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

GAME 1 AUGUST 8 COVENTRICITY 2 FOREST 1
THE DAY IT RAINED FOREVER
Old Uncle Boff used to say that forecasting the weather was easy. All you needed to do was to say that tomorrow's weather would be substantially the same as today's, and 90% of the time you would be right. 90% accuracy is pretty impressive in meteorological terms.

The Boff Weather Principle works for football too - or at least for Forest. Take the form of the last games of last season and transfer it to the beginning of this season, and you end up with a feeble 2-1 capitulation to the almighty Coventricity. It rained yesterday, it will rain today. It will almost certainly rain tomorrow, too.

Despite the changes, very little, it seemed, had changed. Mighten was as good as we knew he was last season though if he keeps getting hammered he won't last much longer. Baby Johnson was as bright as he was for Lincoln so his run and cross for Taylor's goal came as no surprise. Taylor scored, so in that regard Grabban was not missed. Mebbe So had that touch of class we glimpsed last season before coming off injured. The youngster Gabriel defended brightly. McKenna was granite. Bong defended as well as you could expect from somebody who knew he wasn't wanted. Yates reprised his role as a pantomime horse. Colback looked okay until the pressure drained his legs. Lolley wore his shooting boots for corners and his cornering boots for shooting before the inevitable physical collapse.

So, nothing unexpected there then. Nothing new, either, in the gradual second half retreat. As far as Forest are concerned, "game management" is an expression which translates to loss of control, brain fuse and panic. This kind of late disintegration has happened too often to be explained away by one off excuses like Worrall's absence or covid-induced fatigue. We would suggest that such collapse is built in to Hugeton's pragmatic (defensive) model. We would suggest that the pragmatic (defensive) model is all he knows, which is why you will probably see very little creative innovation or even spirited, sustained attacking in his Forest teams, but a whole lot more negative energy, falling back and fearing the worst. This is a patchy squad with an uninspiring manager, and it looks, sadly, as if the rain has set in for a while.

Too miserable, you say? Well, I'll tell you what's really miserable. Yesterday my grandson persuaded his dad to take him to the pub round the corner so he could watch his first Forest match on their big telly. Two hours later the five year old left the pub in tears.

His dad is trying to persuade him to support Manchester United.


GAME 2 AUGUST 14 FOREST 1 AFC MUFFS 2

THERE WERE BOOS...

Well Stress, I am in a quandary.

So am I, Pie. I too am in an absolute quandary.

It's about Hughton. What to do about manager Hughton?

That's the one, Pie. If there was ever an absolute quandary, it's Houghton.

Hughton.

Absolutely, Pie. What a disastrous quandary he's turned out to be, eh?

Disastrous, Stress? You think Hughton is a disaster?

Not necessarily in that order, Pie. Some people, indeed, rate him quite highly.

That's the problem, isn't it Stress? Opinion is increasingly divided. I mean, look at the match against the Muffs. The general opinion is that Forest acquitted themselves well for the most part. They certainly started better than the opposition. Plenty of possession, pace down the flanks, dangerous set pieces, that sort of thing. The only way Bournemouth could cope was by being dirty.

I've been to Bournemouth, Pie. They are generally known as being a dirty people.

The point is, Stress, that we looked like a well managed side.

As I said, a side managed by a highly rated manager. What a man, eh Pie?

Until things started to go wrong, again, and the Muffs started to overrun our midfield and defence and, inevitably, scored.

Forest, eh Pie? What a bunch of losers. Donkeys led by dinosaurs, eh Pie?

Though I'm not sure you can blame Hughton for Forest's defensive fragility.

Of course not, Pie. Sterling fellow, that Hoghton.

Hughton. On the other hand, he's coached these players for a year, and they seem to have made nil progress.

You're right, Pie. Ditch the plonker now.

Though he is missing Worrall, who would make a big difference.

Yes Pie. Give the bloke a chance. Hugeton must stay.

Hughton. His name is Hughton.

Houston.

Hughton.

Hiddlestone.

Look, if you're going to be deliberately stupid you can do your own match report.

Sorry Pei, you're doing a fine job. Carry on.

Where was I?

Forest were one nil down, and it was all the manager's fault, or not.

To do them some credit, Forest responded to this setback with determination. Taylor had a decent effort, Johnson put a good chance into the crowd, and at the beginning of the second half the mighty McKenna converted a Zinckernagel cross to put Forest level.

Inspired by Chrissie H., eh Pie? Did you hear the crowd chanting the manager's name?

No.

Neither did I.

The joy lasted ten minutes, after which Bournemouth decided to score again...

Manager's fault.

...as Samba appeared to dive the wrong way.

Not the manager's fault.

And shortly afterwards, Forest were presented with a golden opportunity to get something from the game when Bournemouth were reduced to ten men.

Dirty Muffs.

Sadly, this was where Hughton's shortcomings were made plain.

As comings go, CH's are shorter than most, eh Pie?

When a team is chasing an equaliser against ten men, why would you retain two defensive midfielders?

I don't know, Pie, why would you do a thing like that?

So Yates and Colback stayed on and managed to hinder forward momentum like midfield anchors dragging along the bottom.

Why Pie why? Does the man lack common sense? Can he not see? Does he not hear? Why do men call him The Grey Ghost?

So Forest huffed and puffed but all pace and guile were gone. Grabban had a couple of offsides, Mighten shot over, Zinckernagel had a pop, and Carvalho was given a few minutes as a sop to the crowd, who at the end let their disappointment ring out loud.

Mismanagement of the highest order, Pie. The man has to go. There were boos.

Perhaps not until he's had the chance to strengthen his squad, eh?

Quite right. After all, the man has a fine record.

Not here he doesn't. His record here is a bit grim.

Useless sod.

So what do you think, Stress?

Think, Pie?

Yes, you remember think. Chris Hughton, stay or go?

I think you could well have hit the hammer on the head there, Pie. I have enjoyed our short time together, but I must now leave, because I am already late for an appointment with somebody interesting.

Bog off.


GAME 3 AUGUST 18 FOREST 1 BLACKBum 2

THESE ARE THE GIFTS OF THE GREY GHOST.
NO PLAN.
NO PERSONALITY.
NO POINT.


GAME 4 AUGUST 21 STOKES 1 FOREST 0

AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY
What's that noise, Grandfather?

That, my boy, is the tuneless roar of the Forest faithful, designed to drown out not only the opposing supporters, but also their own sadness at the futility of existence.

I don't understand what that means, Grandfather.

Neither do I, my boy, but see, here come the men in red, or a striking combination of navy and fluorescent pink. There are Back and Bong - not, as you might imagine, a cartoon pairing from CBeebies, but all that remains of our box of full backs. And there is the Prince Carvalho, burdened with a weight of expectation which would crush ordinary men. Our midfield, consisting of a horse and cart, is missing Colback, who has taken early retirement. Taylor, a misguided youth, is on his own up front. This is what is known as "a bold selection" from our manager Chris Hughton.

