Nottingham Forest want to be back in the Premier League.

More than anything.

A generation of supporters have never seen the club rub shoulders with English football’s elite.

It remains possible that a return ticket to that party could be secured in 2019.

Dare to dream.

Allow yourselves to be caught up in fantasies of heading back to Anfield and Old Trafford.

Then, wake yourselves up by adding Mike Dean to that mental image.

Not pleasant.

Unfortunately, he will come as part of the top-flight package.

Along with Lee Mason.

*Sigh*

Circus

(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Forest want to be back in the big time, but the big time has been doing them few favours of late.

Supposedly elite referees get passed down to the second tier from time to time.

As if we should be grateful for their presence.

And is if they are needed.

The Football League gets on just fine without them 99.9% of the time.

Dean, and the circus that he brings with him, was back on Trentside in midweek.

A meeting with fellow play-off hopefuls Aston Villa was tough enough without that appointment.

As expected, the man in the middle did his best to steal as much attention as possible.

The theatrical mannerisms and over-exaggerated facial expressions – they were all on show.

Questionable

 

So were more questionable decisions.

Martin O’Neill said in the Nottingham Post afterwards when asked for his assessment of Dean’s performance: “Maybe I might pass on that one.”

A wise choice.

That is not to say that the man in black was responsible for a 3-1 defeat.

Forest were far enough short of their best to ensure that Dean would not dominate the headlines.

He contributed to a forgettable night though.

There were several occasions in which the arm of a dramatic match official appeared to have become locked while pointing Villa forward.

Then there was the booking of Karim Ansarifard for simulation.

Different

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

And the chalking off of a Yohan Benalouane header for daring to breathe on his marker.

Had that effort counted, the Reds would have been level early in the second half at 2-2.

Things could have been very different.

Just as they could have been had Dean’s top tier buddy Mason not rewarded Dwight Gayle’s diving display at West Brom with a last-gasp penalty.

Before then waving away Kieran Gibbs’ attempt at an early shirt swap with Joe Lolley at the opposite end of the field.

The Reds boss said in the Nottingham Post of Mason after a 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns: “He did not think the Lolley incident was a penalty, but it was a clear penalty. He was fouled; he was held on to. That was disappointing also. It was a disappointing night, in that sense.”

Precious points have made their way to the Premier League over recent weeks.

But in the pockets of match officials, rather than Martin O’Neill’s.

The Northern Irishman added of the Gayle and Lolley incidents after a trip to the West Midlands in February: “In two weeks it will be forgotten.”

It hasn’t been.

Forest are clinging desperately to top-flight dreams, but inconsistency from those on the field – playing and officiating – is making things more of a nightmare.