SEASON 2017/2018 REPORTS AND STUFF

GAME 1: FOREST 1 MEWO 0

You could be forgiven for hoping that, this season, everything would be better. After all, the change of ownership meant that the crackpot amateurs who had been degrading the place for the last few years were replaced by people who were actually sane. The pre-season games were an encouraging affirmation that Mister Warburton was forging an exciting, slick-passing side which the Shy Moor Folk boss described as "Premier League - like". Season ticket sorry card sales were extraordinarily encouraging. The City Ground burned redder than ever. Mister Warburton, whilst trying to dampen expectations, couldn't help teasing us with his observation about a "dark horse" coming through this season. The first league game was virtually a sell out, and newly promoted Mewo would be vapourised. You could be forgiven for thinking that the years of miserable underachievement were behind us.

The trouble with football, however, is that it's football. It is not so much the romance of corporate dreams as a prolonged, wholly unsatisfactory bout of transactional sex. Not, I am sure, that you know what a prolonged, wholly unsatisfactory bout of transactional sex is like, but you must agree that, after a decent start, Forest soon began to look like a gaggle of dewy-eyed innocents unable to cope with the kind of aggressive advances that life hadn't prepared them for. Mewo's direct approach reduced the Forest defence to something resembling a fat girls' drunken night out in Blackpool, and the really disappoiniting thing about this was the realisation that nothing, in this regard, had changed after all. The Forest defence had always been like this. As Mewo pressed and shot and headed and missed, the suspicion grew that Forest had concentrated hard on midfield control and attacking intent, but had sadly neglected the defence. And if your defence is insecure, the rest of the team get nervy. The midfield occasionally showed bits of that slick, controlled football we were expecting, but too often adopted the unwelcome tactic of giving the ball to the opposition. Also, the players seemed badly affected by the size and expectations of the crowd, so that only a few embraced the situation and rose above the ordinary. One was Smith, who tried to hand Mewo a goal at one point, but spent the rest of the match being brilliant. Another was McKay, whose unstoppable shot won us the match and probably quadrupled his value.

So yes, we got three points, but no, it wasn't pretty. There's a lot of work to do, especially on that defence, but people in general seem confident that we will get better.

The sense that not enough things had changed for the better ran on into Saturday, with that channel 5 football programme trying desperately to hype the Championship into something it's not, with a new distressingly gobby presenter insisting "It's the action that matters" while spending the majority of the programme spouting endless patronising bullshit about how good everybody was especially John Terry and how every team was going to win the league especially Fulham and how very important the fans were especially the ones who provided five seconds of buffoonery for the entertainment of the viewers. Here's an idea: make the clips longer, give us some idea of when our clip's coming on, stuff the inexpert analysis, and stop pretending that everybody is interested in any other team but their own. And stop pretending to be so bloody enthusiastic about everything.

Anyway, here's hoping things do change for Forest now that that almost-banana skin is out of the way. I don't want to live through another season of the kind of excitement that kills people.



GAME 2: BENTFORD 3 FOREST 4

Well that was exciting, wasn't it Stress?

I tell you Pie, something's happening at Forest.

It certainly is, Stress. And what would that something be then?

I don't know, Pie.

So you know something is happening but you don't know what that something is? Well of course you don't, because you're quite dim aren't you? Let me tell you what that something is, then. It's the developing understanding between forward thinking players.

No, Pie, it's not that.

Really? Then it must be the emergence of some special players, like the McKay or the Mighty Booch, who will threaten danger each time they are on the ball.

Maybe, Pie, but I don't think so.

Okay then, well, maybe you're thinking of something bad, like the improving but still quite brittle defence.

No, it's not a bad something Pie.

I know, it's the quality of the goals, isn't it? Especially the Booch Man's brace. What magnificent strikes they were, eh Pie? An exquisite combination of accuracy and power which were dismissed as "flukes" by those Bentford fans who could form words.

Mighty fine goals, Pie, but not the something I mean.

The quality of individual players?

Nope.

The off field stuff? The way the club is being run by competent people at last? The improvements to the ground? The rumours of miracles in the gents toilets?

Sort of, but...

The fact we've got six points from two games? Is it as simple as that? Is it the results are everything argument? Because we were a bit lucky to get six points, you know. That's it - it's the luck, isn't it?

No, not really.

The kit? The one we borrowed from Rangers?

No.

The fact that the Bentford team sheet looked like a list of sex toys?

What?

Nothing. I know, it's Mister Thumb, isn't it? Mister Thumb's back, after all these years.

Don't be silly, Pie. Mister Thumb was just a figgins of my imagination when I was poorly in the head.

Ah yes, the good old days, eh Stress?

That's it, Pie! That's the something that's happening!

What, your being poorly in the head?

No Pie, the Good Old Days! The Good Old Days are coming back!

Really? What do you mean?

It's the Second Coming, Pie.

The Second Coming?

Yes Pie. Mister Warburton is the second coming of Mister Clough. The signs are all there.

You're sure Mister Thumb didn't tell you all this? What signs?

The two men are so alike, Pie. Both have a background in finance. Both repeat themselves endlessly in a Cockney accent. Both have the swarthy good looks of an international film star.

I see what you mean, Stress. Apart from the fact that everything you've just said is completely wrong, you could be on to something.

I think I am, Pie. You know what this means, don't you?

I know exactly what it means, Stress. It means that you've gone poorly in the head again. The sooner you stop believing Mister Thumb's drivel, the happier you'll be.

But he said everything was going to be all right, Pie, and I for one believe him. What's a sex toy?



GAME 3: BARNSLEY 2 FOREST 1

"The first thing to say is that tonight, we beat a very good side. The next thing to say is that we were very, very fortunate. Forest had 26 shots with just 7 of them on target. In all honesty, some of their shooting was embarrassing, especially as compared to their build up play, which was very impressive."

This unusually honest assessment is from a Barnsleh forum, and it sums things up quite neatly. Apart from the first bit, the game increasingly resembled a Premier League side dominating the crap out of some lower league toilers without finding the composure to finish them off. Shot after shot went wide, was saved, was mishit, was fired straight at their goalkeeper, or, we'll swear, was blown off course by a weather fart or went straight through the back of the Barnsleh net.

Yes, it sums things up quite neatly ... or does it? Well, no, not really. It puts the blame on Forest's terrible finishing, but previous evidence suggests that we have more than a few good finishers in the side, and we would suggest that bad finishing will not hamper us too badly in the future. But bad defending will.

It came as no surprise to us that we conceded twice. Neither does it surprise us that Mister Warburton rarely talks about defence. Neither does it surprise us that he signs attacking players, even if they are defenders. The truth is, Mister Warburton seems uninterested in the defensive arts, preferring instead to put all his eggs in the midfield control/attacking penetration basket. This approach is beginning to provide us with tremendous entertainment, as in the Barnsleh game, and all power to Mister Warburton's elbow for that. We have, after all, been craving entertainment for years.

But it shouldn't all be about attack and entertainment, should it? Surely there is a place for defensive discipline and organisation. Consider Barnsleh's first goal. A free kick is swung in with such a mesmerising trajectory that all the Forest players end up running towards their own goal. They're all facing the wrong way. Whoever's marking the bloke who scores doesn't know where his man is, doesn't seem to be watching the ball, and doesn't even jump. The scorer simply lifts himself over him and plants a free header into the net. Consider Barnsleh's second goal. One of their runners goes on such a mesmerising run that each Forest defender backs off and passes the responsibility to a team mate. The Barnsleh player, realising that no-one is going to tackle him, is left with no option but to shoot and score.

We think it's Mister Warburton's responsibility to either coach these fairly basic mistakes out of the defence, or buy some new defensive players who offer better leadership. Our attack may be special, but it shouldn't shoulder the responsibility of compensating for defensive frailty.

There, moan over. Otherwise, everything's going splendidly.

Saturday should be interesting. It could end up 10 - 10.



GAME 4: FOREST 2 MISERABLEBUGGER 1

Tell us about the Great Game, Grandad. Yes, tell us about the Great Game, do.

Ha ha, come now children, presumably you mean the Miserablebugger game of 2017.

Yes we do, Grandad, though daddy says you shouldn't call them Miserablebugger because it proves what an old potty mouth you are.

Ha ha, come now children, you know how your daddy likes a good joke, like the time he pretended to leave you in the bus station.

What?

Nothing. Now do you want to hear about the Great Game or not?

Oh yes please Grandad. Tell us about the Great Game do.

Well, the Great Game took place in August 2017, and despite the many years that have passed since, I can remember it as if it was yesterday. Forest against Miserablebugger...

Daddy says...

Shut up. Forest against Miserablebugger at the world famous City Ground. Forest had begun the season reasonably well, and under manager Warburton Warburton were in the process of developing a fluid attacking style which sat well with the fans.

Was that the manager's name, Grandad - Warburton Warburton?

No, children. His name was Warburton, but he had this habit of repeating everything. All the time. Sometimes more than once.

All the time?

All the time. Sometimes more than once. Anyway, Miserablebugger were coming to town with their untold millions in Sky parachute payments.

Tell us, grandad, what were Sky parachute payments? Tell us, do.

Sky were the company that bankrolled the Premier League till they collapsed in the wake of the Licensing Fraud scandal of 2020. Parachute payments were the millions of pounds paid to relegated teams to cushion the blow of their own incompetence. Miserablebugger had already blown its hard earned bonus on a bucket load of strikers, one of whom was Forest's own Britt Assombalonga.

But Forest's no longa, eh Grandad?

Ha ha children, you have your daddy's sense of humour, as well as his slightly deformed nostrils.

What?

Nothing. Miserablebugger were tipped to make an immediate return to the Premier League, so, you see, the Forest fans approached the game with an odd mixture of optimism and trepidation, wheras the Miserablebugger fans were convinced that their team would roll over us as sure as eggs roll downhill.

So what happened, Grandad? Did the eggs roll uphill? Was it a miracle? Tell us about the eggs, do.

Well, from the very beginning the atmosphere was bristling...

With eggs?

No, not with eggs, but with Forest singing and booing Assombalonga and Miserablebugger doing their best to put on a swagger...

Did you boo him, Grandad? Did you boo him like the bad egg he was?

Not at first, but after a short while it became obvious that it was irritating him, so we all joined in. It became an amusing game.

Like Spot the Egg?

In fact it was more than a game. It became a tactical advantage, because it put the fifteen million pound striker right off his game. Sad to say, but that was the best part of the afternoon's entertainment.

But the match itself, Grandad. What happened in the match itself?

Well, Forest had much the better of the first thirty five minutes. They were very good - sometimes breathtakingly brilliant. The combination of Vaughan, Booch and Dowell were streets ahead of the lumpen Miserablebugger grafters. If anybody was showing Premier League class, it was the boys in red. This was illustrated by McKay's goal.

Was it grandad? Was it a rare egg of a goal?

It certainly was a rare piece of work. A sharp ball to Dowell, and the youngster, in one movement, magicked his way past his marker and slid a beautiful ball to McKay, who, as any fifteen million pound striker should, slotted it home with aplomb.

With a plum, Grandad?

Yes, all right, with a plum. Anyway, it was turning out that Miserablebugger weren't exactly the promotion certs they were supposed to be. They had come to bully Forest, but they were being taught how to play proper football. It was great fun.

Daddy always tells us to stand up to bullies, Grandad. He says they are all cowards, and if you stand up to them, they will always back down.

Well, children, your daddy is wrong. Bullies rarely back off. They just get nastier. Miserablebugger reacted badly to being schooled, and just got nastier. They were encouraged in their nastiness by the referee, who seemed reluctant to punish the wealthy promotion candidates for some pretty blatant assaults. The most surprising offender was Assombalonga himself who, upset by Forest's dominance, the crowd's taunts and his own nervous incompetence, proceeded to commit ratty foul after ratty foul.
But then Vaughan was taken off, and the tide of the game changed. Miserablebugger starting clubbing their way through the middle and creating openings. The second half continued in this way, and could have turned into a nightmare, but on looking back I realise that Miserablebugger were never quite good enough to take advantage of the situation. They brought on some speed merchant who couldn't kick straight, cudgeled their way forward, launched long upfield speculators, and all they got for their pressing was to be suckered into a counter-attacking penalty, which Murphy scored with the serenity of experience.

What's the serenity of experience, Grandad? Is it like a nicely boiled egg with a runny yolk?

Surprisingly, it is. That was how it felt - like a nicely boiled egg with a runny yolk. Warm and comfortable and all in all very satisfying.

And that's how it ended was it Grandad?

Not quite. They finally managed to score a goal provided by a combination of fouling the goalkeeper and some pretty rotten Forest defending. Assombalonga continued to spurn chances with the abandon of a fifteen million pound striker, which was enormous fun, and Forest hung on for the win. Warburton Warburton was delighted with the victory and absolutely delighted with the victory, and Miserablebugger manager Monk was as graceless as his players in defeat.

A Great Game indeed, Grandad.

A game of great significance, certainly children. A performance which gave Forest the confidence to progress to where they are now, and proved to be the beginning of Miserablebugger's decline. In that sense, and many others, it was a Great Game.

Huzzah, Grandad, huzzah!

Don't say that, children. Nobody says that. It's stupid.



GAME 5: FOREST 0 LEED 2

This game was so devoid of significant action that Stress has decided to pad out his report with clichés, just like a real journalist, haven't you Stress?

It is what it is, Pie.

That's the ticket, Stress. Off you go then.

Forest's two nil defeat to Leed certainly came as a bit of a blow, a slap in the face, a reality check. It put things into perspective, which might be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what putting things into perspective actually means. Perhaps it means Forest aren't as good as they think they are. Perhaps they've eaten too much complacency pie. They should remember that an idle mind is the devil's playground.

I'm sorry, Stress, you've lost me.