Why has he chosen these men, Grandfather?

It could be a desperate last throw from a bust manager, or an attempt to appease the fans, or a cynical illustration of just how inadequate the squad is, or he could have gone mad. We will probably never know. See, they have kicked off.

The Stokes men are very big, aren't they Grandfather?

Some of them. Not all.

They must be big, Grandfather, because they keep heading the ball. The Nottingham players aren't big enough to head the ball.

That would be Bong's fault, my boy. You remember Back and Bong? Well, Bong is the funny one who keeps getting lost and falling over buckets, that kind of thing.

Is that why the Stokes have nearly scored twice, Grandfather?

Partly, my boy, and partly because they have what we call an "attack", which is where players have been coached to work together to create goalscoring opportunities.

Isn't that cheating, Grandfather?

Yes, in a way it is. But there are many who think that Forest should cheat in the same way. As it is, our manager prefers not to coach, but to rely on the unaided ability of individuals. There, like that peculiar effort from the misguided youth Taylor. This lack of coaching is obvious throughout the side. It may even be responsible for degrading good players' performances. Note how quiet Zinks has become.

Zinks, Grandfather?

Zinckernagel, my boy, a loanee from Watford whose game has deteriorated in three short games.

Where is our manager, Grandfather?

He's that semi-transparent fellow there on the sidelines. And there's the half time whistle.

What happens now, Grandfather?

Well, the Forest players go into a room, and the semi-transparent fellow uses words until they stop listening and are filled with sadness at the futility of existence, then they come out in the second half and lose.

Does this happen often, Grandfather?

Quite often, my boy. Now let's cheer the men in navy and fluorescent pink back on to the pitch, and place our faith in the beach ball of hope.

I see it, Grandfather, I see the beach ball of hope!

That's my boy. Though I'm not sure that even the beach ball of hope can stop the Stokes looking rather dangerous. There's a decent save from Samba. There's a shot into the side netting.

I don't like this, Grandfather. It makes me want to wee.

And there we go, one nil to the Stokes. That goal was of a type generally referred to as "inevitable".

There are a lot of sweary people, Grandfather.

There certainly are, my boy. But here come Grabban and Baby Johnson for Prince Carvalho and the misguided youth Taylor. Perhaps we will be more effective with exactly the same number of attackers in exactly the same system.

Grabban and Baby Johnson did well there, Grandfather. Do they not make a good attacking pair?

They do, my boy. At least Baby Johnson does, probably because our manager hasn't uncoached the spirit out of him yet. Grabban's just been here too long. Sometimes I think we've all been here too long.

What does "We're going down," mean, Grandad?

It's called gallows humour, my boy. It means that somebody's going to get hanged.

There are a lot more sweary words now, Grandfather.

Yes, my boy. Time for us to go, I think.

What will happen now, Grandfather?

Well, the semi-transparent manager will use words until everybody stops listening and are filled with sadness at the futility of existence.

I don't understand what that means, Grandfather.

Nobody ever does, my boy. Nobody ever does.


GAME 5 AUGUST 28 SHEEP 1 FOREST 1

CONFUSED.COM
I've been deluding myself that I'm fine thankyou, it's the rest of the world that's confused. Now I've given up. It's me, I admit it. I don't understand anything any more.

I don't understand, for example, how a life insurance company can be called Dead Happy. I don't see the point of "mild hybrids", even if they do power you through the beautiful storm that is Life. I'm confused as to how everybody can be so complacent about living in a covid soup.

What broke me was this latest instalment of the A52 derby. Half way through, I wondered how I had allowed myself to be distracted by this crap when England were routing the Indians in a proper game at Headingly. After five minutes I failed to understand why Forsyth hadn't been arrested for his assault on Zinckernagel, or why in general the Sheep were so poisoned by their own inferiority that they resorted to acts of pure spite. After a short while I became confused by the Bong. My wife asked me "What is this thing called Bong?" and I had no answer. He seemed to be looking for something he had lost in a place he was unfamiliar with. After he was partially responsible for allowing Diver Lawrence through on goal, all I could tell myself was "If it had been made plain to you that you were not good enough for this club, would you give a flying f**k about anything?" It was a sad excuse, and almost certainly wrong, but it was the only one I understood.

The first half left me bewildered and disturbed. The Forest team was once more playing in that confused and dislocated way it reserved for football matches. Even the bright hopes were dimmed, as Zinckernagel and Garner laboured. I found it hard to fathom how decent players could combine to form this knotty confusion. My wife asked me "Who is Forest's coach?" and I had no answer. Perhaps we didn't have one.

The second half was much better than the first, in the sense that it wasn't as bad. Even this was confusing, as Hughton's team talks generally reduced the players to root vegetables, but this time they seemed oddly determined. Or was it that the Sheep were fading? Whatever the case, with Mighten and Grabban adding more forward threat than the binned Carvalho, Forest somehow got on top. Grabban forced a save from Kelly Roots. Things were much better now than they would have been if they had been much worse than they were.

Eventually the pressure resulted in something deeply ironic. The Bong was given time to deliver a cross which found its way to Baby Johnson, who hammered it under Kelly Roots. The irony was not that the Bong, of all people, was credited with an assist, but that Bong's cross was only turned into an assist by some lousy Derby defending, and Baby Johnson's shot was only turned into a cracker by some lousy goalkeeping. None of this matters of course, except to illustrate how simple things are always more bewildering than they ought to be.

Forest should have gone for the winner, but didn't. It was one of the few things I understood, because that's the way Forest play these days.

Which brings me to the saddest and most confusing thing of all. It seems obvious to me that Forest are not being coached to play as a team. I remain confused about how anybody can make excuses for a manager who is clearly not doing the job he is paid for.

When Hughton says, "This squad clearly needs help", he should try giving it some.


GAME 6 SEPTEMBER 12 FOREST 1 CAERDYDD 2
DEAD OF NIGHT
Tell me, Vetch, are you familiar with the 1945 British black and white anthology horror film called Dead of Night?

The one starring the much loved veteran Welsh actor Mervyn Johns?

That's the one, Vetch.

No sir. I regret to say I have never heard of it.

Then let me give you a brief summary of the plot.

If you must, sir.

Very well. The film starts with this fellow played by Mervyn Johns arriving at his friend's country house for a get-together of some kind. As soon as Johns meets the other guests he tells them that something absolutely dreadful is going to happen that very night. One of the guests, a psychiatrist chappie, tries to reassure Johns that his fears are unfounded. The other guests amuse themselves by telling macabre stories. Eventually the Johns fellow is driven mad by all the goings on and strangles the psychiatrist fellow. Next thing you know, he is woken by a telephone call from his friend inviting him to his country house. for a get-together of some kind. The film ends with Johns arriving at his friend's country house...

