Doctored By Martens
Seeing The Three-Four The Forest
It was defeat against Belgian II.1 side FC Nottingham Forest for Grilled Birds tonight, as Grilled gave up an early lead, against the arguably better-rounded Forest. It had been a challenging campaign for head coach Leonardo Mitre and company, but the many Martens of his side exhibited a certain resilience by coming out on top here.
The lineups had the welcome sight of Islom Davlatov
returning to the squad after disturbing rumours that his foot injury had returned, and it was the usual suspects as the Birds went for an even more direct style than usual. It worked, too, as Forest found their accustomed wide three-man defence woefully underequipped with handling Grilled's undisguised ambitions to bust a way through the middle. Hungarian leftback Vincent Martens left captain and centreback Thomas Martens exposed after he tried and failed to scoot past Moey Xin Seng
, and a scooped pass to Bernie Egan
saw the red-hot Irish forward keep up his scoring streak.
The stadium commentators had, by the way, resorted to referring to the Forest players by their first names, given the suspicious preponderance of a single surname amongst them. Thus was it that Wouter led their best sequences when Forest had the ball, but the Birds were just better at pressing their case, at this stage. Vikram Mudaliar
didn't try too hard to stay on his feet when Thomas clattered him as he swerved into the box in the 31st minute, and Cyril Künzler
's textbook placement to the left bottom corner was too much for goalie Aymane Martens
This happened to be the turning point of the match, as Forest slowly became able to force the match to be negotiated on their own terms. Switching to long-ball mode with Thibeau now their key piece, they started to catch Grilled short at the back. Their first reply then came after Mudaliar's blocked strike in the 37th, as Thibeau impressively beat Moey in the air, to bring his strikers into the mix. Gilbert Webb
probably made a mistake trying to control the ball whilst heavily contested, and in the ensuing confusion, Wouter would zoom in to smash it past Massoud Dob
on the half-volley.
The game would move very quickly indeed after that, and after Thibeau received a yellow card for his takedown of Egan, a turbo-charged Forest got right into Dob's face yet again, courtesy of some sublime skill by Finn - he nutmegged Neeraj Muthyala
cleanly in what was to be one of the more forgettable moments of the Number Four's career, before lashing it precisely into the far end of goal, to equalize.
The Birds could even have gone behind before half-time, but Dob bailed them out by throwing an arm up against Robrecht's effort, just in time. It was obvious that Grilled needed an injection of urgency, and Hovaness Noubaryan
's chosen instrument would be Islom Davlatov
, who replaced the unusually-ineffective Bilal Mohammad Harun
after the break. This segued into a return of Grilled's adventure, through all they got for it was a booking for Muthyala, before Egan's attempt to overrun Aymane in the 53rd minute was defeated by the goalkeeper's quick reactions.
A draw was looking increasingly likely as Forest managed to get the Birds bogged down in midfield increasingly often, and Noubaryan made to shake it up again by withdrawing Kalki for Chan Ze Han
. It didn't turn out as intended, however, as Forest instead made the most of their first serious incursion in a long while. Wouter was again its architect as he beat all comers for pace, but in the end it was Jules Martens who got the neat finish, to give his team the lead after 73 minutes.
That accounted for, Chan was actually far from a bad choice to re-energize Grilled, and the Birds' offence would very soon again revolve around the multi-talented wunderkind. He certainly had the alertness to pounce after Yves Martens had a fatal break in concentration when up against Heng Dong Chu
, leading to the Grilled winger handily picking his pocket. Heng seemed to be seriously considering shooting by himself, only to drag it back for a grateful Chan Ze Han
at the last instant.
Alas, it was not to be for the Birds, even as they made a last change, with Prokop Mottl
getting his shot at being the hero. Forest's long ball out to Finn got through straight after Mottl got on, and it was knocked down to Vincent, who scored what would be the winner without undue delicacy. There would be some roughhousing going on after Jules Martens tries to hold the game up on a throw-in, but nothing that kept Forest from going home with the win.