Never apologise, Pie, it's a sign of weakness. As I was saying, Forest were certainly below par, considering all the hype. Fine talk butters no parsnips, however, and all talk and no action made Forest a very dull boy who was, for the most part, asleep at the wheel.
Forest began slowly, but all credit to Leed: they pressed Forest high, closed them down, stifled their creativity, killed their buzz, popped their cork, curdled their milk, and did many more things that should only be spoken of in hushed tones. So all credit to Leed for doing the bleeding obvious. Forest's response to the obvious, however, doesn't bode well for the future. As Kevin Costner nearly said in that netball film: If they press us, we will fold. The half time team talk from Warburton Warburton must have been something likeTrust in your own game, lads, because plan B, it seemed, was Plan A in reverse - concede the second goal at the end of the half instead of the beginning.

Bit harsh, Stress.

I say it as I see it, Pie. I will admit, though, that Forest did miss Vaughan, the Welsh wizard. That was plain from the start, as plain as the nose on a spiteful man's face. But overall, too many players were off the boil, too many players couldn't handle the hot kitchen sink, too many players went missing in action. Leed weren't that much better, so the match ended up as something of a dry pie, which is why we ended up talking about "Dunkirk", that so called epic poem of a film which turned out to be little more than a non-interactive video game with pornographic violence. What a waste of money that was. If you're thinking of going, don't. Anyway, to get back to the truisms, Forest have a lot of work to do. There's a learning curve there somewhere. Especially for the defence, which continues to leak like a bucketful of holes. New faces are needed to plug the gaps. I know it's early doors, but at the end of the day the bottom line is that you can't win the title in August but you can lose it, and that's a lesson we could all take a leaf out of. In short, it may have been a bad day at the office, but this is a results business, and if you don't cut the mustard then the bears will shit on your rollercoaster.

That doesn't make any sense, Stress.

Have you looked at the world lately, Pie? Have you taken a really good look? Because I have, and believe you me, it's like getting blood from a turnip.

The world is like getting blood from a turnip.

So you've noticed it too?

No, but I think you'd better sum up now before the green van comes. The match was...

...Nothing to write home about.

Nothing to write sense about, certainly.

As Kevin Costner nearly said in that wolf film: You may say that - I couldn't possibly comment.



AT PIE MANSIONS...
GAME 9: VILLA 2 FOREST 1

Welcome home, sir.

Thank you, Vetch.

I trust you enjoyed your break, sir.

Have you ever been to the Lake District, Vetch?

Alas, no, sir.

Everything's wet. Even the people are wet. They have this saying up there - if it's just stopped raining, or you suspect it's going to start raining at any moment, that's because it's not raining at present. Or something pithy like that. There's a lot of water, Vetch.

I'm sorry to hear that, sir.

No need to be sorry, Vetch - you weren't there, were you? You were down here enjoying the football, no doubt. They don't do football up there, you know. Too wet. And everything's at forty five degrees.

I regret to say, sir, that as far as I am concerned, enjoyment is in short supply at Nottingham Forest these days.

But I thought everything was on the up, Vetch? Sparkly new set up, and all that.

There have, of course, been improvements, in the sense that we are once again functioning as a reasonably proper football club.

Well that must be a relief after five years of batshittery, eh, Vetch?

It is, sir. And the new sense of optimism was reflected on the field of play, at least initially. The new passing style seemed to be working, and the results were good. But...

Don't tell me - things started to fall away.

Sadly, they did, sir.

That's what happens to things, Vetch - they fall away. What exactly is falling away at the Foresters, eh?

I'm not sure, sir, but yesterday's first half performance against the Villa was a wretched culmination of whatever's going wrong. The passing game congealed into a stew of pointless possession, the defence jittered itself to bits, and the spectacle was wholly dispiriting. The second half showed improvement, but the result - and in the end it's the result that matters - was not a surprise.

So who are you blaming, Vetch?

I really couldn't say, sir.

What do you mean, you couldn't say?

It would not be wise in the present atmosphere to apportion blame.

Good God, Vetch, why not?

There is too much at stake, sir. Too many people have invested their trust in the present regime, and will brook no criticism of it. The Creed of Stability blinds itself to even the most obvious faults.

I have trouble understanding you, Vetch. Your words are long and many.

I apologise, sir.

If the Stability Mafia are threatening your family...

No indeed sir, not at all. It's simply, well, I'm worried Forest may well struggle as badly as they did last season. Defensive issues are not being addressed, goals are drying up, but still there remains this complacent belief that everything will be all right. I'm just not that confident, that's all.

It's like growing old, isn't it, Vetch?

I beg your pardon, sir?

Following the Foresters is like growing old.

I don't understand, sir.

Of course you don't, Vetch. Let me explain. If growing old teaches you anything, it's that life is repetitively disappointing. When you grow old, you have to cope with a relentless assault on your common sense and your dignity. The NHS are suddenly desperate to find something toxic in your poo. Some baby-voiced girl rings you up to persuade you that you are lame and need a stair lift or you're deaf and need a hearing aid or blind and need laser surgery or a dog. Odd job men assume you can't mow your lawn or your roof has damaging moss on it or your walls need varnishing or your drive doesn't look expensive enough. In other words, growing old teaches you that life is not what they promised you in the brochure, but simply a cycle of disappointment.
And so it is with the Foresters, Vetch. You must be prepared for cycle after cycle of Endless Disappointment, and dismiss the bullshit of mindless optimists. Do you think you can do that, Vetch?

Er ... I could try, sir.

Because to be honest, Vetch, I've heard this story so many times that it bores the crap out of me. I didn't come back from the Wet District to listen to another whining report about the Foresters' shortcomings. It's time to change the subject, Vetch.

Of course, sir.

How is the delightful Missis Vetch these days?

She died, sir.

Really? How on earth did that happen?

Doctor Bone said her demise was due to a long accumulation of completely explicable injuries.

I see. Good man, Doctor Bone.

Indeed, sir.



ANYWAY...
GAME 10: FOREST 1 COTTAGING 3

Anyway, Forest were puddling along quite nicely in that way they do when I started thinking about rice and cheese. I wonder, have you ever heard of rice and cheese? I ask this because my family seems to be the only people who are familiar with this simple meal. I have travelled far and wide since I left Worksop, and every time I bring up the subject of rice and cheese, I am greeted with sneers of disbelief.

Anyway, Forest were puddling along as they do, with Dowell setting up Murphy who drew a save from Cottaging keeper Benjamin Button, and Cummings going reasonably close from distance, when it dawned on me that what I was watching was, in fact, Warburton Warburton's defensive strategy. I call him Warburton Warburton because he repeats things at least once in his interviews at least once. His defensive strategy is to attack, not necessarily with the intention of scoring, but in order to keep the ball as far away from his own defence as he can. It did not work, of course, as the Cottaging opened the scoring in the thirteenth minute, courtesy of an offside goal from Kamara, which I understand to be a car.

Rice and cheese comprises, not surprisingly, rice and cheese. The rice is boiled in plenty of water until it is soft. During this time, enough cheese to feed an army is finely grated, and added to the steaming rice. It is the nourishing fare of poor folk and not, I am sure, the subject of contemptuous humour.

Anyway, after this early and almost inevitable setback, Forest took a brief time to recover as Smith was again tested by Ojo, which is obviously not a car, but may well be a carpet cleaner, or even a comparison website - we will never know. But recover they did. Dowell put one wide, then Murphy flicked the ball over a defender's head (sublime) only to blast it into orbit (ridiculous). He made up for it eventually, however, with a neatly headed goal from Traore's cross. Forest piled on the pressure towards the end of the first half. They were playing well, and the Cottaging, a team consisting of cars and comparison websites, were struggling a bit. However, as usual Forest had missed too many chances, and we all knew it, including Warburton Warburton, who knew Forest had missed too many chances.

Basmati rice is the best rice to use, because it's fluffy enough without the grains sticking together. When it's ready, pour it into a sieve and rinse it thoroughly in boiling water from the kettle. Use hard red cheese, so it doesn't melt too readily into the rice. You can add a bit of butter if you want.

Anyway, the second half started in much the same way that the first half had finished, with Cummings failing to find the target and a Dowell effort being blocked by Kalas, who we are almost certain was Superman's father or a dead opera singer. There's not much else to say, really, except that the Cottaging scored two more goals. The first came from a free kick after Sessegnon (a spicy ham) had cruised through our midfield and had to be crumpled by the ever reliable Mills. The resulting goal was a superb effort from Johansen, the inventor of modular furniture.

So what's so funny about rice and cheese, then? Too common for you, is it?

Anyway, Forest pushed forward, but conceded a third to an easy counter attack. Mollo (a European confection of sugared paste) fed his team mate Kebano (a codeine based cough linctus) who scored off the underside of the bar.

The prevailing mood at the end was an acknowledgment that Forest had played the better football and had been unlucky in two respects: an attack which couldn't score enough goals and a defence which conceded too many. Apart from that, everything was fine.

Anyway, I went home and had jam for tea. If we'd had some rice, I would have had rice and cheese, but we didn't have any cheese.



MISTER EGG'S CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW

A. VANILLA 1 BOLN 0
Vanilla beat Boln by the minimum allowable number of goals as Codger converted from the penalty spot in the 40th minute. Vanilla manager Steve Bruise accused Boln of having plenty of experience and being ugly, especially Darren Pratley, who is still alive apparently. Boln manager Phil Parkinson said something about socks, then told everybody to bugger off.

BURTON DOWN 0 WONDERBRAS 4
Burton were beaten 4-0 at home for the second time in five days as Wonderbras cruised to a victory that lifted them to second in the Championship. Wonderbras were helped by the fact that they appear to be Portugal, whereas Burton were made up of commoners called Jamie Allen. Wonderbras' head coach Nuno Espirito Santa blathered on about "moments of sadness" in that semi-coherent way foreign coaches have while everybody pretends to understand what they're saying but nobody really does, probably because nobody cares. Burton manager said his team had to defend better. Sharpest knife in the box.

UL 6 BOREMINGHAM 1
Boremingham players admitted that they has "clocked off" half way through this match as Ul put six past the second city strugglers. "To be honest," said one, "as soon as we heard that Cotterill had come in, we had to find the quickest way to get dropped." Ul head coach Leonid Slutsky said he had so many people to thank, but couldn't name them for security reasons.

DIPSWITCH 1 BRISTOLS 3
Bristols extended their unbeaten run to eleven matches with their first win at Natalie Portman Road in thirty nine years. After a game of mostly deflected shots, Bristols' head coach Lee Johnson tried to explain the nature of his team's victory but was prevented from doing so by uncontrollable giggling from the press corps. He sounds like Bart Simpson was the infantile explanation. Dipswitch's Mick McCarthorse made some agricultural noises with his mouth, then spat in a bucket. The whole thing was a farce, it really was.

CAERDYDD 0 SHEEP 0
In the first half, Caerdydd's confusingly named Junior Hoilett kicked the ball towards the Sheep goal, but the second half did not maintain the same level of excitement. Cardydd manager Neil Warlock said he was disappointed not to win, but more disappointed at the peculiar direction his face appeared to be taking. Sheep boss Gary Rowett said "I thought we were magnificent. I thought we deserved to win. I thought we were the better side. I don't think anyone can disagree with that." He subsequently went missing, only to be found in the early hours wandering through a local park in search of a dog he once had called Flint.

MISERABLEBUGGER 2 BENTFORD 2
Bentford manager Dean Smith said his side had a "stonehenge" penalty turned down when Kamohelo Mokotjo was badly mispronounced by Adam Clayton. "The referee refused to shake my hand at the end," he went on. "He argued that Kamohelo Mokotjo was not really a human name, so no foul had been committed." Miserablebugger manager Garrymonk agreed with the referee. "There's too many aliens in the game," he said. Asked about his side's mediocre form in the first part of the season, he put the blame squarely on "perverts and traitors".

PRESTON NOB END (misprint) 2 UNDERLANDS 2
Simon Grayson, who made the worst managerial mistake in human history by leaving Deepdale for Underlands, returned to his previous club to a chorus of indifference from Nob End fans. The match itself occasionally burst into life like a lanced boil, but the real highlight was Aiden McGready's celebration after scoring Underlands' equaliser against his old team. Grayson said "He didn't have a choice to come here, so I thought it was a bit unfair what went off," which made little sense to anybody except perhaps the small army of ants that live behind his eyes. Nob End manager Alex Neil just looked disappointed, as he so often does.

READING LADIES 1 NORRIDGE 2
Jaap Stam's Ladies drifted to another defeat as Norridge extended their unbeaten run to seven games in this fairly messy encounter at wherever it is that Reading Ladies play. The Madejski stadium, that's it. I'd forgotten for a moment. That's how it is with Reading these days - after a few seasons of promise they're now fading out of our consciousness to the extent that we have to keep checking that they still exist. It's the same with Norridge. Who in God's name is Daniel Farke, for example? Did they find him in a bag of stamps?

MEWO 1 BARNSLEH 3
A match of low quality ended with Barnsleh grabbing maximum points from a match of low quality. The low quality was caused mainly by Mewo, whose manager Neil Harris said "I was disappointed with the performance, which was low on quality. If I were to take anything away from today, it's if we're not at our best Mewo standard in every fixture in the league this season, we can get beat any time - home or away, because we are low on quality." Barnsleh's manager Paul Heckinbottom seemed less interested in the match than in getting himself sent off, which he accomplished with a plum.

WENDIES 3 LEED 0
Everybody knows this is a cock-eyed league, and this result confirmed its cock-eyed-ness. Wendies were supposed to be a fading force, with head coach Carlos Carnivalo rather desperately not fearing for his position. Leed boss Thomas Christiansen, on the other hand, was being lauded as the Messiah who would lead Leed to the holy land. Three unexpected goals later, and Christiansen was bemoaning his side's weakness: "We gave too much space," he said. "We were defending back instead of defending up, which makes you lose your second balls." It certainly does, Thomas. Carlos Carnivalo was too emotional to give a coherent verdict on the game - you know what these foreigners are like.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2 THE UNDEAD 1
The Undead may be wearing flashy away kit with over-the-knee white socks setting off their tanned and muscled thighs, but nothing can hide the evil deep inside their black souls. They got off to a confident start against the Reds, what with the Reds going through their early "Give 'em a goal" routine, but for all their swagger they failed to sustain their early threat, allowing Forest's defence to strengthen and their attack to cause trouble at the other end. Forest's equaliser came from an expertly taken Osborn corner which found its way to Cummings, who scored with a powerful drive. Forest's second came from Darikwa's cross to the far post, Murphy's return across the box, and Dowell's neat finish. Undead boss Chris "One-Eyed Big Gob" Wilder said "We won't stop going after other teams. We'll go after them, catch them, and eat their hearts out. Not today, of course." Forest manager Warburton Warburton, apart from saying everything at least twice, seemed a personable fellow. "We needed that," he said, after drinking a deep glass of Bruichladdich single malt, brewed in Skye by the Gods of Peaty Pleasure. Come on you Mighty Reds!



