Off the bottom, and Smoulds is still the gaffer..

Smoulds promises Garner an extra special Christmas bonus...

Nottingham Forest – 1
Barnsley – 0 

So the key question of the day was where we were in 1984.  Well, the 29th of November, 1984 was a Thursday, so I was probably at school.  The people asking the question, with extra digits, were probably not even a twinkle in their cousin’s eye.  Oh yes, and there was another question too, an all the more serious one, that of our manager’s future – was Smoulderwood going to walk today?  Nobody seemed to be sure.

Certainly it was claimed vehemently outside the ground that bookmakers wouldn’t take a bet on the bronzen one leaving before the day was out; I didn’t venture into Ladbroke’s myself to check this out – but certainly the pre-match mood was a combination of vultures circling over a carcass, or maybe a funeral for a relative you liked but didn’t know very well.  Very few people whose conversations I earwigged (I do that a lot!) were particularly disparaging toward the manager – all in all, the confidence that ‘done deals’ had happened didn’t seem evident at all.

On to the game, we started with a kind of 4-3-3 arrangement; Moloney was in at right back, with Morgan and Wilson in the middle and Lynch at left back.  Anderson was on the right of the midfield three, McGugan on the left with Perch in the middle.  Earnshaw, Tyson and Garner were up front, with Garner sitting deeper initially so that we almost had a diamond system going on.  And it’s fair to say that for the first 20-30 minutes, it didn’t work very well at all!

Campbell Ryce had the first shot of the day after a mere 2 minutes, I’m not sure if it deflected or not, but Camp seemed to react late and ended up conceding a corner by saving it.  The corner came to nothing and Anderson was able to break through, the bodycheck by Souza saw him pick up a yellow card, McGugan wasted the freekick by spannering into the leering, ‘scab’ shouting Barnsley fans – swelled in number by the cheaper tickets.

On the twenty minute mark Jon Macken missed a gilt-edged chance when he managed to put the ball wide from just six yards out, after which Forest started to amass some pressure – Earnshaw put the ball just wide after Garner nodded it down to them, again Garner fed Earnshaw who in turn teed up Anderson, but the winger’s effort was blocked for a corner.  At the other end the impressive Moloney put in an excellent block to deny Macken again.

It was a disjointed game, much like tuesday night’s, between two teams who struggle to create chances – Barnsley knocked the ball around reasonably well, Forest – it’s fair to say – hadn’t really been up until now.  The formation had tweaked itself into more of a 4-4-2 with Tyson on the left, and it was down this channel he burst; initially I thought he’d missed the opportunity to slip Earnshaw in who was alongside him – instead he beat his man and crossed to Garner who rose to head home from close range to give us a very unlikely lead.

Just before half time there was further evidence that we’ll never get a penalty this season – Garner was completely clattered in the box; ending up clutching his head (ironic given the away fans odd chanting of ‘Stand up for Iain Hume’).  The referee wasn’t having any of it, though, as we’re becoming accustomed!  Half time came, and we had a chance to reflect in the bitter cold on whether we’d be able to add to, or hold, our lead.  General opinion wasn’t positive!

The second half started much more positively; McGugan seemed to take the ball through the entire defence before crossing to Earnshaw whose effort was blocked.  Shortly after this the midfielder cut in from the left and from the edge of the area curled an excellent shot which bounced off the bar and over.  Although, somewhat inevitably, the visitors too were creating chances – a long range effort was tipped around the post by Camp for a corner, and the pressure was starting to mount.

Kelv had a calamity moment when he slipped in the area leaving Cureton with a pretty much clear go at goal – luckily for us Lynch was on hand to sort it out.  Earnie was withdrawn for McCleary, and shortly after Anderson (my man-of-the-match, just pipping Perch), was withdrawn for Thornhill.  Moloney put in a goal-saving challenge to deny substitute Rigters a pretty much nailed on goal.

Tyson’s petulance picked him up a booking; although Barnsley’s ‘Mr Bump’  (Stephen Foster) should’ve kept his gob shut as the referee didn’t look like he was due to act until he mouthed off at him; he’d kicked away the ball after the whistle had gone – picking up what is apparently his fifth booking of the season so that’s a game out for the striker.

Four minutes of stoppage time was announced, and Garner (who’d also picked up a booking for something – after a clash of heads in the box) was withdrawn for debutant James Reid.  Well into stoppage time the referee decided to ignore another blatant shove by a Barnsley player – this time in our penalty area – allowing ‘Mr Bump’ Foster to head goalward – well, almost – it hit the bar.  It should’ve been blown up as a foul, however. 