So the film is, in fact, a recurring nightmare.

Exactly, Vetch.

It does indeed sound an intriguing production, sir, but I don't understand why you are telling me this, now.

I think you do, Vetch.

Excuse me sir, but I really don't.

I watched your beloved Forest yesterday, Vetch. I watched them play reasonably well in the first half, scoring a goal and defending manfully against a barrage of high balls and elbows. Hughton delivered his half time team talk, and Forest duly collapsed in the second half. There's your recurring nightmare, Vetch. It's happened so many times before, and it'll carry on happening until Hughton is scotched. In fact it will probably get worse. The fellow Maximum Lowe was outstanding, but only because Hughton has only just started to drain his spirit.

I know all these things, sir. I came to terms with the recurring nightmare of Hughton's incompetence a while ago, with the result that I've decided not to bother with Forest at all, at least for a while.

My poor fellow, I didn't realise...

I have wasted too much time watching and listening to stupidity and gross incompetence. I have decided to take up a more rewarding pastime.

And what would that be, Vetch?

Drinking heavily, sir.

Really?

I think so, sir. I think it's for the best. It's quite refreshing, the sense of freedom you experience when you are hopelessly drunk.

You're drunk now, aren't you Vetch?

I am, sir.

Do you know how I can tell, Vetch?

Because I'm lying on the floor?

Exactly. This can't go on, you know, Vetch. If Hughton had any regard for the damage he's doing, he'd resign. But I suppose he's too dignified for that.

Barnacles.

It's interesting you should say that, Vetch. There is actually such a thing as a fear of barnacles, did you know that? It's called Trypophobia. It's not actually a fear of barnacles, rather a fear of irregular clusters of small holes. A bit like Forest's defence, eh Vetch? Oh, he's asleep.


GAME 7 SEPTEMBER 15 FOREST 0 MISERABLEBUGGER 2
CHRIS WHO?
Now that the manager whose name we barely remember has been sacked for reasons we can't bear to recall, Mister Egg, who now writes for The Athlete's Foot and therefore knows everything, mulls over some possible candidates for the City Ground hotseat.

Sean Bean may seem a left field choice, but if charisma and inspirational drive count for anything, Sean's your man. Give him a sword, convince him that Nottingham has moved 50 miles north, and he would be unstoppable. Unfortunately, Forest fans might quickly tire of his pitchside exhortations to "Do it for Yorkshire!"

Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol empire whose armies swept west to the gates of Christendom, would be a motivational powerhouse whose tactical approach would be characterised by its brutal simplicity. The minute he started killing people, however, he might well lose the dressing room. Also, he would almost certainly smell dreadful.

Neil Warlock was apparently spotted at the City Ground during Forest's shameful performance against Miserablebugger, thus qualifying him as an obvious managerial candidate. Some fans would welcome Warlock and his infantile spats, though they tend to be the ones who can't spell their own name.

Gene Wilder. In a sadly typical example of mistaken identity, Forest might just appoint Gene Wilder, the American comic actor from such films as "The Producers", "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" and "Silver Streak", instead of ex-Sheffield Undead gaffer Chris Wilder. His tenure alongside head scout Richard Pryor would be hilarious until fans realised he had joined the angels in 2016. Aw.

Makka Pakka. This children's favourite from "In The Night Garden" spends his time cleaning stones and occasionally his friends. He would engage well with the younger players and provide a stimulating training environment which might well involve cleaning stones and occasionally his friends. His backroom staff might be a problem, as none of them speak English or are, indeed, human.

Or indeed, they could just plump for "Handsome" Steve Cooper, late of Abertawe. Handsome Steve is the go-to candidate when things get ugly, as they are at Forest.


GAME 8 SEPTEMBER 18 UDDERSFEEL 0 FOREST 2
BLOOD AND CUSTARD
A great deal of old crony bollocks has been spoken about Hughton's departure, mostly from Chris Sutton, who reckons the players should be ashamed of themselves for playing so poorly under their previous manager. He could have reminded himself that "playing so poorly under their previous manager" might just have something to do with the previous manager himself, but poor Sutton has long been a stranger to common sense. Anyway, we don't know whether it was Steven Reid's influence or the simple relief of slipping off the Hughton shackles that inspired Forest to perform as they did against Uddersfeel. We suspect it was the kit.

I mean, wearing a blood and custard kit is a bit of a statement, isn't it? You could have forgiven Forest for keeping the lowest of profiles as they prepared for what most of us feared would be their seventh defeat of the season. But no, not this lot. Out they trotted as cocky as you like with their luminescent finery blazing in the sunshine. It made Uddersfeel's shirts look like tired deck chair canvases.

Having gained the sartorial advantage, Forest quickly went about intimidating Uddersfeel with their energy and movement. Everything about them was so vivid you literally couldn't take your eyes off them. Was this really Forest on the front foot, pressing high, forcing mistakes, playing with confidence and aggression? Were those Forest full backs and centre backs breaking forward to put the fear of God into their opponents? Never have deck chairs looked so confused.

And there was Baby Johnson, looking bigger and taller and stronger than he ever did in plain red, surging from his own half down the right wing, past some deckchair called Colwill, clipping a fine ball towards Grabban who was (a) easily spotted because of the kit and (b) in the place a striker should be. Grabban stooped to bury his header in the Uddersfeel net, a goal of such beauty he had to kick the advertising boards to reassure himself, and us, that he wasn't dreaming. Do you remember the early days of differently coloured boots? Pundits would make remarks like "If you wear them, you'd better be good". Well, Forest were wearing blood and custard, and they were very good indeed.

In the grey days, Forest would have pulled back to their default defensive positions and waited for their opponents to skirt round them and score two goals. But this was a full colour day, and Forest tried their hardest to maintain an attacking threat. They were helped in this regard by some very determined midfield and defensive play which consistently wrong footed the deck chairs. Uddersfeel only threatened once, when somebody whose name sounded suspiciously like Corona slipped the ball to somebody whose name sounded suspiciously like Toffo in the Forest penalty area, but Samba was sharp enough to smother the ball. That's the word - sharp. All the Forest players were sharp. They had to be, because there's no hiding place when you're wearing blood and custard.

The second half began in much the same way as the first, with Forest pressing high and keeping possession just outside the Uddersfeel penalty area. Eventually the ball was cut back to Yates, who drove a skidding, spinning shot towards the Uddersfeel goal. Keeper Nicholls stretched to bat away the swerving ball, but Joe Lolley (remember him?) delivered a cunningly deflected shot into the back of the net. Uddersfeel looked bereft, and blamed their inferior kit. Probably.

Uddersfeel still had most of the second half to mount a fightback and they continued to boss possession without doing all that much with it. Holmes saw a desperate shot deflected wide in the final 10 minutes. The Forest players looked knackered, to be honest. They had fought so hard for so long that from the resulting corner they seemed unable to jump to contest Lees header, which thankfully drifted beyond the Forest post.

