Despite an unforgiving onslaught by Nottingham Forest which began on the half-hour and remained pretty relentless until the final whistle, Town made it three wins in a row and ended the year in the playoff positions and in damn good shape.
The character shown in an exceptionally tough away game was impressive with bodies being thrown on the line to keep the win intact.
A combination of excellent goalkeeping, intensely determined defending and some Forest profligacy delivered the unlikely win, though it should be said that Samba had to make just as many excellent saves (one) as Nicholls when he tipped a rasping O’Brien effort over, both sides hit the bar with Thomas doing so from long range in the very first minute and both missed one easy chance each.
This is not to suggest that Forest were anything other than dominant, particularly in the second half, but the sum total of their efforts resulted, roughly, into the same important metrics as Town, other than the most important one.
An entertaining first half was more evenly contested until Town took the lead on the half-hour. The impressive Colwill set Holmes free with a nice forward pass and the ex-Ram played a neat exchange with Toffolo before firing home at Samba’s near post.
With Ward off injured or ill after just 15 minutes, Town were weakened early on but not put off their stride and easily matched their in-form opponents across the pitch from the moment the pipes and drums of Mull of Kintyre faded into a bizarre Forest ritual before kick-off. What is that all about?
Holmes’ opener heralded a siege of Town’s goal for the rest of the first half and the visitors were clinging on by their fingertips and unable to relieve the pressure in any meaningful way. There was an air of the hosts not being able to see the wood for the trees, and perhaps a more guileful approach would have served them better than bludgeon, but it was a huge relief when the halftime whistle blew.
Town showed great strength of character and resilience in an extremely difficult second half of unabating pressure though, again, there wasn’t much finesse on display as Forest looked to pummel their way through.
Their best chance fell to the impressive Brennan, who will surely be playing at a higher level very soon, but he was unable to convert a straightforward opportunity after Nicholls could only parry.
O’Brien’s effort which was well saved by Samba and Sinani’s poor miss meant that Town were not entirely swamped but it was a win rather gifted by the opponent who had one of those nights which all clubs suffer from time to time.
Despite riding their considerable luck, Town did compete with personality and are beginning to become likeable as a squad again. Overcoming the early loss of Ward, dealing with the cynical targeting of O’Brien, which was never tackled by an otherwise decent referee, and coping with a furious onslaught made this a fantastic win in the circumstances.
Though Pipa’s reappearance was notable more for his first two poor touches, his availability provides Corberán with more options and the imminent return of Hogg in the New Year will provide much-needed relief for the overused High who, not unnaturally, is starting to fade a little.
Blackburn may well prove too stiff a challenge coming soon after this bruising contest, but 2022 looks a hell of a lot brighter than a lot of 2021.
Happy New Year to all.