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Match report: Brighton 2-3 Nottingham Forest

We've been burned by false dawns before this season, but this felt a little more substantial. Possibly. Nick Miller was at the nice AmEx...

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Nice place, the AmEx. ‎From the efficient and frequent train services, to the brass band rendition of 'Sussex By The Sea' before kick-off, it's nice. Very nice. Of all the new grounds around the country, it's probably the nicest. Nice club too, with a nice manager. So nice, in fact, you almost feel guilty winning there. Almost.

The mood among the travelling Forest support perhaps wasn't quite as nice, though. It wasn't that there was any particular negativity around, just a cautiousness, a ‎low-key sense of pessimism while trying to maintain at least a neutral face and proving the usual vociferous support. Nobody seemed sure how to react to Dougie Freedman, but few made much reference to Stuart Pearce, either. It was a bit like a kid meeting his mum's first boyfriend after the divorce - we were trying to be pleasant about this new bloke we're not entirely sure about, but not so pleasant as to appear disloyal to dad.

Fawaz al-Hasawi was interviewed by the BBC outside the ground, and while you'd expect him to be surrounded by either an adoring or an angry mob at a time like this, most seemed to leave him be. It was almost as if the entire support had realised en masse that he isn't going to pay much attention to someone giving him advice, so there's not much point in saying anything to him.

So, to the game. We at In The Top One are thinking of starting a petition and sending it to the Football League, asking them to ban set-pieces. For if teams weren't allowed corners or free-kicks against Forest, life would be much more relaxing. Sure, such a rule would be a challenge to implement and Forest wouldn't have scored two of their goals at Brighton, but equally we wouldn't have conceded two either. Ergo, 1-0 win, Freedman gets away flying, Benny Osborn once again the saviour, carried shoulder-high from the pitch like the boy king that he is, we're all happy.
For an inability to defend from set-pieces is just about the only big gripe to take away from a solid, hugely encouraging performance and three points ‎on the south coast. A shuffled defence played reasonably well as a unit, when they weren't leaving men unmarked at front or back post, the midfield used the ball intelligently while Britt Assombalonga (or at least the 2/3 of Britt Assombalonga we've paid for) ran around gamely and pissed the Brighton defenders off something rotten. And, if he isn't scoring goals (something he had few, if any chances to do) then that's pretty much all you can ask from him.

Eyebrows were raised ‎by Freedman's team selection before the game, and while the name of Danny Collins stuck out like a sore thumb (a sore thumb you forgot you had & was gathering dust like an impulse-buy Breville at the back of the kitchen cupboard), the return of Karl Darlow in nets was perhaps the most curious. Quite what Dorus De Vries has done wrong in recent weeks isn't clear, and although one can expect new manager = changes, De Vries can be forgiven for feeling most vexed at his omission.

My dad saw a bloke from his cardiac rehab sessions at half-time, and for large parts of the game Darlow seemed to be on a one-man mission to test whether their exercises were working. If the goalkeeping coaches at Newcastle are keeping tabs on the Geordie-bound stopper, they will probably have just written 'crosses' loads of times in their notebooks, underlining all of them. He managed one or two decent saves, but the way he waved at the cross for Brighton's first goal was troubling.

Ahead of him though, there weren't too many alarms, Collins providing few of the 'Jesus CHRIST man' moments on the ball that have kept him out of the team‎ for the whole season, although Danny Fox gamely stepped into that particular breach. Forest at times played troublingly deep, with Gary Gardner at the base of a central midfield three virtually able to stretch out his arms and hold the hands of both central defenders for long spells. Still, that was sensible for a couple of reasons, firstly that it doesn't do to leave a defence lacking in pace exposed to space behind them, but also it was a classic away, sit back then hit them on the break performance.

Indeed, it was just the sort of showing Forest haven't been able to put in this season, so the predictions by most Crystal Palace fans that Freedman will shore things up before attempting anything fancy look to be accurate. Which is, you'll most likely agree, A Good Thing.

The goals were a delicious mix of scrappy and nifty, Collins's header barely wheezing over the line, Henri Lansbury's low free-kick pinballing into the net off someone/something or other, while Osborn's was a delightfully neat move finished off by a Lampardian run into the box from deep by the increasingly impressive midfield munchkin.

We have, of course, been burned by false hope and dawns a few times this season, with wins over Norwich, Wolves and Derby looking like they were the start of something, when it turned out that they were, to paraphrase Sick Boy, merely blips on an otherwise downward trajectory. This felt and looked more substantial, though. This was a team with some backbone toughing it out, perhaps not in the prettiest manner, and while we can curse them for not doing this sooner, we should rather be grateful they're doing it at all.

So the age of Dougie begins promisingly. Like the jitterbug, Pogs and Reebok Pump trainers, Freedmania is sweeping the nation. Let us hope it lasts.