GAME 12: SHEEP NATION 2 FOREST 0

Oh dearie me, Stress.

What seems to be the matter, Pie?

I don't know, Stress. I think I must be getting depressed.

Because you're fat?

No, not because I'm fat.

But you are fat aren't you?

I'm not that fat.

There you are you see - denial. That's the second stage of being fat.

What's the first stage?

Actually being fat. Obviously.

You really do come out with some rubbish, don't you?

At least I'm not fat.

Look - it's nothing to do with being fat, not that I'm that fat. It's the football. No, not so much the football ... it's talking about it afterwards that's depressing. I mean, I'm supposed to write a report on this match, but how many times can you write the same thing? Forest play some good stuff, Forest can't keep clean sheets, Forest can't take their chances, Forest lose. That's it really. It's so demoralising.

Let me do it then.

No thank you. You'd just come out with the same old garbage you always come out with. I can see it now: Vydra's goal was the latest fluke in the long catalogue of flukes he always manages against Forest. The rest of the time he's kept in a stasis chamber with all the other aliens.

That may well be true. I'm not saying it is, just that it may well be.

And every goal Nugent scores is a fluke by definition, because Nugent is some form of cucumber, the kind whose tail you cut off but he grows another head. Or something.

I would never say that about a respected but visibly ageing veteran like Nugent. I don't have that kind of spite in me. No, if I were to do the report, I would concentrate on the positives - the fact that Forest played by far the better football, for example.

But that's what's so depressing, Stress. Playing the better football means nothing if you lose, and we've now lost seven out of twelve. The fact that the Sheep were arthritically crap actually makes it worse. But the worst thing of all was that the whole affair was so stale. Gone are the days when the rivalry meant something, when the atmosphere threatened people's lives, when managers kicked each other, players got sent off, sheep's heads materialised, unreadable banners appeared in distant skies. It's all gone now, Stress. Yesterday was a match played at the wrong time on the wrong day between two teams which seemed to have had the life kicked out of them by years of disappointment. After the match, all we got was Sheep fans desperately trying to convince themselves that they have a quality side they really are, and Forest fans kidding themselves that everything will be all right in the end it really will.

My word, Pie, you are depressed, aren't you? Perhaps it's time to let me take over the site.

No, Stress. All you'd do would be copy out the Nottingham Post report and change every tenth word to "arsehole".

You could have a little corner of the website to yourself, Pie. You could talk about things which interest you, like black and white films, or smart motorways, or President Fart, or being fat. That would be nice for you, wouldn't it? Give you something to do. Take your mind off the football. And while you were doing that, I could write a blogue about a club that's just started recovering from years and years of neglect, and making a decent job of it as far as I can see. Despite the result of the Derby derby, I think we saw two teams on different trajectories - the Sheep on the way down, and Forest on the way up. And you can put that in your pipe and eat it.

I don't know what the pipe thing means, Stress, but I'll do a deal with you. If we don't beat Burton Down on Saturday, I'll plunge into a brown study and let you take over the site. Okay?

I don't know what that brown stuff means, Pie, but I suppose the eggs justify the beans.

I don't know what the egg thing means, Stress, but I'll take it as a yes. As old Uncle Boff used to say: "There's no generation without penetration".

I don't know what that penetration stuff means, Pie, but fat boys say what.

What?

IN SUMMARY, IF FOREST DON'T BEAT BURTON, MISTER STRESS TAKES OVER THE SITE.
BE AFRAID.



GAME 13: FOREST 2 BURTON DOWN 0

The first half of this match showed why Forest will get relegated, the second why they will be ok.

The first half began brightly for Forest with a menacing attack on Burton Down's goal at the Trent End, but soon fell into a frustratingly familiar pattern. At least they didn't concede in the first five minutes, and they did enjoy the vast majority of possession, but that possession comprised pat-a-cake football across and outside Burton's penalty area. The final thrust hardly ever materialised, or when it did, was dealt with easily by the Burton defence. There was simply no-one prepared to drive at the heart of the banked defenders, not even McKay, who spent much of the half loitering out wide making easy return passes. It was made worse by the form of poor old Murphy, whose day was blighted by clumsy touches and tired chases.

And so it went on, this increasingly dull game of keep ball. It was as if the Forest players were hypnotised to play in a certain way and couldn't break out of the spell. It was as if somebody had told them that if they kept the ball for long enough it would eventually end up in the net, presumably by magic. Vaughan did his best - everything centred on Vaughan - but his creative efforts foundered on the poor touch and lack of ambition of his forwards. I think it was Vaughan who eventually produced a goal bound shot, a decent effort which was greeted with the chant of "We've had a shot" from a very frustrated crowd. Stress said that we needed a Cohen, someone who could drive hard at the opposition, put them under real pressure, cause panic, create opportunities. Playing with a bit of wild-eyed aggression will often pay dividends. It's certainly better than hitting a wall with a sponge hammer.

He, Cohen, might also add a bit of muscle too. As the half wore on, Burton seemed to realise that Forest were probably never going to score, and if they pressed them hard, they could easily knock these little blokes off the ball and out of their stride. Forest's control of the ball looked increasingly flimsy, especially in defence, where the insistence on playing the ball in triangles at the back began to look silly as Burton pressed our goalkeeper and defenders into nervous mistakes. Things started to go wrong. Mancienne misjudged a header, and we held our breath. A Burton forward was left completely unmarked in the penalty area to bundle his shot wide. A slightly chaotic situation gifted another Burton forward a tremendous chance, but his goalbound drive was cleared off the line by Lichaj.

At half time, there were boos, and rightly so, because this Forest side needed waking up to the fact that they might very easily lose this one to a poor side, and if they continued playing like this for much longer into the season they could very easily get dragged into a relegation battle. Stress called it Relegation Football. Stress's friend, who had recently moved from Manchester to Nottingham and was visiting the City Ground for the first time, said he would rather be watching Oldham.

The second half was better. Almost immediately there was a more urgent desire to move the ball forward at greater pace. Osborn's energy dragged Forest onto the front foot. McKay finally turned up, moving the ball fluently through midfield, though still not at great pace. Bridcutt showed a greater willingness to get forward and prompt attacks. At the back, Mancienne played to his strength, darting out of the defensive line to snuff out attacks. Worrall looked after the ball with some composure. Poor old Murphy continued to struggle.

The first goal came from Cummings doing Murphy's job. Bridcutt chipped a teasing ball into their area, Cummings challenged their goalkeeper whose punch was weak, and McKay, loitering with intent (he does a lot of loitering does McKay), drilled it high into the net. It was a very classy finish from an accomplished (if occasionally invisible) player. It was also evidence that most goals in the Championship come not from blithering around but from direct aggression.

Forest now relaxed into the game, partly because Burton were finding the going tough and leaving more gaps. Osborn went close with a powerful drive. Dowell and Booch came on, the former adding a ton of class to proceedings, the latter overhitting passes like a man wearing iron boots.

The second goal was the result of a bewilderingly good passage of play which bamboozled everybody. We thought it had been scored by McKay, such was the neatness of the finish, but soon realised that it was Lichaj charging round the ground in that magnificently dickheaded celebration.

Anyway, that certainly cheered everybody up, and despite one or two scary moments, Forest saw it through. If Forest played like that all the time, we thought, they would be fine.

A few things to clear up. (a) Burton were hard working, but that is not why Forest struggled. Forest made their own problems, not Burton. (b) Warburton Warburton implied that the wind caused us problems in the first half. The ball did behave oddly at times, but again, its role in Forest's poor display was negligible. Presumably the wind went away in the second half. (c) We put the referee's poor performance down to his size. A four foot referee is bound to have inferiority problems, which is why he turned out to be such a martinet. (d) We had to look up the word martinet. (e) Nigel Clough really does have a problem with us, doesn't he? (f) After being 4-2 up away at MK Dons, Oldham managed to salvage a 4-4 draw. We have no printable record of what Stress's mate thought about that.



GAME 14: UL 2 FOREST 3

The worry as Ul began smartly and you wriggled on your seat. The weird atmosphere of tennis balls and loud chants of undefined support which was probably something to do with the City of Culture. Forest beginning to play it around with some confidence. Dowell's endless run through the middle. That moment when you thought he would have to move left to shoot, but didn't. That moment when he moved right, and you thought he might shoot with his right foot, but didn't. That impossibly powerful thirty yard left foot drive which smashed into the back of the Ul net. Benny's exquisite technique as he hooked Lichaj's pass goalwards. The boing as Benny's shot hit the bar. Being surprised by Ul's crudeness. Forest's defence looking pretty good. Lichaj and Worrall playing with maturity and composure. Smith and Cummings performing heroics. Not trusting the referee. McKay's soft, perfect return to Dowell for his second goal. The feeling that Dowell could probably score with his arse from fifty yards if he chose to. Ul getting cruder. Walker breaking clear and Meyler stepping on his heel - penalty. Dowell's hat trick. Anger at their second after an obvious foul in the penalty area. The dread knowledge that Forest might just throw away three points and you would die of a broken sphincter. The utter, utter relief of the final whistle. Telling your mate it was never really in doubt, and you'd rarely seen Forest play better. And after all that magnificent effort, Forest move up one place in the table. Happy days.



GAME 15: READING LADIES 3 FOREST 1

AT PIE MANSION...
Ah, there you are Vetch. What have you been up to?

I have been servicing the local children once again, sir. It's Halloween, you know.

Did you give them the chewing tobacco like last year?

Alas no, sir. You may recall that last year there was some trouble from over sensitive parents.

I thought Doctor Sock dealt with the situation well.

Indeed he did, sir. But you may recall that Doctor Sock passed away some time ago, and his replacement, Doctor Portfolio, cannot yet be relied on to fully appreciate the subtleties of social relationships in the area.

Good man, Doctor Sock.

Indeed he was, sir. So this year, I gave each child a small portion of corn flakes in a paper bag.

Too generous by half if you ask me. So what you're telling me, Vetch, is that you spent your Tuesday evening pandering to the local urchins instead of attending the Foresters footballing match?

I did not attend, sir, though I did follow the proceedings on line.

On line, you say?

On the internet, sir. I followed the match on the internet.

And what would the internet be, Vetch? Nothing to do with fishing, I take it.

No sir. It is an interconnected network of electronic difference engines.

My God Vetch, what sorcery is this?

Not sorcery, sir, but a widely used communication tool, allowing information to be transferred instantaneously across the globe.

You jest, Vetch.

Indeed not, sir, I assure you.

Then what did you learn from your box of electric devilment, eh?

Well, sadly the Foresters lost, sir. Quite badly, as a matter of fact.

No.

Yes sir, they lost three one. It was most disappointing, especially after the previous two successes.

Most disappointinging indeed, Vetch. But that's what you get with all these new fangled gadgets. There's no future in electric football, believe you me. Look at what happened to electric cars.

Er, indeed, sir. But I think the defeat owed more to the Foresters deeply disappointing performance against a Reading side that looked eminently beatable.

Reading, eh? Went to Reading once. It was like Mars.

I must admit, sir, that experiencing the unfolding disaster was like listening to reports from a distant planet.

Just like Mars, I say. Hardly any people. A distinct lack of oxygen. So what went wrong, Vetch?

As far as I can make out, virtually everything. Our midfield was hard pressed. Our forward threat was weak. Our defence regularly fell to bits. The goalkeeper had a poor game, as did the right back. The creative forces of Dowell and McKay spent large parts of the match loitering without intent. Nobody had a good game.

Good man, Eddie Nobody.

Indeed sir, Nobody excelled.

Good man, Nobody.

Yes sir, but he was the only one. It baffles me, sir, how a team can play sublimely in one match and fall so far short in the next. It's so damned frustrating.

Language, Vetch.

I apologiise, sir, but I find myself appalled by this team's inconsistency.

Too much vinegar, Vetch.

I beg your pardon, sir?

Too much vinegar. As Doctor Sock used to say, too much vinegar dries the blood and leads to incontinency. Take my word for it, Vetch, cut out the vinegar and you cut out the diarrhoeia. Good man, Doctor Sock.

I shall certainly bear that in mind, sir.

So who do our incontinent youngsters meet next?

Queens Park Ladies sir, at home.

And is it being played on this electric pitch malarkey?

Not this time, sir. I shall be visiting the world famous City Ground to watch the live action.

Good man, Vetch. Tell them about the vinegar.

I shall, sir.

And what kind of name is Portfolio, anyway?



GAME 16: FOREST 4 QUEENS PARK LADIES 0

7 THINGS WE LEARNED blah

1. This match confirmed that Forest start slowly on purpose. Whether it is to give the defence a feel for the ball, or to concede an early goal to snap the team into life, or whether it is part of some devious long term plan involving Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, is not clear. What is clear is that Forest made every effort to go behind to attempts from Bidwell and Luongo in the early stages, but were unsuccessful. After this early failure, Forest succeeded in tearing the Ladies to shreds.

2. The Ladies' silly kit is designed as camouflage, rather like the dazzle painting on World War One ships which was used to break up the craft's outline and confuse the enemy. In the Ladies' case, their dazzle kit hides the fact that, underneath the hoops, there is virtually nothing of any real substance. This is why, after a while, it appeared that Forest were playing against a line of washing.

3. Baby Walker hasn't half come on in the past few months. His first goal, in the thirteenth minute, was ice cool in its execution. Later, when he muffed a shot weakly wide, we were concerned that his confidence and determination might drop, but the fantastic, acutely angled blast into the top of the net for his second and Forest's fourth stuffed our fears firmly back where they came from. He played throughout like a man with everything to prove. We just wish he would smile more. He has a lovely smile.

