GAME 1. AUGUST 7th, 2015

Not much of a match, that, was it? There was very little controlled midfield play from either side. Hove's control was illusory, stemming from Forest's determination to sit narrow and deep, shuttle from side to side like rows of table football men, and keep giving the ball back to their opponents. Presumably Forest's plan was to absorb pressure and spring forward dangerously, but springing forward dangerously is not the same as launching Hail Marys in the general direction of Antonio or Dex and hoping for an Antonio screamer or a lucky break from Dex's aerial battles. Forest badly need someone to funnel the ball forward in a thoughtful, controlled and less brutal manner. But then, as they say, nothing's new under the Forest sun.

In short, it was all so disappointingly last season-ish. Even the strong "comeback" was nothing new, when we went two up front and could easily have scabbed an equaliser via the skills of the very promising Son of Des. But in our opinion it's about time Forest became pro-active, even away from home, and started their strong comeback from the kick off, instead of being reactive and hoping to "nick a result". We do like "nick a result" football, but only against Barcelona.

There, that's enough grumbling. We sense we're falling prey to the "instant success" syndrome so prevalent in football these days. It's hard not to, when your local newsagent grins at you and says "Notts Forest, bottom of the league eh?" before you metaphorically bludgeon him to death with a heavy newspaper and bury him under a pile of newly delivered loaves. Or when your window cleaner chips in with "What happened to your lot yesterday?", and you trot out stuff about being picked on by the FFP Nazis and lining up illusory squad additions before you metaphorically drown him in his own water bucket and stuff him in the bin for non-recyclable waste and cats.

Things will get better because (please) Mister Freedman and the players have enough nous to put aside their egos and analyse why Forest aren't making the most of a reasonably talented squad. I hope they do, because if I keep on murdering local tradesmen at this rate things could get seriously ugly.

GAME 2. AUGUST 15th, 2015

Things are far too complicated at the moment. We don't know what's going to happen with Frey and Lansbury, we've no idea what the Shy Moor Folk are thinking with regard to Lansbury and that Jutke bloke. We don't even know whether Antonio will be here at the month's end. We haven't got a clue about the remaining pitfalls of FFP. The current situation is like a dark cellar full of mousetraps - set one off and the whole lot goes snapping away in a blizzard of unpredictable outcomes.

There are simply too many questions, very few of which were answered against Rotheringham.

Yes, it was a better performance than against Hove, but it was a long way from being convincing. The on-the-floor football was nice to see, but it still lacked fluency through midfield. The defence did better, but centrally we were dodgy and the full backs were facing fairly ordinary opposition. Lansbury looked good playing deep, but he is no defensive midfielder. Mancienne looked good at left back, but is not a natural left back, as evidenced by him drifting infield in attack. Our midfield seemed oddly empty at times. Ward and Walker and C. Burke did okay, but they should have provided more end product. The match was often scrappy, with attacks developing from mistakes rather than from penetrating moves.

There were good things, of course. Mills' first Forest goal was a cracker,and his celebration a real battle cry. There was effort and industry a-plenty, and once Forest took the lead there were glimpses of a more confident and controlled performance. And we won, which was nice.

But somebody said afterwards that they thought Antonio didn't look bothered, and perhaps he wanted out. This was news to me, but it spoiled things, because it dredged up the thought that everything at Forest is questionable, and that's not a comfortable position to be in. I almost wish someone would take that first step into the dark cellar, and let the mousetraps fly where they may.

GAME 3. AUGUST 18th, 2015

It has become clear that not even God knows what's happening at Forest, so assessing Forest's chances in this match is about as easy as shaving lice. Anything could happen, but it probably won't...

..and it didn't, did it, because it ended in a goalless draw. On the other hand, a game we were not looking forward to turned out to be the best and most entertaining Forest performance for a good while.

With Antonio sulking somewhere off stage, our fear was that Forest, having lost their most dynamic player, might suffer a crisis of confidence. Not a bit of it. In fact, the accident of his omission seemed to allow the team to gel properly. No longer burdened with the often frantic desire to get it to Antonio, the players adopted a more patient approach. The result was a more balanced performance in which everyone played their part, supported each other well, looked happy on the ball, and moved the ball fluently. It was a delight to watch.

The experienced players led the way, and it was heartening to see David Vaughan regaining strength and confidence, and Henri continuing to blossom as a talented playmaker, spraying precise and clever balls to his wing men. Add to this the skill, energy and enthusiasm of Baby Walker, Baby Burke and Baby Grant - none of whom looked out of place - and Forest began to look like a proper footballing side again.

There were two major problems, however. Our defence still looks susceptible to the threat of high balls; long balls from deep were often flicked on by Charleston forwards, and high crosses were not cut out, allowing that Makienok bloke three clear headed chances. This won't do. Presumably they're working on positioning, tracking opponents and attacking high balls in training, because relying on luck and Doris's excellent reactions is simply not enough.

The other problem is that Forest's forwards can't shoot straight. Well, Ward can, but it's usually straight at the keeper. Forest spent much of the match banging balls high and wide and not very handsome, and this is where we missed Antonio. It's a real conundrum, this. If Antonio stays, Mister Dug has got to find a way of integrating him properly into the whole-team effort we saw in this match. If he goes, we've got to find a reliable goalscorer. And before we get too obsessed with this goalscoring problem, we should remind ourselves that many sides in the Championship are struggling in this area. That's why it's the Championship, if you see what I mean.

So, overall, a good night, full of promise and commitment - one of those nights when you could be forgiven for raising your expectations above the level of mere survival. But don't. Not yet anyway.

GAME 4. AUGUST 22nd, 2015


A is for Antonio, who seems to be suffering what the French call "le Grand Sulque". There were a few splutters, but the gunpowder was a bit damp, and communication with his team mates seemed minimal. What we can't work out is whether he's always been like this. We dearly hope he gets back to his explosive best.
B is for Boln. We don't like Boln, or Horwich, or wherever the Macaroon stands. The whole place seems mired in grumbling disappointment, like years of rotting vegetation turned to a thick layer of peat.
C is for Chris Burke, came on late and made a big difference attack wise. If Forest are going to improve, we think his quality will play a big part in their improvement. We really like him.
D is for Dobbie. Not many people know this, but "Dobbie" is a corruption of the Scottish word "Jobbie", and refers to a life form which has been flushed down the drain and has survived to adulthood in the sewers. You know, like the crocodiles of urban myth.
E is for Ebecilio, who looked like a real prospect - strong, aware, easy on the ball - before running out of steam (understandably) in the second half.
F is for Fox, who came on just before Boln equalised, and was therefore to blame. This was nonsense of course. Everybody knows that Fox was brought on to provide a scapegoat in case we conceded. This too was nonsense. Boln's equaliser was the result of a porous midfield and a moment's lack of concentration in defence. Fox had nothing to do with it. Even the argument that taking off Baby Walker put undue pressure on our defence doesn't really work. Baby Walker was knackered, and was providing little in the way of outlet.
G is for Goalkeeper. Doris really is growing into a bit of a superhero. We loved his penalty save, but also his vocal abuse of the cheat Clough. We have a really strong character there.
H is for Henri, who had a decent game, linking up well with Ebecilio, but he really must start getting those curly-wee shots on target.
I is for idiotic car park attendants everywhere.
J is for Jeremy Corbyn, who is living proof that people would rather live in Cloud Cuckoo Land than the vicious corporate dungheap we seem to have become.
K is for almost every word beginning with K, none of which are significant in the present context. We find K a most disappointing letter.
L is for Lichaj, who we think did a decent job against the tricky Wellington Silva which went mostly unnoticed. W.S. was eventually reduced to delegating responsibility to others. Perhaps he didn't want to get kicked again. Kicked - that would have done for K, wouldn't it?
M is for Mancienne, who did a fair job in deep midfield, but it's still not his best position. And Mills, who did a fair job at centre back, but he's still a bit rash.
N is for Neil Lennon, whose eyes we still have serious concerns about.
O is for Osborn, who provided energy at the beginning, but quickly ran out of it in the second half. Get well soon Benny.
P is for penalty. What a farce that was. Minimal contact when Mills jumped for a header which he won. Would Clough have got anywhere near it? We think not.
Q is for quality. There was enough of it on show to suggest progress is possible for both sides. Like most Championship teams, the real problems lie up front.
R is for result. We agree with Mister Dug - the result was a fair one. Despite the disappointment of conceding deep into the unwarranted amount of added time, it has to be said that Boln broke through our midfield on too many occasions and put our defence under more pressure than we did theirs. Away from home, against a decent side, in an atmosphere of hostile peat, the point was a good enough reward.
S is for strike. Or superb strike. What a hit from old Potato Head, whose perfectly struck stabbed drive flew into the net to the surprise and delight of the famous team's supporters. I'm not sure we should be that surprised though - Vaughan's form has been picking up, and his contributions have been growing more important.
T is for tremendous, and refers specifically to Forest's away support, which continues to outsing the opposition wherever they go, whatever the situation.
U is for unnecessary pressure - the kind of pressure generated by the demands of impatient fans and, let it be said, an impatient owner. We still think that Forest's aim in this season of Umbongo should be safety - at least until Christmas, when important players return.
V is for Vaughan. See S.
W is for Baby Walker. He has that clever, gliding ability which will one day be rewarded with goals, but only when he develops greater power and single mindedness. He is not ready yet to assume the role of a lone striker. We either need to support him better, or replace him in the short term with a more reliable goalscorer.
X marks the spot. Specifically the rather large spot between the goal posts and under the bar, which goes largely ignored in most Forest matches of late. Mind you, the same could be said of most Championship teams.
Z is for zeugma, a figure of speech in which a word applies to two others in different senses, such as Henri lost his hat and his temper. It is also the name of a Turkish restaurant in Sheffield, but that's their problem.

GAME 5. AUGUST 29th, 2015

Ah, Mister Stress - back from the fray I see.

Indeed, sir. And where were you, may I enquire?

You may. I am presently, as you know, under my physician Doctor Sock, who informs me that I am suffering from Flaccidity of the Buttocks, a condition which requires extensive periods of chair-rest and precludes the possibility of travel. But tell me, sir, how fared our brave Foresters against the Welsh ruffians?

It was not a happy day, sir. For the majority of the game our Favourites performed with the latitudinous incertitude of crabs, whereupon we found ourselves worsed by two goals. Matters improved when we reinforced our attack, but our single goal was mere compensation. My companions muttered low curses into their beards and drowned their sorrows in watered ale.

But surely you are harsh, sir. Did not our Favourites exhibit the mettle expected of them?

Aye sir, there was spirit to burn and a-plenty, but spirit and endeavour are poor substitutes for guile, nor do they compensate for tactical timidity.

But surely you are harsh, sir. Did no-one stand above the parapets of mediocrity?

The what?

Did no-one play well?

The fellow Vaughan impressed. Surrounded as he was by pegs, he alone endeavoured to energise our midfield like a resurgent potato. The boy Walker continued his progress, but was bereft of support. The prodigious Antonio scored, but otherwise fell short of his best. These are troubling times, Mister Pie, troubling times.

Indeed they are, Mister Stress, but only to minds hedged in by the thorny borders of their own pessimism.

Forgive me sir, but you were not there. The Flaccidity of your Buttocks...

...has not yet cowed my spirit, sir. Perhaps you will at least allow that the restrictions of our financial situation have led to a period of transition.

And perhaps you will allow that Transition and Decline are the closest of wet bedfellows, sir.

I will allow only that the jaundiced nature of your reports tests my patience.

Then it is to be hoped that the estimable Doctor Sock prescribes a swift remedy for your condition, so that you may get off your flaccid arse to see for yourself.

I object, sir...

You may object till the bumcrack of doom, Mister Pie, but this season will be an ordeal, the severity of which would test even the ability of Doctor Sock. And now that Antonio's gone...

Antonio's gone?


Oh bugger.

Still, fate has afforded us a break in the proceedings, during which you will no doubt rationalise your way out of our difficulties and conclude that everything will be fine, though I have little doubt that your reassurances will prove as flaccid as your buttocks. And with that I will bid you good day.

Oh bugger.

