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Match report: Fulham 3-2 Forest

O frustration. O annoyance. O irksomeness. Saturday was supposed to have cured all these ills, to have given us some confidence, but Nick Miller just came away frustrated....

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The thing is, even if Forest had won this game 5-0, it would've been a let-down after Saturday. The problem is, losing 3-2 is not quite as good as winning 5-0.

It was a weird feeling at 3-0, because the residual euphoria from Derby was still there, thus being in this dreadful position somehow didn't feel as bad. Obviously, it was bad, but it was a bit like someone plying you with nice wine before giving you some bad news: you're vaguely aware of the gravity of the situation‎, but there's a fuzzy feeling that doesn't make it quite as bad. If this game had come in the middle of the horrendous run of no wins, 1,800 Forest fans might well have thrown themselves into the rippling Thames just to our left.

Because make no mistake, it was bad. Oh boy it was bad. The Derby result obviously wasn't going to solve every problem Forest have, but the least you'd expect is some confidence or belief or whatever you call it to carry over from that one exhilarating moment. Well, then you'd be mistaken.


Instead Forest played with the same infuriating tentativeness as before. It was as if collectively the players had thought the whole thing was a dream, that they fell out of the shower and the events of a few days ago were some sort of powerful mass delusion and nothing could possibly have been gained from it. It was like that episode of the Simpsons where Homer is accused of groping the babysitter, is eventually exonerated but at the end says “Marge my friend, I haven't learned a thing.”

You know how they say football is an easy game? Well in this case that was true, because Forest allowed a striker that cost £11million too much room on the edge of the area three times. That's it, pretty much – that was the difference between the two teams. That's a fairly reductive way of looking at the game because of course there were plenty of other things wrong too, but that was the crux of it. Had Ross McCormack not been waved through to shoot three times then Forest would still have been terrible, but at least they would have been terrible and level, or perhaps 1-0 down.

Everything was slightly half-arsed, lacking the assurance that we hoped for and, I naively confess, expected. In that first-half all the problems that were there on Saturday were present again, from Henri Lansbury giving the thing away at will, to Ben Osborn seemingly looking at the middle of the pitch from out there on the wing like a dog would look at a bone in a shop window before being dragged off by his lead, to Robert Tesche playing as a sodding No.10 again. Tesche is many things but...actually, no scratch that, Tesche is precisely one thing: a solid, 7/10 water-carrying midfielder, a job he is perfectly decent at, but little more. To have him in that position when there are two or three better and more dynamic candidates on the pitch and one or two more on the bench seems...peverse.

Still, the the encouraging thing that Stuart Pearce was decisive in some respects, in that he recognised there was a problem (although in fairness if you don't spot there's a problem when you're 3-0 down after 35 minutes you should probably get your pulse checked out) and did something to fix it. Eric Lichaj wasn't noticeably more terrible than the other ten on the pitch but verily, he was still having a shocker, so hooking him to bring a little more balance to the side in the shape of the game Stephen McLaughlin was a decent move.

And then in the second-half, there was a shift in formation, with Michail Antonio shoved up front into a sort of 4-1-2-1-2 system, which for a good while worked. Henri Lansbury was given more opportunities to get forward and attack rather than sit in front of the defence and nearly give the thing away every few minutes, Britt Assombalonga was given a bit of support and the width came from the full-backs, which was presumably the point of bringing McLaughlin on.

And for the first 30-odd minutes of the second-half, it really did work, Forest putting a Fulham side who really weren't that good (which is the really frustrating thing) under plenty of pressure, bringing the score back to 3-2 with a delightful Lansbury finish and creating a bunch of chances to draw level. Only some poor finishing stood between Forest and a point, from the uncharacteristically wayward Assombalonga and one particularly glaring one from Jack Hobbs, who was presented with the ball and an uncommon amount of time and space in the area, but acted like a man whose blindfold had recently been removed after a week in the dark, unused to the light and disoriented. If that chance had fallen to basically anyone else on the pitch, the chances are we'd be talking about a well-scrapped out point, possibly more, rather than an irksome defeat.

The problem was that Forest seemed to run out of ideas with about 15 minutes to go, fewer chances created, possession ceded more frequently and an upsurge in the 'dithering at the back' stakes. This was the point when substitutions were required, and with Lars Veldwijk, Jamie Paterson et al going through some fairly lengthy warm-ups until they were sent to sit down after about 80 minutes. That was the point to try something else, something new once Plan B had stopped working, but for reasons unclear Pearce did nothing. That's the concerning bit, that he can seemingly make one step, one change, one logical move but not think quickly enough to try something else.

There was still encouragement there, though. Still enough to make you think that this isn't an entirely hopeless endeavour and these players combined with this manager could actually do something. The problem is that at the moment Forest only seem to be able to play for 45 minutes at a time, when as the keen observers among you will notice a football game lasts roughly 90.

If we can string two whole halves of football together, then we might stand a chance. Until then, we curse and we are frustrated.

Let's cheer ourselves up by watching this again...