4. When every Forest player did so well, it seems unnecessary to choose a man of the match, but if we had to, we would choose Mancienne, for delivering a masterclass in the defensive arts. Or perhaps McKay, both for his goal and his persistent screwing of the Ladies' defence. Or Dowell, for his neat goal and imaginative contribution throughout. Or Baby Walker for his goal heroics. Or Bridcutt for his steely covering after a wobbly start. Or Benny, for being able to play in any position on God's good earth and make a good job of it. Or Traore, for winding up the Ladies' fans something rotten. Or Worrall, for his growing composure. Or the mighty Lichaj, just for being there. Or Smith, for keeping a clean sheet. Or even Murphy, for no reason whatsoever.

5. Hologram was surprised his side got beaten so badly because he's "done so well at Forest in the past", and hoped a little of his magic dust would rub off on his players. Sadly, "Ollie's" magic dust faded long ago with his homespun image and queasy stories about how his grandad used to beat horses with a stick or some such nonsense. Now he's just a music hall has-been of a manager who looks like Nosferatu and works for a broke club.

6. It was a biggish crowd again, but this turned out to be annoying because every time Forest attacked the biggish crowd stood up in anticipation of a goal, which, because of the nature of the match, meant that the biggish crowd was standing an awful lot, thus preventing little people from seeing. People need to show more consideration and self discipline. Perhaps the PA bloke could tell everybody to sit dahn all the time. Not that anybody understands anything he says in the first place. Bah.

7. There's something about Forest fans (perhaps all football fans) which prevents them fully enjoying the best of times. Even before the end of this wonderful exhibition, doubts and questions were rising to the surface like dead fish : It was only QPR ... Now we'll go and blow it against Brum ... Dowell will be back at Everton soon ... You know the kind of stuff. As old Uncle Boff used to say: "Forget the past, enjoy the present, and drown the future with whisky."



GAME 17: BOREMINGHAM 1 FOREST 0

Who's that guy, Stress?

That, my obese chum, is The Hood.

You mean like Robin Hood? Or Marvel Comic's supervillain The Hood?

No, not like any of those people of whom I've never heard. This is Forest's brand new superhero, The Hood.

Forest have a superhero?

They do now, my portly pal. All the other Championship clubs have a superhero, so why shouldn't Forest?

That's a new one on me, Stress. Who are these superheroes of whom I've never heard?

You've never heard of Thug Boy from Mewo? Or Doctor Dour from Miserablebugger?

Can't say that I have.

How about Captain Zombie from Sheffield Undead? Or Ramrod from the Sheep?

You're just making these up, aren't you?

Never, Mister Pie. For too long Forest have struggled without a superhero, and now they have one. The Hood. Neat, eh?

Not really. Tell me, my young idiot friend, what superpowers does the superhero The Hood possess?

He wears a hood.

Yes.

Well, his powers are not those associated with your communal garden superhero type.

Common or garden.

Exactly. His powers are more subtle.

Such as?

Well, his greatest power is the ability to confuse men's minds. Just when you think you've got to grips with him, you find yourself clutching at shadows.

I see. That must be kind of frustrating.

Oh it is, Pie. He's certainly not your regular kind of superhero at all. Sometimes he can drive you nuts. One week he can perform like a god, the next he's blundering around like a f***ing idiot. Captain Consistency he's not.

Well, at least he's not boring.

Sometimes I wish he was, Pie. I mean, look at Superman. He always turns up when he's supposed to, he always goes through the same standard procedures you've come to expect of him, he always ends up winning by speed or strength. He never lets you down. The Hood, on the other hand, turns up when least expected, exhibits a pattern of behaviour which is at best random, and ends up winning or losing on the toss of a coin. Sometimes you adore him, sometimes you want to throttle him.

He doesn't sound much of a hero, Stress. Surely he's got some physical attributes which make him special. For example, he looks like a big guy.

Not really. He's about five foot seven.

But he must move with some speed.

Occasionally, but much of the time he can be maddeningly indulgent. "Finish it, Hood!" you find yourself saying, but he's wandered off down some shabby side street and lost all focus.

So when does the next edition of The Hood come out?

Tuesday. It's billed as a titanic struggle between The Hood and Birdman, the Norridge bloke.

Well, perhaps The Hood will zap his opponent with those laser eyes of his.

Laser eyes?

Yes - those are laser eyes in the picture, aren't they?

Oh no. The Hood was blinded in an accident involving hot soup, so he had his eyes replaced by led lights. They look cool, but are of limited practical use.

We're going to lose again, aren't we?

Probably, but then again...



GAME 18: FOREST 1 NORRIDGE 0

As Old Uncle Boff might have said, that was proper, grown-up football. One nil is a proper, grown up score. You can keep your "goal fests" - they speak only of indiscipline, weak spirits and complacency. Give me a game so tight it could strangle a rat, then stab the rat to death with a bodkin. Perfect.

Actually, the perfect game, up to the stabbing of the rat, had seemed more like the usual frustrating affair from Forest, and from Norridge, to be fair. An early chance for Norridge, after Darikwa gave away a free kick, was thumped into the defensive wall. Dowell shot over the bar, Murphy tried his luck with a drive well saved by Gunn, Norridge's Watkins completely muffed a chance when put clean through, Murphy laid the ball back to Dowell, whose placed shot was batted behind, Murphy wastefully headed over a good cross, Watkins tried again, Murphy tried again, and the referee blew his whistle for the end of the first half, a task he accomplished with a degree of good sense lacking in his overall performance. I don't know who came out on top in the first half - the two sides seemed well matched, and neither made the most of their limited opportunities. In hindsight, however, Forest's defensive effort was reassuringly solid. It was a professional display. A grown up display. We even had dreams of a nil nil draw, something not seen at a Forest game since the flood.

In the second half, things might have slipped away. The dangerous Hoolahan fired one over, Smith had to make a sterling save from Oliveira's free kick, Darikwa had to go off because (a) he was a bit of a liability, or (b) he had been injured after a sneaky foul from Oliveira, or (c) both, to be replaced by Mills, Mancienne fell really badly and probably died before carrying on bravely at full back, and Forest's attacking threat had faded badly.

So on came Carayol for McKay, who had been marked out of things by a very good Norridge defence. And suddenly the game became perfect. He announced his intentions by firing in a powerful shot straight at Gunn, proceeded to scare the bejeesus out of the Norridge defence, and finished by delivering the cross which Murphy prodded in at the near post. The game became perfect because of that one precious goal, but also because Forest managed the game so professionally afterwards, refusing to back off and sit deep, but continuing to press and limit Norridge's opportunities.

Really grown up stuff it was, literally, because the side, especially the defence, seems to be growing up both as individuals and as a unit.

Bear in mind that Norridge's away form has been remarkable this season. In September/October, they have claimed away victories at Sheff Utd, Brentford, Miserablebugger, Reading and Ipswich. They are certainly no pushovers away from home. So give Forest credit - they knew it was going to be tough, they knew they would have to be patient, they knew they would have to defend grittily ... and they did. Well done lads, well done Mister Warburton Warburton, on a proper grown up win.



GAME 19: FOREST 0 CAERDYDD 2

We've never had much time for Warlock, (interestingly, a warlock is a male practitioner of evil magic, as distinguished from a wizard or sorcerer, whose magic may be benign. The most commonly accepted etymology derives warlock from the Old English wǣrloga meaning "oathbreaker" or "deceiver"), so we'll make this short.

We do love defensive football, like what the Italians used to do, but Warlock does not deliver defensive football. We think the technical term for what he delivers is shitball. From beginning to end, his Caerdydd team were concerned with the business of intimidatiing, frustrating, and reducing the game to a grisly, lowest common denominator struggle in which talent, vision and ball skills were throttled at birth. The fact that Forest let him get away with it shows that they have a long way to go, but it doesn't excuse Caerdydd's approach to the game.

And Forest were not entirely to blame for letting them get away with it. The referee did little to stop Caerdydd's timewasting, which was just plain embarrassing, refused to award Forest a penalty when the ball clearly struck the hand of Manga (which, interestingly, is a comic style read by people of all ages in Japan. The medium includes works in a broad range of genres: action-adventure, business and commerce, comedy, detective, historical drama, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy, sexuality, pornography, sports and games, and suspense, among others), completely missed the foul on Walker which would have stopped Caerdydd's first goal in its tracks, and generally behaved like somebody who would rather wet his pants in public than incur Warlock's wrath.

So how could Forest have done better, apart from hiring a proper referee? Well, they could have scored, for a start. Dowell, Murphy (twice), Walker and Carayol could easily have scored on a good day with the wind in the right direction, but they didn't. Caerdydd captain Morrison (who, interestingly, does not own the fourth largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom, headquartered in Bradford) could not even manage an own goal. Caerdydd did score from a very limited number of efforts, with a short range header from Hoilett and a goal from Ward so spectacular he will never ever come close to matching it again.

We were going to criticise Forest for their slow play, but they did have a few moments of swift interplay; overall, however, we imagine playing against a Warlock side must be like wading through a river of jam full of piranhas, so we'll let them off that one.

This is all sour grapes, of course. It's bound to be, when Warlock's shitball leaves such a nasty taste in your mouth.



GAME 21: FOREST 3 BOLN 2

Here are 6 of the things we didn't do in Hamsterjam:

Body Worlds (featuring more than 200 anatomical specimens of real human bodies) - because we wouldn't be seen dead there.

Museum of Prostitution (take a look behind the scenes of the oldest profession in the world) - because all we had to do was go behind the Basilica of St. Nicholas for free.

Amsterdam's Weirdest Museum - because, well, just because.

Torture Museum (punishments and instruments of torture from the Inquisition to the Guillotine) - because we follow Forest already.

Hemp Museum - because we have no interest in rope.

Dipswitch 4 Forest 2 - because we were in Hamsterjam, thank God.


Anyway, the match. It was business as usual as Forest conceded within three minutes of the start when ... no, wait a minute, that's wrong.

It was not business as usual as Forest scored within three minutes of the start when Baby Walker galloped down the right and crossed perfectly for McKay to nip it into the net. Two things: Baby Walker looks bigger, stronger and sharper every time he appears; and the goal was not an own goal, despite what some mardy-arses might say.

Baby Walker was at it again later, when his smart shot was spilled by the Boln keeper, but Murphy was slow to react to the chance because he was smoking a pipe or something.

To be honest, after the goal Boln's influence had grown, especially in midfield, where Forest's nippers were finding it difficult against a team of Neanderthals and their tame referee. It was, sadly, no surprise when Boln equalised just before half time, mainly because the Forest defence were bamboozled by a simple cross. They really do have trouble with horizontal football - as when, in the second half, a Boln corner was headed just wide by Matthew Madine, star of "Memphis Belle", or a cross from Buckley reached an unmarked Vela, who headed over. Somebody really has to do something about the Forest defenders' responsibility, spacial awareness, peripheral vision and all those Dougie things which contribute to being a solid unit, or they'll collapse into a hole of their own digging.

As the game progressed, Forest were being out-beefed and out-refereed, and ended up launching long balls to miss out their struggling midfield. They were, in other words, playing Boln's game instead of their own.

This Forest side may fall short physically in certain areas, but they are not mentally weak, nor do they lack spirit, and their salvation came on 60 minutes when a weak Boln defensive header reached Worrall on the edge of the area, and the young defender thumped it low and hard past the Boln keeper. It was one of those occasions when crowd members shout the name of the goalscorer at each other to confirm they have not died and gone to heaven. It was Joe Worrall's first goal. He would score his second twenty minutes later.

At last Forest sort of settled down and Boln wobbled. Bridcutt won the ball with a couple of crowdwarming tackles and found Baby Walker, whose composure deserted him as he blasted wide. And Brereton, on for the pipe-smoking Murphy, out-muscled and out-paced a couple of Boln defenders to slot home a third under the keeper.

I suppose three one would have been a bit harsh on Boln, who were nothing if not brutishly persistent, so Forest allowed them a second goal courtesy of Worrall's deflected interception in injury time - a period which was stretched towards infinity by the Boln referee.

Still, Forest won. It was not a memorable game, but a good result against the odds on the day. As Old Uncle Boff used to say: "It may not be nice to win ugly, but it's always nice to win." Answers on a postcard.



GAME 22: BRISTOLS 2 FOREST 1

AT PIE MANSIONS...
As I was saying, Vetch, I'm sorry I couldn't attend the footballing game, but there were good reasons for it.

I'm sure there were, sir.

For a start, it was my birthday. Did you know that, Vetch? Of course you didn't. Do you know how many presents I got? Not one. Apparently they're all "on the way". Sometines the world is a hugely disappointing place, Vetch.

Alas, sir, that may be true.

And then there's this stinking cold I can't seem to get rid of. Doctor Sock would have knocked it on the head with some laudanum and a good cigar, but not this new bloke Portfolio. I ask you, Vetch, what kind of a name is Portfolio? Anyway, I couldn't risk travelling to the dog's bottom of the universe in this state, now could I?

Of course not, sir. I fully understand.

And then there's the rat.

The rat, sir?

You know very well which rat, Vetch. The one in the loft. The one that's supposed to be dead by now having consumed the industrial quantities of poisoned bait you left out for it. The one that's still scratching around up there, plotting.

I warned you it might take a while, sir.

The servants call him Nameless Pete, you know.

Really, sir?

Anyway, I couldn't leave the mansions with Nameless Pete scrabbling around in the roof, plotting his next move, now could I?

Of course not, sir.

So I suppose you'd better tell me about the match which I was forced to miss for the various reasons stated above. Wouldn't want the idiot Stress thinking I didn't know what I was talking about, would we?

No, sir.

Get on with it then, Vetch, but make it brief.