GAME 6. SEPTEMBER 12th, 2015

When Austin scored in the sixty oddth minute, it seemed like Justice had crapped on our picnic. It was so sickeningly unfair. Up until the injury to Mancienne, Forest had presented Queens Park Ladies with more problems than FFP ever did. O'Grady had alternately bludgeoned and tricked the home defenders into a state of bloodied bewilderment, Mendes had survived some rough treatment to provide a continuing threat, and Vaughan had given a passable impression of running the midfield show. It had all been wonderfully surprising - especially to the Ladies, whose self satisfied sense of expectation bred a lethargy they never quite snapped out of.

But then Mancienne was gone, and with him the security he had provided in front of the defence, and the Ladies took advantage. Austin's goal was sickening not only because Forest didn't deserve that, but also because it was Charlie "Ooh look at me I'm Charlie Austin" Austin, and because it was a very ordinary shot which Doris should have saved easily, and because it seemed like the script was being written by the smug glory hunters of the London based media. Charlie "Ooh look at me I'm Charlie Austin" Austin had scored again, and the Ladies were going to cruise to another comfortable, inevitable win.

But after the brief experiment with Ebicilio, Forest reorganised, going two up front with the striking addition of Nelson Oliveira, and in less than ten unforgettable minutes, Forest won the game. The first goal came courtesy of Robert Green, and in a peculiar way it wasn't that surprising. For one thing, Green has a history of cock-ups. Secondly, he had tried the same ball juggling trick earlier on and had just about got away with it. Thirdly, the pitch played its part - its hardness had led to problems before, probably played a part in Doris's miscalculation, and would almost catch out their substitute keeper later when a shot from Oliveira bounced in front of him. And fourthly, the back-pass to Green smacked of that lazy smugness referred to earlier. Anyway, Green failed to control the bouncy ball with his knee, and compounded his error by barging over O'Grady. Oh, and fifthly, Chris O'Grady never gave up - on anything. Rarely have we seen a more supercharged performance from a Forest forward, and it was such a pity he was prevented from grabbing that well-deserved goal. Henri smashed home the penalty, repeatedly punched the air in defiant celebration, and all the injustice of what had gone before was roared away by the Forest fans.

But then came the glory moment, manufactured by the three new boys. O'Grady pulled away from his marker and leapt high for a perfectly controlled header to Mendes, Mendes sent his marker the wrong way and stroked the ball into the path of Oliveira, Oliveira drilled the ball home. It was a breathtaking move, real quality high speed attacking, made the more remarkable by the fact that these three attackers, who had never played together before, looked like they had been combining all their footballing lives. The remaining minutes, including a suspicious six minutes of added time, were played out to the accompaniment of the Forest choir.

So don't tell us not to get carried away. If we can't get carried away by a performance like that, there's not much point to anything really. Go on, get carried away - we're worth it.

GAME 7. SEPTEMBER 15th, 2015

Watching a match whilst downing a shared bottle of Doctor Sock's Patent Brain Tonic is not to be recommended. Things get scary and ... unexpected.

The first scary, unexpected thing was Mister Dug's team selection. We spent the first half discussing it in colourful language, unable to decide whether the manager had gone stubbornly insane by stripping the team of its momentum, or whether the players really did need to be rested at times during a lunatic schedule. The first half supported both arguments. As it drifted by in a haze of misfiring synapses, Dex wasn't getting anywhere near scoring nor providing the pivotal energy O'Grady would have done. On the other hand, Forest were playing with an organisation and confidence so steely it left the Boremingham players scratching their heads. It belatedly dawned on us that, perhaps, Forest had come not only to crush the life out of Boremingham by hunting down their creative players like wolves and restricting their air supply or by repelling what advances they did make with some ironclad defensive work ... no, it seemed to be more than that. They had not simply come, as the Boremingham manager later said, to get a nil-nil draw. They showed enough enterprise in the first half to suggest that, though a nil-nil draw might be satisfactory, they would probably be disappointed with only one point. It was just something about their attitude - the way they outfought their opponents and were always ready to spring forward, which put us in mind of a team building a platform for something more ambitious than a nil-nil draw. Plus there was always the comfort of having that bench.

They didn't need that bench to get their goal. In the second half, as Doctor Sock's Patent Brain Tonic began to cause major problems, Boremingham nearly scored when some lump of a bloke bounced a header over the bar. Things seemed to be slipping into Scaryland, until, a few minutes later, Forest went down the other end and scored. Mills (yes, Mills) delivered an exquisite cross field ball to find Ward, who tricked his marker into slipping, and scurried towards their penalty area. A perfect cross (which nutmegged one defender and evaded two others) found Dex muscling his way in, and the old gunslinger put it away. It only takes a second to score a goal, as somebody once said. It takes Doctor Sock's Patent Brain Tonic about an hour to generate its full concussive effect.

Mister Dug's plan, we all had to admit, was working. We didn't quite understand how. It was something to do with the fact that the defence, especially Mills and Lichaj, seemed to have grown several inches, that Osborn was buzzing around with far too much energy for a recently sick man, that Ward was pissing everybody off, and that Henri was just magnificent in deep midfield. It was difficult to comprehend how well the match was being managed by a team we had almost written off at the start.

Then things got really scary and unexpected. The orthodox thing for Mister Dug to do would have been to protect the lead by adding more defensive cover and falling back to absorb Boremingham's attacking response. But no, on came Mendes and O'Grady, and for the rest of the match these two, especially Mendes with his blurry feet, engaged the Boremingham defence so energetically that (a) the home side was reduced to hoofballing it over their own midfield and (b) Forest looked far more likely to score than Boremingham. Nil-nil draw indeed.

This performance, a wonderful mixture of discipline and enterprise, left us brain-winded. Doctor Sock's Patent Brain Tonic may have led us into exaggerated praise, but it also gave us the scary and unexpected conviction that this Forest squad suddenly looks capable of beating anybody. Even Miserablebugger.

GAME 8. SEPTEMBER 19th, 2015

In a rational world, Nugent's third minute goal was a clever, opportunistic finish to a chaotic series of events. We do not, however, live in a rational world. In our world, Law 18 of the Association Football Laws of the Game specifies, in paragraph 7, that "Any goal scored in the first five minutes of a match by David Nugent shall be disallowed on the grounds that it is probably a fluke." Yes, we know that Forest dealt with the attack by pretending to be asleep, but as far as we are concerned, the final cross, the dummied miss, and Nugent's touch were more accidental than controlled. We will never be convinced otherwise, not even by the facts, because we loathe David Nugent to the extent of refusing him credit for anything. We do not like him, his fluky goals, or his slack-jawed goggle-eyed celebrations. All we can hope is that Justice prevails as his true lack of talent becomes evident as the season goes on.

Now Mills' equaliser - that was a proper goal, scored with a perfectly connected, perfectly placed sidefoot volley a few minutes after their skanky opener. But Justice is a bit of a bitch at times, and sure enough Mills had to go off injured after about twenty minutes, by which time the match had adopted a frenetic life of its own. Nugent had got booked for being the nasty sod he is, O'Grady had set up Mendes for a half chance, and Downing had broken clean through to be foiled by Doris's legs. Don't worry about Downing, by the way. He may look good, but he can't shoot and rarely scores.

Miserablebugger kind of got on top for a bit, and Nugent got in another shot which, because he had time to think about it, went straight at Doris, who batted it away. The ball fell to Adomah, whose weak effort was once more repelled by Doris. So in our completely irrational world, Nugent can only score flukes, Downing can't score at all, Adomah lacks bottle, and Miserablebugger are in trouble striker-wise. This thought comforts us.

But then they got their second goal, and again it was the result of accident rather than intent. An unsighted Wilson nodded the ball into the path of Ayala who headed home. It was a bit of a sickener, but the days of Forest folding under pressure are long gone. Within minutes the excellent Lichaj almost fired Forest level with a wonderful shot which was saved by dint of the Miserablebugger keeper being over eight feet tall.

The game developed into a battle of giant wills, with both sides refusing to believe they couldn't win it. Forest's ambition showed from the second half kick off, with Mendes spurning a golden opportunity to score, or at least lay the ball off to Oliveira for a tap in. Lichaj forged himself another opportunity. Miserablebugger countered to give Downing another chance, but as we know Downing can't shoot straight. Ward saw a drive fly just wide and a free kick sail over. Oliveira curled just wide from twenty yards. Mendes tested their eight foot keeper with a vicious bouncing drive. This battle of giant wills was being won by Forest. Reward for their enterprise seemed to have come when Gibson palmed the ball away from O'Grady, but Henri's penalty, as we all know, was saved. Justice can certainly be a bit of a bitch. If Henri's drive had been a few inches higher... If Gibson had been given his second yellow as he should have been... If ifs and buts were coconuts, we'd all be bloody monkeys.

The match drifted to a defeat, and that defeat still rankles after such a Forest performance. We blame no-one for individual errors because the overall team effort was so enterprising, so ambitious, so full of promise. And in our irrational world, we soothe our sense of injustice with the thought that a seasoned and rather dirty Miserablebugger side just about hung on by playing at the peak of their powers, whereas Forest, who could have won, will only get better.

GAME 9. SEPTEMBER 24th, 2015

We sort of enjoyed this match, in the same way you might enjoy spending hours in an angling competition catching a hundredweight of eels which the adjudicator refuses to weigh. They're fish, aren't they? Eels are fish. Apparently not - not in this competition. Apparently, working your disgorger to a smoky nub isn't good enough for these local jobsworths.

Anyway, once again we left feeling a bit miffed after almost winning. Having thought about it, winning would have been slightly embarrassing, because Uddersfeel played some fluent midfield stuff which deserved more than having Ishmael "Woebegone" Miller up front. Forest's attacking midfield were nowhere near as effective as in their previous three matches. As Stress said, they didn't look quite "on it". We don't know why exactly. Maybe they were tired. Maybe their defensive duties sapped them a bit. Maybe Mister Dug was simply asking too much of them. Whatever, the attack couldn't manage its secondary role - to relieve the defence by providing a constant threat down the other end or at least holding it up for a while.

Not that the defence needed any relief. The back four actually relished the challenge, and rose to it magnificently - especially Wilson, who seemed to have fallen in love with the game again. That's what we really like about this squad - the fact that so many of them keep banishing doubts about their contribution to the team. So Wilson, having been labelled "casual" by some, rose to this occasion with remarkable gusto. And Lichaj, having looked in trouble against Carayol, eventually broke him into surly bits. And Pinillos, having made an uncertain start to the season, is looking more cocky and accomplished with every game. Not only did they defend stoutly, but Pinillos and Lichaj were instrumental in the goal, the finest bit of quality football in the whole match. World class it was - with Pinillos wriggling free down the left, crossing to Lichaj, who resisted an attempt on goal to place a perfect header into the path of Mendes, who swept a sumptuous half volley home. What an absolute peach of a goal.

Both managers said their team controlled the game, and they were both right and both wrong. Uddersfeel controlled a lot of the possession, but created very little. Forest were in control at the back, but could never quite dampen Uddersfeel's enthusiasm. Of course, if Burke's strike had gone in - and we all thought it had - or OG's follow up had avoided that defender, the game would have been over. But, like Henri's penalty against Miserablebugger, Forest failed to deliver the killer blow, and had to pay for it.

Uddersfeel saw their equaliser as a reward for their persistence, and in a way it was. It was also a grotesque fluke, a speculative effort flying off Hobbs' leg, striking the underside of the bar and bouncing behind the line. It was a bit of a sickener, but especially because it was scored by a bloke whose name looked like the random collection of letters you see on the Countdown board. And yes, she is gorgeous.

What was finally frustrating, though, was the fact that, after their goal, Forest actually went for it, like a team who knew they could win. It would have been nice to see more of that endeavour earlier, instead of relying on a display of exhibition defending. But hey, seven points from twelve in what looked like being a hellish month is not to be sniffed at. And you can always cook eels you know. Yes you can. If you put plenty of salt and vinegar on them, they taste of salt and vinegar.

GAME 10. OCTOBER 3rd, 2015
FOREST 0 UL 1(?)

Why can't I do it?

Look, we've been through this before. Whenever you do reports we get complaints. You simply can't be trusted to be reasonable.

Oh I see - Ooh look at me I'm a wide-arsed fellow of reasonable outlook. I never rock the boat because I'm reasonable. I'm prepared to completely ignore the fact that their solitary goal was offside or the referee was some bald incompetent jobsworth or that once again Forest were robbed of what they deserved.

There you go, you see. You can't blame the referee for our defeat.

