Although Nottingham Forest bowed out of the FA Cup at the very first hurdle, their supporters were a credit to the club once again.
Having unceremoniously dumped last season’s holders Arsenal out of the competition at the same stage last season, the chances of such a repeat were even slimmer this time around as the Reds faced Chelsea in West London.
Forest showed some real fight on Saturday, and when all’s said and done, they replicated the same score line inflicted upon Man City by Chelsea a month earlier.
When the FA Cup third round draw was made, I was interested to gauge the reaction of the Forest supporters, especially after the League Cup capitulation against Burton Albion.
Many had vowed to boycott the only remaining cup competition following that performance at the Pirelli, but love is blind it seems.
As has been the case on many occasions this season, Forest purchased every available ticket allocated for the game.
Which was even more impressive when you consider just how decimated the playing squad is of late.
The chances of dethroning the holders for a second successive season were extremely remote considering the ever growing injury list at the City Ground.
Throw in the fact that the Reds hadn’t won the battle of Stamford Bridge since 1995 and the enormity of the task seemed even more daunting.
The game kicked off amidst a cauldron of noise and after an early onslaught Forest began to weather the storm.
Luke Steele made a rare appearance in the Forest goal and performed excellently in that first half, the obvious highlight was his stunning save to deny Cesc Fabregas his farewell goal from the penalty spot.
Steele’s overall performance was very solid and professional, just as it’d been against Burton in the League Cup. Given the opportunity, which I feel he deserves, he would flourish with a run of Championship games under his belt.
Chelsea were clearly in the ascendancy throughout the first half, but it was testament to work rate and endeavour of the Forest players that they went in even at the break. If somebody had told you before the season began that Danny Fox and Claudio Yacob would be the centre half paring away at Chelsea in the FA Cup, you’d probably have predicted a cricket score.
The second half followed the same pattern of home dominance as opposed to sporadic half chances here and there for the Reds.
That said, we retained the ball much better than we’d done in the 5-1 League Cup defeat sixteen months ago. Proof that we have improved considerably under the management of Aitor Karanka.
To add balance to that last sentence it’s only fair to say that the gaffer has benefitted from much improved investment compared to the last guy.
One quirky little fact that popped in my head following Saturday’s 2-0 defeat was the curse of the underperformer in this fixture.
During the last three defeats at Chelsea we’ve allowed Shevchenko, Batshuayi and Morata to regain their scoring boots; bring back Kerry Dixon!
Unfortunately, a young Forest fan had an unsavoury experience at last Saturday’s game, 14 year-old Max Hayes, who’s an award winning blogger for his Matchday with Max broadcasts, was allegedly manhandled by a Chelsea steward at the game for simply recording a vlog.
Like everyone who heard about the incident I was appalled. I wanted to know if this was the isolated action of a rogue steward or whether Chelsea had universal directives for such behaviour from their staff?
I posed the question to our fans who’d attended the game and asked for a general overview of the West London outfit and I’m very glad I did. The responses were extremely informative and astute as ever.
On hearing what had happened to Max, coupled with the new money and stature of Chelsea since the arrival of Roman Abramovich, one would be forgiven for assuming that they’ve become an arrogant establishment.
However, the majority of the replies to my social media question were very positive.
Generally, our fans said that the ticket prices were pretty fair, stewarding was good, food and drink were not excessively priced and that their vantage point of the match was good too.
The commonly reoccurring anomaly was the lack of atmosphere and fervour from the home supporters.
Possibly due to the fact they were playing lower league opposition, who knows?
As far as our supporters are concerned, they turned out in their droves yet again and were as vociferous as ever.
In the last five away fixtures the traveling trickies have averaged almost 2500 in attendances, which is testament to their loyalty and love for Nottingham forest Football Club.Wy