In this first victory of the season, everybody did their job. Steven Reid set them up brilliantly, the players responded with enormous energy, the fans sang about Derby. But the real hero was the kit. As Winston Churchill once said, "I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and custard," and how right he was.


GAME 9 SEPTEMBER 25 FOREST 1 MEWO 1
WELCOME, MISTER COOPER
I'm sorry this report is late, but I've been so worried about so many things that it's all been a bit overwhelming to be honest.

I worry that Mister Cooper might be really good at saying the right things, and I worry about what kind of miserable wazzock I've become to entertain even the slightest doubt about him when clearly he has got Forest playing more progressively even though, worryingly, there are still problems to solve, one of which is not having a fit and competent striker, and I worry about how Mister Cooper will solve that one. I honestly think Grabban would have scored if he'd stayed on, but the Mewo goalkeeper tried to kill him, which was worrying.

I am worried for Taylor. The poor lad has plenty to say about plenty, but almost nothing to say about how he has mastered the art of doing the exact opposite of what he should be doing whilst pretending to do what he should be doing but isn't. Or can't.

I worry that nobody has made the connection between the thuggish nature of Championship football and the woeful standard of refereeing. Weak refereeing is where Millwalls come from.

I worry that Joe Lolley is trying too hard to recover his best form and is becoming ball greedy. Forest did better when the ball went through Baby Johnson.

The bloke next door has got covid, which is worrying. If you've not had it yet, be warned. It's all over the place, and it's heading your way. At over 30,000 new cases a day that's over 210,000 cases a week. Eleven million cases a year. We've got to learn to live with it, say the anti-maskers. Or die with it, say less stupid people.

I worry about Brice Samba's intermittent bouts of mental collapse.

I worry that we've managed to uncover the best full back pairing in the Championship. D.J. Spence and Maximum Lowe might wake up one day and realise they're on the wrong planet or they've got covid or life's a dream or something. People say it's no good worrying about what you can't control, which is exactly the opposite of the truth. If you could control the trajectory of the Armageddon asteroid, you wouldn't need to worry about it at all, would you?

I worry terribly for Derby fans, especially the ones who have sunk into the paranoid nightmare of their "us against the world" fantasy, which is most of them really. You've got to remember that some of them are actually people, who deserve to be reassured that everything will eventually work out for the best, and that just because they think everybody hates them doesn't mean it's not true.

My irrational hatred for trivial irritants is a cause for great worry. Such irritants include people who say "that's a learning curve", or people who wear their masks below their nostrils, or Sam Matterface's pronunciation of Azpilicueta, or the bloke who first says "he'll be all right when he gets his own players in January". I shouldn't be concerned about things like this, because there are far more important things to worry about. This winter, in Brexit Britain, we're going to run out of lorry drivers, petrol, gas and food. The climate will become catastrophically unpredictable, the NHS will collapse and everybody will die of the Omega variant except the government who will be on holiday, or cocaine.

I worry about my bottom right molar, which is surviving on paracetamol and Sensodyne.

So that's why this is late. Plus the fact that I spent most of Sunday trying to mend a gazebo's broken strut with duct tape. Sometimes, things just overwhelm you.


GAME 10 SEPTEMBER 29 BARNSLEH 1 FOREST 3
SCABS ASSEMBLE

There, Pie, I told you he was the right man for the job. "Coops is the right man for the job," I said.

That's not quite how I remember it, Stress. I recall you saying something like "Steve Cooper teams are so boring it's like watching fish rot."

You must be mistaking me for somebody else, Pie. As far as I'm concerned, last night's display against the Dykes was a masterclass in counter-attacking football by a properly coached team.

Tykes.

That's right. The first half was a bit frustrating, mind you.

Frustrating in the sense that, according to you, Lolley was a misfit who couldn't hit a cow's arse with a barn, Toby Figgis should have been shot in a ditch, Garner wasn't Garner at all but some dysfunctional clone ManUre had sent in his place, Samba's distribution was as reliable as the Dutch Post Office, and Forest were stuck up the arroyo de mierda without a paddle.

That doesn't sound like me at all, Pie. Since when could I speak Greek? All I was bothered about was Forest's final ball. It was obvious that there was acres of space behind the Dykes...

Tykes.

...but we just couldn't take advantage of it. Despite the Dykes' lead at half time...

Tykes.

...Forest were by far the better side. And the second half proved me right.

Not at first it didn't. If anything, a couple of missed opportunities from Baby Johnson and Zinckernagel increased the frustration of the assembled scabs.

But you could tell the thirteen Dykes fans were getting worried, couldn't you Pie?

Tykes.

Because they knew just one more piece of the jigsaw would turn Forest from a steaming bowl of frustration soup into a volcano of incendiary meatballs, didn't they Pie?

Well, I doubt that the Barnsleh faithful were thinking in those terms, but...

And sure enough, Toby Figgis is replaced by Grabs, and the meatball volcano erupts. Mister Cooper is nobody's fool, is he Pie? Canny game plan, canny substitutions, proper coaching. Just like I said all along.

Of course you did, Stress. It obviously came as no surprise to you when Baby Johnson sliced through a rather tired off-side trap to lay on an easy tap in for Zinckernagel, despite your being sick on your shoes. Nor when Zinks returned the favour for Baby Johnson to drive Forest into the lead, which caused you to punch yourself in the face. I suspect you probably wet yourself after the third goal, but what a goal it was. Another brilliant substitution from Mister Cooper, Alex Mighten ghosting past the Moon and stabbing the ball to Grabban, who scored with the arrogant ease of a totally kool pro, as the kidz might say.

What a night, eh Pie? What a rolacola of emotions.

Or a volcano of meatballs.

Or a desolation of Dykes.

Tykes. Or the birth of a legend.

Quite right, Pie. Coops is the man for us.

I didn't mean Mister Cooper, Stress. I meant the kit.


GAME 11 OCTOBER 2 BOREMINGHAM 0 FOREST 3
A KNIFE SO SHARP...
In one of the "Hannibal Lecter" books, Lecter bumps into one of his pursuers on a crowded thoroughfare and slices him open with a knife so sharp and a movement so swift that the poor victim carries on walking for a while before failing to realise that he is dead.

Forest did to Boremingham what Lecter did to his victim. You could see the bewilderment on the Boremingham players' faces after each goal. "What the hell's going on here?" they seemed to say. "And why are we saturated in blood from the waist down?"

The really sad thing was that Boremingham honestly believed they were in with a chance. They certainly started in fiery fashion. Jeremy Belly fired wide, Jutkiewicz's header was saved by Brice Samba, and Chong's effort hit the post. Unfortunately, accumulated missed chances do not convert to actual goals. All they add up to is a sense of frustration which leads to overpressing and bad decisions. Against this Forest side, bad decisions tend to be fatal.