Ooh look at me - I'm a referee. I ponce around football pitches with my head up my bum making decisions based on a toxic mixture of spiteful incompetence and random bias. I particularly enjoy my afternoons at the City Ground where I can wind up the crowd something rotten by failing to spot offside goals, failing to spot high boots except if they're from Forest players, failing to spot Mendes getting hauled down, booking Lichaj for avoiding Clucas's punch, generally giving the impression that I was intimidated by the Premier League side and reacting to the hostility of the Forest fans by laughing in their faces.

Oh now come on Stress, you can't blame him for the offside goal, if it was offside.

The corner was taken so quickly that neither he nor his linesman were in any position to see what happened. If neither he nor his linesman were in the correct position he should have ordered the corner to be retaken. Ask Doris what happened. Or are you calling Doris a liar?

Don't be silly. You would admit, I hope, that Ul were a decent side?

I admit nothing. I'm getting thoroughly peed off by this attitude of putting undeserved results down to the quality of the opposition. Ooh look at me, I'm Ul I am. I swagger around trying Premier League tricks which don't come off, giving the ball away a lot, having a lot of possession which in the end amounts to one deflected slash which hits the woodwork and a cheat of a goal. And when I'm under pressure, I have learned a few sly tricks about diving and the odd bit of calculated thuggery. No, Pie, I refuse to admit that Ul were any better than us. I refuse to admit that they got what they deserved.

But they did win. We did lose.

There you go being reasonable again. The whole point is that we didn't deserve to lose. There were times in the first half when we played some of the best football I've seen in ages. The counter attacking from our forwards was beautifully slick. Mendes was sublime, Oliveira was always dangerous, and David Vaughan grows more handsome with every match. And please note that when Ul did put on the pressure (which consisted mostly of bombarding our box with high balls) Forest's defence stood firm. Conceding one wrongly-given goal is not a bad afternoon's work, I think.

So you see nothing wrong with Forest's performances?

I neither said nor implied that. Of course there are things wrong, otherwise we'd be Arsenal. The main problem at the moment is simply time - the time needed for relatively new players to understand each other's game. O'Grady, for example, is labouring under some perceived responsibility to score, which is leading to bad decisions. In general, shots are being snatched at or driven too near the goalkeeper. But these are not major criticisms. I am not irritated by the manager or the performances or the players at all. I am irritated by incompetent officials and sheer bad luck. Anybody who doesn't think we're not getting what we deserve is probably the same person who thinks that McClaren is a good manager or that Rooney is world class or that the size of Rodgers' head is in the correct ratio with that of his hands or that Rugby Union is more than a Pantomime of Monsters or that George Osborne is at least partially human.

That's what you think, is it?

It surely is, Pie. So can I do the report?

No. Definitely not.

GAME 11. OCTOBER 16th, 2015

A squad knackered by injuries and suspensions, an opposing manager with a score to settle, a Bristols team who couldn't beat squat, and a game played on Skyday. We don't stand a chance on God's green earth of picking up anything from this one.

Do we?

No we didn't, but not for any of the reasons given above. Here are a few more coherent reasons for Forest's failure.

If you are set up to contain for the first part of the match, it is advisable to stifle the source of opposition attacks by pressing high and marking tightly. It is not advisable to give the opposition's midfield the freedom of Bristol or the time to pick a simple pass. It is not advisable to allow uncontested crosses or to fall back in the hope that your defence can block strikes or hope that their strikers are so naff they will make a pig's ear of every opportunity that comes their way. Forest chose the second method.

If you play a lazy and nervous left back at right back that lazy and nervous right back will stop being nervous and lazy and disappear altogether. Fox may as well not have been there. We don't like scapegoating players (there were others who should shoulder blame), but the Bristols players had no such reservations.

As far as counter-attacking is concerned, too many players made too little contribution. Mendes, the erstwhile generator of fast breaks, was too lightweight and easily pushed off the ball. O'Grady lumbered around like a confused and disconsolate bull. Oliveira continued to look promising, but looking promising can get boring if it results in little more than looking promising. Henri produced his usual mixture of near misses and near misses. Okay, Forest produced some nice football in the second half, but it was slow, pressure football which gave the Bristols defence the time to set themselves, and resulted in moves which only a vibrant and determined striker could have finished. The nearest we got to a vibrant and determined finisher was Jack Hobbs.

In general, we underestimated the opposition so badly, so arrogantly, that not even the minutes before the goal, when Bristols got behind us with alarming ease, shook us out of our lethargy. If it had not been for the Magnificent Doris, we could have lost that game four or five nil.

To give away two goals to a player we thought was retired is just unforgiveable.

And lastly in this miserable litany of failure, the biggest worry of all. Mister Dug has had two starts: the first was when he first came, the second was when this season properly started - after the transfer window closed. Both starts have begun well, with players busting guts and producing winning performances which gave us hope. His first start saved us from possible relegation trouble but then faded into hopeless inconsequentiality. His second start began well with splendid victories against Queens Park Ladies and Boremingham, but now we're fading again. It's early days, and injuries and suspensions are hurting us, but the cycle is ominous.

I had an ominous cycle once. It was a beautiful red second hand Hercules, and ended its life being crushed by a bin lorry. The moral of this story is that we play the Shy Moor Folk next.

GAME 12. OCTOBER 20th, 2015



Yes sir?

Where the hell have you been, Vetch?

I have been burying Doctor Sock, sir, as you instructed.

Yes, well, never mind that now. Did you go to watch the football match with your good wife?

I went alone, sir. Sadly, Missis Vetch has come down with a broken jaw.

I'm sorry to hear that, Vetch. Still, I trust the game was entertaining.

Not really, sir.

Oh, and why not?

Well, sir, apart from the result, which was ultimately disappointing, I found the visitors an unsavoury crew.

Ah, of course - the Shy Moor Folk. Aren't they that Northern lot who live in holes and tie their dogs up with string?

Indeed they are, sir. Also I am told that they are easily manipulated by glittery things. And their team has a manager whose personality seems to be based on a talent for strutting purposefully in a straight line with the intention of assaulting anyone who stands in his way, rather like an angry clockwork rooster. Not our type at all, sir.

But the Shy Moor Folk are supposed to be quite good, aren't they?

Well, sir, if "quite good" refers to a team which has wasted everybody's time with a couple of hopeless flirtations with the Premier League, then yes.

So was there nothing you enjoyed about the match, Vetch?

Oh indeed there was, sir. The American chappie's goal was a rare delight.

Lichaj? Lichaj scored a goal?

Indeed he did, sir. And a formidable effort it was. You will recall that the fellow has tried his luck on two occasions previously, powerful drives with his right foot which sadly did not elude the opposing goalkeepers. On this occasion, however, he employed his left foot to reduce the power and shape the ball exquisitely into the bottom corner of the goal.

Good grief.

Good grief indeed, sir. But even more impressive than the goal was the fellow's celebration, a splendidly bizarre demonstration which resembled the flight of a blind Spitfire.

A blind Spitfire, you say? Had the fellow gone mad?

I believe so, sir. But his delight lifted the crowd's spirits, for they fizzed like a large bottle of American ice-cream soda.

My God, it's a long time since I had any American ice-cream soda. Have we got any in the cellar?

No, sir.

Dammit. Perhaps Doctor Sock could prescribe some.

I'm afraid Doctor Sock is no longer with us, sir.

Really? Well that's a shame. Good man, Doctor Sock. Anyway, are you telling me that the American chap's goal was the only entertainment on offer?

Oh no, sir. There were a fair few moments of interest. I was impressed by some of the interplay between the two foreign fellows Mister Mendes and Mister Oliveira, but their finishing skills did not match their approach work. In general the Forest fellows did quite well, and though they once more gave the opposition too much respect, our defence held firm for the most part. What spoiled it, of course, was that a few minutes after the goal, when the Forest men were beginning to impose some kind of control, Mister Lansbury was sent off.

Sent off, you say?

Indeed, sir. He was sent off for killing Mee.

He killed you?

No sir, he killed an opposition player called Mee.

He killed him, you say?

Mister Lansbury brushed Mee with a stud, and Mee appeared to all intents and purposes dead. The referee, on seeing Mee's lifeless form, had no option but to dismiss Mister Lansbury from the field of play.

I'm not surprised. Killing people is against the law, isn't it?

Indeed it is, sir.

Should we send flowers or something?

That would be an unnecessary extravagance, sir. Mee was miraculously resurrected moments later.

Well thank God for that. We can't have dead bodies littering the field of play, can we?

Indeed we cannot, sir. To return to the match, the ten men of Forest hung on grimly, if a little naively, until the ninetieth minute, when the Shy Moor Folk equalised. And the game ended in a draw.

Well well well. Slightly disappointing, but a fairly honourable result in the end. We're going to be all right, do you think?

I hope so, sir, as long as our front fellows start scoring some goals.

Yes, that's an ongoing problem isn't it? When's that Somnambulist chappie back?

Assombalonga, sir. Not for many months yet.

Oh well, onwards and upwards. Thank you, Vetch. On your way out, tell Doctor Sock to come in, will you?

I would, sir, but I would have to disinter him.

Ah yes. Never mind. How's Missis Vetch, by the way, Vetch?

Her jaw remains broken, sir.

How unfortunate. Still, best not to dwell on these things, eh? As Old Uncle Boff used to say: "Everything breaks if you hit it hard enough".

If you say so, sir.

GAME 13. OCTOBER 24th, 2015


Mendes was neatly played in by Williams, but he scurfed his shot wide of the far post.
Oliveira and Mendes cleverly worked the ball to Trotter, who flaked his shot too near to Gherkin who palmed it away.
Ward bodged an effort too near to Gherkin who saved it.
Mendes played in Oliveira who flayed it too close to Gherkin who saved it.
A cross from Ward found Mendes, who could only trash the ball into the side netting.
Mendes tried a shot from distance, but spumed it wide.
Ward tried his luck but badgered it against an opponent and it flew wide.
Ward tried again but this time cowed it into orbit.
Trotter bullwhipped a fierce drive into an opponent.
Mendes wazzocked a good chance over the bar.
Then Dipswitch scored with a fluke. Jonathan Parr simply does not have the ability required to shape a looped half volley beyond the goalkeeper. It was a speculative bloop, and it came off.
Grant lambasted the ball goalwards, but it was cleared off the line.
Luckily, Trotter was there to pick up the rebound and bimp it home.

The only thing wrong with Forest is that they have developed so many methods of not scoring you could fill a coaching manual with them. It took a player not steeped in recent Forest tradition, Trotter, to actually find the net. There is tons of promise - Forest played some good football against Dipswitch - but promise doesn't pay the bills.

All the other problems, bad news stories generated by agenda-driven dipsticks, will fade into insignificance once we show a bit of last-third composure and start putting the BLOODY ball into the BLOODY net on a regular basis.

And just as an aside, that match left me more convinced than ever that there is virtually no difference between any of the Championship teams, all of whom have their cycles of success and failure, none of whom are significantly better than others. I don't know whether this leaves me hopeful or depressed. Hopeful, I suppose, that Forest's cycle is a wide one which takes half a season to move into the sunny uplands. Depressed that, at the moment, we're no better or worse than the majority of limited outfits who litter the league.

If only we could score...

GAME 14. OCTOBER 31st, 2015

After a laboured performance against the Wendies, another defeat in the miserable downward spiral of results, it's time to start blaming people. It's important to blame people, isn't it? Somebody's got to be made responsible, and it's somehow comforting to nail some incompetent bastard to the cross of righteous indignation.

More than anybody, I blame the players, especially Mendes. Yes I know he was injured, but that's not my fault, and his absence robbed Forest of any serious creative attacking spark. I blame Lichaj too, who selfishly allowed Mills to labour uncomfortably at right back. I blame Vaughan, who, overburdened with defensive duties and with no-one reliable to pass to, fell far short of his usual high standards. Equally culpable were Oliveira, who had the audacity to raise our hopes at QPR but has struggled since, and Trotter, for not being somebody better than Trotter.

But most of all I blame Ward, who missed a sitter which could have changed the game and later failed to connect properly with some Wendies prima donna who deserved to be sent off for being a complete dick. Yes, Ward was to blame, because his semi-psychotic brand of undying effort raised unsustainable hopes, and that was unforgiveable.

But most of all I blame Evtimov, who managed to make the vainly swaggering Forestieri look good by allowing a saveable shot to squirm through his right hand into the goal. No amount of excellent goalkeeping during the rest of the match can compensate for that split second of complete incompetence. Special mention here should go to Doris, whose injury allowed Evtimov to play in the first place. Yes, I blame Doris for simply not being there.