Very well, sir. There is indeed not much to say. It was an away match, so we lost. I'm afraid that's a bit of a given these days. The first half didn't go well. We spent half an hour pretending we had got things under control, then conceded twice. Awful, skanky efforts they were, from players I have never heard of. The first came from some bloke who appeared to be waiting for a bus on the edge of our area before drilling a deflected shot into the bottom corner. The second came when some bloke smashed the ball in the general direction of Christmas before another deflection took it past the helpless Smith. Bristols then played with the burgeoning confidence of a thoroughly mediocre side which knows that the Law of Absurd Consequences has decided to crap on the opposition, at least until half time.

Not good eh, Vetch?

Not good sir. The second half was better. Dowell pulled one back almost immediately with a quite remarkable looping drive which may have been deflected but who cares, and from then on, Forest proceeded to prove that they were a better footballing side than Bristols ever would be. Sadly, several efforts to equalise were spurned, and the game was won by the side with the silly manager.

Why so bitter, Vetch? To almost match a top three side at the dog's bottom of the universe is nothing to be bitter about.

Forgive my tone, sir. It is not so much the match itself as the public relations noise which surrounds everything. After last season's near disaster, it was made clear by the new hierarchy that rebuilding would be a slow job and patience would be needed. But week on week the players and the manager insist that the top six is not beyond us. I would be happier with something like "Let's reach 50 points, then see where we are". That would at least be realistic, as would some proper defensive coaching. But to keep blaming everything on fine margins seems a little hopeless to me. Don't you agree, sir?

What?

I was asking whether you agreed with my views, sir.

Sorry, Vetch, you lost me at "silly manager". Can you hear him, Vetch?

Hear him, sir?

The rat, Vetch. Nameless Pete, scrabbling around up there in the rafters, plotting.

I think you'll find that's the central heating, sir.

We have a central heating?

Of course, sir.

How long have we had a central heating?

Oh, for many a year, sir.

And nobody told me?

It was not felt necessary, sir.

So the central heating is called Nameless Pete?

Not exactly, sir.

Good God, Vetch, I am at a loss. What with this stinking cold, your endless moaning about some mediocre footballing team, and the troubling confusion over Nameless Pete ... I fear for my sanity, Vetch, I really do.

I shall bring you laudanum, sir.

You are a fine fellow, Vetch. And a good cigar, if you don't mind.

Of course, sir.



GAME 23: PRESTON NOB END 1 FOREST 1

"What is this thing called Draw?" was the question on our lips as we left the string-and-pipe stadium of Preston Nob End. The answer came fairly quickly. A draw is the thing you get when you play Preston Nob End.

If we're going to be honest about things, it was a fair enough result. Both teams had their strengths. Nob End's strength seemed to be a rather dull edged organisation, Forest's a lively threat on the break. Both had their weaknesses. Nob End's seemed to be a rather dull edged organisation, Forest's an imaginative use of spacial ignorance in defence. Both teams had a few chances, both scored a goal. Forest's goal was the result of some feisty work by Bridcutt, Dowell's defence splitting pass to Brereton, and Brereton's neat finish under the Nob End goalie. Nob End's goal was a mess - a long throw caused the Forest defence to behave like schoolyard twerps until the ball rolled out to the D where their centre half scumbled it home. No I don't know what scumbling is, but that's what happened.

Both managers bent the truth, as managers do. Alex Neill said "For the opportunities we had and the pressure we put on we deserved to win the game." No they didn't. Mark Warburton Warburton said, "It's like a morgue in the dressing room " , implying that he and the players were frustrated at not getting three points. First of all, they shouldn't be, and secondly, this constant "we deserved more" theme is getting tiresome. Forest are playing mid table football, and until something is done about the defence, that's what they will continue to do. Considering their present strengths and weaknesses, they should be delighted with a point away from home against a decent enough side with their own referee, as were most of the people I know.

Anyway, a propos of nothing, we'll leave you with the thoughts of Sam Allardyce, when he was asked about his visit to a local food bank.

"It's extremely depressing that a country of this magnitude, and where it thinks it lies in itself, can allow so many food banks to be operating in this country. But for the good will of the Liverpool people - and the fans have a big say at the food bank that we went to in helping donate food for people less fortunate than themselves, I think it's going back to the dark ages to allow that to continue. It's not only allowing it to continue, it's growing at a rapid pace, where people who are in work, not just on benefits, cannot afford to live at a decent level and have to go to a food bank to feed themselves and their children. I think it's incredibly sad that a country like ours has allowed that to happen ... and will continue to allow it to happen. I think it's a disgrace."

Well said, Sam. Merry Christmas.



GAME 24: FOREST 0 WENDIES 3 FOR GOD'S SAKE

Well that fair ruined my Christmas, Pie. So much so, that I've decided to commit suicide.

You can't imagine how much of a shock that is to me, Stress.

I mean it, Pie. I'm going to throw myself in front of a bridge.

That should do it. It might take a while, though.

Did you watch that garbage yesterday, Pie?

Well, yes, but I must say I'm surprised at this negative attitude, Stress. I thought you were a champion of the new regime.

Not me, Pie. I've been saying from the start that we'd end up as relegation foddle. Now perhaps my warnings will be heedled.

Warnings? You were the one who said that Warburton would take us to the Promised Land.

More like Disneyland, Pie. Yes, I think I must have said Disneyland. Warburton is turning out to be little better than a peddler of pipe dreams.

You said he had us playing like Barcelona.

Again, you must have misheard me, Pie. I said we were playing like Barce-loney.

Oh I see, like baloney. So clever to disguise a funny joke as something which is not a funny joke. Anyway, You said we were making progress.

Progress is a relative term. Compared to last season, continuing to exist as a club is progress. But look at this season.
First 4 games - 12 points.
Second 4 - 3 points.
Third 4 - 3 points.
Fourth 4 - 12 points.
Fifth 4 - 3 points.
Sixth 4 - 4 points.
That's not progress, Pie. That's stagnation. And not the good kind of stagnation, either, where you end up wallowing in the lukewarm soup of mid-table boredom. This is the bad kind of stagnation, like belatedly noticing you have a gangrenous foot.

Really, Stress? You're sure this is not your regular bout of mid-season panic? Didn't you say we'd made some good signings?

Cheap signings, Pie. Good signings kick on and improve. The ones we made with our cutting edge scouting system have turned out to be the runts of a very small litter. The youngsters and the regulars are just as bad. I'm beginning to wonder whether any coaching at all goes on at Forest. They can't shoot straight. They can't stop leaking goals. It's almost as if they're being reverse-coached.

This is just stupid, Stress.

And I've heard rumeurs.

Rumeurs?

Rumeurs of unrest, Pie. Unrest in the dressing room. I can't say any more because it might customise my sauce.

We wouldn't want that, would we?

We certainly wouldn't, Pie. But believe you me, Warburton's days are numbered.

That's a funny expression, believe you me, isn't it? I mean, the you is completely redundant. If you were drowning, you wouldn't say save you me, would you? It might be a fatal waste of breath.

What are you talking about, Pie?

Or if you were trying to get away with talking crap, you wouldn't say trust you me, would you? People might think you were insanely stupid. And only insanely stupid people would make stuff up about rumeurs and customised sauces. And there are more effective ways of killing yourself than throwing yourself in front of a bridge, believe you me.

You'll see, Pie. When we lose to Underland, you'll see that I was right all along.

It's a pity you won't be there to witness the fulfilment of your predictions, won't it?

Will it?

Well yes. You'll be fully engaged in the most tedious suicide attempt in history, won't you? Here's an idea - perhaps you can do it in stages. You could catch a few matches in between. You never know, these runts of a very small litter led by a peddler of pipe dreams might just surprise you.

My God, Pie, you're right. Your solvent words have showed me the error of my ways. How can I ever repay you for guiding me back to the true path, for is it not said that a righteous man is worth more than a box of used cigars?

You've gone mad again, haven't you?

You may say that. I couldn't possibly comment.



GAME 25: FOREST 0 UNDERLAND 1

You've got to admit, we're clever. We put up that "Judgment Day" video which turned out to be mightily prophetic. In the Wendies report, Stress said he had heard "rumeurs" about Warburton's days being numbered. You will forgive us therefore if we take a moment to indulge in a little bit of self congratulation. We deserve it for being so very, very clever.

We have been cleverly, though indirectly, warning about what was going wrong from fairly early in the season. Warburton's neglect of the defence, both in recruitment and coaching, has undermined progress. The signings, which were described as "Bargain buys", have declined into "cheap makeweights". But most of all, Pieman's clever insistence that, in the end, Only Results Matter, has proved to be true. How clever we have proved to be. Some might say we're the cleverest football writers on the planet.

Except, of course, that it was all meant to be a joke. It was meant to be a mockery of the mid season panic that perennially grips keyboard Trickies when things go wrong. We made these jokes safe in the knowledge that the new regime would avoid the feral dimwittery of the last five years by investing in some degree of stability. We forgot our own rules: Only Results Matter and You Never Trust Anyone. So, in the end, the joke's on us.

Too clever by half, that's us. Far too clever to predict who the new manager will be, or, at this moment, to pretend to care. Whoever it is, he's been left with a dustbin full of disillusioned players and an awful lot of pissed off fans. Again.



GAME 26: LEED 0 FOREST 0 Forest's last minute winner against Leed rendered me hysterical, in which mood I clumsily bundled over a woman on my way through the concourse. I apologised and helped her to her feet. She was a striking looking woman with elfin features and eyes as wide and beautiful as I had ever seen. "I see you're a Forest fan from your firm chin and proud chest," she said, to which I replied, "I see you're a Leed fan from your pale skin and hunched left shoulder." She laughed at my wit. "I like you," she said. "Please, come with me to my apartment in town where you can spend the night debating footballing issues with me and my sister."

And that's what happened.

There are, of course, different versions of what happened at Elland Road on New Year's Day 2018, but they all end up being as illusory as mine. Some saw the 0-0 draw as the triumph of a defence allowed to defend rather than imitate Barcelona. Others thought Forest were lucky not to concede three or four goals. Some thought that Traore shored up the left side of our defence effectively. Others described him with curses, not loud, but deep. Some said McKay simply needed a rest to get his mojo back. Others pictured him as a kid who'd crapped himself in a deserted car park and needed his mummy to take him home. Some saw Dowell put in a decent shift at both ends of the pitch. Others suspected he was sulking at the departure of Warburton.

Such divergent views were, I suppose, inevitable, and many of them were driven by the viewer's attitude to Warburton's sacking. Those disappointed by his departure tended to see a performance in which little had changed: the defence got lucky, the attack was woeful. Those relieved by his departure pointed to the increased level of defensive commitment, especially that of the senior professional Bridcutt, who was extraordinarily impressive. Some say Warburton has left us a squad of talented players with real potential. Stress says this is the worst squad for years.

So you pays your money and you takes your choice. The same applies to January recruitment, too. Will the new manager be of Brian Clough's persuasion - that you build from the back, or adopt Warburton's approach of using attacking possession so effectively as to render your own defence redundant (theoretically)?

My view of the match was that I didn't enjoy it, partly because I lived through it in the constant fear of Forest conceding, and partly because my dislike of Leed, like so many Forest fans, is hard wired. And yet I ended up feeling mightily proud of them for refusing to crumble after a disturbing few days, and heartened that the new manager has not inherited a bunch of quitters.

As for the ladies from Leed, well, that was not the last delight the new year would offer. Indeed, only six days later I would watch in wonder as a resurgent Forest dismantled a team of Arsenal youngsters in a 5-1 FA Cup drubbing.

And that's what happened.



GAME 27: FOREST 0 VILLA 1

I think it is important at this point that I record my feelings about liquorice.

I love and respect liquorice. My birthday is in December, which means that a late birthday present doubles as a Christmas present, and my birthday presents are always late. One of the presents I got in December was a box of liquorice allsorts - not the Bertie Bassett sort, but a box stuffed with every sort of liquorice sweet you could remember. It was a red box the size and weight of a large brick.

It contained the following:
Jelly Buttons - these are the liquorice jelly blobs covered in hard candy bobbles, and they are sometimes called spogs. They look cute, but are irritating to eat.
Catherine Wheels - these are liquorice bootstraps wound around a spog. They are quite good, but a little tasteless.
Liquorice Sticks - simple sticks of liquorice with the end stamped flat; sometimes, as in this box, they are formed from hard liquorice, which is stronger and more bitter than soft liquorice, and is made of iron with a high gloss stove finish. Eating them is a dangerous but rewarding activity.
Liquorice Wands - these are soft liquorice sticks dipped in spog bobbles. They are okay, though a bit unnecessary.
Liquorice Gums - these small rectangles of hardish chewy liquorice are a pure delight.
Liquorice Cream Rock - these are soft candy tubes wrapped in thin liquorice, and are far too easy to eat.
Liquorice Torpedoes - sometimes called Liquorice Comfits by people who never eat them. These are worms of liquorice in a hard candy shell, and present the eater with the challenge of sucking the shell to death without crunching, a challenge which has never to my knowledge been met.
Liquorice Cuttings - these are twisted liquorice sticks cut into small bits. They are the bits-and-pieces leftovers of liquorice assortments, like scraps from the chip shop. Do they do scraps any more?
Liquorice Satins - these are coloured boiled sweets with black stripes. Like all boiled sweets, they are only suitable for long boring journeys or throwing at sparrows.
Liquorice Toffees - these are one of the most delicious confections ever invented - chewy, juicy, and perfectly designed to lift fillings.
Unnamed Things - these are bits of soft liquorice of varied shapes and sizes. Some are diamond shaped gums, some look like fake Pontefract Cakes, some just look like extruded deformities.

The reason I speak highly of these liquorice delights is that they provided the only satisfaction during the otherwise grim experience of watching Forest struggle against Villa. It was like Arsenal never happened. The same old problems reared their ugly heads again - the lack of penetration up front, carelessness at the back leading to their single winning goal, a general lack of urgency and a flatness about the play and the crowd, the obvious need for some good, experienced additions who could ignite passion and provide decisiveness and direction, and the recurring problem of the opposition bringing their own officials.

It will go well for Mister Karanka eventually, I am sure, but for the moment Forest resemble a team of Liquorice Cuttings. Liquorice Cuttings are fair enough, but they are disappointly small, they lack discipline, and they don't half give you belly ache. What they need is some hard Liquorice Sticks. These also give you belly ache, but at least they don't pull your fillings out.