Jack Colback dispossessed Chong and launched Grabban on his way towards the Boremingham goal. Grabban's progress through the empty heartland of Boremingham's defences was almost diffident, but there was nothing diffident about his shot. Often a football swerves because some "side" is put on it, but sometimes a ball is hit so hard the air can't get out of its way and pushes it off course. Grabban's shot actually bent upwards and sideways past the bemused Boremingham keeper. The knives were out, so to speak.

Jutkiewicz headed against the post again as Forest mucked up another set piece, Jeremy Belly's dreadful back pass allowed Grabban to muck up a glorious chance to increase Forest's lead, before Yates showed Boremingham how set pieces should be finished with a powerful downward header from a Zinckernagel corner. Two nil. Half time. Boremingham still walking, but sensing a coldness in the legs.

Whatever Bowyer said to his side during half time didn't work. It took only eight minutes for Forest to complete their surgical procedure. Grabban slid the ball to Zinckernagel who played it past a back-pedalling defence to D.J. Spence, who magicked a superb finish into the top wrong corner of the net. It was ruthlessly thrilling.

Boremingham kept trying their set piece stuff, but misdirected headers and a brilliant save from Samba kept them goalless. And Forest were always willing and able to press forward, right to the end of the match. Boremingham carried on walking for a while before failing to realise that they were dead.

What is so special about this Forest side now is its determination to go forward. There are no prolonged sequences of sideways and backwards passing. As soon as Forest gain possession, the player looks up, the forwards fan out ahead, and the forward movement begins. Forest have the skill and pace to be shudderingly dangerous on the counter attack. Of course they've got problems with high balls in defence, but if there wasn't something wrong, then Mister Steve Cooper wouldn't have anything to do, would he?


GAME 12 OCTOBER 16 FOREST 2 BLACKPOO 1
WINNING THE POO There hasn't been this kind of transformation of a Forest side since the 2005/6 League One season. You may remember it. It was the season that Megson threatened to break the club's spirit. Cup defeats by Macclesfield, Woking and Chester saw Forest out of all the competitions early. And as the talented Reds squad toiled, even Conference South side Weymouth forced a replay, after drawing 1-1 on Trentside. With Megson insisting he wouldn't walk away from the club, and the Board insisting they would stick with Megson until the end of his contract, there seemed little hope on the horizon. Not long afterwards, however, the Reds went to Oldham, and capitulated in a second half display that saw them concede three and slip to four points off the bottom four. The next day, Megson departed the City Ground, finally conceding that he had become "part of the problem".

Frank Barlow and Charlie McParland were put in charge as joint caretaker managers, and something approaching a miracle happened. Forest went to Port Vale and beat them 2-0, playing with a freedom which was both risky and exciting. The victory gave the Reds the confidence they needed – the belief that they could actually win away from home. The new-found confidence was immediately put into effect as Swindon were routed 7-1 at the City Ground – for many the highlight of the season. And there was still a six game winning run around the corner – the run which put Forest right back into contention for a play off spot.

The fantastic achievements of Frank Barlow and Ian McParland over those last 13 games gave Reds fans some pride back after the angry mismanagement of the Megson period. And that memorable season saw the emergence of the Big Red Train, which is still around somewhere, waiting to be fired up.

The Steve Cooper transformation of Forest's fortunes holds some similarities to that of the 2005/6 season. Cooper has freed the players from the dispiriting shackles of the previous manager, put the emphasis on attack, built up their self belief, got them winning, and convinced the fans that they must have stumbled into a land of dreams.

The differences, though, are marked. This is not League One. This is the Championship, a far tougher proposition. Considering this, Forest's transformation from Championship bottom dwellers to one of its form teams has been all the more remarkable. Consequentially, the standard of football is now much higher. Some of the football Cooper has got them playing is breathtaking.

The immediate challenge for Forest in this game against Blackpoo was to sustain the momentum from the previous wins, but this time at home, which has not always been easy. Poo were obviously aware of Forest's counter-attacking abilities, so fell back, forcing the Reds to take the game to them. It took Forest 20 minutes to solve this particular problem.

Centre back Joe Worrall launched an inch perfect 40 yard diagonal to full back Maximum Lowe out on his own on the left. Lowe controlled it immediately and squared it to Johnson, who banged it home. It was eye-rubbingly good stuff, the product of fluid and surgical football. The other thing about Cooper's Forest is that they taste the blood in the water and try to continue the attack. Soon after the goal, Lowe cut inside from space and sent one over the bar.

In the second half, Forest continued to threaten, but Grabban couldn't finish Johnson's cross and Johnson poked one over the bar. And wouldn't you just know it, a mix-up between Brice Samba and D.J. Spence, who both looked to claim the same cross, saw a loose ball fall for Eddie Yates who scored from close-range in the 54th minute.

Think back a couple of months. The opposition score, and every Forest fan mutters "That's that then". Heads drop. Players fall back. Everybody braces themselves for the inevitable.

Not these days. With neither the crowd nor the players allowing Hughtonesque caution to curb their enthusiasm, it didn't take long for Forest to retake the lead. After some thoughtful play, Zinks found Lowe in those prairies on the left. Lowe crossed -er- low, and the ball pinballed around to reach Worrall, who thumped it straight at the Pookeeper. Grabban was on hand to slot home the rebound.

Forest weren't finished. Zink's cross inside the area was deflected just wide for a corner, from which Spence curled an effort wide. Lowe warmed the hands of the Pookeeper. Lolley pulled an inviting ball back for Grabban, who shot weakly. Lowe was sent through by a splendid pass from Yates, but once more the shot was wide. Forest could have had six.

Fluid formation, so called defensive players barrelling forward, forwards hunting together, everybody wanting to score or at least contribute positively, an absolute refusal to contemplate defeat - these are the qualities Cooper has brought. They are the ingredients of what he calls a "big club mentality". It's nice to be reminded that we are a big club. It's nice, once again, to have our pride back.


GAME 13 OCTOBER 19 BRISTOLS 1 FOREST 2
SCARY STUFF You remember that game where two teams try to kick a ball into each other's goal? It was called football. It had quite a few fairly simple rules, overlaid with a lot of customs and traditions and tribal stuff which people used to explain the random nature of its outcomes.

Well, Forest don't play that game any more. They seem to have moved onto another plane of sporting existence, one in which the old rules and traditions don't apply. This is the only way you can explain what happened at Ashton Gate last night, unless, of course, you believe in fairies.

For instance, people were going on about "luck" and "robbery" and "not deserving it". But they were talking about the old game. Luck and justice and due deserts don't apply in the game that Forest play. Mister Cooper has instilled such a fiery resolve in this team that matters of luck are just burnt to ash.

