We ran as hard as we could - bustling past a toddler and nearly knocking over an elderly gentleman as we did so, in order to make the train. At times, we hit top speed but a lack of the requisite amount of stretching and preparation hampered our chances. We knew what time the train left the platform and we’d even bought online so that all we had to do was collect our pre-paid tickets. However, we’d neglected to make a note of our booking reference and so on top of the physical side contributing to our problems, so too did the practical aspect. Besides, the train was pretty packed anyway with something akin to a jostle breaking out amongst those on board. Some looked to be on the verge of being pushed out by others but it was all we could do to stand on the platform, gazing at our feet in resignation, as the train pulled out of the station.
But solace was sought as we recalled how much we hated the whole experience of the whole train journey itself: promising, as it does, a journey to a whole new worlds of wonder and delight but all too frequently, bundling you out at a godforsaken platform, leaving you staring in horror at some place like Peterborough. Besides, we tend to get kicked off the train relatively early in the journey.
It's probably for the best that we missed this particular Play-Off train.
Of course, the jig’s not quite up yet but realistically, it’s probably time to start looking for other ways in which we can pass the time come Play-Off weekend.
Norwich City pretty much deserved their victory: they were the more assured team and had a cutting edge. Besides, they owed us this after their concession to Michail Antonio’s memorable last minute winner back at the City Ground earlier in the season. But the fates conspired against Forest and this was one game too far for a team still trying to cope with each new setback that the injury gods decide to send their way.
The sight of Dexter Blackstock limping off early on pretty much reduced this game to Forest hoping to smuggle away with a share of the points. In the past, such a sight would not have been considered too much of a blow but without Matty Fryatt and Lars Veldwijk simply not ready to lead the line (and obviously, without Britt Assombalonga), this was a game-changer. It meant Antonio being pushed up top to spearhead a 4-2-3-1 formation with support from Modou Barrow and Chris Burke from wide positions, Ben Osborn given a central creative brief and support from behind in the shape of Gary Gardner and Henri Lansbury.
Despite a brief flurry of good chances, one of which saw John Ruddy save well from Antonio as he bore down on the City keeper, scoring a goal was always going to be difficult. Nonetheless, to get to half time on level terms would have provided a decent platform from which to sit back and counter attack in the second half. But Jonny Howson was having none of it and converted a lovely ball from Wes Hoolahan with the last kick of the half. In retrospect, the game was pretty much up from then on. From the Canaries’ point of view, it eased the restlessness that was just starting to creep in amongst the home support. Needless to say, the away support was excellent, marking Brian Clough’s 80th birthday with a lovely rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You.’
Two goals did for Forest in the second half: one a neat finish from Cameron Jerome and the other a penalty dispatched with little fuss from Hoolahan, even if Karl Darlow made it slightly easier for him by being in mid air as he struck the ball, for some inexplicable reason. From then on, Forest looked ragged and for the first time under Dougie Freedman, it was noticeable that some players were not being deployed in their preferred positions: Osborn as the central supporting forward, despite his wonderful endeavor and touch, looked a little lost, Michael Mancienne at right back played like a central defender would at right back – exploited effectively by Norwich in the second half and as previously stated, Antonio as the focal point of the attack meant that Forest lost their most potent attacking threat: Antonio coming in from the wing. In addition, Barrow looked incredibly lightweight and like a boy against men…Barrowboy. While we’re at it, the full back position is a constant source of frustration. Eric Lichaj has improved considerably in recent weeks but essentially, Forest are still employing a right-footed player at left back and a central defender at right back. It would be nice if these positions could be sorted out in the near future.
There were some notable substitutions. Gary O’Neill came on for Norwich to an audible muttering of, ‘is he at Norwich now?’ Jamie Paterson came on for the ineffective Barrow and played a huge role in Forest’s consolation goal. Tyler Walker got some more game time too to make us feel all warm in our tummies again.
It is a predictably unpredictable Championship campaign once again this year and nothing can be ruled out. But we're thinking about finally getting around to taking in a gallery, followed by a museum, framed with a visit to a small but elegantly styled cathedral city, such as Ely or Lincoln on the Bank Holiday, rather than watching the Play-Off final. Or maybe a few pints in the back garden. Care to join us?