GAME 28: WONDERBRAS 0 FOREST 2

In case you missed it, we present you with a transcript of the Channel 5 post-match studio discussion between Some Bint and Dave from Reading.

[Some Bint] ..also well done to Aitor Karanka for his first win as Nottingham Forest boss ... but on to your old club Wolves ... last season you were joint top scorer in the league ... what a difference a season makes.

[Dave from Reading] Yeah obviously the fortunes have definitely changed at Wolves and I think they've been absolutely excellent this year and from a personal note I can see in pre season when I was still there they've got a very very good manager and obviously the group of players they've got is truly magical and obviously once a club like Wolves gets going and starts winning games then the whole city gets behind it and you see the results of that.

[Some Bint] What can you pinpoint as that moment then - we can talk about the super agent Jorge Mendes coming in clearly you mentioned that...

[Dave from Reading] Well I think the Fosun group who obviously own Wolves they've got this link to Jorge Mendes and they've used it in the right way ... he's obviously got a calibre of players that he's got access to and obviously the manager as well probably wouldn't be a Championship manager if it wasn't for Jorge Mendes so Wolves have got to be grateful for that and then bringing in players like Costa and Cavaleiro last year and then this year building on that you've got Nevez who's probably the best midfielder the Championship has seen ... Diogo Jota erm William Bony erm Ivan Bonatini as well came in and I'm just worried for the Premier League when they do get promoted who they gonna be bringing in next it could be Christiano Ronaldo through the door.

[Some Bint] Really? You heard it here first - he's clearly got contacts so I don't know where you've heard that one so I'll start that rumour ... do I need to start a rumour about a wobble though for Wolves or you got no doubts over them?

[Dave from Reading] No I don't I think so they're very down to earth in the work they've done they've never got carried away and even though they've got all those players I just mentioned you've still got the British heart to the team if you like they've got Conor Coady who's been brilliant this year, Matt Doherty Barry Douglas Ryan Bennett and obviously John Ruddy in goal as well...

[Some Bint]Yes but they need a few more goals don't they?

[Dave from Reading] They do obviously they only scored 11 in 11 which obviously judging their first half of the season it's not as good as it was then but they've got goals in the team and I'm sure they'll just carry on and take the Championship by storm.

So what happened here then? I'll tell you what happened. They didn't have time to change the script. It appears to have been assumed that Wonderbras would win, because, well, they're funded by some uber rich Chinese consortium who couldn't give a bollock about FFP, they have a manager called Nuno, their players are better than God and the whole thing has been cobbled together by some super agent who only has the interests of the beautiful game at heart. How could they not win?

So, having assumed that Wonderbras would win, Channel 5 employed Dave from Reading who used to play for Wonderbras (until the new regime took over and shovelled him off to Reading) probably with a view to Wonderbras being the featured match and him having plenty to say about how good they were.

Forest's part in this script, of course, was that of the victims. It almost didn't matter who they were. The fact that Forest were in poor league form only made a home win all the more certain.

It's amusing to imagine the studio reaction to Forest's victory. Forest won? Oh shit ... what do we do now? We've got all this stuff about Wolves. We've even got Dave from Reading who knows all this stuff about Wolves. What do we do now? All we can do is shove the match lower down the order and don't tell Dave from Reading the score. Yes, that's what we'll do. Pretend it never happened.

There was an awful lot of pretending it never happened after the match. Nuno dismissed the result as one of those things. Wolves fans muttered about temporary blips. Even Forest fans found it pleasantly surprising.

So what did happen? I'll tell you what happened. Wheras Warburton's defensive strategy resembled those plastic strip door curtains people hang to keep flies out, Karanka's was more like a double electrified chain fence. I say electrified because they delivered the kind of early shocks which got Worrall and Fox booked but certainly gave the Wonderbras forwards pause for thought. Defensive power and intense midfield pressing reduced the expensively assembled Wonderbras to angry, directionless rags. In the stands, arrogance was replaced by embarrassment. And this didn't just happen by accident. You could tell that the whole operation had been planned in meticulous detail. As Karanka said: “We just showed them on the training ground the movements that they have to do and the movement of the opposition.” I would suggest that this kind of preparation hasn't been seen at Forest for a long, long time.

Preparation, organisation, intensity and aggressive intent scuppered the Wonderbras - oh, and two goals, the first a Dowell speculator which veered drunkenly past Ruddy, the second a composed smash into the top of the net by Osborn. Even the celebrations were intense.

So Forest wrote their own script, though you'll only find it in the Forest archives. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, nothing untoward happened at Moulinex on the 20th of January 2018. Wolves probably won another football match. Any suggestion to the contrary is patently absurd.



GAME 29: FOREST 0 PRESTON NOB END 3

Well that was tremendous fun, wasn't it? I haven't yet worked out what kind of fun it was, but I'm certain it was as laughable a performance as I've seen since the last one.

I suppose it could best be described as a circus. Circuses are fun, aren't they? And this one had new owners and a new ringmaster and various new licks of paint and free tickets for some and ambitions to become the greatest show on earth. Sadly, this circus comprised little more than the same old bunch of shabby clowns going through the same old comic routines. It was a pity that Cash and Worrall took things a bit too seriously, but even they couldn't ruin the entertainment on show. Okay, the script is an old one - Forest pretending to have control of the game then, hilariously, giving goals away like sweets - but it still has comic validity. Particularly funny was the custard pie comedy surrounding Nob End's goals (there is nothing funnier than the repeated defensive mistakes routine), closely followed by Forest's clownish attempts to bundle balloons into the Nob End net.

Or maybe the whole thing was a satire, a cleverly configured piss-take designed to reveal truth through humour. Like that Daily Mash programme on the BBC, which you've got to admit is side-splittingly funny until you realise that the only truth it reveals is that it's a load of self indulgent poop delivered by fairly talentless smartarses. Perhaps that's why so many of the crowd left early. Either the comedy was far too clever for them, or they finally appreciated that they were the ones having the piss taken out of them.

Or perhaps it was just a series of jokes - like the one which begins with "I want them to show the crowd how good they can be..." and ends with "...this is the worst moment of my coaching career." That one, as the Americans say, is a doosie.

Of course, it doesn't really matter what label we hang on last night's comedy - pantomime, farce, black comedy, slapstick, situation comedy, comic opera, call it what you will - as long as we can all agree it was a riot of fun. The only downside to it all is that, as with money, sex, liquorice and Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch Whisky, you can have too much of a good thing. I think the prevailing mood is that we've had enough fun for a while, and it's time for us to grow up a bit, before we all laugh ourselves into an early grave.



GAME 30: COTTAGEBOYS 2 FOREST 0

Let's make this simple.

Everything since Mister Karanka came in has been experimental. The first stage of the experiment was designed to see which players were surplus to present requirements. This match was the beginning of the second stage - to incorporate the new signings. This stage may go on for a while. Considering that Forest's partly transitional team was up against the in-form, highly rated Cottageboys, the performance gave cause for encouragement. For much of the match, Forest held their own. Guedioura and, especially, Colback provided a midfield authority which made the Cottageboys realise that this was not to be the walkover they expected.

The Cottageboys' goals did not come from the cleverness of their own moves, but from Forest mistakes. The first came when Fox backed off too much and allowed a shot which Pants somehow allowed to pass through him at his near post. The second came when Forest were pushed high. A stray ball was intercepted by Worrall who slipped and failed to control it. Johansen took advantage, ran unchallenged into Forest's box, and finished confidently. This is not an excuse, simply an indication that without these mistakes, the Cottageboys would probably have got nowhere.

Forest had as many clear cut chances as the Cottageboys, and this is where the difference between the two sides lay and a major source of Forest's ongoing problems - the inability (compounded by bad luck) to convert these chances. Brereton's quietness, Cash's over-enthusiastic brainlessness, shots hit wide, headers against the post, a penalty denied, lack of composure in the box and some fluky defending conspired to leave Forest goalless, again. Something has got to change here, either through luck or some intense composure training. Forest's scoring touch has got to return soon.

Forest showed the beginnings of a solidity which should rid them of the "inconsistent" tag.

The Forest away support was once again tremendous. The Cottageboy fans were as unconvincing as their referee.

Forest are nine points above the relegation zone. People who say that nothing has changed since Warburton are guilty of lazy thinking like our window cleaner who seems unaware that his livelihood depends on my mood, but Forest have to prove this in the next three games, which are massive.

Sorry this is so short and sober, but I have to prepare for tonight's Superbowl by putting on two stone and having a lobotomy.



GAME 31: FOREST 0 UL 2

After another woeful home performance, it becomes clear that many Forest supporters are in need of counselling. With this in mind, we offer the following pieces of advice for those at the end of their tether.

In order to dissipate the stress, you should get another hobby. It should be noted that drinking heavily, watching questionable videos or supporting hydraulic fracturing are not hobbies, but rather sins. Suitable hobbies include photographing clouds, writing to the BBC to complain about the smirk on a certain weatherman's face, measuring potholes on local roads, extreme ironing, competitive duck herding. If none of these activities tickle your fancy, you might consider the fall back option of supporting Notts County.

On no account should you read any pre-match predictions or interviews, because , just like the additives in our water supply, they are designed to pollute our precious bodily fluids. Stories about how a player is relishing the opportunity to be a success, how the incumbent manager is changing things for the better, how the team still has an outside chance of making the playoffs - all these things should be dismissed as one would dismiss a wind-blown fart. They are nothing more than words, and nothing good ever came of words.

Do not embrace your fear. People who say "embrace your fear" are clearly insane, because they talk bollocks, like psychiatrists, or some character from Thor. It's far more healthy to suppress your fear of, say, relegation, thus leaving your mind free to do something useful, like measuring potholes.

Never ever take someone you love to home matches, at least not until it is safe to do so. They may be impressed by the ground itself, but everything will go to crap pretty quickly after that, including your relationship. Remember that what happens in Forest Club stays in Forest Club. It is best to not discuss Forest Club with anyone, especially your window cleaner, who is really getting on my nerves now.

If you must go to home matches, watch the first five minutes, then make an excuse to leave. You will see Forest go at the opposition as if they really mean to score a goal this time honest, you will hear people say things like "My God we're really going for it!", then everything will go quiet and die like a sick horse. You do not want to be there for this. Best leave after five minutes.

If you are religious, or even if you aren't, pray. The power of prayer is much underrated in these days of electric fridges, but on the principle that praying can't actually do you any harm, you might consider asking the Dear Lord why Mister Karanka thinks employing fifty midfielders and a couple of hundred support staff will solve Forest's perennial problems at the back and the front. Or you could just ask Him to bring the Forest team back from the dead, like He did in that story.

On no account must you participate in the game of "Bring Back So and So", which basically involves wishing back past managers because they shouldn't have been sacked in the first place. This is a favourite pastime of depressed supporters, but is a divisive and pointless activity usually based on a re-writing of history. Favourite candidates are Billy, because he was our most successful manager in recent history and didn't lose his marbles at all, Pearce, who made some exciting signings and didn't forge them into a directionless mess, and Warburton, whose cheap, young, exciting team didn't actually begin the inconsistent, confidence-draining slide which is now in full flow.

Gallows humour has always been a useful way of avoiding suicidal misery. "That was a game of two halves, both of them crap", is an example of the side splitting one-liner guaranteed to brighten your day. Or you could play the time honoured Player Rating Game:

Pantiliner - 5 - Saved a penalty and continued to be very tall.
Lichaj - 5 - Was unfortunate to give away a not penalty, but continued to have a dog.
Worrall - 3 - Continued to learn important lessons about being rubbish from the experienced heads around him.
Mancienne - 0 - Played the role of fear-raddled scapegoat to perfection.
Fox - 3 - Played at left back. No, really.
Guedioura - 5 - Ok, but still hasn't scored against Leed.
Colback - 5 - Spent much of the match wondering what he had got himself into.
Cash - 6 - By far the best player. Almost hit a barn door.
Dowell - 1 - Did not play.
Osborn - 4 - Simply not good enough to do three men's jobs.
Vellios - 3 - Took up space which otherwise would have formed an existence threatening singularity.
Tomlin - 2 - Provided thirty seconds of world beating skill, then was crushed by the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Lolley - 6 - Looked fit enough, almost scored, will probably be on the bench next time.
Murphy - 1 - Came on. Went off.

You've got to laugh, haven't you? The importance of gallows humour must never be underestimated. Newcastle United have an entire end devoted to it.

The best advice we can give you is don't believe anything anybody says about anything ever. We have adopted this approach to every new owner, board, manager and player at Forest over the last few decades, and whilst it doesn't actually make you feel happier, it does take the sting out of some pretty rotten situations.

Stay fit, eat well, avoid doctors. See you at Burton.



GAME 32: BURTON DOWN 0 FOREST 0

The match report will appear here when we can be arsed.


What's that all about, Stress?

What's what all about what then, Pie?

That thing at the top - The match report will appear here when we can be arsed.

It is what it is, Pie.

Oh I know exactly what it is. What it is is insulting, that's what it is. What are our millions of readers to think when they see something like that?

Oh stop being such a pillywig. Everybody knows there was absolutely nothing to talk about in that match. It was a complete nothing of a match. Nothing happened of any significance whatsoever. You can't write a report on a something that virtually didn't happen.

Unless you work for the Daily Mail. Ha haa.

Ha haa.

Ha haa indeed. But come now, Stress, what about the sending off?

Ah yes, the sending off of knee-high Lichaj. Ha haa.

Ha haa indeed. But you've got to admit that that was a significant event, Stress. So significant, in fact, that is dictated what did or didn't happen in the rest of the match.

I doubt that, Pie. I think it just served as an excuse for another woeful display. All that Heroic ten-man Forest hold out for gritty draw stuff is just pugwash.

What on earth are you talking about?

