Nottingham Forest earned their first Premier League point since the 20th of August following a nervy 1-1 draw against fellow Midlands giants Aston Villa. Just over 40 years ago this game would have been box office viewing with both teams having won three out of the last four European Cups. Last night, however, was a relegation scrap. Dom Allin reports from the stands.
The atmosphere by the Trent last night was fraught. The pre-match build-up felt like a bench outside the Head Teacher’s office, small pockets of chatter but very little optimism for what was about to unravel. However, within an instant of Steve Cooper’s entrance, the City Ground erupted into applause and noise, with the most vocal fans unfurling a banner of support for the manager.
Rarely in the field of football management has a manager been more popular than the players, but Nottingham’s love and adoration for Cooper shone through in the week that he was backed with a new contract.
From the off, Forest did not look settled. The back four setup remained from last week but numerous personnel changes were made, including the first start for Emmanuel Dennis. Villa had two changes at the back, following a (shall we say) ‘ungentlemanly’ goalless draw against Leeds, leading to Matty Cash’s return to the City Ground. Both teams’ forms have been underwhelming and each side saw last night as an opportunity to resolve their worries.
I single Yates out as he put all of his aggression, energy, and Nottinghamshire civic duty into every single tackle
As the game rumbled along for the first ten minutes, it was clear to see players like Ryan Yates were up for it. I single Yates out as he put all of his aggression, energy, and Nottinghamshire civic duty into every single tackle and attempts to win the ball back. I don’t care about Neymar’s or Mbappe’s skills, give me Ryan Yates playing for his hometown club and scything into John McGinn any day of the week. It is that sort of manifesting desire I saw in Yates last night that gave me some hope for what the season could bring for Nottingham Forest.
It is funny how a goal stops everything. The moment Dennis headed the ball into the Villa net, the world and Nottingham just stood still for a moment. Belief washed over 27,000 fans. Happiness and warmth swept over the ground like nothing I have felt for a long time. As the past few weeks on and off the pitch have been tough for all and in this season, we must treasure these moments.
Forest players currently operate a second behind what is required for Premier League football
Forest then – as is becoming custom – conceded a goal that Matt Le Tissier would be proud of, when Ashley Young rolled back the years with a sweet volley hit hard and low past Henderson. After that, the game devolved into a series of wasted opportunities from both sides and frustrating moments of almost nice football to the soundtrack of ever-increasing displeasure and tension from the fans.
The football from both teams last night was slow and frustrating. Forest players currently operate a second behind what is required for Premier League football; their positioning, pace, and passing never looked right. Henderson, for instance, could not pinpoint a long-range pass for the last 20 minutes which led to only more dismay and anger.
It must be said neither team looked like Premier League quality last night, but this was a positive for The Garibaldi (that’s another nickname for Forest, for the knowledge of those less diehard out there). A point took them off the bottom of the table and broke a laborious run of defeats. Forest kept their heads after conceding and created set-piece opportunities. Things are slowly improving; we must remain patient.
Featured image used courtesy of Dom Allin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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