Its September…. And with a blink of the eye summer is gone and we can get down to the serious business of the football season as it kicks on into a higher gear.
It’s a commonly repeated saying that the season can never be won in August. Truth be told, realistically, so long as you’re still in the mix in January / February time, you’ve got as much chance at rising to promotion through a barnstorming end of season run and cheeky 6th place finish as you have in being in first on February 28h and losing to Reading on the final day to eventually finish 8th (see 2014-15 season for hilarious details).
September’s fixtures at least have some degree of form behind them, allowing us a small basis to preview and predict how they will pan out. But before we get into tomorrow, lets take a look back at the day before and briefly summarize how August’s games panned out and what, if anything, we have learnt.
Those first 10 minutes against West Brom… Felt good didn’t it? There was a pace and fluidity about our play, the way we were opening up a team that had narrowly lost out in the play offs barely a few months previous culminating with the build up to and execution of Matty Cash’s thunderbolt to open our account for the season. Get Silverdale on the phone and have them wax and polish the posh open topper ready for May, right? Then within the space of a few minutes, the house of cards came crashing down (and possibly but hopefully not – marked Ari Muric’s back for the season) with first what was admittedly a poor goalkeeping error followed shortly after by a fluke hole in one off the toe end of the 3 Iron. You know how the rest plays out, this is Forest.
But then something happened. Sure, we got battered by Leeds in most of the meaningful statistics you’d care to mention but cemented our name once again in the footnotes of the dictionary term “shithoused” as in Forest have shithoused a point off of Dirty Leeds. Despite barely having the ball, let alone a look in on goal, we came away with a point which better still, came about due to a wonderful inversion of the previous years controversial Leeds equalizer wherein Lewis Grabban’s shoulder claimed a point near the end. The one other meaningful statistic read Leeds 1 Forest 1. And it felt like a victory.
Then after what felt like a typical, almost routine narrow victory against a tough tackling, hard to beat lower league team in the Carabao Cup, we came to Birmingham City at home. The first game anyone realistically should have “expected” us to get something from. And we duly delivered with the 3-0 score heavily flattering the bluenoses. There really isn’t much else to be said. It felt good. It felt right.
Our early season 4 day vacation to London bought opposite ends of the scale with the first half at Valley Parade seing us dominated by a keen Charlton Athletic showing the more naïve side of both a new group of players and a new manager learning their way and continuing to settle in to what they need to do to compete. Thankfully, Sabri Lamouchi has endeared himself quickly to most fans with his honest assessments (Forest being shit first half versus Charlton where it all began) to having a plan B to fix tactical oversites and players not performing. Of course Don Goodman would have had the fight stopped after the first 15 minutes but by the end, there was a sense that Forest had done enough to deserve the point earned by Uncle Albert Adomah’s late equalizer.
Then came a sunny afternoon at Craven Cottage. And boy was it a little bit special. Aside from the time immediately after Fulham had clawed a goal back and the unbearable tension of 8, count them, 8 minutes of added time, we looked good, comfortable even. We held strong defensively, were clinical in front of goal when required with all of that coming together so nicely, were able to pull off one of the results of the season so far. That along with the quality (in their own ways) of each of our goals was refreshing to see. What better momentum do you need to take into a midweek cup tie under the lights against your biggest rivals.
Fielding a young side, reserve side, average age, blah blah blah. We whooped their asses. Lets just leave it at that and silently bask in the glory that the Brian Clough trophy never looked close to leaving the City Ground that night!
Preston are always a tough team. A current generation bogey side who we never tend to get a result against and true to form this season continued that trend. The positive to take very clearly that Lamochi’s ability to adjust in game a have an effective plan B came good again with Uncle Albert once again coming to the rescue with a late equalizer.
And that was August. 1 defeat, 3rd round cup tie away at Arsenal, bragging rights against the sheep. Generally the camp seems to be a happy one. So now, let’s take a quick look over what’s to come in September…
The first international break always puts a sudden halt to the start of the season. So much so that the first league game of September comes almost half way through the month on the 14th with a trip to the deepest darkest corners of South Wales and the Liberty Stadium where Swansea City play hosts. Ironically, having had what everyone perceived to be a tough start to August against two play-off semi-finalists, we now come up against this seasons’ (kind of) surprise package with the Swans sitting in 1st place and currently unbeaten in the league with 5 wins and a draw. The international break may well have come at a good time for Forest. How often can half time kill the momentum of a team playing well? Hopefully the same affliction hinders Swansea’s march to the top and we come back refreshed from the break and having had more time to gel on the training ground. Optimistically you might think we will be stronger and the break will make Swansea weaker (even if only in momentum being slowed), these tend to be the kind of games we do well in so a hopeful shout for a repeat of Fulham and a cheeky away win would do nicely.
A week later we entertain Barnsley, a side languishing near the foot of the table with only a smash and grab win against Fulham on opening day to shout about, this is a game most fans will likely expect us to win. These have typically been the types of games we struggle in before so it will be a good measure of how this Forest team cope with the pressure of expectation. One expects if we are set up right and we take our chances, this has the makings of another Birmingham City.
A few days later comes the next round of the Carabao Cup. A trip down south to the capital and a first visit in the clubs history to the Emirates Stadium, home of our fellow Garibaldi wearing (and cohabitants of NFFCCHI’s home The Globe Pub) Arsenal. Holding the most recent example of Forest performing a newsworthy shock (for the right reasons) in any cup competition, we probably shouldn’t expect a repeat of a few seasons ago and the Eric Lichaj / Ben Brereton masterclass that led to a 4-2 thumping. It will largely come down who turns up and performs on the day, Arsenal’s second string or Forest’s Cup team. Anything could happen so best thing is just to enjoy the game, see how the players stack up to a big occasion and hope nobody gets injured.
Septembers wraps itself on the 28th with a trip to the Potteries and Stoke City. The surprise team of the season so far in that they are literally making everyone else look better. We knew from the Rowett saga that something wasn’t right at the Britania and if prominent press journalists are to be believed, there’s a deep rooted dressing room problem similar to what we may have witnessed at Forest for a number of years. By the end of the month, City might have a new manager but the squad – post transfer window closing – will be the same and so far, they have stuttered and stumbled to sit at the foot of the table. The international break might see their fortunes renewed and the real Stoke City might start playing. One has to think that with our away form as it has been, this may also become another must win game if we have any ambition for top 6.
By the end of September we will likely know little more than we do now about our top 6 or even top 2 aspirations. The teams we are playing represent opposite ends of the scale. You’d be happy with 7 points for sure, 9 isn’t impossible, anything less than 5 would be very disappointing.
See you in a few weeks for another international break!