The phrase, "After the Lord Mayor's Show" is one that has frequently been used as a Forest fan: normally straight after a defeat of the happy folk at the other end of the A5-2. It sees us go into the next game and perform like a bunch of people who have never watched a game of football before, let alone be supposedly paid handsomely for the privilege.
I don't know why but after the (small amount) of euphoria that came from lowering the flag of the former league leaders on Saturday, it's something that we as Forest fans come to expect, and that feeling was more than prevalent prematch.
As unexpected as the victory on Saturday was in some corners of the footballing world, it reminds us that the management (on the football side at least) of Forest is making strides in the right direction. Also, some elements of the Forest fanbase are more than keenly waiting up for any reason to lambast Dougie Freedman.
Again, once the announcement of the team was made, it was obvious that some fans weren't happy - looking to complain about the lack of Jamie Ward and Oliver Burke who were both rested after their all-action efforts at Middlesbrough. The 3rd change came with the introduction of Chris O'Grady in the place of Gary Gardner who one assumes, will step back into the side on Saturday against Watford.
It's always interesting to see, especially in the modern day and age, a team come out and line up 4-4-2, and that's exactly what the team formation looked like. The back five remained unchanged, Robert Tesche and Michael Mancienne in the middle, with Ben Osborn - who has taken to his left flank role like a duck to water - playing as the slightly less orthodox left winger. With Ryan Mendes ploughing a furrow up and down the right hand side, Oliviera and O'Grady completed the line up with the Portuguese looking to continue his fine vein of scoring form at NG2.
As first half performances go, it was a strange one. QPR looked satisfied to sit back and hit on the counter attack, with David 'Junior' Hoilett drawing a save from Dorus De Vries as he drifted in from his left wing role. Forest showed only glimpses of some excellent football and for some periods, they stroked the ball around with a confidence that flattered to deceive, with off the ball movement from all the side making space. It must be said that with the exception of the odd bit of noise from the Bridgford Lower, the only noise that could be heard was Dorus' shouting for the back 4 to push out.
After about 20 minutes, the first real chance of the game came for the home side as after Paul Konchesky conceded a corner, Ben Osborn delivered a perfectly weighted corner to the far post. Normally, it would be Matt Mills who would meet it and power it goal bound but this time, Michael Mancienne - somehow unmarked only 7 or 8 yards out - got a clear jump and sent an excellent header towards the top corner. However, in Alex Smithies, QPR have one of the more highly rated keepers in the Championship and he managed to throw himself backwards and upwards to tip the header over the bar.
From the resultant corner, the ball came out to the halfway line before the red shirted hosts regained possession and worked the ball into the box. Ben Osborn, who I'm sure is enjoying his run in the side - albeit in a slightly unfamiliar role - took aim from 12 yards out at an angle. Once more, and for the 4th time in as many games, the Derby youngster found himself denied a goal by the woodwork - although in fairness, it did appear that Smithies may have got a hand to the ball to guide it towards the post.
From the resultant scramble, Chris O'Grady saw a snapshot deflected wide.
Shortly afterwards, a half hit clearance from Nedum Onuhua dropped at the feet of Tesche and with the somewhat sparse City Ground crowd shouting for the shot, he took aim from all of 35 yards. From my position in the Trent End Upper, the ball swerved and dipped quite viciously before hitting the top of the bar at some pace and disappearing into the Bridgford End.
To say that this summed up the action for the rest of the half would be somewhat poor of me as Sebastian Polter saw a header drift just wide of De Vries post and Robert Tesche attempted another rocket from 25 yards - this one bouncing back off a defender.
The last action of the half saw Polter come up with a dive that in recent times, only Clayton Donaldson upon seeing David Vaughans boot, has bettered from the edge of the box. The referee blew immediately for the free kick which, only being a yard outside the box, would be difficult to see how it could be got on target.
In Alejandro Faurlin, QPR have a player who is more than capable of that and the Argentine stepped up with the eight man wall standing approximately 13 yards back and hit the shot goalwards.
I'm sure that with previous incumbents in the Forest goal - those who cared more about maintaining hair care regimes whilst a goalmouth scramble was going on - the ball would have whistled into the roof of the net but in Dorus De Vries, Forest have a keeper who enjoys keeping clean sheets having prior to this game, had kept eight so far this season, with three f those coming in his last four appearances. The big Dutchman stepped to the left and got enough of a touch to divert the shot onto the bar and from the ensuing scramble, Eric Lichaj - on the night of his 100th appearance in the Garibaldi - cleared the ball from danger.
Half Time: 0 - 0
The first half - with precious few highlights - also provided a little inkling into Matt Mills: the centre half who, in the long term absence of Lansbury, and with Chris Cohen continuing his return to competitive action from the bench, appears to have inherited the Captain's armband. It's well-known that Forest fans like a centre half who isn't afraid to get the ball down and try a trick or two, having seen Wes Morgan come up with one or two of those in his time. However, Mills nearly topped that as following a QPR corner, the ball was cleared skyward and hung up in the fierce wind that was coming from the Main Stand/Trent End corner. With no intention of even attempting to head it, Mills launched himself into an attempted bicycle/overhead kick - sadly, he missed the ball completely. There will come a time when he attempts to pull that off in the opposing penalty area and should he connect, will probably score a goal of the season contender.