I'll tell you what I'm talking about. I think Lichaj's dismissal made little difference in the end. I think we could have played with eleven men till the world collapsed under its own stupidity and we wouldn't have scored, and the reason we wouldn't have scored is that we haven't scored since the last century because we don't have a natural goalscorer and we don't play good enough football to create any chances worth talking about, so all we were left with was a defence which flattered to deceive against a stumblebum attack and several thousand midfielders made of reinforced concrete. The only significance of Lichaj's dismissal was that it let Mister Arthur off the hook. It diverted attention from the real questions. Why are we going backwards? What kind of nonsense is it to say that recruiting several thousand midfielders will somehow solve our problems at the front and back? Why was Lolley taken off when he was the only bright spark in the Forest attack? How on earth are we supposed to be "proud" of scraping a nil-nil draw against a dogbowl of a club like Burton Down?

I'm sorry, Stress, what was that?

You heard.

Well I didn't, actually. I started zoning out when you said pillywig. I assume the rest of it was your usual rant about Forest being a dysfunctional pudding of a club which is solely to blame for your decline into lunacy.

I'd rather be a lunatic than a pillywig.

Of course you would, Stress. And what course of action is your latest bout of insanity driving you towards? Throwing yourself in front of a bridge, perhaps?

Your insults fall on stony ground, like dandruff. You'll realise the truth of what I say when we lose to Reading Ladies on Tuesday. You'll see, Pie.

I'm sorry, Stress, what was that?

Oh bog off.



GAME 33: FOREST 0 READING LADIES 2

The match report will appear here when we can be arsed.



GAME 33: FOREST 1 READING LADIES 1

EVOLUTION

Evolution is a tricky business. Usually it takes millions of years, but sometimes it can be kicked into high gear by some random cosmic event which is over in fifteen minutes. Sometimes it can appear to be steered by a cleverly laid plan, but mostly it is the child of Chaos and Accident.

Forest fans have been waiting for some kind of evolution since Mister Arthur turned up, but the only thing we've been given is an unfathomable footballing style and some pretty appalling results. Not so much evolution, as regression.

It looked as if the regression would continue last night against the Ladies of Reading, as Chris Martin, probably unsettled by finding no excuse to dive, missed a sitter on two minutes. From then on the match turned into soup, the kind of primeval soup you get when hosts of non sentient beings swim around trying to outcrap each other. This soup was full of good intentions but flawed execution ( Brereton knotting his own legs, Dowell slicing his shot for a throw in, Brereton scoring an offside goal ) and terrible danger, usually from ex-Forest players who, as we know, always play better for their new clubs. Anyway, the soup thickened and the atmosphere got a bit more fetid until about the half hour mark, when out of the mud crawled something resembling football. It was a heartening moment, like seeing mud skippers drag themselves out of the water, as ugly as sin but bravely willing to give it a go. The Ladies' goalkeeper denied Brereton and Lolley and the crowd began to buzz.

Then Reading scored. This is where evolution gets a bit tricky. Many fans saw that goal as an extinction level event. "That's it, we're finished," they said, rather like the dinosaurs when the asteroid hit. But evolution is more complicated than that. Sometimes it reverses itself in order to go forward. Sometimes it needs a good kicking to get moving again.

The good kicking turned out to be not so much the goal against as the manager's half time team talk which, by all accounts, was brutally direct. Forest began the second half on fire, and the flame burned bright till the end. There were a couple of tweaks in formation, but by far the most important ingredients in Forest's growing superiority were passion and energy and a steely determination to do themselves justice.

Forest pressed the Ladies back, and, with some Tomlin-inspired cleverness, the chances began to rack up. A Tomlin free kick, a Colback thump, a drive and shot (of sorts) by Lolley, a shot against the bar from the accidental Darikwa, a cross from Osborn, a Darikwa blocked shot, a clever pass from Tomlin freeing Colback to cross, the Ladies' defence (desperate now) clearing for a corner, Tomlin's corner delivered to Figuereido who headed wide. The old ground began to creak with anticipation.

And frustration too, as Reading Ladies repeatedly conned a monumentally stupid referee into slowing the game to a grinding halt, and what chances Forest carved out (for Cash and Brereton) went begging. But the pressure, from the intensity of the players and the crowd, became insupportable. If Forest had not scored, all life as we know it would have perished in a globe-bursting eruption of boiling mud, and evolution would have stopped dead. Thankfully, Lolley squared to Tomlin, Tomlin scored with a neat, confident finish, and the world was saved.

And what about evolution? Well, perhaps it's not such a tricky business after all. We've just been worrying about the wrong things, like tactics, formations, style, partnerships and all that kind of thing. We should have listened to Mister Arthur more carefully. When he went on about passion, courage, spirit and pride, we dismissed his words as the kind of fluff used by failing managers to deflect blame from themselves, but this match demonstrated how wrong we were. It would seem that no progress can be made without passion, and passion will begin to forge better understanding and technical ability within the team. That's how evolution works.

It's slow going, we know, but if Forest can replicate the intensity of that second half, they will be among the fittest who survive.



GAME 34: QUEENS PARK LADIES 2 FOREST 5

Near the end of the line was Loftus Road. It was what people called a "proper" stadium, which meant that it was built from ships' timbers held together by sweat and memories. By the front of the stadium was the Plotting Shed, where the Rangers assembled to discuss their next encounter.

And here they were on a bright, cold day in February, and the clocks were striking fourteen. They were a strange crew, these Rangers. Most of them answered to the name of Smith, and many of them struggled with identity issues. They shuffled uneasily on rickety wooden chairs, waiting for the boss.

The boss, when he came, was a disappointment. He looked gaunt and frozen, like something you might dig up from the Arctic ice in a well known horror film. But he breezed into the room like a man desperate to create the impression that he was a fully functioning mammal.

"Afternoon Ladies!" he chirped.

They did not like being called Ladies. He had called them Ladies since he first stepped through the door. At first they had indulged in this pointless ritual of somebody, usually Smith, piping up with an objection to being called Ladies, whereupon the boss would tell them some embarrassing story about how his grandad used to beat horses with a poker. Now they didn't bother objecting, except for the occasional creak from the back of the room which sounded a little bit like a poorly stifled fart.

"Right me Ladies," said the boss, who was called Hologram, "who can tell me the name of today's opponents, eh?"

"Nottingham Forest," came the answer.

"Well done Smith," said Hologram. "But it's not Nottingham Forest, is it?"

"Yes it is."

"No it's not. It's Notts Forest. Nothing upsets them more than gettin' their name all cock-a-doodle, like."

"So is that today's tactic, boss?" said someone, probably Smith. "Call them Notts Forest and mess with their heads?"

"Acourse not, Smith," said Hologram. "We do what we been practisin' all week. We get in their face like a crazed raccoon around a bin, that's what we do. Now I know some of you realise that the raccoon is not indigenous to the London area, but it's the kind of whimsical reference I've built my reputation on."

"So you want us to eat their faces, eh boss?"

"That won't be necessary, Smith. But I do want you to hurt them, just as they hurt me the last time we met. Remember that, Ladies? Remember the pain? Remember how I had to deliver every post match interview in that croaky voice I'd perfected to convey sadness and sincerity? I don't want to 'ave to do that again. What's that noise?"

It was not so much a noise as a vibration. They all noticed it, even Smith.

"Praps it's the raccoons," muttered somebody, and they chuckled unenthusiastically.

"Forget it, Ladies," said Hologram. "It's probably just the stadium fillin' up, chantin' my name, that sort of thing."

The cups on the sideboard began to sing. They would remember the singing teacups long after that day's scars had healed.

It was Smith who decided to look out of the window.

"Fuck me," he said.

---ooOoo---

Details of what happened on that bright, cold day in February are sketchy, but the general consensus seems to be that the side wall of the Plotting Shed was ripped away by a very big red train. The room was filled with sparks and steam and a noise terrible enough to crack bones. Through the mist they saw the raw red metal flank of the engine, then the carriages with windows drawn down and a carnival of faces blazing with a kind of insane joy.

"It was like a dream," said Smith. "I saw a fat bloke with blue arms, saw him twice, like some goblin. Then there was this bloke who threw a lollipop at us. Then there were these two kids, dancing like idiots. They just laughed at us, all of them, over and over until I thought it would never end. There was nothing we could do. I remember somebody throwing a cup, then I threw one, but they didn't do any good. Then we heard the screams."

When the noise subsided, they shuffled outside. The old stadium, all that wood held together by sweat and memories, was no longer there. It had been effaced.

The last anyone saw of Hologram was outside the Plotting Shed, staring with disbelief at the place where the stadium had been. "What the bloody 'ell was that all about, boss?" asked one of the Ladies, probably Smith. "How we gonna explain this?"

Hologram smiled, sadly and sincerely, his boiled-egg eyes glazing with what he liked to call tears. "Don't you worry, son," he said. "I'll say how much it hurts, you know, in that croaky voice I have, I'll talk some drivel about raccoons, then I'll put the blame on you."

"Then he just seemed to flicker and fade away," said Smith. "It was the oddest thing."



GAME 35: FOREST 2 BOREMINGHAM 1

STRESS'S RATINGS
(WITHOUT THE RATINGS, WHICH ARE STUPID)

Costel Pantilimilion (literally, the Man with a Million Expensive Trousers) is not only the tallest person in the world, but also the coolest. He is also the most elastic. One save he made from a close range header was worthy of that bloke from the Fantastic Four, the elastic one, disappointingly called Captain Fantastic rather than Captain Elastic. A cool save came from a powerful swirling drive which, according to reports, "troubled" him. It didn't. He just batted it away as if he was brushing off a pancake. Not only is Pantilimilion tall, cool and elastic, he is also crazy. His expression when he feels his defence has let him down might remind you of those wax sculptures of lunatics' faces in Madame Tussauds, and you wouldn't want to argue with one of them.

Tobias Figueiredo, despite his disturbing sequence of vowels, is turning out to be a real find. He is a tremendous header of the ball, and when the situation is right he is adept at directing his header to another red shirt, which as far as I am concerned is a sign of class, or coolness, or confidence, or something. He is also not averse to shouting at his team mates. He may be shouting in Klingon, but he's certainly made a lot of difference to the firmness of the Forest defence. I'll swear I heard him shout "Suq rid QujmeH moQ" at one point, but I may have been mistaken.

Danny Fox is benefitting from having a solid defensive partner, and is slowly healing his reputation with the Forest scapegoaters. He had a lot to do in this match, and did most of it with the assurance of a man with a beard. He and his Klingon mate are still vulnerable to horizontal football (corners and crosses), but it's always good to have something to work on, otherwise you would be perfect, like Donald Trump.

Tendayi Darikwa is what is known as a "project" and as such he seems to be coming on okay. He's definitely an attacking threat in the sense that he will keep trying to score but never manage it, but his full back work is still a bit erratic. His performance v Boremingham was fine, but wouldn't have been had he been up against Maghoma.

Ben Osborn was up against Maghoma, and had a difficult afternoon. The trouble with Ben Osborn is that he can play anywhere, so gets shoved around to fill difficult positions. He is more naturally a progressive midfielder, as was shown when he cleverly set up Cash for Forest's second goal. The other problem with Ben Osborn is that he scoops good chances embarrassingly wide because his right leg has a left hand thread, but all these faults are outweighed by the fact that his name is Ben.

Ben Watson is also called Ben, so gets a lot of credit from me. I have an uncle called Ben. That thing called Thing in the Fantastic Four was called Ben before his cosmic surgery. And there's Big Ben of course. Anyway, Ben Watson had another steady game, doing a captain's job in front of the defence, calming things down when they got a bit hairy, and even finding time to test Pantilimilion with a kneed back pass. You won't see much of Ben Watson on the highlights, because he goes about his work with the undemonstrative efficiency of a true Ben.

Jack Colback is part of a defensive midfield which is like a breakwater, driving opposing attackers wide and securing the centre. But he's more than that, because he can get forward, can prompt attacks, can even attempt shots, and can boast the thickest mop of red hair in Christendom. He also sounds like the hero of an American detective novel. You know the kind of thing - Killing Floor - a Jack Colback story.

I must admit when I first watched Matty Cash I was convinced he had only been included in the team to help with goal celebrations, but he's come a long way recently. The mad kid is developing into a more composed and therefore more dangerous player. His goal in this game was confidently taken, but not as spectactular as his thump against the bar. He's even developing his own goal celebration, which appears to be a pistol shooting slide, like something from the Winter Olympics (God, they were boring). Still work to do, young Cash.

Lee Tomlin is a bit of an alchemist, but like most alchemists he will have days when the base metal stubbornly refuses to turn to gold, which is a pompous way of saying that, despite a few bits of magic, he didn't have as much effect on this game as he did against Queens Park Ladies. The good thing was, however, that he never stopped buzzing, and that bodes well for the upcoming games.

The aptly named Joe Lolley had a wonderful game. Do you remember when he was taken off in his first game? He didn't like it at all, did he? Now we see why - he's the kind of player who is supremely confident that he can have a major impact, despite his haircut. He has admirable individual skill (see the trickery which led to his goal), really good awareness (see his coolly considered cut backs into the area), and a shot which is as dangerous as good fortune and bad goalkeeping can make it. Well played Mister Lolley.

Ben Brereton, despite being called Ben, didn't have a great game. I don't know whether he's unsuited to the centre forward role, or whether the system doesn't actually play to his strengths, but a mate of mine says Brereton suffers from a condition called Locked Ankle, which is why he doesn't kick the ball normally but rather prods at it with a braced foot. This means, my mate explains, that he cannot manipulate the ball with any sensitivity, thus lacks control in tight situations. I do not like to argue with my mate because he used to be a great footballer before he went mad, but here's hoping that Ben soon finds a way to unlock his talent. Or his ankles.

Some people suspect that Daryl Murphy has lost the ability to function as a viable life form, but we find such criticism cruel and unusual, like prunes.

Adlene Guedioura came on late to provide fresh energy, which he did. Unfortunately his feet were on the wrong legs, and some of his passing was, shall we say, extravagant. He still hasn't scored against Leed, but he looks good in the shirt. One day he will score a belter, and we'll all fall in love with him again.

Boremingham actually played with great heart but little quality, the referee was dross, Steve Cotterill said, "I think we were the better team and I don't think there was much between the two sides," then he got the sack. Life's like that, sometimes.



