Please note that this match report will almost certainly also appear on the official Forest website, under Fans > Reds Reviews (sic).
After yet another humiliation (which led my normally quite reserved Dad to text “sack the lot of them, they are hopeless” to me on Saturday), Forest proved that at least they can win the points at home.
This result was ground out. I don’t care. We could play rubbish all season, as long as we get the results. However, there was a clear message to Gary Megson and the players: we only create chances when we pass the ball. That is how we created the goal, and that is how we created the three or four other decent chances that we had in open play.
Megson reverted to 4-4-2, with the almost ludicrous sight of Thommo (a defender/midfielder) at left back, and Curtis (a full back) in midfield. Nathan Tyson returned up front, and young Felix Bastians played on the left wing.
Very early on, a good break down the right led to Gaz laying off to Nicky Southall, whose cross was just in front of the onrushing, and offside, Tyson. Then Vale almost stole a goal, when they broke (poor defending), and a smart reaction stop from Gezza, low to his right, saved the day.
As the match went on, it became clear that the 17 year old wunderkind was going to have a real impact on the left wing - just as well really, because the only other noteworthy performances were those of the pedantic officials. The goal, when it came, was produced out of nothing. Sure, there had been lots of consecutive passes (some more deliberate than others), but Felix scuffed his cross somewhat. So Nathan was facing away from the goal with no support. He then turned, and from what looked like an impossible angle, fired past former Forest trainee Goodlad. With goals like these, the Stan Collymore comparisons become more understandable: power, pace, sharp on the turn and always wanting to head towards the opposition goal. He is not scared of having a pop, and even attempted a right-footed shot which Goodlad saved relatively comfortably.
The real lowlight for Forest was Curtis in midfield. He had clearly been put there as a “spoiler”, but it doesn’t make any sense to play someone in the middle who has little or no ability on the ball. Especially when you have a midfielder playing (somewhat uncomfortably) at left back. Thankfully Curtis’ passing and level of ambition improved in the second half; he even passed it forwards a couple of times!
The second half was notable for decent performances from young Wesley (who was only just wide with an overhead kick!), the skipper, Southall and Bastians. The two frontmen were also doing well, Gaz was looking more useful in bringing the ball down, and laying it off, although he is still cumbersome and slow at times. The most notable chances were Gaz’s header over (it was criminal to miss the target from there), Perch firing well wide after running onto Tyson’s throughball after good work down the right, and Tyson and Gaz combining well for a 20-yarder which was saved comfortably. However, the undoubted highlight was the performance of young Felix; lively and full of running (despite getting a good ol’ kicking from the Vale midfield), he looks skilful and able to cross the ball well. He got a standing ovation when he was subbed - this was another mystifying Megson change, with our best striker (Tyson) being moved onto the left wing so Jack (who has previously played in midfield) could go up front.
Still, I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies - in this case, three small mercies that keep us in touch with the play-off places. The match was dour, but a win is a win, and the man-of-the-match performance by Felix may well keep his fellow Deutschlander out of the team, and may even give Kris Commons a run for his money in a couple of months.