OPINION: Nottingham Forest 1 Fleetwood Town 0

Barton applauds the Cod Army
Barton applauds the Cod Army
Share this article

They might not have reached the second round of the Carabao Cup but Joey Barton’s side sent a message at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground that says – we mean business.

If the signings of Paul Coutts, Ched Evans and more made people look at Fleetwood Town, those back-to-back League One wins have piqued the interest of many.
But strangely it is this defeat that should make people in the third tier stand up and take note of Barton’s side as promotion contenders.
They hinted in the opening two games that they have the ingredients for a promotion charge but at Forest Barton laid out his blueprint for success.
Dressed in an all-navy suit, Barton channelled a touch of Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino.
On the opening day he wore a FTFC-initialled training kit – a kind of ‘I could still play if I wanted to’ message.
For AFC Wimbledon a new suit was on display – navy, white shirt and a red Fleetwood tie.
But with the club anorak on top it was a bit too ‘accountant does school run’.
But it looks as though he has found his season’s attire at Forest – navy suit, navy tie, navy shirt. It says he means business.
And my, did he get his tactics right.
Town’s boss has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game and he certainly showed some nous.
It was a similar set-up to Peterborough away but without the early goals. Fleetwood went for the jugular early doors that day, and with two goals in 13 minutes sat back.
They went to Forest determined to unsettle the home faithful and park that bus.
But Forest started like a rocket, with Alex Cairns forced to show his class with a fine stop from Mir. It looked like there would be a long night ahead.
But as soon as the nerves of playing at the City Ground settled Town became calm. The hosts only really threatened in the first half from set-pieces.
They looked strong defensively against a Championship side.
I was critical of both Harry Souttar and Peter Clarke on Saturday for their defending against the Dons in the swirling rain.
But they stepped up a gear to nod, clear and block anything in that box on set-pieces.
Heroic defending at times, with Cairns barely tested after that early scare.
If Town can defend like that in League One, they won’t concede many but consistency is something they need to find.
It was a fault last term.Clarke and Souttar impressed at Peterborough but looked shaky in the Wimbledon win.
After a strong showing against Forest they must now back that up against Doncaster.
And credit to Barton for sticking with his men. It would be easy for him to have thrown Ash Eastham into the mix.
But Clarke and Souttar justified their selections, though the Stoke City loanee could have done more to stop Tiago Silva’s 59th-minute winner.
One lapse of concentration helped the Forest man to get an inch and he thundered the ball past a helpless Cairns.
Silva was clinical and again, a small tricky footballer had Souttar’s number, like Kwesi Appiah on Saturday.
But he is here to learn and that was just one blot in an otherwise impressive performance. Barton’s plan was always to make changes on the hour and refresh his forward pack.
Hunter would make way early, though, as his fairytale night would not end on a happy note.
After his release by Burton at 17, he travelled the country watching Forest. But on a night that saw him make his 200th professional appearance for Town he could not make his mark. Anyone at Fleetwood will tell you his fairytale is just beginning but he must learn from this.
It was Josh Morris who entered the mix with Conor McAleny after the goal, with Town shifting to that 4-2-3-1 that slayed the Dons.
But McAleny could not convert Paul Coutts’ knock-down in the box after the ex-Blades man had stung the palms of Samba.It just seemed like it was not to be for Town.
They tried and caused real problems in those closing stages, with even Souttar thrown up top.
It was a bit reminiscent of the 2016-17 promotion-chasing season but, heck, it works.
It is good to see Barton dipping into the Uwe Rosler philosophy.
If it was not for Souttar’s blond locks, it could have been Cian Bolger charging up there. Let’s hope that promotion push is on again, though.
McAleny just needs a goal and when Madden put a one- on-one opportunity wide you just knew it was not to be.
But Town will need that luck later in the season, not now.
And missing opportunities in the third game is not something to be sniffed at. Because the opportunities are being created
McAleny will get that goal and when he does hopefully we will see the player that we all expected him to be when he arrived in 2017 – a striker too good for League One.
One man who impressed was Ross Wallace.
He only re-signed on Saturday, but on his second debut Wallace showed glimmers of the hunger and desire we wanted to see all of last season.
He forced Samba into a smart save and provided some late handbags at the end.
We want more of that, Ross.
And we want more of this football.
The goals did not arrive at Forest but it was perhaps the announcement of something special despite defeat.