If one thing remains consistent about Nottingham Forest, it is the club's splendid ability to embark upon runs that resemble Sonic the Hedgehog wavering up and down in his futile attempt to collect gold rings.*
From 13 games unbeaten to 3 straight defeats: it seems only Alan Pardew can hold a candle to Forest's nack of elongated undefeated runs and equally, monotonous and miserable runs without victories. It's not quite time to panic, stand on numerous rakes and wobble around nonsensically; it is though a time to think long and hard about the future of this football club and the direction in which it is heading under the current ownership.
The financial report that surfaced this week is deeply troubling. Whichever way you read it and however many times, there is little in there to suggest that there is a long term vision to awake the club from its 20 year slumber, snoring away like a drunk uncle. If you haven't already done so, read this by Steve Wright. And then weep quietly.
Once you've dried your tears and pulled yourself together, listen to this from Colin Fray on BBC Radio Notts:
Against such a background, it's nice to get down to the serious business of enjoying the game. You might remember that - a game played to win but also played for fun, as a diversion from the week's almighty slog of slaving away for someone else's gain. Sadly, the football too failed to produce much a flicker of a smile and when it did, it was quickly wiped away like a tear in the rain.
In fairness, Forest started brightly and Jamie Ward probably should have converted an early chance. But he didn't and then departed due to injury. Ben Osborn - ever industrious and wanting to get on the ball in order to make things happen - then managed to find time in the penalty area, swivel and fire away a shot that squirmed past Richard O'Donnell in the City goal. Whatever the phrase 'kick-on from here' means, Forest were perfectly positioned to do such a thing.
Meanwhile, the away team were quietly putting together a decent performance - Lee Tomlin caused palpitations in the Forest defence whenever he got on the ball. The lead lasted only 11 miuntes and the pendulum swung heavily towards Lee Johnson's men when Jonathan Kodjia converted after Joe Bryan's shot came back off the post. It had been coming.
Nothing to get upset about though - time to address this in the second half and come out stronger.
Indeed, the home side did...for around five minutes. They looked industrious and exerted a fair amount of pressure on the away defence. Sadly, that defence did the extremely annoying thing of getting in the way of crosses, all the while heading it and kicking it away. Not fair. A period of 10 seconds epitomised Forest's performance - perhaps the whole club's current malaise:
Tyler Walker was sent clear through. He looked up and seemed to wilt under the huge Trent End bearing down above him. He didn't get a shot away. He didn't square to the onrushing Osborn. He checked back and the chance came to nothing. Seconds later, Chris Cohen was on the edge of the box and knocked the ball through for himself to run onto. He didn't make it though and tumbled to the ground. He was booked for diving.
It's not that Walker is a bottler or that Cohen is a cheat. It's more that this is what we currently are: a club labouring under the shadow of its former self while scrabbling around desperately trying to gain an advantage through any means but ending up laying on the floor gazing wistfully at the stars while others - having saved up for a ticket to ride - confidently climb aboard the happy train.
The deciding goal came in the 70th minute. Ten minutes later, with ten minutes still remaining in which to claim a point, boos rang around the ground while Tyler Walker received dog's abuse from some in the Trent End and no doubt, beyond.
Admittedly, Walker had a poor game (in fact, not to put too finer point on it, he was poor) and found the going harder than a galvanised nail but it is impossible to see what abusing him is going to achieve. The ball was regularly played towards his chest and he was expected to hold it up against a big burly brute of a Championship defender. Now obviously, this is part of his job but it's fair to say that holding the ball up like a 1980s target man in the mould of Mick Harford ** is not one of his game's strengths.
But then again, we're all entitled these days aren't we? Entitled to seeing a footballer who is paid handsomely to play with due and equal handsomeness, entitled to have a say in how doctors carry out their work even though we struggled to understand page 1 of that Biology textbook at school, entitled to have a say in education because...well... we once went to school. We're entitled to beat teams like Huddersfield Town and Bristol City aren't we because we went to Europe and won the cup twice.
The trouble is, everyone else is just as entitled. Tyler Walker is entitled to a bit of support and encouragement from us - he's earned it - and he will no doubt be wondering why he got abuse from the stands rather than an encouragement. By the end, he looked as if he would have rather been anywhere else but here. Imagine him leaving and thriving for another club...hurts, doesn't it?
Football should be about fun. Football should be about enjoyment and once in a while, being spirited up from your cold, hard and unforgiving plastic seat to applaud and appreciate something wonderful. But we also know that for long periods, it's not like that. You have to earn those moments - even as a fan. You sometimes have to suck up the mediocrity and support the players. Not always and not unfailingly but certainly a young player still making his way in the game.
There is little left to play for this season - this has been the case of a long time - even amidst the unbeaten run. This season was always going to be a bit of a slog. Let's try to make the most of it and support the team, especially the youngsters, while they are out there. We do pay high prices to watch football (more fool us) and we're entitled to an opinion. But imagine someone strolling into your place of work and yelling at you when you're having a bad day. Not a pretty picture is it?
If you want to point and wag the finger for the club's malaise, you have a smorgasbord of options. Tyler Walker shouldn't be one of them. Who's next? Ben Osborn? Oliver Burke? Jorge Grant? If this smacks of favouritism towards young, home-grown products, that's because it is.
* For you youngsters who don't remember Sonic the Hedgehog, insert a more recent arcade/video/computer game type thingy here.
** For you youngsters who don't remember Mick Harford, think Didier Drogba.