I swapped the City Ground for the Nigel Doughty Academy on Saturday and I was not disappointed.
Instead of watching the first team beat QPR in the FA Cup, I chose to watch the Forest Under 18 side play Coventry City.
To say it was a wise decision is an understatement, it was a belter of a game.
I last watched the U18s against Leeds back in September and I was blown away by the performance of Jordan Gabriel, so it was no surprise to see him turn pro last week. I will be returning at the end of the season for another look at the young guns to see how they have progressed.
Jack Lester’s men lined up with a 4-4-2 formation and started the game at a frenetic pace, passing the ball with real precision and accuracy. It was no surprise when they went ahead in the 5th minute; great one touch play between Ben Brereton and Kieran Hayes set up a close range finish for Liam Adams. If anything the pace seemed to increase, within the next ten minutes there were four clear cut goal scoring attempts. Elvis Otim, Brereton and Adams came close for Forest, whilst Coventry’s Tom Bayliss missed a sitter having been unmarked six yards out.
The link up play between Adams, Hayes, Brereton and Anthony Wright was superb; they looked like they could pick each other out blindfolded. Brereton forced yet another save from Ganley in the visitor’s goal with an audacious flick, but the giant striker made it count just a minute later as he stooped to head home a cracking cross from Adams. It was like watching a 5-aside game and you barely had time to draw breath.
Coventry were gifted a passage back into the game when Charlie Jemson gave away possession and was punished by Hendricks who stroked home from close range. Unbelievably Coventry almost equalised soon after, but Jordan Wright got down brilliantly to deny Bayliss.
The electric action continued as both teams scored again before half time. Forest manufactured a beauty after 30mins when Hayes crossed for Brereton, once again he produced a fancy flick, this time into the path of Wright who cracked home from twelve yards out. Alex Lacovitti was denied by an unbelievable save from the sky blue’s keeper before the break, but Coventry had the last laugh of the half. Chris Camwell’s 35 yard free kick gave Jordan Wright no chance as he pulled it back to 2-3, which flattered the sky blues as they went in at half time.
I’d seen more incidents in that first half than in the season to date with the first team. The spectators needed a rest as much as the players. Surely the second half would see a slower tempo? Not a chance; Forest went further ahead soon after the restart. Hayes crossed for Brereton who was clattered by the keeper and the ref pointed to the spot. Brereton took it himself and scored with ease.
The midfield pairing of Elvis Otim and Jake Taylor began to dictate the pace of the game and it was only a matter of time before Forest went further ahead. Lovely link up play down the right was eventually finished in some style by full back Joseph Re who had started his run from deep.
The game finally began to slow down, but only a little. Coventry hit a post from another free kick and Hayes came close again for the reds. Jack Lester began make changes with twenty minutes to go; Kyle McClean replaced Anthony Wright.
Coventry were themselves awarded a penalty but Jordan Wright produced a stunning save to deny Jak Hickman. This prompted more subs from Forest as Adams made way for Virgil Gomis and Hayes for Arvin Appiah. What really impressed me here was the way in which the subs replicated the guys they’d replaced, the balance of the side was maintained brilliantly. Credit to Jack Lester; it was a fine example of good coaching. And for the academy in general it’s proof of a working philosophy. The reds struck a post once more before Alex Lacovitti sealed the drubbing with a great header at the back post. It finished 6-2 to Forest but they could have easily scored ten, justification of their table topping position.
Wow! Eight goals, a brilliant penalty save and some fantastic one touch football. These boys look like a well oiled machine, and if this is the future then it’s looking good. Left back Tom Gamblen is about the only player I’ve not mentioned, for the record he didn’t put a foot wrong. The undoubted man of the match was big Ben Brereton; he has all the attributes to push for the first team in the not too distant