But most of all, I blame the absent players, for letting everybody down. Cohen and Reid, for being so seriously injured yet still taking the club's money, Fryatt for failing to exist in any meaningful sense, Britt for playing games at Fawaz's house, and all the others: Lansbury, Mancienne, Tesche, Fox (had to fit him in somewhere). What a team we would have if all these wasters were available.

But most of all, I blame Mister Dug, who, even after this match, continued to insist that the club, having no money and being forced to play a virtual second eleven, can still turn things around. His brand of competent assurance has no place at Forest. His achievement, of making Forest competitive in the teeth of appalling setbacks, is just cow-crap in a high wind. He should, of course, be immediately replaced by somebody who is simply available.

But most of all, we blame the owner, not so much because of the glamour-seeking short termism which has got us in this mess in the first place, but for the fact that he hasn't sacked anybody for weeks now. His lack of decisive action cannot be condoned on any level. Something needs to be done.

But most of all, we blame those compliant fans who want change kept to a minimum, who say they understand the difficulties faced by Mister Dug and seem assured that a change of fortune will eventually come. These people are obviously deluded, and should probably be shot.

But most of all we blame John Hartson, for saying "pelanty", like Chris Waddle. Or Steve Claridge, for saying "Southampton seem to be suffering a general Malay", or alternatively, "the ball eventually came out of the Malay".

All of these people we blame, all of them most of all. It's about time the world got wise to these frauds and started giving them the abuse they deserve. Then we'll all feel much better about ourselves.

Oh, and I nearly forgot - that film's not helping, is it? Being haunted by memories of good times adds completely unnecessary pressure. Perhaps it should be banned, or something.

GAME 15. NOVEMBER 3rd, 2015

I'll think of something to say in a minute...

Nope, can't think of a thing. Nothing new, anyway. All I can remember about the match are the screams of frustration as chance after chance was squandered - again. Forest were the better side - even PNE fans admitted that - but failed to prove it - again. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, probably to the last syllable of recorded time. Again.

The residual feeling from that damp encounter was not one of disappointment or frustration, but impotence. Impotence is a very bad thing. Forest seem to have degenerated into a frisky old goat who can't get it up any more, but there's more to it than that. Mister Dug, despite his optimism, must be beginning to feel impotent too. Short of resurrecting Britt or even Fryatt, there is little he can do to solve his team's goalscoring problem. He could ramp up shooting practice, but I suspect he may have thought of that. He could buy a magic hat, I suppose, but Mister Dug has never been a hat man.

And Mister Fawaz is probably feeling pretty powerless at the moment. All that money and nowhere to spend it. Can he sack Mister Dug, without jeopardising our escape from the umbongo? Does any available manager come with a magic hat? Well Billy does, but he went bonkers a while ago. There are no easy answers here, for anyone. The cause of Mister Fawaz's impotence lies in his own mistakes, which must be a hard biscuit to swallow.

The greatest sense of impotence must be felt by the ordinary fans, who have no outlet for their frustration except the odd spat on social media or shouting at inanimate objects like a lunatic. Even hurling abuse at Simon Grayson provides little satisfaction.

So, the dread that there is nothing anybody can do to put things right is becoming pervasive. It renders match previews and match reports pointless. It turns optimism and determination into a mockery. "Fortunately on Friday we have a huge game - a local derby," says Jack Hobbs. "The form goes out the window for that one. Hopefully we’ll get a few goals there, our luck will turn and we can be on the right end of a result." Good luck with that, Jack. If a turnaround was due, it was due against Nob End, one of the weakest teams in the Championship.

All this sounds very glum, I know, but that's what impotence does. It doesn't mean, however, that anybody should lose their nerve. The numbers look bad, but the performances, on the whole, merit better. As long as the players maintain a decent level of performance, the law of averages dictates that there will be an upturn in fortunes, and the old goat will miraculously start doing his randy best once more. Whether it will come in time to save Mister Dug is another matter. We'll just have to wait and see. It's all we can do. That's the trouble.

GAME 16. NOVEMBER 6th, 2015

To be honest, I don't remember much about the match - not in detail at least. I do remember the atmosphere suddenly being bouncing hot just before kick off, which was a surprise given the pre-match apathy which seemed to have affected too many people, including us. I do remember falling deeply in love with Nelson Oliveira as he screwed home Forest's winner at about 7.35 pm, drooling over his languid grace and menacing good looks like some idiot kid, slightly in awe of his composure and competitive spirit as the game wore on, even guiltily ecstatic at his attempt to dismantle the overrated Mince later on. We heard Mince squeal.

I remember a lot of slushy football - you know, the kind of non-productive stuff which makes up ninety per cent of most matches - and gradually realising that it all came from the Sheep. I remember thinking quite illogical things, like the Sheep players all looked the same size and all played in the same way, robotically going through the motions and failing to understand why their programs were running slow. Without the mimsy trickery of Hughes, their arrogant, probing possession football coupled with incessant moaning seemed to have degenerated into some mechanical mockery of itself.

I seem to remember that the other ten per cent - the good stuff, was provided by Forest. I remember high pressing, comfortable defence, Vaughan somehow being everywhere at the same time and warming the heart with his covering and passing and his potato-like good looks, and Henri wearing his mean face, working his butt off and holding the referee to account and bringing both security and threat. And I remember the counter attacks and the chances we had to make the game safe - Mendes missing two opportunities because his brain misfires at the critical moment but we still love him, Ward curling a deadly shot towards the top corner only to see it tipped away by the irritatingly good Carson, then ballooning his lob wide after a mistake by the irritatingly bad Carson. And I remember the goal that never was, a powerful header from Mills ruled out by a referee who simply couldn't cope with the occasion. And I remember the singing.

I don't ever remember the game being safe. Forest's failure to convert their chances, coupled with the Sheep's persistent howls and a worryingly compliant referee, meant that there was some nervousness towards the end - but it was from the fans, not the players. I remember the final whistle, and the noise, and not being able to see anything at all for ... well, days really.

Since when I've returned to the real world - you know, the world of re-runs and commentaries and match reports and all that stuff - and realised that for the most part we haven't got the credit we deserved. One comment on that channel 5 show really irked me. Somebody said we had been out of form recently, and I begged to differ, mostly in terms which remain unprintable. You see, that's the point - we have NOT been out of form. We have been out of luck, out of goals, out of competent referees, but not out of form. We have been playing well; we have some very good players. The Sheep match did what Mister Dug wanted it to - showed the world just how good we are, and that's why we were so pleased for the manager. The other thing it showed is something we've been banging on about for ages: there is so little difference in quality between most of the Championship clubs that the table should largely be ignored for the time being.

As for the future, all we have to do is avoid what happened in the matches after last year's victory over the Sheep - a miserable run which ended with Stuart Pearce's sacking. The difference between then and now is that we have been playing well for a while, and whereas last year's victory was something of a one-off, this year's was satisfyingly deserved. All we have to do is keep our nerve, and on the evidence of Friday's match the players are keeping theirs. Well done lads.

GAME 17. NOVEMBER 21st, 2015

Everybody knows that Giuseppe Garibaldi invented Nottingham Forest 150 years ago, but very few people know about the curse.

One day Benito's Grand Circus pitched up in the town where the young Giuseppe lived, and that evening he set off from his dad's biscuit factory wearing his new red shirt and headed towards the collection of torch-lit tents and stalls. He could not afford the main show, so chose to enter the tented stall of Signora Catenaccio the fortune teller. The old crone gazed into her crystal ball and her eyes lit up. "You will be famous," she declared. "You will develop your father's biscuits into a traditional favourite, you will unite our disparate states into the country of Italy, and you will invent a football club called Nottingham Forest which will play in the colours of your new red shirt and have glorious success. Now you must cross my palm with silver."

"Alas," said Giuseppe, "I have no silver, but I must pay you for your services with a bag of my dad's biscuits."

The old crone flew into a rage. "I curse you and your future!" she screamed. "Your father's biscuits will be peppered with dead flies, Italy will turn out to be a complete basket case, and, after a period of success, Nottingham Forest will turn out to be the unluckiest football team in the world and end up being owned by an Eastern fridge magnet, managed by an over cautious Scot, and beaten by a series of second rate dossers who score scabby excuses for goals often after suspiciously extended periods of added time."

And that's why Forest were beaten on Saturday, even though they were the better side, and why Forest will continue to struggle until the curse is lifted. There really is no other explanation.

GAME 18. NOVEMBER 28th, 2015

It's the kits what did it, Pie.
I don't know what you mean, Stress.
It was the kits what did it, Pie. Reading were all mimsy-wee blue and white hoops, tailored and pleated and pressed like a fop's handkerchief.
I don't know what you mean, Stress.
Forest, on the other hand, sported a heavy industrial red laced with veins of bronze.
I don't know what you mean, Stress.
I don't think I could be clearer, Pie. Reading played like their kit. "Ooh look at me in my brushed cotton blouse and my gliding runs and my clever tricks until things go wrong and I fold like a fop's handkerchief." There's a reason they're called Reading Ladies you know.
No, there's a reason they're not called Reading Ladies, Stress. It's because they're not called Reading Ladies.
Forest, on the other hand, were as hard as a big industrial hammer and as cutting as a big bronze industrial blade caked in drying blood.
Forest's kit didn't stop Reading from scoring though, did it?
A fluke, Pie, as well you know. A fluke as flimsy as a fop's handkerchief.
Yes, but we didn't think that at the time, did we? It was a real downer, fluke or no fluke. People were muttering about Mister Dug getting the sack at half time.
Only stupid people, Pie.
Like you, you mean? What was it you said when that first goal went in?
I don't remember exactly. Probably something about big red hammers and fops' handkerchiefs.
No, it was "Bye bye Dougie" - that's what you said.
I recall little along those lines, Pie. I do recall a tremendous response from Forest. I recall Og dancing through their mimsy-wee defence like a bull and causing an enormous amount of collateral havoc. I recall Og blasting Forest's equaliser through the limp-wristed grasp of their foppish goalkeeper. I recall Mendes collecting a loose ball in defence and driving forward like a blade leaving their midfield flapping like girls' blouses on a washing line. I recall Nelson receiving the ball, teeing it up in acres of space, and swerving it into the top corner past the goalkeeper's blousy dive. What a class goal eh Pie?
He's a class act, is our Nelson.
A class act, Pie. Proper class. Not the fancy dan foppery of a Vydra, but real class, hard edged and gimlety like an industrial saw. Just like the third goal: a perfect cross, and there's our Nelson, not feathering around like a wet lettuce but angling his body like an athlete and jackhammering it into the net. What a class goal. What a class player.
He is indeed a class player, Stress.
Proper class, Pie. Not -
Oh shut up Stress. Remember what you said when Hobbs got himself sent off? Remember that?
I don't remember exactly, Pie. Probably something to do with the referee's family.
No. You said "We're going to throw this one away." and you called him Nobbs.
I recall little along those lines, Pie.
I assure you that's what you said. And you spent the last part of the match sobbing gently into your pasty. It was a pathetic sight, Stress.
Not as pathetic as Reading's attempts to breach our defence, Pie. It was like throwing wet girls at a wall of red steel. And my tears? They were tears of pride, Pie. I was proud of their determination in adversity, and proud of their kit.
You do talk some complete bollocks at times Stress. Why not forget all this kit hogwash and say simply that Forest played as well as usual but this time took their chances?
Who do we play next, Pie?
There you go you see - white shirts, the colour of sheep and fear. And milk. And cottage cheese, the most disappointing of cheeses, apart from French cheese which is like powdered snot. We can't lose.
I'll remember you said that.

GAME 19. DECEMBER 5th, 2015



Yes sir?

Where the hell have you been, Vetch?

I have been burying the guinea pig, sir, as you instructed.

Lonesome Bob's dead?

He is indeed sir.

Good grief. It won't be the same without Lonesome Bob. How many guinea pigs are left, then?

None, sir. Lonesome Bob was the last one. That's why he was called Lonesome Bob.

Well well well, time makes tools of us all, doesn't it Vetch.

It does indeed, sir.

But never mind that now. Tell me of the match, Vetch, for you know that fellow Stress will be round later trying to catch me out. Who were the Foresters playing?

Fulham, sir.

Ah, the Cottaging fellows.