Bristols played football the old way, with the same old methods and expectations. Things went well for them for ninety minutes. They started as strongly as you would expect from a side which hadn't won at home since forever. Their version of Alex Scott missed from a few yards, but later scored when Brice Samba parried a Nahki Wells' shot into his path. As the game wore on, this looked like it was going to be enough, for though Forest attacked and attacked, poor crosses and poor final balls left them frustrated. It was, as they used to say, one of those nights.

They used to say a lot of things like that, in the old game. Forest fans were preparing their customary defences, like "so and so played badly" or "we were the better team" or "you've got to lose some time". Attempts to remain positive faded badly when Grabban was replaced by Lyle Taylor. It seemed that even Steve Cooper's magic touch with substitutes had failed him. Lyle Taylor, of all people. Blood and custard and candy floss hair. Forest were going to lose. The old game, with all its damaged dreams and casual injustice, was going to win.

Sadly for the Bristols, Forest don't play that game any more. D.J. Spence sped into the box, was up-ended by some bloke, and the penalty was converted with cool arrogance by Lyle Taylor. To his enormous credit, Taylor grabbed the ball and hared back to the centre spot for a quick restart. The atmosphere in the place became really weird, a mixture of dread and excitement and appallingly heightened awareness. Until the ball broke to the Bristol back post, where Taylor bundled it home.

It was then, and afterwards during the joyous celebrations and Mister Cooper's fist pumps, that it dawned on us that this wasn't football at all, but some new game in which luck and justice were entirely irrelevant and absurdity was entirely feasible, where self belief and perseverance and team spirit weren't just token words but treasured assets. And where, scarily, Forest couldn't stop winning.

Fulham next. I wonder if they realise that the rules have changed?


GAME 14 OCTOBER 24 FOREST 0 COTTAGERS 4
COTTAGE IN THE WOODS The Cottagers strode onto the pitch with their shirts made of parachute silk and their socks over their knees, like whores. Sadly for Forest, their opponents' professionalism, which included blocking off defenders and persuading the referee to look the other way, allowed the overrated Mitrobic to glance a header goalwards where D.J. Spence was on hand to score. There was great swearing and gnashing of teeth etc, but everybody knew this fluke was not the end. Apart, of course, from the referee, who had already decided that he would rather drink bleach than allow Forest to progress.

Despite the ref falling for every trick in the Cottaging playbook, Forest held their own for great stretches of the match, though their opponents' energetic pressing and tactical rag doll impressions were making it difficult to create decent openings, especially out wide. In the middle, Yates was having a trapped-in-the-mud day and Colback was lurking with murderous lack of focus. There was plenty of time, however, to pull off one of those unlikely comeback things Forest might one day become famous for.

It almost happened. The infant Johnson drove wide, and Grabban blasted over a great chance from Zink's cross. If Grabban had taken his time and equalised, the game might have turned out very differently, but then, if the Cottagers hadn't scored three in nine nightmarish minutes they might not have scored four. If the ref hadn't given the Cottagers yet another undeserved free kick and if two Forest defenders hadn't snookered each other, the overrated Mitrobic might not have been gifted their second. If Neeskens Kebano wore his name the right way round he might have missed their third, and if Samba had been an inch or two luckier he might have saved the overrated Mitrobic's penalty. If ifs and buts were coconuts, we'd all be happy monkeys.

Despite all the coconuts, this was not a four-nil losing performance from a four-nil losing team, nowhere near. It was neither a "thrashing" nor a "battering" nor a "humiliation" nor any other sensational silliness. And while we're at it, there are other terms and sentiments which seem wide of the mark, like "gulf in class" or "honeymoon well and truly over" or "two years before we're close to contention", or even "Mitrobic is a class above", or any of the endlessly tedious discussions about formations. We prefer the positivity of Mister Cooper. "I'm not saying we deserved to win," he said, "but it was never a four-nil game, so we're not going to let this derail us*, we've worked too hard over the last couple of weeks. There are things we need to improve on, of course, things we need to do better, definitely, but there are still some good signs there for us."

There certainly are, Mister Cooper. Let's hope they all come together against Queens Park Ladies on Friday.

Before we go, we would like to point out that it is impossible not to foul Cairney, as his feet are longer than his shins. Fact.

*Big Red Train stuff, eh?


WE BAND OF BROTHERS

I think I may well be dying, Vetch.

I take it you're referring to your post-booster headache, sir? Which vaccine did you have?

It's there on the leaflet.

Uncle Joe's Patented Anti-Covid Booster. I don't think I've ever heard of that one, sir.

No, well, Doctor Portfolio assured me that Uncle Joe's Patented Anti-Covid Booster beat all the others into a cocked hat.

I suspect that it didn't come cheap, sir.

Doctor Portfolio assured me that it was a snip at three hundred pounds. He also said you could gauge the quality of the vaccine by the number and severity of the side effects. The leaflet explains it all.

Possible side effects include: blinding headaches, agonizing muscle cramps, fizzing skin, incoherent rambling and the occasional near death experience. Good grief.

Strong stuff, eh, Vetch? The fizzing skin reminded me of sherbet flying saucers. Do you remember sherbert flying saucers, Vetch?

Sadly, no, sir.

Rice paper spaceships with sherbert inside them. Sometimes I 'd put one in a glass of Grandfather's single malt and call it a whisky spritzer. Of course, he caught me eventually and knocked me down with a heavy book. Volume six of Newnes Pictorial Knowledge, if I recall correctly. Was it worth it, Vetch? I don't know. Anyway, I have some questions about the Foresters' match last evening.

The one against Queens Park Ladies you couldn't attend because of your adverse booster reaction?

That's the one Vetch. I was looking forward to spanking the Ladies. I would have given anything to be down there with the lads. That's what they call them you know - the lads.

But watching it on my monitor was adequate substitute, was it not, sir? It was certainly an exciting match.

Yes, Vetch, it was, and therein lies my question. Since when did the Foresters become so driven? What's with all this attacking stuff? Has that Hugeton fellow been taking drugs?

Mister Hughton left halfway through September, sir. Do you remember, we had scored one point from a possible twenty one. I had decided to drink myself to death, and you threatened to withdraw your subscription to Hare and Hound if "the fraud Hugeton" wasn't dismissed? Well, the threat paid off. Mister Hughton left, I stopped drinking, and a great weight was lifted. Since his departure, Forest have picked up seventeen points from a possible twenty four by playing exciting, progressive football.

Under whose tutelage have these miracles occurred, my dear Vetch? What witchery has driven these men forward? I see wing backs risking everything down the flanks. I see an infant taunting grown men with his skill. I see the the boy Yates astride his mighty steed driving his men on. I see a fluid combination of pace and patience. I see the ginger chappie slam home a deserved equaliser. I see relentless determination. Who has sown these magic beans in Hugeton's desert. Who, Vetch?

Mister Steve Cooper, sir. A Welshman.

