Prism

Left Brian: Hang on, Here's Another Five Reasons...

11 October 19 words: Gareth Watts
illustrations: Gareth Poole

As if he'd do a top five without mentioning the Carabao Cup?! Truth is, once we got Gareth Watts talking about Forest's key highlights this season, we couldn't shut him up - so her are another five.  

1. A Shelbyville Shellacking  

 Before beginning a glittering career as DVLA poster boys, the most humiliating thing to happen to Derby County this year was their punishing 3-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Forest. This time it was Albert Adomah’s turn to show off his dance moves, and the ex-Villa veteran tormented the Rams throughout a memorable night. 

Although both teams had made changes from their respective first eleven, the simplicity and coherence of Lamouchi’s tactics made the change in personnel appear seamless – John Bostock assumed Ben Watson’s holding midfield duties, Yuri Ribeiro a revelation at left-back, Brennan Johnson delighting and depressing us (how can David Johnson, a man who played alongside Michael Dawson, have a son old enough to play professional football? I don’t come to the footy to contemplate mortality) in equal measure. 

A post-match spat between Derby captain Richard Keogh and a member of Forest’s fork-wielding ground staff rounded off the evening nicely. Sometimes in life, Richard, the best option is to cut your losses and get home for an early night – there’s no shame in cocoa and a cheeky Pot Noodle.  

 

2. Pressing On 

There was inevitably a sense of anti-climax as Forest returned to league action against Preston. Though disappointing for large periods of the first half, the Reds again proved their resilience by coming back from a goal down at the City Ground, with Adomah coming off the bench to continue the lethal form he had shown against Derby. 

It was the third (of five) times the Reds were to fight their way back into a game from a losing position and showed the mental toughness that we as fans had gazed at enviously in other teams for so many years. Much credit should be given to Head Coach Lamouchi, who has clearly drilled a spirited and determined side. His inclusion of seasoned professionals like Adomah, Watson and Dawson also served to remind the younger heads not to drop. These are qualities upon which promotion campaigns are built. And I don’t feel silly writing that, even in early October.  

 

3. Liberty Swell 

 The first point at which fans started to openly admit to themselves and each other that this really was a fantastic start to the season was with another away win, this time against table-toppers Swansea. All of the qualities we’d seen from Lamouchi’s men up until that point – solid defensive work, tidy midfield marshalling from Sow and Watson, a goal in the final quarter of the game - came together at the Liberty stadium. 

It was even more pleasing as Lewis Grabban, regarded by some as a mere goal hanger who can fade in and out of matches, was the one sprinting from deep in the 84th minute, carrying the ball the length of the Swansea half before crossing for Alfa Semedo to convert. 

One-by-one Lamouchi was undoing everything we thought we knew about this Forest side: no more dodgy keepers, no more fear of set-pieces, no more collective groans or online outrage at the sight of Ben Watson on the team sheet, no more selfish strikers … coolly, but with a steely conviction, he had won us and his players round to his way of doing things. I was starting to worry about what to worry about. 

 

4. Heroes Just For One Day 

 Either side of a forgettable Carabao Cup trip to the Emirates, memorable only because I found a fantastic pub in Finsbury Park called ‘The Faltering Fullback’, Forest won two league matches, one at home to Barnsley thanks to a Ben Watson (yes really!) winner and a 3-2 victory away at Stoke. 

With the Stoke game being on a Friday evening, we had the rare honour of a night and half a day at the top of the league. I defy you to find a Forest fan who doesn’t have that league table screengrab saved to their phone’s photos. It was a strange, giddy feeling. As supporters, we’ve been conditioned to prize sixth place in the league as the goal, of a playoff push being the limit of our ambitions. 

Yet there we were, right at the top – tangible proof of the team’s poise and determination. I ran the Robin Hood Half Marathon that weekend, having the pleasure of running on behalf of the Forest Community Trust. Proud as punch in my red branded vest, I felt overwhelmed at the cheering and support from strangers all over Nottingham. The encouraging ‘you reeeeds’ chant as I struggled up and down the city streets weren’t just coming from stereotypical footy fans… it really felt as though people from all over the community felt unashamed to share their support for the club; we no longer had to hide behind knowing looks and irony, there was no reason to be a reluctant Forest fan. Not even one with my robust proportions and sweaty red face. 

 

5. Brice, Love and Understanding  

Another fightback and a Joe Lolley twenty yard special to earn a point away at Blackburn set us up nicely for a City Ground showdown against Brentford. Yet again, a home match was decided by a single Ben ‘ginger Pirlo’ Watson goal in the 56th minute. Three points and a much-needed rest at the international break. But the moment of the match was at half time when, taking his place in goal in front of the Bridgford Stand, keeper Brice Samba witnessed fan group Forza Garibaldi unfurl a large banner of his image, posed praying in front of the colours of his birthplace, the Republic of the Congo. 

Visibly moved, he recreated the pose, and in many ways captured the spirit of our season so far. Since Samba made the first team, the Reds have not lost a league game. He has kept five clean sheets. His Twitter banter with one fan after the Derby match led to his name being tattooed on said fan’s backside. In only a few weeks he has become a cult hero and epitomises the spirit of the season so far: that as well as finding renewed appreciation for the familiar face, our new players have been embraced. We’re on a journey together and the good times don’t seem to be stopping any time soon. 

Surprise defeats for Leeds and Swansea mean that we were back on top of the table, with a joint points tally, but one fewer goal, than West Brom. And of course, if Samba had been between the sticks against West Brom on the opening day, there’s every chance Phillips’ fluky goal wouldn’t have gone over his head and we’d now be two points clear. 

These are good times on Trentside and if you’ve never been to a match or you’ve been put off by the years of false hope and mediocrity, now is a good time to give it a go. I truly think they might just be the real deal.

Missed Gareth's first five? Check them out here. 

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