skipper Sean Morrisson. He didn't play, you remember. Blister.


GAME 40 : APRIL 5th 2021
FOREST 3 QUEENS PARK LADIES 1

I spent much of yesterday's match trying to work out what a BOXT was. I'm of that generation, you see, which often has no idea what people are trying to sell me. And the things they are trying to sell me have such daft names, like hive and vinted and boohoo and egg. I don't even know how to pronounce BOXT. Is it, like, boxed, or box tea? I don't know. But it's disturbing that other people do know, and know what these things are and what they do, or at least pretend to.

Anyway, before I could search out the BOXT website, my attention was drawn to the fact that Forest were running rings round Warburton's Hoops. In an impressive display of attacking verve, Grabban fired wide, a Yates header was blocked on the line, Sameobi tried his luck, and Krovinovic seemed to be biffing them in from all over the place. The Ladies, this team which had thumped Coventricity 3-0 in their last match, were looking decidedly wobbly in the leg. Forest were looking like a play off side, at least. Except, of course, that they were doing everything but score.

Apparently, BOXT start by asking you a few questions about your home. If they're not satisfied with your answers, they'll ask you for pictures. You could be forgiven for thinking at this point that BOXT is/are a particularly intrusive dating site. It's not, of course.

Thankfully Forest scored just before half time. Sameobi forced his way into the penalty area past some poor devil who thought he was being attacked by an octopus, and crossed for Mighty Mouse to slide it home. It was the least Forest deserved. In fact, if they could keep their resolve and composure in the face of some spiteful behaviour from the Ladies and the usual wilful negligence from referee Stroud, they could score more in the second half. Oddly, the days of worrying about throwing away a narrow lead seemed to be fading away into the not-so-long-ago.

Then BOXT recommend a number of "packages". They don't tell you what's in these packages. Could be dried fruit. Could be drugs. They even arrange a delivery date. You can pay monthly or all at once. Could be a box of tea.

The second half began with Forest hammering at the Ladies' goal again. Grabban set up Sameobi whose parried shot was almost pounced on by Mighty Mouse. The splendid Tyler Blackett set up Mighten but the youngster could only hit the side netting. Garner forced a desperate save from a free kick, which should have provided a warning about Garner free kicks, but didn't.

Forest's second goal was a heartstopper. Grabban, who looked livelier than of late, had once before made threatening noises along the Ladies' 18 yard line. This time, as he edged across in front of goal, Krovinovic, who had passed to him in the first place, found a position which momentarily masked the goalkeeper's view. Grabban took advantage to swivel and thump one of his no_backlift shots into the top left corner. It was nice to see Grabban smile. It would have been nice to hear the crowd roar.

According to BOXT, "Your installer will fit your package according to your requirements and our expertise." And on this rather disturbing note their front page ends.

If Forest's second goal was a heartstopper, their third was the stuff that dreams are made on. Garner's free kick sailed far post-wards, where Forest players were waiting. Sadly for the Ladies, after two thirds of its journey the ball took a gentle lift sideways and flew over the goalkeeper's hands into the top of the net. Don't ask me whether Garner meant it as a shot. The way he's playing at the moment, he seems quite capable of the odd miracle.

The Ladies scored a late consolation, but it didn't matter. Forest had played the kind of football which, even a month or so ago, seemed beyond them. The kind of football which deserved a crowd.

Boilers. BOXT, it turns out, do boilers. When I say do boilers, I don't mean they make them or fit them or even sell them. They sort of organise them. They are one of those internet based third person removed discount procurement companies which can organise a boiler to suit. It might all sound a bit anti-climactic, but you should note that the arrival of BOXT has coincided with Forest's best form of this season, and that's good enough for me. Huzzah.


GAME 41 : APRIL 10th 2021
BRISTOLS 0 FOREST 0

AT PIE MANSIONS...

What on earth was that all about, eh, Vetch?

I beg your pardon, sir?

You promised me goals, Vetch. You promised me a festival of goals. And what do we get? A big bucket of sod all, that's what. It's not good enough, Vetch.

Forgive me sir, but I simply reminded you that the Foresters had scored three goals in their last game against the Queens Park. If the implication was that more goals would be forthcoming, I apologise.

And where was this festival of nil played, may I ask?

It was against the Bristols, sir, so the venue would be Ashton Gate.

Because it looked like Mars to me. You weren't picking up pictures from Mars on that claptrap of yours were you?

