A well-deserved 1-0 win over Leeds United at Elland Road saw Dougie Freedman’s Nottingham Forest extend their unbeaten run in the league to 13 matches. We’ve still got a few issues to iron out says Scott Eley, but the club is building a solid platform for the future
It felt an odd week down at Forest with Dougie feeling the need to defend the chairman at his press conference on Friday. Just when things are looking up on the pitch, the vultures have been circling for a few weeks, looking for scraps on the carcass to pick at.
The winding-up petition gave the haters just that; the unbeaten run came to an end against Watford (if you’re counting that); and finally the news that Billy boy was still on the NFFC payroll. There are more than enough people waiting to burst the Forest bubble (possibly a few of our own fans and no doubt Steve Evans).
Getting it wrong with managers is one thing (inexperience), the embargo another (chasing a dream) but there isn’t any excuse with the winding up orders. It’s even given my Derby pals some respite in recent weeks. Message to Fawaz: no more winding up orders please Mr Chairman, we’re far better than that. It just fuels the fire that Dougie is doing his best to put out.
Rightly, Dougie addressed some of the negative reporting, particularly around the Ebecilio situation on deadline day and was keen to reiterate the Chairman’s support and his ‘sticking together’ philosophy. With Dougie now a year in post, it’s progress that Fawaz hasn’t pulled the trigger (when the obvious signs were that he would in November). Fawaz deserves some credit for that and in backing Dougie to bring in the players he’s managed to under the embargo. I’m constantly being told that Mel Morris at Derby is the new messiah. At present, his ownership is leading them into our present cul-de-sac. And less face it, Fawaz could be doing worse, a lot worse. Thank God we haven’t got President Cellino at the helm.
On to Saturday’s game and my first ever trip to Elland Road. I came away with a feeling that many visiting fans have experienced at the City Ground in years gone by. What a lovely afternoon out. A straightforward trip down the A1, plenty of parking, old-fashioned ground, 2,500 Trickies and, of course, the all-important three points…
I’ve never really gotten the ‘dirty Leeds stuff’ (being a spring chicken myself) and there was certainly no sign of it in their performance yesterday. They were really poor and yesterday’s first-hand experience at Elland Road was that their club is in a real mess. Loyal supporting football fans deserve better.
I don’t know what Steve Evans had been smoking but his assessment of the game certainly varied to BBC Radio Leeds’ take on things. I’ve never heard the word ‘gash’ mentioned in a live broadcast before, but ex-Leeds player (now pundit) Noel Whelan used it on a few occasions to describe Leeds tactics much to his fellow presenters dismay (‘Can we stop using that word now please’?). Tweets read out from the home fans were far from complimentary about their manager. Marching on together?
Maybe Steve Evans preferred the Nottingham Forest of old. Rough them up, play straight through them, easy right? Well Dougie has created a very different beast. Starting with the win against Derby and the subsequent humiliation at 10 men Brentford the following week, Dougie said he would have to go back to basics and make us harder to beat. And he certainly has achieved that.
The result really must have rankled Evans. Predicting we were going to play defensively on Friday, the master tactician then out-thought Dougie with, well, two holding midfielders. Watching paint dry? Just 12 goals scored at Elland Road. Away fans must be being charged the scandalous £37 to subsidise the home support. Dougie didn’t feel the need to react to those comments but he was clearly very pleased. Ironic, that the ‘bigger man’ on this occasion was not Steve Evans.
My assessment was a classic away day performance: solid, committed and professional. It was more than smash and grab. Away performances like this are a craft, a work of art to the purist.
We deserved to be a goal up in the first-half. Gary Gardner hit a rasper off the bar from 25 yards and Eric Lichaj wasn’t far away with a first time shot from range. Robert Tesche had the best chance and really should have scored but volleyed over. Leeds didn’t really do much other than huff and puff, forcing a few corners at the end of the first period.
Tesche seemed to be pushed forward second-half and we looked more of a threat. David Vaughan was outstanding. His reading of the game sniffed out a couple of the more promising Leeds attacks. Ben Osborn just gets better with every game and he was at the heart of most things going forward. Nelson irritated the hell out of the home support with his theatrics and clever hold-up play. The goal was a bit scrappy but we didn’t care. Carayol came on far too late to make any real impact and our back five saw Leeds off comfortably. Four consecutive clean sheets? Love it.
Some Forest fans may moan about our style of play but Rome wasn’t built in a day (although HE wasn’t on that particular job) but Dougie has laid a real platform to build from. Two banks of defence without the ball and a team made up of committed individuals. I still think we’re showing six, maybe seven, out 10 performances but what Dougie has found is consistency. Admittedly, it isn’t pretty at times but adding some flair to that in the summer gives me real optimism for next season. I like this Forest team. No prima donnas and Saturday’s first XI cost a million pounds. It makes me proud to support what Dougie has managed under this embargo, ‘players wanting to wear the jersey of Nottingham Forest’.
It was a good win and one I’m sure Dougie would have enjoyed over his old adversary.
We just need to keep going and long may it continue.