Yes sir, the Cottagers. The Mighty Reds beat them by three goals to nil.

My word, a veritable trouncing, eh? Tell me, Vetch, was it as one sided as the score suggests?

Indeed it was not, sir. The first half was difficult, for Forest opted to kick into the teeth of a gale, thus subjecting themselves to pressure for long periods. And the Cottagers tried to take advantage of the situation by actually playing football.

The bastards!

Indeed, sir. But Forest remained strong, and the Cottagers' chances wre limited both by their own inadequate finishing and by Dorus de Vries' continuing excellence in goal.

I like the sound of that. Apart from the Doris bit. Strong in back and thigh, were they? I do like the sound of that. Firm thighed fellows slapping each other manfully in the showers after rugger, eh?

If you say so, sir. In any case, their collective resilience eventually overcame the Cottagers, and Forest scored in the closing stages of the first half. A corner was taken by Mendes..


No sir, Mendes. A foreigner.

A foreigner? Are you sure?

Absolutely, sir. Mendes' corner was headed upwards by Mancienne...

Not another foreigner?

No sir. Mancienne's header was pounced on by Lichaj...

Good grief.

...who bicycle kicked it across goal for Mills to head home.

Mills? Well thank God for that. I must say I'm not at all comfortable with this foreign bicycle kick nonsense.

But it did the job, sir. That goal put Forest on the front foot. Not long into the second half Forest scored again, this time the redoubtable O'Grady latching on to a spilled shot and slamming it into the net.

That's more like it. O'Grady. A good solid English name, firm-thighed like roast beef and brussels sprouts. Whose shot did the goalkeeper spill?

Oliveira, sir.


Oliveira, sir. Nelson Oliveira. In his defence, he is an elegant and effective striker, and his shot was struck with fulminating power.

If you say so, Vetch. What happened next?

Well sir, Forest were simply too strong for the opposition. Having broken Fulham's spirit on the anvil of their own resilience, Forest scored a third with an easy header past a disillusioned defence.

Well done the Foresters. Wait, it wasn't that Mender fellow, was it? Or Olivetti?

No sir. It was a second for Mills.

Thank the Lord for that. Is Mills the fellow whose face sits too neatly on the front of his head?

I'm not sure, sir. What I am sure about is that he scored two, could have had a third, and was voted Man of the Match.

Well all that sounds tremendously promising. The hoi polloi must have been delighted.

Strangely, their feelings remain mixed, sir. There is still a disgruntled rump of supporters who are not prepared to give the manager or players any credit for the upturn in results. It is as if they are waiting for Forest to mis-step.

I know what you mean, Vetch. I once knew a gardener like that. Gave him acres and acres of land to dig up and all the miserable bugger could do was complain. Some people don't know when they're well off. By the way, you've not buried Lonesome Bob near the greenhouse, have you?

No sir. He lies beneath the willow near the beehives.

Good. I shall miss Lonesome Bob. Who do we play next?

That would be Wolverhampton Wanderers away, sir, on Friday.

Friday? What kind of day is Friday? Nobody plays football on Friday.

I'm afraid they do these days sir. The schedules seem to be controlled by the television box people.

What's the world coming to, eh, Vetch? Foreigners, bicycle kicks, games on a Friday, goalkeepers called Doris. Football's not what it used to be. Lonesome Bob's well out of it if you ask me. I suppose you'll want time off to go and see it, will you?

That would be generous of you, sir.

And you'll be taking the delightful Missis Vetch, will you?

Sadly no, sir. Missis Vetch is presently suffering a recurrence of her broken arm.

Women, eh?

Indeed, sir.

GAME 20. DECEMBER 11th, 2015

GAME 21. DECEMBER 14th, 2015

Two points - it is what it is.

The Moulinex match was an odd one. Forest seemed to be the more threatening of the two outfits until the home side's goal. There was nothing fluky about the goal at all - a cruelly flighted cross escaped the Forest central defence and reached Ebanks-Whatever charging in behind them. I suppose the Forest defenders could have got themselves deeper, or Doris could have come out to punch it, but such criticism is unwarranted given the flight of the ball. After that, Forest went back to square one, with nobody playing badly but, with the team labouring to create openings or convert half chances, having to rely on defensive grit to stay in the game.

Anyway, the game bundled on in its own dogged way with the ref protecting the home side far more than the away side (shouldn't they have had a player sent off? shouldn't Forest have had a penalty? should Mancienne really have been booked?) until Forest equalised with an oddly similar goal to Ebanks-Whatever's. A cruelly flighted corner escaped the Wonderbras central defence and reached Dex drifting in behind them, and the great man produced an exquisitely cushioned side-foot finish. It was nice to see the celebration again.

It was an odd match because not only were the goals similar but there seemed precious little difference between the two sides. And then we thought about it and realised that there is probably precious little difference between any of the sides in the Championship. Look at the number of draws in Saturday's results. So it wasn't odd at all. The only odd thing is that idiots in the media keep labelling teams as "promotion favourites" or "play off contenders" before the season is half way through. But that's the media for you. A bit crass. Especially Sky.

And on to Blackbum. E-wood continues to be a dismal place, where the crowd trudges in almost reluctantly, the blasting music is grotesquely at odds with the underlying diffidence, old men mither on about beer and badly fitting shoes, and the pitch falls away dramatically into a dangerous trench. Even though Blackbum have been doing well under Lambert, it didn't take much to quieten the crowd.

And that, of course, is what Mister Dug set out to do. He did it by selecting a team with so many changes in it that it played really badly for ages, so badly that we had to watch through our fingers as Forest gave away possession and territory like cheap Christmas presents and failed almost completely to present any significant threat at the other end. The Plan, of course, was Mister Dug's away game Master Plan - suck them in, frustrate them to exhaustion, then kill them when they fall. The trouble was it didn't seem much of a plan in that first half, and Forest, heavily reliant on a sturdy defence as they were, were lucky to get away with it.

It worked, however. Williams was taken off, either because he was tired or because he had been as effective as a stray dog, and Forest got better. Blackbum began to run out of interest (perhaps they were really bored) and began to cede control of things to Forest. Towards the end, it was Blackbum who were timewasting as they nervously recognised Forest's growing threat, and the Master Plan almost worked when Mills' header was was tipped onto a post. It would have been wonderful if it had gone in, but a bit silly too.

There were good points. An away point against a (sort of) resurgent Blackbum is not to be sniffed at. Forest continue to trust their defence to be mightily effective. Memories of painful losses are beginning to fade. Forest look as strong and solid as anybody. The Master Plan almost worked, but in this case it was despite the team selection, not because of it. Matches like this will not remain in the memory long, and should only be retrieved under deep hypnosis.

GAME 22. DECEMBER 19th, 2015

Sorry about this report being late and short, but what with its being Christmas and people having babies all over the place, we're finding it difficult to find time for anything other than panicking.

As for the match, we saw a lot to excite us and nearly as much to worry us, which is probably just another way of saying we're a mid-table side and likely end up there at the end of the season. The exciting bits were the goals, of course. Nelson's was an absolute belter - a mini-Cruyff flick onto his left foot which sent the entire world the wrong way, and the coolest of finishes into the far side of the net. When he does things like this he looks sheer class and you wonder (rather sheepishly) what he's doing playing in the second tier of English football. He went on to miss a one-on-one, and produced a wicked shot which beat their goalkeeper but came back off the post. He could, in other words, have had three. Mendes' goal was a joyous celebration of the cock-up, a cleverly mis-hit effort which sat up for him conveniently to clip past the goalkeeper. It looked at that point as if we might score as many as we wanted.

But missed opportunities, a general falling back, and the injury to Pinillos meant that the match became a mightily uncomfortable experience, and this was where the worrying stuff came in. We still think we're too reliant on the defence and goalkeeper. We know this is an important part of the game and we know this defence actually relishes being put under pressure, but allowing the opposition so much possession is a tactic fraught with negative possibilities. On another day, despite the fact that Monkeydons' football resembled an energetic form of knitting, they could have got a point from the game.

Still, the Force is with us at the moment, and we must learn to enjoy it. Merry Christmas everyone.

GAME 26. JANUARY 12th, 2016

We are cursed, of course. It's got to the stage where, even if Forest went five nil up, the fates would somehow conspire to conjure up a final score of one one. It's just the way things are.

The fates have certainly turned sour of late, and their malign influence was evident throughout the match. What with Boremingham playing Forest at their own game (falling deep, pulling the opposition on, hoping for a counter), and what with two teams being hardworking but none too fluent in midfield and lacking penetration up front, it was always going to be a tight affair. When Osborn's brilliant shot bounced back off the post, it got tighter. When Og's decent header landed in their goalkeeper's arms, it started to strangle itself.

Even when Boremingham scored with their first attack ( an unplanned move which Boremingham will never ever repeat, he said sulkily) you got the feeling that the game was heading for a 1 - 1. Why? Because, though they lacked fluency and penetration and luck, Forest fought like dogs to get back in the game, because they showed a pride so gritty you could break your teeth on it. It was no surprise at all when Mills found space and thumped home a powerful header from Vaughan's free kick.

From then on, two half-decent teams slugged it out to an inevitable draw. Forest were only half-decent because fate has never given them the chance to maintain any kind of development, what with injuries and other stuff, and to me, to be honest, it is surprising how they keep up a reasonable standard of performance in the teeth of such setbacks and restrictions. Boremingham were only half decent because to me, to be honest, they depended too much on cheating. Their face-grasping antics got Vaughan sent off, ensured that Nelson was substituted, and generally exploited the baffling stupidity of the referee. If anybody should have been sent off, it should have been Donaldson, for accumulated twattishness. But that was about as likely as the referee sending himself off, which would have been the kindest thing to do for all concerned.

So the fates conspired against us yet again, heaping embargos and injuries and probable three match bans on our most influential players, matching us against cheats and supplying us with the stupidest referee in the history of the world ... and yet we still climbed out of the mud of battle with a degree of pride. That bloke Jokic looked good. Osborn looked good. Oliveira and Mendes will have better nights against fairer players. The defence looked sound. The midfield is once again, through no fault of its own, a work in progress. Twisty could have won it for us if the ball had been on his right foot. And we haven't been beaten since November.

Give them a break. That's not too bad for a cursed team.

GAME 27. JANUARY 16th, 2016

Victories are like buses. You wait ages for one to come along, then one comes along.

This one took me by surprise, or at least the manner of it did. First of all, I was surprised that Boln turned up, what with them having no money to pay the bus fare and their manager's chronic eye infection and stuff, until it dawned on me they hadn't. What had actually turned up was a small herd of oxen who had been given a complicated set of instructions which they followed with bovine vigour but little understanding.

The next thing that surprised me was how long it took for Forest to score. After what seemed minutes, an interception was headed towards Ward, who neatly nodded the ball past an ox and darted towards goal. Ward proceeded to play the ball just far enough ahead of himself to tempt the goalkeeper, who obliged by sweeping Ward's feet away a split second after the forward had made contact, thus giving away a penalty and getting himself sent off. What was surprising about this was not so much that some people considered Ward's touch to be too heavy, but that the referee didn't red card Ward for being a Forest player or something. But then I remembered that referees are like buses. You wait ages for one to come along with a functioning brain, then one comes along. Anyway, Nelson scored the penalty, and Forest never looked back.

This surprised me. Weren't Forest supposed to fall back and nervously defend their slender lead for the rest of the match? Not on this occasion. For some reason Forest continued to torture Boln until a second goal came like the proverbial bus. Ward (again) bamboozled a local ox to deliver a wicked cross onto the head of Oliver Twisty Burke. Burke's header surprised me. I had honestly not realised that he could head with such bristling ferocity. And from a purely personal perspective, when I used to play top class football as a predominantly right footed player I always found crosses from my left almost impossible to head properly. I always preferred crosses from my right, so I could lead with my left side and rely on my stronger side for control and power. It surprised me to see the almost wholly right footed Twisty deal so ably with a cross from his left. I remember thinking that there was not much this young man couldn't do.

The game bubbled along happily and was gradually taken over by Jamie Ward. This surprised me as I had been led to believe that Ward contributed so little he should perhaps be shot. Perhaps Mister Dug had indeed threatened to shoot him, I don't know, but the erstwhile winger seemed ferociously determined to prove himself as a number ten. Break after break he had, shot after shot, until by sheer force of effort he found himself boring through on the left, wrong footing an ox or two, and scooping the ball home off the underside of the bar. Surprising this, as I had not realised he could shoot with his left. You learn something new every day, like buses.