The word is laptop, sir, and the pictures, though of inferior quality, were most certainly not from Mars.

Because they are sending pictures from Mars, you know.

I am aware of that, sir, but I can assure you that the pictures were from Bristol.

I suppose I'll have to take your word for it, Vetch, though that little chap with the quick feet looked a bit Martian to me.

Who would that be, sir?

The little chap who hit the post.

Ah, you mean Mighten, sir. Yes, he promises well. Would you not agree, sir, that despite the scoreline, the Foresters have made great strides in the past month? After all, they dominated possession in the first half and were the better team overall.

But they didn't score. Yes, they played some fancy football, but they didn't score. Yes, they played with great confidence from back to front, but they didn't score. Yes, some of the players have improved, but they didn't score.

But in all other areas, sir, would you not agree that they have improved greatly under the stewardship of Mister Hughton?

The young Gardner and that Balkan chappie have improved them, certainly.

You mean Garner and Krovinovic?

If you say so. But the team's goalscoring record is still poppycock. And remember, the young Gardner and that Balkan chappie will be gone next season, so unless your precious Mister Hughton can unearth a couple of special midfielders and a striker with more gumption than the ones he's got, the Forester's future doesn't look all that bright.

You seem to have little faith in Mister Hughton, sir.

I'm not convinced by him at all. We meet many people during our lives, Vetch, and most of them we forget. Mister Hughton always strikes me as one of the people we forget. You might meet him at a bus stop or in an Army and Navy store, and think "I may have met that fellow before, but he means nothing to me now." Or he might approach you at a dinner party and claim acquaintance, whereupon you would have no option but to snub him for a presumptuous fool. For heaven's sake, most people don't even remember how to spell his name properly.

Forgive me sir, but I don't understand the point you are making.

Neither do I, Vetch. What were we talking about, eh?

Nothing of importance, sir.

So tell me, Vetch, who do the Forest people face next?

They are at home to the Huddersfield, sir.

Splendid. We can no doubt look forward to a festival of goals on your claptrap, eh Vetch? All the way from Mars, no doubt.

Indeed let us hope so, sir.


GAME 42 : APRIL 17th 2021
FOREST 0 UDDERSFEEL 2

I missed the match yesterday, because me and Missis Pie went to see our grandkids. We were nearly there when we were informed that the section of motorway around our turn off had been closed at the weekend so that, presumably, nobody could do any work on it. A twenty mile diversion along country roads spilled us out half a mile the other side of the closed junction.

During the detour my thoughts turned to the German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz. It was he who came out with this peach: "Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." He was very good at maths and stuff, but rubbish at philosophy. He thought that, since God had created the universe, it must be the best universe there could possibly be, so the earth we live on must be the best possible earth, so everything on this best possible earth must, by deduction, be for the best.

It's a bit like that at Forest. I hear and read people say: "Hughton is the best manager we could hope for". Such sentiments are used as comfort blankets by and for people who, like our Gottfried, are afraid to contemplate the real logic behind them. The real logic states that even if Hughton is the best manager we could hope for, it doesn't mean he's a good one.

Whether or not Hughton is a good manager for Forest is, of course, a matter of opinion. My opinion is that he very mediocre indeed. His team, despite his own additions, appears to have made very little progress in terms of results and consistency. Murray and Knockaert have become embarrassing. Krovinovic has been okay, though he seems to have got himself trapped in a world where he spends his days shooting wide. Garner, the best of them, was not Hughton's first choice. The team's style may have changed, with the development of more midfield interplay, but even that is beginning to fray. We still cross balls to people who aren't there, we still don't score goals, there is still no evidence of any coherent plan of attack. And to those who say, "Wait till Hughton gets his own players, then you'll see us challenging at the top," I would suggest that such views are founded on outdated evidence. Look at this season, and think again.

By the time me and Missis Pie arrived at our destination, the match was over. I was not surprised that Forest had lost two nil at home. It was nothing to do with the empty stadium or the "on the beach" syndrome or even a deliberate defeat designed to heap more pressure on the Sheep people. It was simply and surely because this kind of thing keeps happening to the best manager Forest could possibly hope for.

Anyway, the kids were a joy. The five year old was proudly wearing a Forest cap. The eighteen month old charged around the garden with a cap over his eyes running into laurel bushes. It was an afternoon which almost proved Gottfried Leibniz right.

I think I'll spend the last four matches visiting the grandkids.







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.