After waiting all season for an away win, Forest supporters got a second in just six days and with it a net full of goals.
Having beaten Ipswich and registered a clean sheet last Saturday, confidence was high going into the trip to Barnsley for another televised encounter.
Given all the obstacles that Philippe Montanier faced, it was indeed refreshing to see him stick with the 3-5-2 formation that served him so well in East Anglia last week. Michael Mancienne and Danny Fox replaced Lichaj and Pinillos respectively whilst Apostolos Vellios deputised for Britt up front.
Any hopes of a second consecutive clean sheet were dashed after just four minutes when Sam Winnall headed home Bree’s measured cross after leaving Danny Fox in his wake.
Despite continuing to invite Barnsley to score at almost every opportunity, the away side drew level in the 12th minute through skipper Henri Lansbury. The midfielder nonchalantly curled a low, free kick into the net with real ease.
The forest players had barely finished celebrating when Marley Watkins beat the offside trap and stroked home from close range to regain the lead. At this point it looked like Barnsley would run riot as the forest defence still hadn’t adapted to the changes in personnel.
The Tykes seemed to have targeted the right wing as the gateway to success and were giving Danny Fox a very hard time indeed.
But Forest and Fox atoned for their earlier misdemeanours and equalised for a second time.
Fox overlapped down the left before firing in a low cross towards the near post; Vellios attacked the space well and somehow managed to scoop the ball over Adam Davies, into the net. Despite the unorthodox manor of the goal it was a great example of predatory instincts by the Greek forward, getting across his marker and directing the ball goalward. Any manager worth their salt will have practiced such moves countless times on the training pitch.
Vellios himself has continued to prove me wrong, I criticised him heavily at the start of the campaign but goals speak for themselves!
Another couple of players who I’ve doubted during the season combined brilliantly to put Forest ahead on the stroke of half time.
Ben Osborn, a guy who I said “had no end product”, whipped in a great cross from the left for Henri Lansbury to head home from 12 yards.
I also wrote these very words about Lansbury in last week’s blog, “When he’s on his game he’s brilliant but he does tend to go missing”. Well his surging run into the box and its accompanying header were indeed brilliant; this is what frustrates me because you know what he’s capable of when he wants it.
As the second half kicked off you felt that Forest couldn’t play much worse and that more goals were in the pipeline, Barnsley however, started the half the brighter as they’d done in the first period.
It was kind of against the run of play when Michael Manciennne surged down the right and whipped in a lovely cross for Osborn to head home after 62 minutes. That’s Ben Osborn….the guy with no end product! (shame on me)
At 4-2 you still felt that the Tykes had something to offer in the way of a comeback; but their hopes of any such outcome were completely dashed just minutes after Osborn’s goal.
Marley Watkins had a rush of blood to the head and inflicted a little stamp to the midriff of Thomas Lam, which rightly earned him a red card. Paul Heckingbottom will be furious with his midfielder for such a needless incident; which also marred the tributes to Patrick Cryne that were taking place at the time. Cryne is the man responsible for saving Barnsley Football Club almost a decade ago and the Oakwell stadium with it. He is currently fighting cancer and on behalf of all Nottingham Forest supporters; we wish him all the very best, get well soon Patrick.
With breathing space between themselves and the opposition, Forest brought on Nicklas Bendtner and Matty Cash who’d both been out through injury of late. Cash made an immediate impact as he drew a clumsy foul from Josh Scowen; the Barnsley man recklessly upended the Forest youngster instead of shepherding him out of the box. This presented Henri Lansbury with the chance to score his first career hat trick from the penalty spot. The skipper made no mistake, ensuring he’d be taking home both, the ball and the man of the match award with it.
Hats off to Philippe Montanier for sticking with the same formation, which I touched on in last week’s write up.
Well done to Ben Osborn also, he certainly shut me with that performance and I hope he continues to do so.
As for Henri Lansbury, when played in his preferred central role you certainly see the best of him.
I stand firm on my evaluation of our captain; he is capable of great things as you all witnessed on Friday, but must be more consistent.
He performed like a captain against Barnsley and I’ll bet he was absolutely buzzing when he returned home that night.
For the most part in football, you get out of it what you put in. If Lansbury can put in anywhere near that kind of performance on a regular basis, it will bode very well for all involved!