1. You want goals? We got goals. Even the most ardent Stuart Pearce devotees might have to admit that the three games thus far under Freedman have been infinitely more exciting affairs with goals spilling aplenty over the brim of the goal mug. Under Pearce, it took 12 games to get ten goals, compared to three games under Freedman to achieve that target. Although with Britt Assombalonga out long term, one does worry that this goal bonanza won’t last: Dexter Blackstock is many things (willing, good at far post towering headers and also good at being penalised for climbing at the far post in an effort to win a towering header) but prolific, he isn’t. Matty Fryatt promises much but seems out of luck this season and Lars Veldwijk is ‘one for the future’, as good a euphemism as any for stating that he won’t be troubling the first team for a while yet.
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2. That defence though. Creakier than a comedy door in a Hammer Horror film, conceding four against a team that had not scored more than once at home for fifteen months. Of course, the loss of Jack Hobbs through injury at Blackpool certainly didn’t help matters, which left Forest with recently hailed back to first team action Danny Collins and out of sorts Jamaal Lascelles to steer the ship through the mud and sand. A clean sheet against Wigan should be acknowledged but six goals conceded to notoriously goal shy opponents (including Brighton) strongly suggests that training will mostly consist of heading and kicking the ball away repeatedly to the accompanying numerous shouts of ‘Shape! Keep your Shape!’ Deservedly so too given that last minute equalizer for Blackpool – it is reported that a team of experts have been employed to watch that goal on hard rotation and tasked with explaining just exactly how the Forest defence managed to concede such a goal against nine men from a corner. They are still there, locked in talks, and will be for some time. It would be easy to vent frustration at this late concession but games like this are rare and should be enjoyed for what they are.
3. Identity. Freedman has certainly stamped his signature on the team. Neither Robert Tesche nor Todd Kane are anywhere to be seen in the first eleven, Karl Darlow has returned between the sticks, Danny Collins is back from reserve football wilderness and Chris Burke has spent less time warming the bench. Furthermore, Freedman seems to be getting more from Henri Lansbury, Chris Burke and the previously much maligned Danny Fox. It was lovely to see Oliver Burke get some first team action too. Some common ground does remain though: neither Pearce nor Freedman fancy Jamie Paterson much.
The days of Pearce’s Team-O-Matic Randomiser for selection seem a distant memory. Freedman seems to favour stability in team selection, employing somewhere between a 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 (with Michail Antonio and Burke pushed forward) but with full backs seemingly prevented from marauding. This maintains a solid shape, reiterating the mantra of square pegs in square holes. The last three games have breathed a weak asthmatic breath into distant play-off hopes and certainly banished fears of relegation.
4. The injury curse continues. What have we done to deserve this? Friday gave us the news that the leading scorer is ruled out for a year, quickly followed by yet another injury to Jack Hobbs, meaning that he will no doubt be mooching around the physio room in a pair of flip flops for a while. Again.
Still, at least he can go out and spend some more of the chairman’s money to replace Britt Assombalonga. Can’t he? But why not? Oh, yes. Of course not. New manager but the same injury woe continues undimmed.
5. Public Image. He’s really quite likeable, isn’t he? It feels a little bit naughty to fully pledge support for him given ‘feelings’ for Pearce but he speaks well, accepts the whole transfer embargo thing and seems to really enjoy being at our club. Of course, he would say such stuff, wouldn’t he and a debut press conference from a new manager when the general consensus has not been something along the lines of, ‘he speaks well’ or ‘impressive’ has generally yet to occur (obviously, feel free to shout loudly from the rooftops your own examples of debut press conferences when it is obviously clear that it was never going to work out…Joe Kinnear you say? Ah, yes.) Regardless, Freedman seems like an honest, genuinely pleased to be here, decent human being.
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6. The future. He’s not Jesus or anything: we won’t go down, nor will we gatecrash the play-off party. Unless he actually is Jesus of course, in which case, we’ve got a whole load of re-evaluation to do on a whole lot of levels. But if he was brought in to steer the good ship Forest away from relegation fears and sail it towards steady and calm waters, job done.