Unsurprisingly, a few members of the 'Not Good Enough For Forest' brigade considered this performance not good enough for Forest, what with Boln being reasonably crap, but I found it impossible to join in with their dismay. On a day when Forest scored 3, conceded 0, had no-one injured or sent off, extended an already impressive unbeaten run, saw Stuart Broad butcher Sad Offrikka, and witnessed the perennial panic in Sheepsville, I think that was a pretty decent day which we should all relish. After all, they don't come along too often. Like buses.

GAME 28. JANUARY 23rd, 2016

What you do is, you lead them into a dark place where they are brought face to face with their own mediocrity, then you cut their throat with a very sharp blade.

But not at first. At first, what you do is you begin the match without a striker, which might signal that you have no attacking ambition at all. It is in fact intended to confuse the enemy, who soon discover they are faced with counter attackers so rapid and mobile that marking them is like trying to nail mosquitoes.

You identify their strengths and systematically nullify them. This may seem a difficult prospect but in fact turns out to be relatively simple, because the main strength you have identified is their predictability. You ensure that you block up the area around the D by pressing out quickly and denying them space, and you employ probably the best full backs in the business to stop their wide players. Their attacking players grow frustrated at the lack of breathable air and die off one by one.

The enemy are afforded few real chances. That gangly bloke who used to play for you baps a header weakly wide. Some other bloke cannot connect with a cross not because he misses it but because it is always too far ahead of him. Lardbitter wangs a free kick against the bar, but that is the sum total of his contribution and he is later taken away to be reprogrammed or perhaps shot. The enemy grinds through its gears like some corroded dockland crane until its supporters begin to doubt the purpose of their existence. Football is all they have, after all.

And all the time, through the thick and thin of it, you keep reminding the enemy's defence that they are always in danger of being breached by a pace and inventiveness they can only dream of.

You sense, after more fruitless assaults from the enemy, that they are confused and frustrated by the turn of events. You sense it is time to strike. Osborn cuts through on the left and is unlucky to see his strike bounce off the inside of the post.

You have done enough now. You've proved that you can stand your ground against the top of the league. You've defended stoutly and given the enemy real cause for concern. You can be proud of your efforts.

But that was never the plan, was it?

The plan was always for Osborn to break down the left and cut the ball back to Ward, who would control a slightly bobbling ball and place it neatly into the bottom corner of their net. That is what you call a surgical strike. Miserablebugger wouldn't know what a surgical strike was if it jumped up and spat at them from the stands.

And that's what you do. You lead the enemy into a dark place where they are brought face to face with their own mediocrity, then you cut their throat with a very sharp blade. As it turns out, you almost repeat the feat twice more, but mercy forbids it.

And then you realise the most wonderful thing of all. Everybody knew the plan. You told everybody, after all. Miserablebugger knew the plan, certainly, but there wasn't a thing they could do to stop you. That must mean that you're quite good at what you do.

The trouble is, the bodies are beginning to pile up, and sooner or later somebody's going to notice. Best if you draw the next match, eh? Just to keep things quiet.

GAME 29. JANUARY 26th, 2016

Where have you been, Vetch?

I'm sorry, sir. I have been giving a statement to a member of the local constabulary.

Good grief, they've not found the bodies, have they?

Not at all, sir. It is but a trifling matter with which you need not concern yourself.


Will that be all, sir?

The match, Vetch. How did our brave Foresters fare against the Ladies of Queens Park?

You didn't go, sir?

Alas, no. My lumbar flaccidity limits my attendance these days. I see from the newspaper that the match was void of goals. That doesn't sound very inspiring.

It was, as you say sir, not an inspiring spectacle. The entertainment was at best middling. There was a brief period of heightened expectation when the boy Osborn struck a post and the German fellow Tesche saw a fulminating shot hit the bar, and even when their goalkeeper saved well from a Mancienne header. There were brief moments of alarm when our goalkeeper De Vries made some outstanding saves. Apart from that, several factors conspired to produce a hard boiled egg of a game. The wind was uncooperative, the crowd seemed distracted by its own affairs, and the two teams played with the torpid resignation of two teams who have played each other too often for their own good.

Good grief, Vetch, that's not going to get us into the play-offs, is it?

Perhaps not, sir. But only a fool would expect that much this season.

A fool, you say? Are you calling me a fool, Vetch?

Indeed I am not, sir. I was referring to the ruffian seated to my left, who spent the entire match berating the players and the manager for not providing him with the excitement he felt he was entitled to. I tried to explain to him that stability and consistency were desirable attributes, especially this season, with our brave club facing so many vicissitudes. I tried to tell him that a twelve game unbeaten run might be considered impressive by some. I tried to tell him that we were one Assombalonga away from being a top team, and until then he should be prepared to make do with mid-table fare occasionally spiced with above average achievement.

Really, Vetch?

Indeed, sir.

You're a wordy bastard, aren't you Vetch?

If you say so, sir.

I do say so, Vetch. If I were this ruffian you speak of, I would probably have taken a swing at you.

Indeed he did try, sir, but I beat him thoroughly about the head and rendered him senseless.

Good grief.

Sadly, that was when the local constabulary became involved.

Oh I see.

Yes sir, a most unfortunate incident.

Most unfortunate. But, as they say, onwards and upwards, eh? How is the fragrant Missis Vetch these days?

She has a broken leg, sir, sustained in a riding accident.

But we don't have a horse, do we?

She'll be fine sir, thank you for asking. Will that be all, sir?

Not quite. Who do the Foresters play next?

That would be in the Football Association Cup, against Watford.

Well that sounds like a piece of cake. Where are Watford these days - League Two or something?

Indeed not, sir. Watford are doing reasonably well in the Premier League.

What, that tin pot little Welsh outfit?

You may be thinking of Wrexham, sir.

We're playing Wrexham?

No, sir. We're playing Watford.

Good grief Vetch, I don't understand a word you're saying. Now go away and busy yourself with Missis Vetch, or something.

Very well, sir.

GAME 30. FEBRUARY 6th, 2016

Being visited by Forest must be like getting an unwanted call from a particularly hard hearted doctor - one whose sole aim is to find something wrong with you and deliver his bad news with merciless relish. Leed felt the sharp edge of his tongue yesterday as he made plain to them that they have a team suffering from lumpen melancholy and a manager in the final stages of morbid obesity and delusional despair.

Of course, Forest need to do a bit of self-diagnosis too, but this responsibility should not be usurped by sour opponents or those diehard pessimists who think it's somehow cool to criticise the club or its style of play. Mister Blobby (that's what the Leed fans call him) tried to exploit the "dour Forest" bandwagon both before and after the game in a manner so graceless it even embarrassed his own fans. The sad thing is, his comments echoed those of some Forest supporters, even reasonable ones, who feel the need to say things like "I appreciate the result, but I don't like the style of play", as if enthusiasm for and appreciation of their own club is an admission of weakness.

First of all, the Leed match didn't justify the "dour Forest" criticism at all. Forest were better not only in defence but in all areas of the pitch. The counter-attacking option led to chances for Ward, Osborn, Tesche and of course Oliveira, more shots on goal, and even a 50/50 penalty shout. Leed had one chance early on, a difficult header which skimmed wide. Forest always looked the more impressive, even after Oliveira's goal. "Parking the bus" it wasn't, unless that silly phrase refers to a very dangerous bus indeed. Enjoyable it was, as evidenced by 2000 Forest voices raised high throughout the match. As for the self-diagnosis bit, the only problem with the Forest performance was the chronic one of not converting more chances, but we've known about that for most of the season.

Secondly, and more personally, I actually enjoy and appreciate defensive solidity. The Forest defence is developing into the best Forest defence I've seen in years, and it is a pleasure (at least for me) to watch them work. This appreciation of good defence goes back a long way - right back to the Italian catenaccio system which used to kill games stone dead, and on through some of Cloughie's best European performances, or Chelsea's corraling of Barcelona's tippy tappers into dead ends. And by the way, people have finally come to admire the part played by Leicester's defence in their remarkable success. You didn't hear a murmur of criticism about the way Leicester absorbed Man City's pressure before killing them on the break. Yes, I know all these teams had and have more cutting edge than us in attack, but that shouldn't detract from a celebration of fine defensive football. There may even have been signs in the Leed match that, with such a secure defence, Forest were gaining the confidence to sit higher up the pitch and not give in to the temptation to fall too deep. It felt like progress, but that may just have been because Leed were crap. We're not sure yet. Nor are we allowing ourselves to get too excited about Forest's prospects in the league, because we don't score freely enough to guarantee wins or even total security.

What we are sure of, however, is that the "dour Forest" label is the result of misguided and lazy thinking, the kind of thinking that should be left to idiots like Mister Blobby.

GAME 31. FEBRUARY 13th, 2016

1. The weather didn't work properly. Coming from the north, it nibbled at vulnerable extremities, welded hands to beer cups, killed several species of songbird and, apparently, caused the Forest players to play like dicks.

2. The (Away) Method didn't work because (a) it wasn't The Method, and (b) Forest weren't playing away. Playing at home puts pressure on the side to push forward and attempt to control the rhythm of the game. Forest aren't very good at this. The players they have cannot satisfactorily adjust to a more progressive style. Pushing the midfield further up left holes all over the place which Uddersfeel gleefully exploited.

3. The players didn't work. Gardner and Tesche ended up in no man's land (see 2), and, frankly, nobody in the team compensated by playing anywhere near their best. Whatever Method is used, Forest only prosper when virtually all their players are in top gear. In this match, too many of them were finding gear selection something of a problem. Maybe it was The Method (see 2), maybe it was the weather (see 1), maybe it was Unsupportable Expectations (see 7), or maybe it was just a bad day at the office, whatever that means.

4. Uddersfeel worked. They weren't supposed to work. They were supposed to try a few nifty attacks then collapse like a punctured lung. Instead, they had the temerity to defend well, press hard and break skilfully through the gaps left by The Method or the weather or the Unsupportable Expectations or the bad day at the office. They thumped Forest at their own game, the sneaky buggers.

5. The referee didn't work properly, using the "if the decision's too big, pretend nothing happened" method so beloved of weak officials. Giving just one of those penalty decisions in Forest's favour might have changed the nature of the game. Might have.

6. Forest didn't score enough goals. If the opposition scores, it is imperative you score more than nought if you want to make any impact on the game. Considering that Nelson is the only Forest player who looks like scoring, his wayward radar in this match was slightly concerning. Osborn didn't even hit the woodwork, and Ward was too involved in some odd psychological struggle of his own to contribute much at all.

7. The crowd didn't work. When journalists reflect on the growing popularity of the manager, they are really talking about Forest's away fans. The home crowd is a different kettle of fish, being seeded as it is by small groups of disgruntled sourgobs whose lives have been dealt the latest in a series of crippling blows.

8. There wasn't much in the way of compensation. This may have been a one-off against a good side who cleverly worked us out, but Forest don't have the resources to change much for the rest of the season, during which The Method, in whatever form it takes, may be tested beyond its limits.

9. There wasn't much in the way of compensation, except of course the amusing ramifications of Breakfast Time at the i-pro. Oh, and Leicester getting beaten by Arse with the last meaningful kick of the game. This may upset some people who think Leicester's rise has been a breath of fresh air, but frankly, my dear, we don't give a damn.

GAME 32. FEBRUARY 23rd, 2016

Sorry this is late, but it's taken some time for us to recover from the utter joylessness of the occasion. Part of our depression derives from the venue itself. Joyless is exactly the way to describe Turf Moor. It's like visiting a distant outpost of the Grand Empire of the Orcs, where the Moor Folk slouch their winding, torchlit way to the ground, indulge in various witless rituals to ward off the rawness of their existence, then slouch home again, dumbly convinced that their team has played the opposition off the park. Their manager compounds the mood with his gravelly, humourless assertiveness, insisting that the narrowness of the result did not reflect his team's dominance of the game, and that they were always bound to win.

It was not like that. They were not bound to win. There were times in the second half where the Moor Folk themselves were growing distinctly edgy, probably realising that not only had Forest resisted their team's physicality and occasional fancy-dannery in the first half, they now had the temerity to match them in the middle of the park. There were times in the second half when the Miserablebugger scenario seemed so close to repeating itself. Just one decent shot, one bit of composure or even luck, would have done it. We know this is all ifs and buts and coconuts, but we want to make the point that the margin between the two teams was very small, and that one nil really was as narrow a victory as it gets.

