Match Reaction: N.Forest 0-1 Fulham


Image: Fulham FC

Well, that was almost a complete performance from the boys tonight. The win pulls us five points clear of Forest and pretty much secures our place in the play-offs. As it stands, we sit 4th in the league and we would be playing tonight’s opponents in the semi-finals of the play-offs. I’d fancy our chances after last night…

Looking at that lineup when the teams were announced, I honestly thought that we would struggle but it was the total opposite. We controlled most of the game from start to finish. The substitutions from Parker were well-timed and they also contributed to what was an impressive three points against a very good Forest team. It was the first time since the restart that our football has looked quick, the fluency in midfield with Onomah playing instead of Cairney was very telling. We were passing the ball forward instead of sideways or back, and that dynamic approach seemed to give the attacking players more of a lift. 

The key moment of the game came just before half time, a brilliant move rounded off with a 20-yard thunder strike from the much improved Harry Arter. The beauty of the Championship is that we do not have VAR (yet!) as if we did, that goal would have been given as a handball and a free kick to Forest. Of course, I am over the moon that the goal stood which lead to our third straight win in a row. There were also a couple of possible handball decisions which could have received penalties, one for us and the other against as the ball hit Knockaert’s hand with no intent whatsoever. VAR probably gives those as penalties which is an issue that concerns me about the way the game is going. I thought the referee handled the game pretty well on the whole and gave us the rub of the green with a few free kicks. So, luckily a good game of football wasn’t ruined by the technology that’s supposed to aid it! The handball rule is so inconsistent and also quite vague, there needs to a concrete rule set in place for all leagues to follow because when you compare the recent Spurs game to ours last night, it diminishes the integrity of the sport to have such contrasting outcomes.

Parker has been criticised this season for his tactical capabilities and/or substitutions and perhaps goes too defensive far too early in games but I thought he got everything spot on last night. The subs that came on; Knockaert, MLM and Johansen all did their jobs really well and for the first time in months, there seemed to be a collective desire and team ethic about the team, with everyone closing down, throwing their bodies on the line and running their hearts out. A special mention to Anthony Knockaert who made a magnificent block in the last few seconds of the game to prevent Lewis Grabban from taking a clean shot at goal. I really want him to do well and in glimpses, he looks fantastic, we just need to see more of it.

We kept up our fine record of being able to defend a one-goal lead and pretty much controlled the game from start to finish. Apart from the mistake from Tim Ream which saw Grabban have half a chance of getting a shot away early in the first half, Rodak hardly had a save to make. There are plenty of positives to take from tonight and even more so that we got the well deserved three points. If I’m being picky, I would like to see us kill games off, we were the better team tonight but sitting on a one-goal lead always makes me quite nervy. All it takes is a mistake or an unstoppable shot from the opposition to make things level and I want us to be able to show that we can kill games off in our last 4 games, possibly 7 including the play-offs. But the main thing is that on the whole, we are hard to beat and only need one goal to win usually. That habit could come in handy when it comes to the playoffs…

We go again on Friday at home to Cardiff for another must-win if we want to pressure Leeds and West Brom. As long as we keep winning and still have the Baggies to play, there’s always a tiny bit of hope that we could pull this off but let’s just take it one game at a time. Bring on Friday!