Nottingham Forest’s goalless draw with Bristol City was dominated by the appearance of one player, a man by the name of Chris Cohen.
The 31-year-old, who has been at the City Ground for 11 years came on as a late substitute and quite rightly stole the show.
As 0-0 draws go, I was quite entertained by the quality of the game - one that further emphasised the desperate need for a clinical striker.
Aitor Karanka deployed a 4-3-3 formation for the third consecutive match, and it’s one that’s really impressed me. The former Real Madrid ace has surprised us all by deviating from his stereotypical 4-2-3-1 blueprint and I just wonder if it’s the shape of things to come for next season?
The Reds had plenty of chances, but in the first period they were all long range efforts that Frank Fielding was equal to in the Bristol goal.
At the other end it was pleasing to see the unorthodox pairing of Mancienne and Fox stifle City’s prolific strike force. Famara Diedhiou and Bobby Reid have racked up 35 goals and 11 assists between them so far and, despite the pre-match doubts, the Forest boys kept them quiet.
Before I return to the subject of Chris Cohen, it would be remiss not to mention the performance of Andreas Bouchalakis on Saturday.
The Greek midfielder was excellent and belied his reputation as something of a spare cog in the Nottingham Forest wheel. His performance will give Karanka plenty to think about during the summer, especially after picking out the pass of the season against Bristol City.
Bouchalakis’s 60-yard diagonal through ball to Ben Osborn was absolutely sumptuous - it was just a shame that Lee Tomlin spurned the penalty that it yielded.
As the curtains began to close on the City Ground season, the stage was set for an emotional encore.
An undercurrent of excitement rippled through the whole stadium as the 89th-minute approached, a minute that will be etched in NFFC history forever
Chris Cohen stepped out onto a football pitch for the very last time and the noise that greeted his entrance was rapturous, as every man, woman and child rose to applaud him.
His first touch of the ball was a headed flick on in the centre circle, which was again met with a tumultuous roar from the crowd, and deep down the Forest fans were praying for fairytale finish from the penalty spot with minutes remaining.
Cohen gave everything despite not having too much of the ball, but just seeing him darting around for the very last time in a Garibaldi jersey was a sight to behold.
The final whistle signified not just the end of the home season for Nottingham Forest, but Chris Cohen’s footballing finale.
The man himself, flanked by his teammates, all wearing “No.8 COHEN” jerseys, did a lap of honour around the four corners of the City Ground. Many supporters stopped on to applaud and sing his name as he acknowledged their gratitude.
When I look back upon Cohen’s stop start career, I’m aware that a minority of NFFC supporters are not as complimentary toward the 31 year old as the rest of us.
Their quotes were laughable, alluding to his three ACL injuries (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), saying he should have been released long ago. Nobody gets injured intentionally, trust me, returning to the pitch following three ACL’s is virtually impossible, let alone just one.
The only footballer I ever blamed for getting injured was Paul Gascoigne in the ‘91 FA Cup final. His ACL was a result of his atrocious foul on Gary Charles, on a day when karma was king!
Chris Cohen came back time after time and never looked out of shape or uninterested, which in today’s easy come and go footballing world is beyond commendable.
Not only that, but he produced in any given position, of which he had plenty. Whether it was midfield, on the wing or at left back, which he was excellent at, Cohen’s application levels were infallible.
Personally, I’d have loved to have seen him make the left back spot his own, in an era where, even to this day it’s become somewhat of a poison chalice.
I’ve no doubt’s that Chris Cohen will be saddened by his premature retirement, but having fought so vehemently to make it this far is testament to his character; especially when you consider that players like Dean Ashton and Ryan Mason were forced to call it a day well before their 30th birthdays.
If I could some up Chris’s career in one sentence, it would be none other than: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get COHEN!’
Thank you for the memories.