The depressing truth, however, lay in the irony of the events leading up to Burnley's winner. At a time when Forest were on the up, Burnley broke down the left, crossed a ball which looked out, and scored from the cut back. Forest's plan failed at a time when it seemed most likely to succeed, and it failed because Forest couldn't score. They couldn't score because what few chances there were weren't taken, and because the midfield didn't have the players to create enough chances in the first place. Without Mendes or Burke, Forest were operating on very short rations indeed. These, of course, are statements of the obvious, but we think the severe restrictions on Forest's resources need to be remembered before criticism is levelled at anybody in this or any other match. We lost one nil to a top side in form on their own grisly patch. Not that bad at all, really.

For all Burnley's joyless progress, I'd still rather support Forest.

GAME 33. FEBRUARY 27th, 2016

The embargo is finally biting hard, and Forest are beginning to look worn out. Mister Dug's efforts to make us hard to beat have been understandable and, in the circumstances, even creditable, but those exhausting efforts have been at the expense of developing much in the way of progressive football. You could see it in the Bristol's match. After scoring a goal (remember them?) Forest simply did not have the method, wit, creativity, dynamism or personnel to push home their advantage. You would imagine that Forest's defence could be relied on to defend a lead, but that plan only works (if at all) away from home where the midfield locks into the defence. As soon as home pressure demands a more progressive approach, the team drifts into a confused and almost schizophrenic mind-set, because the progressive approach has been bred out of them. Thus the midfield ends up neither protecting the defence nor providing forward impetus. As soon as the opposition senses Forest's uncertainty or discomfort, they smell blood. In that terrible second half, Bristols played more fluent and effective football. Forest just looked lost, worn out.

There are excuses for this defeat, of course - a long list of them, culminating in the injury to Ward, Forest's most threatening, if wayward, player. The underlying problem, however, is that by force of circumstance the team's instinct has become defensive, and any attempt to adjust that instinct seems to end in disintegration. We have become an engine which is only good at one thing. Ask it to do another and it threatens to shake itself to bits.

This is all proving to be a bit of a nightmare for Mister Dug. Before the game he said "I want to get back to a position where we're entertaining" - a creditable sentiment, but one which sidestepped the truth that circumstance and his own instincts have drained entertainment, in the form of creative options, out of this side. Beside that, his starting line up did not promise entertainment, and though there was plenty of rather mechanical enthusiasm in the first half, there was never a chance of control or continuing threat.

So Mister Dug is stuck, and his options seem limited. We suspect he will revert to those defensive instincts, even at home, and aim to reach safety as soon as possible, because we're not safe yet. He will do this because trying to attack your way out of trouble won't work with this team, unless one or two players suddenly embark on a scoring spree, which seems unlikely. Going "back to basics" will not prove popular, but in his mind it will be infinitely better than the dislocated mess we saw in the second half against Bristols.

As Old Uncle Boff might have said, we're just going to have to lie back, think of England, and take it up in our stride. At least until next season.

GAME 34. MARCH 2nd, 2016

As has been explained before, there are many Gods of Football, and somebody at Forest must have done an awful lot of sinning, because these Gods have taken mightily against us this season. They squat like Larkin's toads on the crossbar of our dreams.

The God of Endless Injuries continues to have a field day, cackling spitefully as he reduces our strike force to virtually nothing. His good friend, the God of Embargo, continues to randomises his rules in a malicious attempt to stifle our ambitions. These two bufodinous bastards have pulled off the Devil's own trick, by convincing the ignorant that they don't exist.

Anyway, the game began brightly for Forest, with the midfield pushing forward in a brave attempt to provide the progressive, threatening football the fans have been calling for. Dipswitch fought back, of course, and the game shuttled from end to end with a degree of something approaching excitement. I say "approaching", because the mood was muted by the growing suspicion that, for all Forest's decent football, the Gods were intent on thwarting their efforts. They were everywhere, like malign spirits flickering mischievously across the pitch. The major culprit was the God of Missed Opprtunities, cackling venomously as two Oliveira headers were brilliantly saved, Gardner's shot was blocked, Mills' header crashed against the woodwork, and Gardner bumped his free header over the bar.

In the second half, the God of Missed Opportunities morphed into the God of Diminishing Returns, who scuttled around the stage whispering his poisonous mantra into the Forest players' ears: "The harder you try, the worse it gets." A really nice move ended with a cleared Lichaj cross, an Oliveira cross shot went wide. And then the God of Inevitable Concessions strutted forward, as Dipswitch scored a slightly skanky goal courtesy of some bloke named after an overpriced savoury snack. After this insult, Forest laboured manfully, but all they could really manage was a smothered effort from Mendes, who plays every match with the God of Limited Expectations strapped to his back like a haversack.

On an on it went, this struggle against celestial odds. The God of Utterly Crap Referess was there throughout, making sure that the utterly crap referee punished Forest players for debatable and often imagined infractions. How could this Dipswitch team, who were no better than a sack of dusty peat, be besting Our Brave Boys? The God of Random Injustices answered with a fart which stank the place to kingdom come.

Mister Dug tried to battle against the inevitable by bringing on Cohen the Barbarian and some youthful relative of Vlad the Impaler, but it was clear that nothing would work. Several Forest fans booed, probably seduced by Ignoramus the God of Stupidity, who does his best work in feeble and angry souls or in the fetid corridors of social media, which amounts to the same thing really.

Yes, the Gods of Football continue to trip us, kick us, and snigger at us as we lie face down in the mud. We could pray to them, of course, ask forgiveness for whatever Forest have done to piss them off so, but that would be like trying to trim your nose hairs with a chain saw. No, the only path forward is to keep taking the battle to them in the hope that they turn their spite away from us and squat on some other poor sod's dreams. As Old Uncle Boff used to say, "If you can't beat 'em, beat somebody else."

GAME 35. MARCH 5th, 2016


The goal. That goal was so memorable they should name a Day after it - the Day of Classic Counter-Attack or something. It was a thing of simple beauty, though as Mendes scampered forward we were worried that the options open to him might melt his brain. Thankfully, he chose simple, to Osborn, who chose simple, to Oliveira, who scored, leaving most of the Nob End players trailing haplessly at the wrong end of the pitch. Sweet.

Mendes. What an odd little chap he is. If he put as much work into hitting the target as he does rehearsing his agonised how-did-I-miss routine he would be magnificent. Then again, he wouldn't be here. Having said that, a fit Mendes has become a vital part of Forest's counter-attacking threat, and is beginning to remind us of the player he was when he first arrived.

Nob End. Are a perfect example of the kind of dogged mediocrity that the Championship has spawned this season. So many teams go about their football with the mindless intensity of a man chopping wood. The difference between Forest and Nob End was that Forest bristled with (mostly unfulfilled) potential, while Nob End bristled with whatever the opposite of potential is. Entropy?

Joe Garner. It was at times amusing to watch Garner behaving like an electrocuted rat, except of course that his sole intention was to con the referee and gain advantage by cheating. Eventually his mind went completely and he had to be taken off for everyone's safety.

Simon Grayson. We really haven't liked this bloke since before he got Chris Cohen sent off at Leed, mainly because of his face, which troubles us.

The referee. Pfft.

Dorus de Vries. Not only is he a great goalkeeper, but he keeps that defence on their toes. There's no doubt who's the boss back there. We think he's our player of the season.

The victory. We were very nervous before, and near the end of, the game, but the victory was a deserved relief. It went to show that the most important thing in football is the result. If you can play entertaining football as well, that is a bonus, but it is nowhere near as important as the result. If Forest had been on a winning streak, that crowd would have been bigger. The "I don't go because the football's sh*te" excuse is a bogus one, firstly because the football has rarely been sh*te, and secondly because a few wins would obviously increase the level of enthusiasm around the place.

The season. Eleven games left. Thirty three points. Everything from play-off glory to a relegation scrap is possible. As Old Uncle Boff used to say: Death comes to us all, so enjoy it while you can. Or something like that.

GAME 37. MARCH 15th, 2016

Welcome to the Netherworld, in which the laws are as follows:

LAW 1: Reality lasts a microsecond. Everything else is agenda.




LAW 2: Truth is merely a commodity, endlessly bartered between the armies of hope and doubt.

Good grief we're playing well. Or are we? Are we really playing any different to our previous away performances? Well we must be because, however imperceptibly subtle the changes in tactics and approach, we're winning. At least we're not losing three nil, so we must be getting better. And we're beating a top three side, when all's said and done. Except that this top three side are a bit wank, aren't they?

LAW 3: If things can go wrong, they will. If things can't go wrong, they will.

Three quarters of the way through the match, and Ul are getting worse. Then Vaughan, the best outfield player in the history of the Netherworld, bogs up a clearance, a shot deflects crazily over our defence and lands at the feet of Aluko, who, fresh from his duties with England Women, pokes it past Doris to level the scores. Nobody's fault, except perhaps Vaughan, or perhaps even Tesche who had just come on and was probably responsible in some oblique way we find difficult to define. Still, a rotten piece of luck all round, because Ul were only ever going to score through some outrageous piece of good fortune, and they did.

LAW 4: An infinite number of realities can exist in the same continuum.

Which is another way of saying that you can say what you like. You can express your relief that Mister Dug's gone or you can suspect that nothing much will change. You can praise Mister Fazzer for doing the best for the club he loves or you can see recent events as yet another spin in the great cycle of blunders. You can see the Ul match as a refreshing step forward or you can worry that our lack of cutting edge means it doesn't really matter who's in charge. The thing is, the babble of all these conflicts turns honest confusion into a kind of Pandemonium. This is not the place to say "I simply don't know". In the Netherworld, certainty is the only valid currency.

LAW 5: Forest always beat Derby.

This is the most important law of all. Its importance is so great that it may end up bending history to its own inexorable will. Without Law 5, the foundations of Netherworld would shudder and split, and though you might sacrifice a thousand oxen to the Gods of Football, the earth would split asunder and all would be lost, right there in front of you, on Sky or BT or Parasite Cable or whatever corporate cowhouse has got its grubby hands on the fixture this time.

Sorry about that. Welcome to the Netherworld, where slipping in an out of sanity is a recreational hazard.

GAME 38. MARCH 19th, 2016

If you like your games full of sound and fury signifying not much at all, this was the game for you. It turned out to be, unsurprisingly, a big pan of thin gruel spiced with amusing brutality, a hefty dose of slapstick, and the occasional whiff of football. Sky must have loved it.

It began reasonably well for Forest, who seemed much more "up for it" than their expensively assembled rivals. Mendes was playing like a man with a wire in his brain, shovelling backwards and forwards, making all sorts of oddball decisions and occasionally attacking a nearby opponent. Gardner played with murderous intent, as if the pride of Nottingham sat squarely on his shoulders. But for all their intensity, Forest managed to carve out little but a couple of speculative shots, and it became obvious, if it had not always been obvious, that Forest were unlikely ever to score. Without Oliveira, Forest had nothing - apart from Macheda, who was largely ignored, probably for good reason. Forest were headless, and however energetically the body played, they were forced to hesitate fatally when faced by the void up front.

Not that Derby were any better. The "Derby way" seems to have degenerated into a routine of moaning, diving and generally working the referee in a sad attempt to hide their own impotence. The usual suspects followed their script meticulously, led by the clown-in-chief Keogh, who blagged his way through the match wearing the expression of a man who has just been told he's pregnant.

Anyway, in the second half, as Forest's efforts took their inevitable toll, Derby sort of got on top without really looking too threatening. Forest were further weakened by Cohen's departure, and eventually Lichaj got sucked into the middle one time too many, Mendes tackled weakly, and Derby somehow fiddled the ball to the unmarked Olssen, who scored a neat goal. And that, you well knew, was that. The Derby fans, who had been embarrassingly outsung by the Forest supporters, celebrated like they'd won the European Cup.

All that remained was that tedious ingredient demanded by Sky audiences, the "flare-up". Mills barrelled in to try to win a header, as he was fully entitled to do, took out the goalkeeper, fell to the ground, was manhandled by Keogh, rose to his feet, and pushed Keogh away. Now I know the more pious amongst us will lament Mills' lack of discipline, but in the darkness of our souls would we not have done the same? Or worse, even. On seeing Keogh's histrionics, would we not have been tempted to subject him to the cruel and unusual punishment he deserved? These are terrible thoughts, I know, but these are terrible times we live in. We heard later that Keogh carried the Brian Clough trophy aloft down the tunnel, and it broke, which seems a fitting end to this year's comic opera.