Now that's unfortunate, Vetch. I have always considered the Welsh to be a disappointing nation. Can't cook, you see. Ever heard of Bara Brith, Vetch? Welsh cake made with tea and wood. But anyone who can forge the Foresters into such an effective fighting unit certainly has my vote. Did you see how delighted they were to equalise?

It was a tremendous, heartwarming finish, for though the team is not yet the finished article, the spirit of camaraderie burns hot within.

The commentator, a man of small brain but endless enthusiasm, summed things up after the equalising goal: This is what the new Nottingham Forest do. They do not give up. They keep believing. I have to concede, Vetch, that those words made my chest swell with pride. And watching the players bonding with the crowd, it brought a tear to my eye. Or I was having a near death experience. You never know, do you Vetch?

No sir, but I am certain of one thing: Mister Cooper has turned this band of misfits into a band of brothers who will, I hope, go far. Perhaps you can now be persuaded to visit the City Ground one of these days to watch our Red Fellows in action?

Nothing would please me more, my dear Vetch, but Doctor Portfolio has advised against all forms of exertion. He has warned me that my adverse reaction to the booster jab is indicative of serious long term buttock issues which can only be managed by a course of expensive medication and an avoidance of standing. Otherwise, I would gladly spend my days down there with the lads. But enough of my problems, Vetch. How is your wife?

She ran away with a Dutchman, sir.

Disappointing nation, the Dutch. Impractically tall. I knew a Dutchman once who had the top of his head sliced off by a ceiling fan.

Sheffield Undead next, sir.

If I last that long, Vetch. For when good sense is oft forsook , the Reaper lurks in every nook.

Let's hope not, sir.


GAME 16 NOVEMBER 2 FOREST 1 SHEFFIELD UNDEAD 1
OBVIOUS...

Here is some obvious stuff:

Joe Lolley had Forest's first chance when he surged forward, was overwhelmed by being presented with two passing options, and drove a bobbly shot wide. Joe Lolley really needs a brain scrub, or a goal.

Lyle Taylor headed wide from Garner's corner, but did enough in the rest of the game to justify him starting on the bench in future.

Basham spent much of the evening trying to bully the dangerous Johnson out of the game, presumably because Johnson is a kid and Basham is a grown man with beef for brains and hair on his arse who needs to teach kids a lesson. His intentional aggression almost backfired on two occasions. If you get a chance, watch the video of the second occasion, when Johnson is skittled near the goal line. Watch Basham stride away avoiding eye contact with anybody. Watch his snarling, rat faced team mate running interference for him by confronting Johnson and distracting the referee. Watch the referee do as he's been persuaded to do by the combined skulduggery of the Undead and his own disabling prejudice. It's pathetic.

Johnson was not intimidated. He carved out a couple of chances, gave the Undead defence some mighty scares, and produced the cross for Grabban's goal. He is a tough little soldier, like his dad.

The Undead are reverting to their ancient role of embittered aggressors who get lucky. Their goal came when Billy Sharp calculated that he could bounce his cross off a Forest defender's legs with enough precision to reach his strike partner, who went by many names. In general they have become a distasteful outfit who consider that "working the referee" is a valid method of game management, and their fans seem extraordinarily soured by history's repeated reminders that they will never achieve anything of note.

Grabban's goal reminded us just what an instinctive striker is all about. The ball arrived on his chest unexpectedly but he was onto the rebound in a flash. Just as impressive was his captain's roar of encouragement at the restart, one of a thousand things you never saw under Hughton.

It was strangely heartwarming to see Jack Colback legging it up and down the left in his valiant wing-back impression. It made us smile.

Perhaps the sponsors were told not to big up his performance with a view to future transfer negotiations, but D.J. Spence was man of the match by a country mile.

We apologise for the bias and the name calling, but would excuse ourselves by saying we've gone too many years without the opportunity of expressing just how passionate a game football can be. Steve Cooper is the man who has inspired this re-kindling of the flame. "We want people to be proud of us," he says. "We know we have work to do; we know we need to be in a better place, still. But we are trying. And when things are going against us and people want to be unfair with us, we will not accept it. I am not going to go on script with you guys about that, but we will certainly be addressing it off script, officially." This is not a response born of synthetic anger or calculated mischief, this is genuine stuff from a man whose passions beat loud in the hearts of his players.

Why is every article on the Nottinghamshire Live website blocked by a huge cookies option button that doesn't work? You don't think it's designed to encourage thousands of frustrated clicks, do you? Or is it simply that, sometimes, life resembles a series of badly lit dead ends in Scunthorpe?

Speaking of Scunthorpe, it's Preston Nob End next.


GAME 17 NOVEMBER 6 FOREST 3 PRESTON NOB END 0
IT'S ALL GOING WRONG...

We can't believe how many things went wrong during this match. Here are a few of them...

1.   PENALTIES
Forest don't get given penalties. In fact, it categorically states in the Referees' Articles chapter 38 that Nottingham Forest shall be awarded a penalty "only in the event that it provides them with the opportunity to score a late consolation goal". Imagine the horror of the Nob End players when, after one of their number kicked the back of Brennan Johnson's leg in the penalty area, the referee awarded Forest a penalty. One of them was clearly mouthing "You said that wouldn't happen" in the referee's face. I do not know what went wrong in this case. I can only assume that the referee will be disciplined, and that this was the last penalty Forest will be given this season.

2.   PENALTIES
It has long been established that, even if penalties are given, Lewis Grabban will likely miss them. On this occasion, he tried his best to plant the ball in the goalkeeper's midriff, but the goalkeeper leapt extravagantly out of the way, and Grabban scored. There was something very suspicious about the whole affair.

3.   GRABBAN
Grabban scored twice. This is not supposed to happen. His second goal was either brilliantly absurd or absurdly brilliant. In a clumsy attempt to clear a Johnson cut back, a Nob End player booted the ball into another Nob End player, and from the rebound Grabban somehow glided the ball past the goalkeeper, off the post, and behind the goal line. This was Forest's third goal, by which time the Nob End players had the skittery eyed look of men who suspect they may have trodden dog shit into the hall carpet. I felt their sense of injustice at the wrongness of it all.

4.   COLBACK
Jack Colback's goal was wrong on so many levels. First of all, he had no right to be where he was when he scored it. Colback is a defensive midfielder whose job is to move slowly, pass sideways or backwards, or fall back and fail to protect the defence. What he was doing sniffing around inside the Nob End penalty area was, to my mind, a gross dereliction of duty. Secondly, the volley that got him his goal was so perfect, I can only assume he has been practising stuff like that on the training ground instead of crabbing around in tight circles like he used to do in the good old days. Scoring goals with reckless abandon will lead to trouble, you mark my words.

