Danny Collins. Jamaal Lescelles. Danny Fox. Eric Lichaj. Defensively excellent.
Now that’s a combination of words that you wouldn’t have imagined seeing snuggled so tightly together in print in recent times. But it would be churlish not to give them credit for a sterling performance tonight which set the foundation for a tactically astute game plan and another win under Dougie Freedman’s seemingly imperious reign.
It didn’t start so well though. As poor as Wigan were when they came a cropper here, Bournemouth were the polar opposite and rolled us over in the opening stages with a blitzkrieg of total voetbal, moving the ball fluidly from back to front and side to side with the dexterity of a Rubik’s Cube champion. In the opening stages, Forest’s task resembled that of the most extreme game of Whac-A-Mole combined with trying to plug a hole in the roof of a rusty old camper van. The rearguard was rather embarrassingly undone after failing to defend a well-rehearsed corner routine – so well rehearsed that they actually perfected it three times in the opening ten minutes. Confusion regarding how to deal with the cunning ploy of taking it short and moving it to the edge of the box resulted in Andrew Surman finding the corner of the Forest net with a neat finish.
Eventually, Freedman got to his feet and did some pointing that resulted in the problem being fixed. From then on, his men got stuck in, got amongst em and put their collective foot in. It was difficult but a solid foot-hold in the game was found. Bournemouth continued with their fancy football but the manner in which Forest battled had more than a whiff of Rocky taking on the buff looking Ivan Drago in the underrated Rocky IV. Sure their football looked nice and all but there’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned grit and it was here in spades. Like a particularly obstropolous lid on a jar of pickle, Forest remained stubborn and resolute.
That’s not to say that they bullied their way back into the game with bluster and violence, more that they stood tall and started to get some tackles in that upset the rhythm in which the Cherries were dangerously close to settling. A sustained period of pressure on the Bournemouth goal resulted in Lascelles finding the net with a low shot. The pressure was sustained and culminated in Henri Lansbury curling a free kick so sweetly that he could open a shop trading solely in penny chews and white mice.
The second half saw Bournemouth repeatedly threatening to throw a big punch but not quite mustering up the energy to do so as Forest played with discipline in not getting dragged out of position yet at the same time, always having an outlet through the tireless running of Michail Antonio and Dexter Blackstock. For all their possession, Eddie Howe’s men didn’t really trouble Darlow and they grew visibly frustrated at this.
A moment, which epitomised the new Forest under Freedman, came with Lansbury chasing, harassing and harrying a Bournemouth defender towards the corner. Previously this would have resulted in Henri pushing him, kicking him, conceding a needless free kick and getting himself booked in the process. But not these days. He challenged fairly, didn’t concede a free kick and won a corner. That’s the power of the captain’s armband for you.
After the game, little Benny Osborn was wheeled out to speak to the press and displayed far too much tactical insight than is allowed for a footballer in such a situation and dropped a whole load of mumbo-jumbo footballing terminology like ‘diags’ and ’making the pitch big’. He’ll learn soon enough to mumble something about personal battles and doing jobs. Or at least, he better otherwise the image of the modern young footballer is going to take a hell of a beating.
A double over Bournemouth – clearly a very talented side – is hugely satisfying and makes one wonder whether the Freedman revolution is built on something more than the classic new manger bounce.