These are the sort of games you look back on at the end of the season when you’re 1 point off the automatic promotion spots and sigh deeply.
Once again, Scott named the same 18-man squad and also remained unchanged himself, sporting his Charles Tyrwhitt cardigan despite the near-30 degree heat. Given the performance against Millwall in midweek, the former was far less surprising.
What was more surprising after the record-setting dominance of Wednesday night was the fact that the away side were ahead after 4 minutes. Forest came out the blocks strongly, taking the game to Fulham from the kickoff and before the Whites had a chance to catch their breath, Lewis Grabban snuck in behind Tim Ream to volley in at the back post after former QPR player, Jack Robinson, swung a cross in from the left following a slick passing move that looked very familiar.
The goal stunned the home side and it took a few more minutes before Cairney & Co grew into the game and in the 10th minute they got their first corner after TC’s tenacious run and shot under pressure was met with indignation from the Fulham players, clearly believing that the attention from the defenders deserved more than a mere corner, which was duly wasted.
The first half continued to pass with Sabri Lamouchi’s men executing their game plan with far more efficiency than the Neil Harris’. Few chances of note followed until the 38th minute when a shot flew in towards the Putney End and hit a defender on the way through, with the Hammy End convinced it came off a hand. Unfortunately, referee Peter Bankes was a good 100 yards closer than the appealing fans and only awarded a corner, which was unceremoniously put out for a throw-in on the other side of the pitch.
The half time whistle blew and the players headed back into the Cottage to try and address the situation. Scott responded by taking off Stef Jo and bringing on Bobby Reid for his first full half of football since joining on Deadline Day.
Unfortunately, while the possession football continued, Forest’s defensive organisation was enough to counteract it. Knockaert almost got his 2nd goal in a white shirt with another header, but it was tipped away by the keeper, Samba (who would continue to draw attention to himself as the game wore on), for another corner.
As the excitement wained in the heat, the guy in orange overalls who now lives in the Riverside Stand, had got hold of a black and white flag and was waving it around much to the delight of the Hammy End, thus creating more atmosphere in that one-minute spell than the RS had managed on most match days (I can say that as a former ST holder there).
As the clock ticked past the hour mark, man-of-the-moment Sessegnon was dispossessed by Sammy Ameobi, who played the ball to Grabban who took the ball into the box before smashing in off Bett’s near post.
Deserved? Perhaps not. Clinical? Most certainly.
One thing that was apparent was that Mawson and Knockaert both headed over to Sess as soon as the ball had gone into to try and give him a boost. Clearly, the youngster is going to make mistakes now and again as he finds his feet in the first team, so it’s great to see the senior players giving him this sort of encouragement.
The right-back almost atoned for his error when his volley from just outside the area drew a save from Samba, with the resulting corner seeing Ream having a go but his shot again being desperately turned away, with further shouts for handball being ignored.
With 15 minutes remaining, Parker switched things up with AK(47) replacing Sess, with the formation looking as if it shifted to 3-2-4-1, although in reality, it was probably just a ‘just-got-the-ball-into-the-bloody-net’ formation.
I’m the first to admit that I don’t believe Aboubakar is good enough to be pulling on the shirt week in, week out, but it was his cross that Mitro turned in on 83mins as the pressure and possession finally told and the Whites were back in it. Harry Arter, who was having another solid game despite a couple of StefJo-esque challenges, connected well on the volley, which was lucky not to decapitate the Forest defender as it flew towards goal. Sadly the strong head meant that it flew out for another corner and two guesses as to how that turned out.
Lamouchi had clearly told his players to make sure they wound down the clock where possible, with Bamba finally receiving a booking after numerous cases of being a time-wasting b*stard. Clearly, this tactic hadn’t been lost on the officials as 8 minutes of stoppage time were signalled and despite a few tired-looking efforts, the referee brought the game to a close with the away fans clearly jubilant at their team’s dogged performance. And fair play to them.
So despite another possession-dominant performance (77% over the match and 82% in the second half), the lack of clinical finishing was evident. This may well have been a blip, but clearly, the Forest backroom staff had done their homework. The hope is now that Scott has a plan B in his cardigan pocket for these situations, although it’s far too early to suggest that our style is going to struggle in every game so fingers crossed this was merely a small bump in the long road to promotion!
Two more games in less than a week as we host Southampton in the Weird Energy Drink Cup, which will undoubtedly see wholesale changes to the squad before we head over the Severn to take on Cardiff City. Whilst the cup game will be a good chance to see some of the fringe players in action, the game against the Bluebirds is a must-win, for no greater reason than not wanting to head into the weekend having seen Neil Warnock look happy. So fingers crossed we take some lessons from this defeat and come out all guns blazing on Sky Sports next Friday!