5.   RECKLESS ABANDON
These Forest players seem to think they can do anything and go anywhere. I saw Ryan Yates pretending to be a combination midfielder, winger and striker, which was clearly lunatic. I saw Scott McKenna surge forwards and stab precise passes out to the wings when he should have been lying deep worrying about where Toby Figgis was. I saw full backs fizzing in shots from 25 yards. I saw everyone, including the goalkeeper, displaying a range of skills which seduced the crowd into enjoying itself. This will not do. People must realise that football is not about skill, winning or enjoyment, but relentless negativity and grinding disappointment.

6.   THIS WILL NOT DO
Gone are the days when people used to look at their shoelaces when the opposition attacked or delivered a set piece. The sense of dread has been replaced by an atmosphere of what I can only describe as buoyant complacency. There should have been a sense of dread, what with Forest not winning for three matches and Nob End having just beaten AFC Muff at the Muff Hole and Nob End coming on strong at the start of the second half, but there were very few occasions during the match when I even suspected that Forest might lose. This feeling is wholly unnatural, and no good can come of it. It's reached the point where the singing is too loud, the players are too cocky, and anyone who criticises any of the players is banished to the dead zone. Bring back the dark days, I say. It's better to live safely in a ditch than risk everything in the clouds.

7.   WHAT TO DO
It is difficult to know what to do in these circumstances, but here are some suggestions about bringing the anxiety back into the Forest experience. Firstly, you could worry about the loan players disappearing after Christmas or in the summer. Secondly, you could worry about Johnson being poached for less than thirty million pounds if we don't get promoted. Thirdly, there is always that general fear about covid, or injury, or climate stuff, or the devastating consequences of political buffoonery. You can spend the international break fretting about these things, so by the time Forest play again you should be in a state of nervous exhaustion. It's the right thing to do.


GAME 18 NOVEMBER 20 READING LADIES 1 FOREST 1
Frustrated? Here's why.

"I'll take a point away," may be reassuring for a struggling side, but not for a side which has such a sparkling away record. Especially a side which sports a blood-and-custard kit. In this case, "I'll take a point away" is just another way of burying a disappointment so deep it gives you stomach ache.

We didn't score three. We could have done. Grabban could easily have got a couple. There were other efforts, but Grabban's were the ones you would have put your money on. A warning here, though: putting your money on Grabban is probably a bit daft. Not only does he score in clumps, he misses in clumps too. In this match, he played like a man on fire, but was just unlucky.

Zinckernagel scored too early. Once you had recovered your wits after witnessing the Dane's wondrous slalom and strike, you realised that Forest may have stung the Ladies into action with an entire match left to play. We still cannot think of Zinckernagel as a Dane. It's not really a Danish name. It's more Austrian or Swiss. What is he trying to hide?

Maximum Lowe got injured. Being a Forest left back means that getting injured is part of the contract, unless, of course, you are Gaetan Bong. Poor old Bong gets a lot of stick from Forest fans, but that's only because one of his legs may be shorter than the other.

People criticise Forest's defence for letting in the Ladies' equaliser, but that's because people see what they want to see, or what they're encouraged to see, rather than what may actually happen. One of the Ladies' blokes bobbled an unconvincing corner along the ground to Dann, who pulled it unconvincingly into the net. Everybody was surprised by the move, especially those who executed it. According to the media, however, the goal was an inevitable consequence of Carroll's introduction. Some dickhead on Quest even suggested that Carroll used his body to shield Dann. It is frustrating when the need for a good headline craps on the truth.

It is always disappointing to lose in front of such a feeble and humourless home support in a dog box of a stadium whose soul belongs to the UK's most trusted car leasing company.

The Ladies were nowhere near as dangerous as Forest. Apart from their unconvincing goal, the pressure they put Forest under resulted in only two efforts of consequence, both of which Samba would have been distraught not to have saved. "Brilliant save, Brice!" seemed a bit over the top, as it afforded the Ladies more credit than they deserved. What are goalies for, for Boff's sake?

Frustration might result in the feeling that Steve Cooper's Forest have reached some kind of plateau. If you feel this way, consider the last part of the match and focus on Forest's almost manic determination to win. This was not the performance of a team that was prepared to settle for a draw. If you are one of the "plateau" people, you should admit you are wrong and flog yourself raw in the market square. Or something.

Real frustration is typing this up on a new tablet with the most aggressive predictive text you can imagine, while making in neck essence to reach everybody twist.


GAME 19 NOVEMBER 23 FOREST 0 LUTONTOWN 0
STRESS'S BLOGUE
Pie asks the questions, Stress answers them.


Was this Steve Cooper's Peppa Pig moment?

What?

Was this Steve Cooper's Peppa Pig moment?

What the f kind of question is that?

It's a reference to Boris losing the plot in a recent speech to business leaders.

Boris the Animal?

No, not Boris the Animal. Well, yes, kind of. But the question is, did Steve Cooper lose the plot in his team selection and set up?

Boris Karloff?

No. Did the four at the back formation discourage our backs from winging forward as dangerously as they have been?

If you say so.

What do you mean, If I say so?

Well, you seem to know all the answers, with your back fours and Boris the Pig and general smartarsery. All I can say is that, with Maximum Lowe out, Mister Cooper wanted to avoid playing the Bong, even if it meant a change of formation.

Why does everybody pick on the Bong?

Do you remember that time you drifted all over the road and ended up hitting a tree near Woodsetts? You blamed the new road surface. You said the camber was all wrong. The Bong has the same trouble with football pitches.

I see. But tell me, do you think that starting with Taylor instead of Grabban was a wise move? I know that Grabban needs resting occasionally, but Cooper could have given him a half. I've never thought that resting your best players for a "more important match" is a clever or respectful thing to do.

Whatever the Blessed Cooper does is fine by me. I think Grabban would have come on later if Fiery Jack hadn't got himself sent off.

So you think Forest did as well as circumstances allowed?

Look, I'm not saying that Forest played well. They looked unbalanced and out of sorts. But missing players and Fiery Jack's sending off and officials with broccoli for brains and Taylor's missing a sitter and us not being given a penalty wrecked Forest's chance of getting three points.

And then there was Samba.

Of course. You know, there's something really weird about Samba. Whenever the ball hits him, wherever it hits him, it bounces away like he's made of metal. The penalty hit his leg and his leg didn't move but the ball flew over the bar. And near the end when he flicked out an arm to stop that bloke's shot, his arm didn't move but the ball flew away to safety. It's like he's made of really fast iron.

You're going to call him Iron Man, aren't you?

Iron Man. That's one of your better ideas, Pie.

Thank you. Do you have anything else to say about the match?

That dwarfy Paranormal looks a good footballer. Garner is beginning to look useful again. I think that Lockyer bloke collapsed quite cleverly for their penalty. Lutontown were a bit naff overall. Their manager seemed terribly depressed about not having as much money as Fulham for some reason...

...You meant Boris Johnson, didn't you?

I did indeed.

The bloke who does that Prime Minister comedy routine.

That's the fellow.

Only, he's not very funny is he?

No, not really.







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.