The final act of note was a freekick 35 yards out – Barnsley sent their ‘keeper Heinz Muller up front, but it was a decoy of sorts – as De Souza unleashed an almost Metgod-esque (well okay, not really!) effort that whizzed through the crowded box; but Lee Camp did exceptionally well to keep his concentration and make the save – which pretty much brought about the final whistle to cheers of relieve from the home fans, and miner’s strike-inspired venom from the visitors – most of whom weren’t born during them!

And so we got the win; of the options open to us, it would appear that either Forest are playing a very elaborate pantomime, or that the ‘he’ll be gone regardless of the result’ type rumours that were being peddled as fact before today were infact a pile of turd.  Whilst I wasn’t (and am not) necessarily opposed to his removal as manager, with all this talk of Billy Davies coming in, I must admit I was a little relieved to get back to the car and hear his dulcet tones on the radio as I negotiated my way through the traffic to home.

What the next few days holds is anybody’s guess, but certainly with the loan window closed no matter who is managing us, they would have the same squad to work with – so perhaps Kylie was right all along, and the devil you know might indeed be better in some circumstances.  Whatever happens, we needed those three points desperately – and for now at least, I don’t have to Photoshop Smoulders from the banner for this website!

PS: To the idiots with the banner, save it ’til after the game, if you have to at all, eh?

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Swindon calling…

 Came to mind after spotting this headline over on Vital Forest.  Don’t worry, I’m getting ready to go to the match now so won’t inflict further of my random braindumps on to you – well, until later when the unenviable task of a match report shall await me.

Swindon calling, it’s a faraway town
Now it’s looking like the Reds will go down,
Swindon calling Colin Calderwood
As his Nottingham Forest, is not very good,
Swindon calling, now don’t swear or curse
Smoulders’ chances at Forest, have bitten the dust,
Swindon calling, see we ain’t got no skill
And watching us play, is making us ill!

The ice age is coming, optimism’s growing thin
Meltdown expected, if Billy Davies comes in,
Midfield stops running, we all live in fear
‘Cause Forest are falling down, down by the river.

Right, I’m off to find my woolens and make that sad, unexciting and uninspiring pilgrimage to the City Ground.  Can any of you remember a time when a trip to watch Forest was an exciting event?

Never dull? It bloody well is!

What a pickle, what can we expect for today given the events of the week?  Aside from it being bloody cold, of course – so wrap up warm!

1. We beat Barnsley and despite all the rumours, it gives Smoulds a stay of execution.

2. We beat Barnsley, but Smoulds goes regardless and takes the reigns at Swindon.

3. We don’t beat Barnsley and he goes.

4. The (perhaps more preferably) game gets called off due to fog as we’re all given an afternoon off from Forest-induced misery.  But then get dragged into town for a spot of Christmas shopping with the missus.  Maybe it’s not more preferable after all.

The bottom line is nobody seems to know, after it was looking certain that the bronzen one was in the firing line he remains in charge for this game; although it is widely stated with confidence that he will be stepping down afterward, it’s not been confirmed.  Perhaps it was a cunning ruse by the powers that be to sell a few more tickets on a chilly November afternoon (cynic? me? no!), or perhaps an invented rumour taken up too enthusiastically.

Certainly talk of Billy Davies being successor makes me rethink my own feelings around wanting Smoulders to be relieved of his duties; a less inspiring appointment I would struggle to envisage.  Maybe that’s a conspiracy too.  Maybe it all is.

One of the cliches around times of crisis is that kind of blitz-spirit type comment of, “well, it’s never dull, is it?!”… well, frankly, in this case yes it is.  It is dull.  It’s dull seeing all the desperate rumour-peddlers trying to be first to guess correctly what might happen, it’s dull seeing the forums descend in to a mass of repetitive threads in appalling English – personally I’m getting beyond having an opinion about what happens, I just want something to!

On a nicer note, I had an email from a chap at Virgin Media.  As you know (or should know!) they secured the rights to show highlights online this year, and have just expanded their sports pages so that Forest has it’s own page.  So if you bookmark this link, it will take you to the Forest page where you’ll get to see the latest highlights (lowlights?) from our games.  I’ll pop a link on the sidebar thing too as I think it’s a useful page to keep handy.