Date: 21 January 2023
Perhaps I should be celebrating our first point – indeed our first league goal scored – since the World Cup but, looking at the upcoming fixtures, this is surely not enough to stop the rot?
This wasn’t a good day for me. I’d been hoping for my first train ride to a match in ages, as no rail engineering nor rail strikes were scheduled and the weather forecast wasn’t too bad either. But then a landslip resulted in trains being cancelled so I was back in the car again. On the M3 there was a sign advising of 30 minute delays though Ringwood westbound – tolerable, I felt – but by the time I reached the M27 the estimate was now 45 minute delays. So I diverted via Lyndhurst but this resulted in the drive from Rownhams Services to the ground taking an hour and a half – hardly a saving at all – and I arrived inside the stadium just in time for the minute’s silence for Holocaust victims.
The team lined up in an unfamiliar 4-4-1-1, with the new signing Ouattara wide on the right. We began shakily and appeared to concede a goal from a free kick (given away by Rothwell) on 12 minutes. Fortunately VAR ruled it offside, but it was certainly a warning. The old problem with defending set pieces again.
Forest were playing well, and Neto or Stephens kept us in the game several times. We had chances to score too, especially through Christie and Moore, but both were missing sitters. Ouattara was looking lively on the wing and it was a cross from him that Anthony diverted towards goal on 28 minutes. It wasn’t an easy shot either, so Anthony was really putting the more experienced Christie and Moore to shame. But it was nice to see us scoring a league goal after such a long wait for one.
Forest looked improved in the second half and we looked unlikely to hold on to our slender 1-0 lead. We brought on Pearson for Rothwell (with no change of shape), but when a triple substitution including Surridge was made by Forest on 75 minutes many spotted the writing on the wall, and the North Stand booed Surridge’s name. Sure enough when, eight minutes later, Moore gave the ball away, Forest capitalised on the error and Surridge – of all people – scored the equaliser! Again there was a VAR check for offside, but this time it went Forest’s way. The sponsors’ ‘man of the match’ was subsequently announced as Zemura, which I wouldn’t argue with – especially as I gave it to Anthony last time.
No disrespect to Forest but a home game against them had been our best chance to gain three points for a while. Coming up are Newcastle, Manchester City and Liverpool at home; Brighton and Arsenal away. Eek!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Stephens, Kelly, Zemura;
Ouattara, Lerma, Rothwell, Anthony;