The two lads behind me rated the failed attempt as 'the best thing they've seen all season', which either means they're easily pleased or were just happy to see something other than the usual first half fare. Probably the latter.
The second half kicked off in what can only be described as 'that fine rain that soaks you through'. It wasn't drizzle, but a full on storm. Both teams approached it in a similar fashion to the first, with QPR looking to push on slightly more, creating a lot of crosses into the box, the majority of which were met by Hobbs and Mills and cleared back towards halfway only for the visitors to attack once more.
Sensing that his team were losing the initiative somewhat, Freedman shuffled his pack 10 minutes in, with Jamie Ward coming on for O'Grady, who, despite forcing Smithies into a fine near post save moments earlier, had been somewhat ineffectual throughout. Also entering the fray was Oliver Burke: the young winger replaced Mendes, who appeared to be somewhat dismayed at going off, throwing his hands up at the bench before heading down the tunnel. In fairness, he did return to the bench about 15 minutes later although that may have been to get treatment on one of the many knocks he appeared to receive.
One thing that has been noticeable in recent games is the ability of Forest to counter attack quickly (a lot like we used to in the heady days of Clough and also, under Frank Clark). Following a QPR corner, the ball found its way to Jamie Ward, floating on the edge of the centre circle in his own half. Without even looking up, he fed a fantastic ball into the channel behind the QPR left back, who had steamed forward to join the attack, and away from the centre half, with the intention of feeding the onrushing Burke. One thing that even the most uneducated of football watchers will have noticed is that Ollie Burke is quick, and you could almost see the panic in the QPR defence when they looked up and saw the youngster take a touch and head goal-wards, with only Onuhua and ex-Tricky James Perch tracking back. In coming years, when he is more used to this level of football, the outcome of the next bit will be somewhat different, but following a mishit touch, Burke forced a smart save on the angle from Smithies, resulting in a corner.
Since making his first start for the club against Charlton earlier on in the season, it's great to see how much the young Scot has come on and is more confident on the pitch. This was obvious in the meeting between the two clubs three weeks ago in which Burke tormented Clint Hill for the duration. The fans appreciate home-grown talent and when it's a talent that, in my opinion, has the ability to go to the top end of the game, you feel a little bit of pride inside. Wait, scratch that, huge dollops of pride bursting out. The telling fact was that the crowd actually got noisier when Burke got the ball, as being more direct than Mendes, they expect him to create chances for himself and others.
The game continued in the same way the second half had started, with Forest struggling to get a grip of the game; their clearances bouncing back off their defensive colleagues and going for corners and throw ins in attacking positions. The hosts still had shots on goal, but Alex Smithies didn't really have a difficult save to make. With the frustrations of some of the fans becoming apparent (whether this was aimed at the referee, Paul Tierney, who didn't have the finest of games, or just the fact Forest couldn't get the ball in midfield), Ollie Burke got a loose ball from Lichaj, cut in and across the back four before guiding a shot from 20 yards wide of the post on his left foot. Nelson Oliviera showed his frustrations at this, feeling perhaps correctly, that he was in a better position just inside the QPR box, unmarked and with a clear shot on goal.
As the match wound its way to a conclusion, Dexter Blackstock entered the fray, replacing the tireless Oliviera, showing that perhaps Freedman didn't have any concerns about the defensive setup and would rather give his main striker the chance to have a little extra rest.
The game petered out to a 0-0 draw, seeing De Vries earn his 9th clean sheet of the season and his 4th in five games. It is now about five and a half hours since he had to pick the ball out of his net, when Jon Toral of Birmingham beat him with what was, to be fair, a cracking Keith Houchenesque header.
Dougie mentioned in his post-match interview that he felt that both defences were on top last night, and I feel that this was the case, as, it also may be the case that in times past, we would have lost this.
Had someone offered any Forest fan four points from two difficult matches - with a clean sheet in both - I'm sure they'd have welcomed it with open arms. As it stands, we're unbeaten in 13, with a defence that is becoming more miserly with each coming game. Missing the attacking talents that we are, it's easy to get a little bit wishful about where we could be if we'd been able to finish some of the chances that we've missed in that time. Regardless, the position in which we find ourselves in the table is about right for the season.
We go on to meet a Watford team on Saturday, who may have one eye on next Wednesday's fixture against the recovering car wreck that is Chelsea. They may well decide to rotate their squad which means we may see the return of Adlene Guedioura to NG2 again.
In the meantime, spare a thought for the ragtag bunch of loanees, academy products and free transfers in red shirts, of which the most combative was shown the door by our rivals at the far end of Brian Clough Way. I wonder if they're missing his all-action, getting under the opponents skin approach to football matches that we're seeing. To paraphrase Dougie in his press conference on Monday, "He may be a pest, but he's our pest, and he does that well".