GAME 36: NORRIDGE 0 FOREST 0

KARANKA'D

Norridge is a bit of a dull place. They do good key-cutting and watch strap repairs, but otherwise everything seems a bit damp. There must have been some geology going on once, but it failed.

The general sense of flatness had a lot to do with the nature of the match. Norridge had drawn their previous four matches, and there was little indication in this one that they were going to get the better of their opponents. Their version of Murphy looked lively enough, but a combination of fine goalkeeping, stout defence and bad finishing left him and his mate Maddison holding their heads in frustration. Perhaps Oliveira would have done better, but he had been dropped for being mardy in training.

Forest, too, were disappointing in attack, but fine goalkeeping and stout defence did not figure here, just bad finishing. Brereton had a particularly muddled game. At times he made the Norridge defence hop nervously, but cocked up a couple of good chances. He also fell over a lot, possibly because he was miffed at being fouled by Hanley and getting no decisions from the referee, but possibly because he has developed the habit of falling over a lot, therefore getting no decisions from the referee. Lolley and Cash also had opportunities, but could not replicate their composed finishing from recent games. To be honest, Tomlin would have properly knitted things together up top, but he was being saved for the Sheep.

However, despite everything going a bit flat, even the streaker, Forest ended up with a smile on their face. Another point took them 14 points clear of the relegation zone. Another clean sheet and the fifth game unbeaten was evidence of growing defensive security. Despite provocation from the local referee, Forest kept their focus and stayed solid, so that in the end, Norridge were Karanka'd.

Solid is what Forest are now. They are growing up, and getting to the point where nobody can push them around any more. I don't know whether you've noticed, but people aren't dreading games any more.

Derby, on the other hand, mired as they are in their annual attack of self-doubt, must be crapping themselves.



GAME 37: FOREST v SHEEP

The trouble with Derby is that they have no sense of humour, which is strange for a club brimming with comic potential.

In this match, for example, everybody knew how hilarious it was that Huddlestone and Johnson were allowed to behave like street corner thugs for so long before one of them got his come-uppance. It was strange that Derby did not appreciate their own script, which demanded that ageing journeymen spent their afternoon blocking, pulling, pushing, fouling and generally intimidating the opposition like comic opera bullies. Everybody else thought it was laughable. The only Derby player who smiled all afternoon was Nugent, but that moronic, slack-jawed grin is a permanent fixture anyway, so he doesn't count.

The lack of humour derives from their manager, a man who can't take a joke about his trainers, can't count up to four, doesn't understand why the referee didn't do the job they paid him for, and accuses opposition players of diving. If Rowett had a sense of humour, he wouldn't send his sides out with such cynical intent, and he wouldn't allow the pressure of his situation to turn his interviews into graceless, absurd mutterings. He should cheer up a bit.

But that's enough about Derby. The match itself was a bit of a mess. Yes, it was exciting at times, but it was the kind of excitement born of scrappy play and lack of composure, or maybe Sky's patronising attempt to big up its own broadcast. The spine of Forest's defence - Pantilimillion, Figueiredo, Fox, Watson and Colback - were mightily impressive, but the forward players less so. A lot of their ineffectiveness could be explained by the rough treatment they got, but the problems up front were not new. We're not in the business of blaming anyone - players or manager - for Forest's lack of goals, but we would remind those with no sense of humour that calling players "shit" or questioning the manager's philosophy is no way of solving such problems, except at Derby. Neither do we think that Forest have achieved stability by sacrificing attacking flair. It's quite the reverse, when you think of it: Forest's firmness at the back should provide the platform for the attacking players to perform without fear. We'll just have to wait and see whether Bretherton progresses on his own or the system is rejigged to provide him with more support or the other players start scoring again or ... but you know all this. For now, going six unbeaten is ample compensation for problems which will be solved sooner or later.

Saying that Derby have deeper and more long term problems than us would be a bit of a cheap shot, so we'll avoid talking about financial issues or ageing players or predictable decline and offer them some simple advice: get a sense of humour and learn to laugh at yourself. There is, after all, a lot to laugh at.



GAME 38: UNDEAD 0 FOREST 0

ONE OF EACH AND A BAG OF SCABS

Here's a list of things loosely related to the match. We know people like lists. Lists give people the illusion of order and control. "You can tell he knows what he's talking about," people say, "because he's written stuff in a list."

Especially lists with bullet points. Numbered lists don't work, because they imply a ranking order of importance, and end up causing arguments between stupid people.

Anyway, this was a match of two halves. One half was covered in snow, and the other wasn't. Which brings us to red lines...

We had this debate about coloured line markings, and concluded they were a stupid idea. You see, it doesn't matter what colour they are if they're covered in snow. The last time I looked, grass was green. But if it's covered in snow, it's white. On Saturday, they had to scrape the snow away to see the red line markings. On the bit without the snow, the red lines were pointless. It was all very disconcerting, like Leicester's diagonally cut pitch which is designed to make people sea sick.

The reason we call this lot the Undead is twofold. Firstly, if you take the middle bit out of United - Un..ed - the word Undead immediately springs to mind. Secondly, everybody knows that Bramall Lane is the Heart of Darkness and has been ever since it was touched by Warlock the Destroyer. The fans have developed a finely tuned inferiority complex over the years and seem permanently angry with everything, especially trees. Not Tricky Trees, but trees. Yes, they're cutting down all the trees in Sheffield, because living things aren't welcome there any more.

Younger fans may have been confused by the chant of "scabs" which rose from the Undead fans fairly early on in the match. Well, this refers to the great miner's strike when Missis Thatcher was queen. The striking Yorkshire miners were so short of cash they ended up eating their own scabs. Even today, you can go into Sheffield chip shops and hear people ordering "one of each and a bag of scabs".

Anyway, the first half of the match was a bit duff. The Undead played with the spirit of men who hadn't quite realised how bad they were, and had a couple of chances. Clarke headed wide from what seemed to be inside the Forest goal, and Fleck tried an effort which was so poor Pantilimillione adjusted his position several times before it reached him. Forest defended solidly, then started up the boilers towards the end of the half. At half time the only question on people's lips was "Where are my feet?"

The second half was virtually all Forest. Whilst remaining rock solid in defence, they made enough progress forward to scare the bejeesus out of the Undead by missing several decent chances. The ones who used to score for Forest - Murphy and Dowell - were the main culprits. Dowell may still be suffering from a post-Warburton sulk, and Murphy may have lost the use of his eyes and legs, but these are no excuses. Brereton seems to have got himself in the unfortunate position of not even being expected to score, which is worrying. Mister Karanka's patience must be wearing a bit thin with his strike force now. Whoever he plays up front, whatever formation he puts them in, the goals have dried up completely. The fact that the Undead man of the match was their goalkeeper said much about Forest's dominance, but to be frank the saves he had to make weren't overwhelmingly difficult.

Mind you, in terms of attacking intent and execution, the Undead were worse. As well as asking yourself "Where are my legs?" you began to wonder how this lot had ever crept so high in the table. Had everybody been asleep? They don't look good enough to reach the top six, but then neither do Derby. It's a funny old world isn't it?

So Forest rumble along like a slow red train, buggering up opponents' dreams of promotion, but not yet reaching anywhere near murderous speed. In the meantime, Derby cancel matches because they're running scared, Leicester's harum scarum football fails against Chelsea in the FA Cup, and the Undead can console themselves by sharing a big bag of scabs round the braziers where the trees used to be.

End of list.



GAME 39: MEWO 2 FOREST 0

A major aim (or goal) of football is to score a goal by putting the ball in the goal. On the face of it, this seems a simple process, but becomes more difficult when you understand that the opposition is trying to stop you doing it, and virtually impossible when you're bloody useless at it, as Forest are.

The best place to score is in the pink area A. There are various sub-sections of this area (bottom left corner, postage stamp etc) but this is entirely irrelevant to a successful outcome. Also irrelevant is the method of scoring. Nobody cares whether you head it, drive it, scuff it, slice it, knee it or bum it into the pink area A, as long as it gets there. Of course you're not allowed to handle it in, because that's the sort of thing foreigners do.

It is important to recognize that the pink area A is the only place you can score a goal. If the ball goes outside the pink area A - in other words, anywhere else in the world beyond the playing area - it is described as a miss. Misses have been detected as far afield as Berwick-on-Tweed, which is nice enough if you like places like that.

Forest have become extraordinarily adept at this aspect of the game. In this match, for example, of the eighteen shots Forest had, fifteen of them were off target. Of these fifteen misses, some ended up in the orange area B, which is known as wide of the goal. Again, the extent of the "wideness" is irrelevant, because a miss is as good as a mile. One player who is becoming a specialist in this area is Lolley. Lolley appears to have this growing fascination with orange area B which is becoming something of a fetish, involving a promising thrust into the box followed by a disappointing misfire. With orange area B also claiming misses from Vellios and Tomlin and probably somebody else I can't be bothered to remember, it must be assumed that Mister Karanka's emphasis in the previous week's striking practice comprised a boozy thump at some elusive barn door.

The red area C attracted much attention. Balls entering red area C are described as high. If they drift somewhere between red area C and orange area B they are called high and wide. Beyond that, stratospheric efforts are called high, wide and handsome. Tomlin, Cash, Vellios and McKay flirted with red area C, the former two because they were trying too hard, the latter two because they were probably blowing their last chance to impress the management.

The areas D are opposition defenders, and are included in the diagram to remind the Forest players that it is almost impossible to kick or head the ball through them. The only time this happened was when Guy Moussi decapitated a QPR player with a thunderous shot and had to leave the country under a cloud. The goalkeeper (G) is also an obstacle, especially when all he has to do is field a few weedy shots from snatchy forwards.

So, Forest failed to score again because they didn't follow the cardinal rules about getting the ball into the net, or pink area A. Why they favour almost all the non-pink areas is unclear. It may be that the forward play gets bottled up in the middle, and very little comes in from the sides. Mewo's goals came from the sides, because in their simple-mindedness they realised that it is far more difficult to defend high, fast cross-balls than balls played through the middle, or at least it is difficult for Forest defenders. Or it may be that the strikers/forwards we have suffer from gout, squint, or are simply not very good. As Uncle Boff used to say, "You can't make a cow's arse out of a banjo," and I think we can all agree with that.

Anyway, sod it. Just get some goals against Barnsleh, boys. It would be nice to score again before the end of the season.

Next week: How Derby made a cow's arse out of a banjo.



GAME 40: MISERABLEBUGGER 2 FOREST 0

Daffodils


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er hill and vale,
When all at once I heard a crowd
Let forth a long, resounding wail.

It haunts me still that sad refrain
Which pierced me deep within my soul,
I can't forget that anguish'd cry:
"Why can't the bastards score a goal?"

I wandered on, and met a man
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Slump'd sadly 'mid the daffodils,
His head sunk deep between his knees.

"What ails thee, stranger dress'd in red?"
I asked, and in reply he stood
And told me tales of bygone days
When skies were blue and times were good.

"You bore me sir," I brusquely said,
For I could tolerate no more,
At which he swung a strong right hand
And punched me to the grassy floor.

"Okay, that's fair enough," I sniffed
Through tear-stung eyes and bloodied nose,
"But sadness for those long passed days
Cannot explain your present woes."

He spoke again of many things
Beyond the ken of mortal men,
Of promises of progress made
And broken time and time again.

Of stern defences ripp'd apart
By stronger men with greater skills,
Of red faced stalwarts brushed aside
Like moths among the daffodils.

He spoke of arid, scoreless wastes,
In ever more despairing tones,
Of strikers sadly labouring
With vast and trunkless legs of stone.

"They say we're safe," the creature whined,
"As if the words can make it true.
But words have never won a game
Or scored a bloody goal or two."

"We're nine points from the drop," he sighed,
Then off to catch his train he strode,
To Nottingham, where he was born,
Down Relegation Road.

And oft, when on my couch I lie,
In vacant or in pensive mood,
He flashes on my inward eye
In all his nervous solitude;
And then my heart with sadness fills,
And weeps among the daffodils.




GAME 41: FOREST 0 BENTFORD 1

We didn't do a report on this because it was so depressing, so we made a video which turned out to be even more depressing than the repoert we didn't do, so we deleted it. Thankyou.



GAME 42: FOREST 2 DIPSWITCH 1

People are bloody ignorant apes, at least according to the famous playwright Samuel Buckett, who wrote "Waiting For Gadot", loosely based on Wonder Woman's life story. What I mean is, for most of this match Forest were being written off by Allan Sundry and friends as serial losers, a dustbinful of clueless wazzocks being led by a blind Spaniard up Dead Man's Creek.

As expected, Forest continued their tour of the brothel they couldn't score in, while their opponents quickly figured out Forest's vulnerability to fast, horizontal football and scored. At half time there were a few boos of embarrassment.

The second half was mostly taken up by other concerns, such as Stress contemplating even more bizarre ways of killing himself, or the countdown to a new non-scoring record, which duly arrived to ill-humoured cheers.

And then football played one of those tricks it uses to turn us into idiots. Forest got a penalty and equalised, which counted as a goal. Then, as things got feverish in the dying minutes, Forest scored again, which also counted as a goal and meant, oddly, that we had won.

It wasn't the celebrations which were stupid - they were just life-threatening - but the total reversal of attitude on show. Brereton turned from a diving waster into a minor god. Lolley's volley was the best goal ever scored since Robin Hood's thirty yarder against Mexico. Forest were now completely safe from anything approaching a relegation battle, and destined to go up next season.

The truth, as always, lies somewhere between the two extremes of terminal depression and manic euphoria. Mister Karanka probably had it spot on when he said he appreciated the result but was not satisfied with the performance. As far as he is concerned, certain players have not made the most of their opportunities, and in general Forest do not play with enough intensity or professionalism He hinted that there will be several changes next season.

Still, it was a good day. We're not mathematically safe yet but we are really, aren't we? Of course we are, barring the intervention of some satanic absurdity, and the Lord of Misrule is busy interfering with Derby's head at the moment.

Four to go. Let's hope we win a couple, Derby fall to bits again, and Warlock fails to make the premier league. Please.











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