28 March, 2007

Forest 3-0 Cheltenham

No "official" report this time because I am too busy - but it would be remiss of me not to mention the best Forest performance I have seen in some time (thanks to Baz for lending me his ticket!).

The team was 4-4-2:

Curtis Chambers Breckin (c) Wright

Perchio McGugan (Dobie) Gary Holt Commons (Henry)

Grant Holt (Tyson) Lester

The new back four look great - Chambers has a vim and vigour about his play that is not dissimilar to the way that Brecks played last year, with an added dose of youthful endeavour and wanting to keep his place in the team. The "old heads" at the back did everything that was asked of them, against an admittedly poor Cheltenham attack (the classic case of "could play all night and still not score"). Wright was apparently quieter than last week, but still looked full of energy, and his passing is very good - you can tell that he has played much of his career in the Premier League. Smudge had very little to do, no real saves to make other than a couple of dribbly efforts from distance, although it cannot be ignored that his kicking was awful, especially in the first half.

In midfield, Holt Sr looked like the three-lunged player we hoped he would be, and barely put a foot wrong - in addition, he scored the first goal, surging forward from midfield, playing a one-two with Jack, and calmly sidefooting home. Perchio was as willing as ever, and brave to head home the second goal when it looked as though he would end up colliding with the far post (credit to Holt Jr, who played a sublime left-footed cross). Young Lewis McGugan was an absolute revelation, he understandably tired in the second half, but deserved the ovation he received when he was subbed. What is amazing is that he looks completely unfazed about being in the heart of the action. Krissy was not at his best, but did OK - unfortunately he looks heavier than last time I saw him.

Upfront, Grant was willing and often able, if not at his best, but Jack was simply sublime. The cynics would say that he is playing for a contract, at the moment I am not bothered because in this form he is irresistable. The defenders simply could not play him, and one of their number (Townsend, I think) was lucky to escape with only a yellow card for hauling him back when I thought he was the last man (although I was sitting at the other end of the pitch, to be fair).

The subs? Well the match was won by the time they came on, but: Dobie came on initially on the right-wing, where he looked much more useful than I have ever seen him upfront; he even took on his full-back and won, before playing a decent cross which eventually came to nought. Unfortunately, when moved upfront to accommodate new-boy James Henry, he looked about as useful as a chocolate teapot (although he did come close with a header from a corner). Nathan Tyson didn't get much of the ball, but had a strong shot on the turn that was well-saved, and he really wanted to take the penalty. As for Henry, he didn't have much time, but was OK - he won a corner down by the byline when he was doing the classic "corner flag" routine with a minute or so to go - this actually led to the penalty. Let's not forget that he is very young though, only 17!

The rest? Well, CC sounded pleased in his post-match interview, the result was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, and the gaffer was alluding to his almost impossible optimism from last month - certainly, Scunny look within reach now, but next week's match is very definitely a six-pointer (especially as Donny succumbed to another late goal from Brizzle). The referee was OK, and played a couple of decent advantages, but was badly let down by the lino with the yellow flag; if he wasn't biased, then it must have been one hell of a coincidence that he constantly gave fouls against the Reds, failed to spot at least two handballs, gave goalkicks in place of at least two corners, and got at least two offside decisions woefully wrong.

It is difficult to choose a man-of-the-match because nobody played that badly. It is a good result because Cheltenham, while relegation fodder, are not the worst team I have seen in this division. I would say that it is no coincidence that we look good when our defence look good, as the midfield seem to feel greater freedom to move forward, which in turn gives better service to the forwards. I would single out the men making up the spine of the team: Chambers at the back, Gary Holt in the middle, and Jack just sneaking the MOTM upfront.

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