Despite my recent grumblings about our negative tactics, I am very thankful for the sheer strength in depth of our squad.
Having been without the services of Reid, Lansbury and Vaughan we were still able to pick a healthy midfield duo against Bolton on Saturday. I’d say that at least half of the Championship teams would be happy to pick Gary Gardner and Robert Tesche in their starting eleven.
We should however still have David Vaughan, his sending off and subsequent ban was a joke. Despite an appeal by the club the decision was upheld much to the amazement of the Forest supporters. It summed up the midweek clash with Birmingham to be honest which was overshadowed by an awful referee (Mark Brown) and disgraceful tactics by Blues manager Gary Rowett.
Birmingham got the point they came for but they will not win many admirers for their conduct. Rowett sent them out to kick, elbow and cheat at every opportunity. A guy behind me in the stand likened them to the Wimbledon side of the eighties but I disagree, the crazy gang didn’t go down like they’d been shot at the point of any contact.
As per usual Paul Robinson was one of the main aggressors, a guy who thinks he’s something of a hard man. Well if you’re reading this little man, I’ll face you for a 50/50 challenge any day of the week!
Despite thug tactics and bad refereeing, the game finished 1-1 thanks to two headed goals. Toral scored for the Blues and Matt Mills yet again for Forest; that is as much as I’ll say about a car crash of a game!
Next up were Bolton Wanderers and to say it was a must win fixture is an understatement, the Trotters are in an awful mess both on and off the field. What didn’t surprise me was the 4-1-4-1 formation that they adopted, just like Leeds and Birmingham before them. It concerns me somewhat that so many sides set up this way against us, although none of them have actually beaten us when all’s said and done. Are we that predictable now though?
Given Dougie Freedman’s starting line up it seems maybe we’re not as predictable after all. Jamie Ward replaced O’Grady and Oliver Burke started on the right wing; very positive!
Ward changed the game just after ten minutes when his smart header and run resulted in a penalty for forest, and the sending off of Bolton’s keeper Ben Amos. At this point I realised that Chris O’Grady wouldn’t have been able to produce that bit of spark and that the tactical switch was justified.
Oliveira tucked away the spot kick and before we knew it we were two goals to the good, killing the game as a contest. Ward drifted wide and skinned the full back before crossing to Burke, the youngster hung in the air before planting his header past sub keeper Rachubka. Ward provided two more moments of class before the end of the half, the first was a stinging first time volley from the corner of the box and then a howitzer that struck the bar from all of thirty yards.
The second half was lack lustre but credit to Wanderers for digging their heels in and making a game of it. It was great to see Ward finally grab a goal after a hat full of near misses near the end. He was the undoubted man of the match and never gave up the ghost. Burke had again impressed the Forest faithful with his positive attitude but Gardner didn’t quite produce his usual high standard though.
Robert Tesche did the simple things well which would have pleased my good friend Mike Hurley. He was delighted to see his favourite player in the starting line up having made the journey all the way from the South West of Ireland.
I’ve not dwelled upon the match too much because I’m focusing on our squad strength, despite an embargo and lengthy injury list we still have a decent pool from which to pick from. OK, there are a number of loan players but again credit to the club for enticing them in the first place. As I said earlier, most Championship clubs would be happy with a squad of this ability, and I think we should be grateful for what we have.
The unbeaten run may not have been outstanding but it certainly proves a point, given all of the adversity sustained within these eleven games we have strength in depth. We also have some cracking youngsters coming through as seen in last week’s blog.
Get yourselves down to the City Ground this Thursday (21st Jan) to see Forest in the FA Youth Cup versus Birmingham, kick off is 7pm and prices are as follows – Season Ticket holders (free), Adults £4 and concessions £2.