What a great week for Nottingham Forest Football Club, the Under 18s march on in the FA youth Cup whilst the senior side topple the league leaders.
On Thursday the youth team saw off Midlands rivals Birmingham City, to take a place in the fifth round of the cup.
It was a sterner test than the recent annihilation of Coventry and was decided by a late Gerry McDonagh strike, resulting in a one nil win for the reds.
I was looking forward to watching Ben Brereton again but surprisingly he was very, very quiet.
So much so that he was completely overshadowed by his strike partner McDonagh. What did impress me massively was the versatility of the squad, a number of them were in completely different positions from the recent Coventry game. Elvis Otim had moved into the right back slot for the game and for me was the man of the match, up and down and great distribution throughout the entire ninety minutes.
The game was deservedly won with a great passage of play; Alex Lacovitti produced a beauty of a cross for Gerry McDonagh to head the home side into round five!
So it was over to the first team on Saturday, their task was a big one to say the least. Taking on a Middlesbrough side whom they hadn’t beaten on their own ground since 1992. What struck a chord with me straight away was how the senior side were also able to reshuffle the pack and step out of their comfort zones in a positional sense.
Michael Mancienne sat in front of the back four this time out whilst Jamie Ward played as a lone striker, a change for both given their recent roles. Well it worked nicely as Forest reverted to the 4-1-4-1 system that their opponents had adopted against them at the city ground of late, I’m not a big fan of this set up but sometimes it’s a case of horses for courses. Chances were scarce for both sides and when they did come along they seemed to be aerial threats from corners.
The game really came to life in the second half and both sides were denied by the woodwork. Ward set up Ben Osborn who smashed his left foot strike against the post before Boro hit the forest crossbar soon after. A cleverly worked free kick saw Albert Adomah tee up Grant Leadbitter for a rocket on the half volley. Middlesbrough then missed an absolute sitter as Emilio Nsue headed wide from just yards out.
Forest made them pay with a wonderfully orchestrated goal after 70 minutes; Jokic and Tesche played their way out of defence and fed Osborn higher up the pitch. Osborn worked a couple of neat one-two’s with Ward which resulted in the latter scoring a beauty from the edge of the area. It was a lead that they protected well and one that knocked the Smoggies from the top spot in the Championship.
Having seen a lot of both the first and youth team recently it looks to me like there is a definite structure within the club, from the formation and tactics to the rotation and versatility of the playing staff. During my time at the club there was an “Observe and emulate” policy, where you had to study the performance of the first teamer in your position and reproduce. Mine was Brian Rice!!!!
I’m pleased to say that more than twenty years later there seems to be strong evidence of an effective production line and the results are there for all to see. The overwhelming evidence of the system’s success is personified by the likes of Osborn and Oli Burke, they are basically doing things they’ve been doing for years but on the biggest stage. So despite the club being subject to yet another winding up order this morning, take solace in the fact that from the Under 10s to the first team they’re singing from
the same hymn sheet.