Saturday, 15 August 2015

Nottingham Forest 2 - 1 Rotherham United

So here I am once more, in the playground of the broken hearts. 

As well as being the opening line to one of my favourite albums (and I'll be impressed if anyone knows which album and by whom without Googling), it also nicely summed up my feelings when I was taking my seat in the Lower Trent End this afternoon. The beginning of another league season at home, the place where so many hopes had been dashed before. 

Not that there were as many hopes this afternoon. Happenings on and off the pitch certainly hadn't built any up. But I suppose there's always some hope, and it felt good to be back at the City Ground once again. 

I was a little surprised at Dougie Freedman's starting line up. Not that Danny Fox was dropped, but that Michael Mancienne took his place at left back, and not the just-internationally-cleared Daniel Pinillos. Also that Kelvin Wilson kept his place ahead of Jack Hobbs. Some may have been surprised that Henri Lansbury started and was captain, but with our paucity of options in midfield, I don't think Freedman had much choice. The visitors included three ex-Reds in their XI, with the recently released duo of Greg Halford and Danny Collins joining Matt Derbyshire. 

Forest started well, with Jamie Ward winning an early interception and firing in a shot which was comfrotably saved by Millers keeper Kelle Roos. After that though, the visitors started to dominate. Derbyshire flashed in a header which forced Dorus De Vries to palm round, but the Dutchman undid his good work not long after. A Rotherham corner was lofted into the box and De Vries tried unsuccessfully to claim it, allowing the returning Collins to nod into the empty net. 

The game got scrappy after this. Forest relied far too much on trying to hit Michail Antonio and so, it seemed, did Rotherham. The muscular winger seemed to be hauled back and pushed over in the Millers area but no spot-kicks were given. A Forest equaliser was ruled out for offside, which I couldn't judge as it happened at the other end of the pitch, and the Reds started to exert a bit more pressure. This eventually told just before half time as, following a corner, Ward lofted a high cross to the back post and fellow home-league-debutante Matt Mills rose highest to thump a header past Roos and level the scores. The teams trooped off level at the interval and Forest were spared a Scottish tongue-lashing. Just. 

They were almost due one just into the second half though, as Jordan Bowery's shot was just cleared off the line and Rotherham forced a series of corners. Forest gradually picked things up though. Tyler Walker - making his first league start - drew a save from Roos with a low shot from the left, before Chris Burke did the same from the right following a driving run. Burke probably should have done better when well placed, but he did play a part when Forest finally edged in front. 

His cross from the wing deflected off a Millers defender and caused Roos to tip onto the crossbar. In the scramble that followed, the ball sat up kindly for Antonio who sidefooted home. His celebrations were more muted than usual, but hopefully that was just due to his tiredness after removing Rotherham defenders from his shoulders all afternoon, rather than anything more sinister. 

After taking the lead Forest were forced into a change as Jamie Ward rather bizarrely fell to the ground with nobody near him. He was able to walk off the pitch - to be replaced by Dexter Blackstock - and one hopes we isn't seriously injured as his drive and energy was valuable. Mancienne had a great shot well saved by Roos and Oliver Burke - who replaced Walker - also tested the visitors keeper; but neither team was to score again and Forest held on for their first league points and win of the season. Hurrah. 

This wasn't vintage Forest by any means but there were certainly some positives. Ward and Antonio were dangerous down the flanks and Walker certainly didn't look out of place in the Championship. Henri Lansbury appeared not to let the Burnley speculation bother him and David Vaughan had the best game I can remember him having for a while. Eric Lichaj looked more like the player who finished last season and Mancienne looked better at left back than defensive midfield (though still not as good as he looks at centre half).

Kelvin Wilson continues to frustrate though, looking just too casual for my liking. Casual is fine if you're a lavishly gifted attacker like Dimitar Berbatov, but for a centre half? Nuh-uh. Perhaps we should try Pinillos at left back next time out and move Mancienne to the heart of the defence? Maybe? Well, we'll see. 

Anyway, at least our season feels like its started now.  Charlton are next up and another three points would be most welcome. A better performance would be nice too but hey, one step at a time. 

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