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Spurs 3-1 Forest: An Hour Of Wonder, Wasted?

Stuart Pearce chose a second-string side to face Premier League Tottenham, with his focus understandably on the bread and butter. As ever with Forest, they made you believe, didn't they..?

Julian Finney

Of course it is my right as a football fan to be almost entirely fickle, and so it has been proven again. Having spent all week telling people that I wanted Stuart Pearce to make changes and rest players against a particularly unpleasant run of Championship fixtures, my instant emotion was one of disappointment when the teams were announced. "Bloody hell Psycho, you’ve done exactly what I wanted. Bastard"

Even by the expectation of a few new faces, this was a line-up containing surprise names. Jorge Grant, for one, with Stephen McLaughlin another, and the presence of Lars Veldwijk as a lone striker (and I use the word ‘presence’ quite deliberately) made it seem that Pearce was (understandably) raising the White (Hart Lane) flag. Not a bit of it.

Spurs, of course, made changes of their own. Eleven in fact, but this was still a side containing internationals in Michel Vorm, Federico Fazio, Ben Davies, Jan Vertonghen, Kyle Walker, Paulinho, Andros Townsend, Nabil Bentaleb, Aaron Lennon and Roberto Soldado. So, just Benjamin Stambouli without a cap, then.

Spurs started brightly, and looked likely to dominate, but their recent sketchy form had clearly added enough doubts to erode the confidence, and Forest began to find their feet as the away support became noticeably vociferous. In fact, the Premier League side failed to have a single shot on target before the break.

The one moment of real brilliance in the first half came courtesy of Ben Osborn, who channelled both Diego Maradona circa 1986 and Ronaldo circa any year in the 1990s by steaming past two defenders before curling shot that came back off Vorm’s crossbar.

A promising night became a great deal more exciting just after the hour mark when Forest took the lead. Veldwijk was tackled on the left wing but, with the ball running out of play (and against my heated recommendations), the striker chose to drill in a cross rather than settle for the corner. He who dares, wins (Rodney), as the ball found Jorge Grant ten yards out, and the 19-year-old scored his first senior goal.

At such times, underdogs can either be inspired or unnerved and, unfortunately, this was a case of the latter. After pressing and hassling high up the pitch, an undoubtedly effective tactic against a side low on belief, Forest’s midfield appeared to noticeably panic in unison, sitting back and inviting Spurs onto them. Foolish boys, very foolish.

It took nine minutes (and two substitutions) for the home side to draw level, Ryan Mason with a wonderful long range to leave with Dorus de Vries as helpless as a man with a child’s umbrella in a monsoon. It had taken Spurs 71 minutes to have their first shot on target, but from that point on it appeared that Forest were prepared to allow defeat to merely be inflicted upon them. Ten minutes later, the turnaround was complete.

Watching the match with two non-Forest supporting friends, both had previously exclaimed their surprise that Jamaal Lascelles was not in our first-choice defence, but Jamaal gave them a perfect demonstration of exactly why that is. The defender’s lack of discipline in keeping a flat defensive line allowed Soldado to finish, which he did expertly.

There was still time for Harry Kane to add a seal of gloss to a rather badly painted door. Had we lost 2-0, regret would not have formed a part of my post-match mood, but such is the result of having expectations increased by a hugely positive first hour of the game. Three points against Brighton on Saturday and all will be forgiven and forgotten, of course. To repeat, I’m a football fan, I’m allowed to be fickle. In fact, it’s expected of me.

PS - Whoever (I suspect it was co-commentator Alan Smith) voted Andros Townsend should consider re-watching the match. Townsend was as frustrating and wasteful as it appears he will eternally be. Still, if he’d have been fit for the World Cup in Brazil we’d have won the tournament. Real shame.