Nottingham Forest – 2
Charlton Athletic – 0
Forest piled the misery onto the beleaguered Addicks in an impressive 90 minutes of City Ground football, the first half in particular being the highlight of the season for me so far. Admittedly Charlton were poor, clearly bereft of confidence and boy did it show – Forest lined up, finally, in a sensible 4-4-2 formation – with Nathan Tyson dropping back into a left wing position, but with his pace it was easy enough for us to switch quickly to 4-3-3 when attacking.
Forest immediately took the initiative in the first half, without really creating any early inroads into Charlton territory. It was a little after a quarter of an hour that saw Nathan Tyson burst through the middle but couldn’t quite get a shot off, or beat the last man so lost the ball in the penalty area – but it certainly served to warm up the fans who were finding their voice.
Around five minutes later came the first real chance for the Reds; Agogo picked out Tyson with a tremendous long pass down the left, Tyson’s cross found Perch at the near post but unfortunately he headed wide into the away end, to premature jeers from the Charlton fans. They weren’t the loudest supporters I’ve ever seen anyway (understatement!) but they were soon to be pretty much silenced over the coming minutes.
Just before the half hour mark Perch burst down the right hand side with pace I had no idea he possessed, waiting before crossing for Agogo to get into position from a considerable distance to enable the striker to slide it home from about four yards out – superb play by Perch and great ground-making by Agogo to be in a position to put the ball away. The home fans erupted leaving the Addicks supporters punching the air with frustration.
We thought we’d scored again, once again Tyson tricking his way down the left and lofting a cross to Southall – the ball came down off the bar and looked over the line, indeed, Southall could’ve poked the ball in but had stopped assuming he’d scored – giving Charlton a chance to clear. The jeers from the Addicks fans were once again ill-timed, as a freekick on the right was taken quickly by Nicky Southall finding Grant Holt rising to head home amongst a number of Charlton defenders watching him do it – neither marking him or Ian Breckin who was lurking behind.
It could’ve been three as well before half time, Gary Holt won the ball in the middle and found Tyson bursting forward from the left, but he looked caught in two minds between a cross and a shot and dragged it wide in the end. Paul Smith had one easy save to make from El Karkouri – other than that the poor bloke must’ve been a bit bored! The pace slowed immediately before half time, and Forest went in at the break deservedly comfortably in the lead.
Half time found dumbstruck Forest fans staring at one another in disbelief, in a week where we’ve been royally tonked by Oldham, where players have been getting up to mischief in town and everything else, we weren’t expecting this – I courted text messages from friends around the ground “Are we playing in the away kit?” read one of them – the Reds looked a different side to what we’ve become accustomed – organised, energetic and ruthless – but could they maintain it?
The answer, of course, is yes they could – in the second half Forest continued to play in the same manner. Charlton did have more possession, but frankly failed to do anything useful with it – frequently giving the ball away directly to Forest players or simply booting it out of play with misplaced passes. Agogo was replaced with Scott Dobie on 67 minutes – the right move as Agogo was visible tired (probably still recovering from his tuesday night antics!), and nothing much happened before Grant Holt was withdrawn for Jack Lester.
The notable, and pleasing thing, of the half for me was Tyson’s workrate – he tracked back, he defended and basically played every bit of the game you want from a good winger – and as such, Julian Bennett absolutely thrived at left back – with full support he started to look more like the prospect we got excited about last season. The final substitution was the hardworking Tyson, who was replaced with youngster Lewis McGugan – who made an immediate impact by scrapping in midfield and putting in one tremendous tackle in the centre circle.
Dobie was to prove frustrating, he had a chance to put Nicky Southall through but opted to shoot instead (which was blocked), and shortly after did get through one on one with the ‘keeper – but he booted the ball beyond the Charlton keeper and performed a rather clumsy swan dive to try to win the penalty – we thought got it too, but the ref was signalling for a goalkick rather than the penalty.
The final whistle went to much jubilation from the stands – a fantastic team performance from the Reds against an abject and woeful Charlton side, unless they add strength in January they are dead certs for relegation. The Reds looked much more balanced in a four four two formation and as a result dominated the game from start to finish, Charlton at best enjoying a couple of spells of possession, with which they did bugger all. I think it’s worth running through the Forest team individually:
Smith – had one challenging save to make all game – and he made it look easy, came for crosses commandingly.
Curtis – solid in his natural position, operated defensively mostly but did amusingly take the ball past two Charlton players when on a rare foray forward.
Morgan – both the back pairing were magnificent, had Hasselbaink (f*cking wank!) in his pocket in the second half, only tried funny stuff once, and got away with it!
Breckin – always looks so much more comfortable without Cullip on the pitch, no frills from him today, but got infront of everything and won the majority of aerial battles at the back.
Bennett – big surprise from Jules, he was superb – got forward as well as defending stoutly. A real spirited performance and a real bonus to see him do well.
Southall – great quick freekick for the second goal, and looked so much more at ease without so much overt defensive duties.
Perch – my man of the match, never stopped running, tackling, tracking back and getting forward too – had a chance to score early and created a magnificent assist for our opening goal. Looked well at ease in the midst of a supposed Premiership midfield.
Ga. Holt – also performed admirably in the middle, did the job we bought him for – broke up play, found a Red shirt with his passing and put in a lot of mileage.
Tyson – close to also being man of the match, put in a tremendous amount of work up and down the wing, and seeing his willingness to get back and pitch in with defensive duties in the second half was a joy to behold – and something a certain Mr Commons could do well to take note of.
Agogo – was quite quiet until the goal, which he did well to make up the ground to get to, his lay offs didn’t quite work often but as ever worked hard to hold the ball up and fashion chances.
Gr. Holt – typically hardworking performance from Grant, took his goal brilliantly amidst no defensive intervention at all, and along with Agogo worked hard to keep the ball and frustrate Charlton.
Of the substitutes, Dobie was disappointing for a couple of poor decisions, Lester looked lively and picked up the inevitable yellow card, and it was great to see McGugan to get some pitch-time, and he looked well up for it! For Smoulds, he gets a big virtual pat on the back from me for playing a sensible formation finally – we looked so much more balanced and dangerous, and frankly, if we don’t line up with a similar team (I think Southall is suspended) against Yeovil, then I won’t be happy!
A great performance, a thoroughly deserved win and whilst it’s still a bit galling to be considered giantkillers for beating Charlton, it’s great to have done it – as those of you who read my preview will remember, I held little hope of us getting anything other than a good beating, so to have won so convincingly was a fantastic surprise for me – well done Reds, it will be great to see us making the headlines in tomorrow’s papers for the right reasons – I’m really looking forward to match of the day!