So the sound and fury ended, signifying not quite nothing. Derby were left with the hope of progress towards the Promised Land, a cruel illusion indeed. Forest were left with no illusions at all. We still need a win or two, which, with our lack of striking power, is a more worrying prospect than many of us would like to admit. I suppose the break will allow us to nurture our resources and, combined with the undoubted spirit in the squad, we can hopefully come out swinging at the other end. Please.

GAME 39. APRIL 2nd, 2016

The only thing Mister Dug did wrong was reach 45 points. Somebody whispered in his ear that Forest were safe now, safe enough to be a bit more ambitious, a bit more entertaining. Add to this Fawaz's wildly misguided view that we could still make the play-offs, and the pressure to play a more open game became insupportable. So, abandoning the "dour" football which had got us to 45 points in the first place, Mister Dug tried to appease his critics. The result? Forest fell back into a style of play which did not suit the rump of players he had available and was therefore neither coherent nor successful. It would have been better if Mister Dug had been given the time to get Forest playing properly boring football again - you know, the stuff that picked up the odd point here and there.

The match against Bentford showed the stupidity of Mister Dug's sacking at that stage of the season. Nothing at all has changed. The "freedom" which was supposed to have characterised the new Forest has dwindled into an undisciplined mess. All creativity has gone, so that Forest resemble little more than a slug negotiating a sandhill.

Today they looked unclear and uncoached. They looked like representatives of a club which has no sense of purpose or direction. There were too many clones in the middle of the park, the injury to Mancienne reduced the central defence to dithering rubble, and the threat up front was as potent as a soft boiled egg.

Did I say nothing had changed? Well it has. It has somehow managed to get worse. At this rate, anybody smug enough to assert that "we have nothing to play for" will be feeling distinctly uncomfortable. This is becoming a season where not only have we lost too many players, we've also lost our bottle too many times. Sacking Mister Dug was the last time Fawaz lost his bottle, and it could cost him and us dearly, unless, of course, he lets slip another one in the not too distant future.

Sod it, time for a malt whisky.

GAME 40. APRIL 5th, 2016

It's reaching the stage where there doesn't seem much point in doing match reports anymore. Covering Forest matches is a bit like watching one of those Scandinavian crime dramas, where everybody is miserable to the point of dread and even when the immediate problems are eventually solved everybody ends up divorced or dysfunctional or cold or so burdened by cheerlessness they might as well be dead.

So it was against the Ladies of Reading. For a while it seemed that Reading were doing Forest a favour by playing Simon Cox up front. For a while it seemed just like the good old days - Forest defending stoutly under increasing pressure but carving out the odd opportunity. You remember the good old days? Bring them on to you, then kill them on the counter. It worked too. A superb pass sent Osborn into the penalty area from where he angled it clinically into the net. For a while it seemed that Forest could actually win.

The trouble was, there was a whole half to play, and with Forest's chances limited and Reading playing with increased determination, that feeling of dread overtook everyone. The already depleted and unbalanced defence lost Wilson and brought on Fox who, despite playing reasonably well, was still Fox, and Reading brought on Vydra, who was still Vydra, the one who always scores against us. Sure enough he did manage his slightly dodgy-looking goal and hopes were now pinned on hanging on for a single point. Oliver Norwood put paid to that with a stunning strike, the kind of goal you concede when luck fails you like the arse falling out of your trousers.

There were some good bits, better at least than the Bentford shambles, but Forest still looked a depleted lot, trying to wing it through matches with neither the personnel nor the sense of direction to effect a decent result. I'm afraid we're going to have to rely on others failing if we are to end up safe, because Forest don't seem properly set up on or off the pitch to win anything at the moment.

I'm afraid calling for us to stick together is a bit like saying "That Scandinavian thing Follow The Money is a barrel of laughs isn't it? Not far to go now till everybody drops dead from angst or light deprivation or something."

Well I'm hooked.

GAME 41. APRIL 11th, 2016

Forest didn't deserve that. After playing with a ton of spirit and a few large bags of skill, they were undone by Hove's Knockout poncing his way into the area, causing the kind of mayhem that could have been resolved by a hefty boot, preferably into Knockout's backside (sorry), but ended up giving Sidwell an easy winner. It was just a bit heartbreaking.

Forest's effort was all the more remarkable given the pressure they were under, on and off the pitch. What with Forest fan John Percy sniffing out yet more of Fawaz's cash flow problems (well done Percy, you're a breath of fresh air in the murky dungeons of Premier League Championship Midlands Forest football); what with Forest fans grumpy at having sacked/not sacked soon enough/sacked without a replacement another manager; what with the squad being down to the bare creaking bones, and even those bones being criticised for earning far more than their performances justified; what with Forest not sure of safety yet and the future looking as dodgy as Dave's* undeclared accounts ... it was remarkable that they could cobble up a display which could easily have won them the game. There was a degree of pride in the crowd's applause at the end.

The bare facts of the match are as follows:
Hove scored from a set piece which was headed in by Dunk, a thug.
Ward left the pitch just before half time because his hamstrings are made of cotton.
Forest equalised from a superb Lansbury cross which was glided in by Dex, his first goal since his last one.
Lansbury was superb, except for that chance he lofted over. Pillock.
Gardner, Cohen and Vaughan seem to be wearing out in front of our eyes.
The referee was weak. Being beaten up by the entire Hove side surely justified at least a ticking off.
Forest were as good as Hove on the night. This is not surprising. The gap in quality between the top and the bottom of the Championship is not great.
Nigel Person was at the match. So was Dave*.

So Forest soldier on, still needing the points to secure safety. It would be nice to do it that way, rather than wait for Monkeydons and Charleston to help us out. Five games left. On the performance against Hove, and with a little bit of luck, three or six points should not be beyond them. Should it?

* That's my friend Dave the scrap dealer. Not anybody else.

GAME 42. APRIL 16th, 2016

Halford delivered a fine ball to Wood, but he missed. The move was repeated moments later but Wood could not meet the ball so he missed. Mattock sent in a deflected shot but Doris tipped over so he missed. Derbyshire almost reached a cross shot but failed so he missed. Mendes anf Blackstock's neat play led to a Mendes shot but he missed. Mendes crossed for the surging Blackstock but the striker couldn't connect so he missed. Tesche went close with a long distance thump but he missed. Camp denied Blackstock at the near post (missed) and Osborn was denied the chance to put in the rebound (missed).

Mendes and Osborn linked up to provide Mendes with another chance ... Lansbury fell over when clear on goal ... Derbyshire's long distance volley cleared the bar ... Lansbury might have had a penalty ... Wood hit the crossbar ... the follow up was cleared ...Frecklington's shot was diverted ... Wood bounced a header over the bar ... Frecklington drove wide ... Mendes' shot was saved ... so they all missed.

Anyway, Scandinavian drama "Follow The Money" found its way to some kind of conclusion when the good looking Legal bint was almost seduced by the manipulative boss of Energreen with the swollen lips into running away with him to escape justice but thought better of it and went to gaol for fraud. Some peripheral character who kept vomiting finally topped himself. A crooked garage owner ended up with a pen in his neck. The dopy mechanic fluked a happy ending with his wife and kid. The idealistic fraud officer decided to look after his sick wife at home. And the manipulative boss of Energreen with the swollen lips escaped to some balmy bolt hole.

The manipulative boss of Energreen with the swollen lips, however, knew too much for his own good, and, even while he was making plans for the future, his companion, the beardy executioner, was instructed by phone to eliminate him. He did so with three close range shots from a silenced pistol. He, at least, didn't miss.

GAME 43. APRIL 19th, 2016


Apart from the bleeding obvious, this match taught us virtually nothing new about Forest, except, perhaps, that sacking Mister Dug was a pointless exercise. Not right or wrong, for these are matters of opinion, but pointless, which is a matter of fact. The greater attacking intent has brought nothing in terms of greater success. Forest's problem in this game was precisely the same as Forest's problem throughout the season.

It really is. From the constipated efforts of the top teams to the slightly more constipated efforts of the bottom ones, the Championship has stubbornly refused to release much in the way of quality poop. The fact that Granny Warlock believes he is the best manager in the Championship says it all, really, and the sentiment "this game does great credit to Championship football" has rarely been heard, except from the odd Sky lackey charged with generating revenue.

Simply because it might shut the bandwaggoners up for a while, with their wearisome "It gives all teams hope" or "Better achievement than Forest's" hogwash. Beneath the faltering momentum, Leicester have some nasty pieces of work in their ranks, and hopefully the loss of Vardy and the dwindling form of Mahrez will give Spurs a chance. It's also about time that Huth was brought to book for his brutish and so far unpunished exploits.

Everybody knows this. The question is ... no, leave it, the season's done.

"5 things we learned" is just a lazy journalistic trick to save time and work, so we're doing...

Now that Forest are safe, thoughts turn to the summer, and the ongoing battle to convince everybody that your opinion is worth more than theirs. Will Mister Fazwaz sell the club to a Greek bloke? Will Mister Fazwaz capture O'Neill or end up with Evans? Will MIster Fazwaz appoint somebody who can run the club's finances properly? Will Forest actually come out of Umbongo? Which players will leave? Which players will arrive?
These questions will be fought out via the nation's keyboards over the coming months, generating the usual fog of cynicism, abuse, and blind faith. In this sense, nothing has changed. Perhaps next season won't be different after all. As Old Uncle Boff used to say: "Where there's a will, there's a way of falling out over it."

GAME 44. APRIL 23rd, 2016

GAME 45. APRIL 30th, 2016

Forest brought their kids, Wolves didn't; Doris got knighted; Forest had their periods of pressure, as did Wolves; Wolves had a lot of shots, Forest had a lot of shots; Wolves' Mason scored a beauty, Forest's Gardner scored from a peach of a free kick; either side could have won, or lost, or drawn; somebody stole a big ball; both sides seemed artificially disappointed with a draw, the whole match was played under a foggy blanket of possible future developments, people applauded politely at the end, and everybody went home and had jam for tea.

We've seen worse seasons, but none quite so drifty. The sense of drift has come from the top, for though much of the season's woes can be laid at the door of injuries and embargo, they have been exacerbated by the misdirection and lost opportunities which have characterised the running of the club. Even now, with Mister Fawaz absent from the match trying, we presume, to cobble up some investment deal, the future of the club is the subject of rumour and speculation and continued drift. Periods like this used to bring their own form of excitement, but the excitement soured long ago. This time it's deadly serious. The people who are charged with the stewardship of the great old club, whoever they are, need to make some bloody hard headed decisions over the next few days and weeks, otherwise we'll just drift away.

(to be continued...)

To be honest, the (to be continued) thing was simply me waiting to see how Leicester got on, with a view to congratulating them on their triumph. I listened to the match on 5 live for a bit, but was so sickened by the sycophantic drivel issuing from the commentators' mouths that I had to give up. Indeed, when one of them said "You can feel the love for Leicester right around the world" I almost vomited. The only thing which stopped me from gagging on sour grapes was Wes Morgan's goal. Good old Wes.

(to be continued...)

GAME 46. MAY 5th, 2016

The atmosphere, generated almost entirely by the Forest fans, completely banished the stew of miserable cynicism prevalent on the interweb, for which we thank God and Cohen and Britt and all those involved in this most enjoyable of occasions. The experience reminded everybody that Forest fans really do know how to enjoy themselves, and that beneath the troublesome issues, real or invented, there remains an enormous fund of affection for the team.

It was heartwarmingly fitting that the old warhorse Cohen bagged his goal to cap a fine all round display, and that Britt reminded us all what we'd missed not only with his goal, which was stunning, but also with his bristling, beaming, infectious optimism. Right at the nub end of a disappointing season, the place, at least the Forest end, blazed with hope.

I got so excited I decided to go to Norwich, for reasons which don't really concern you, and I'm just about to set off now. That's why this is a short report, but we'll be back very soon, with play off stuff and Euro stuff and Lympic stuff and Forest stuff. Have a wonderful summer. See you soon.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and are melted into air, into thin air. And like the baseless fabric of this vision, the cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep. Come on you reds.