As the 2017-18 season comes to a close, we take a look back at what has been one of the most difficult for Forest, both on and off the pitch.
Pre-season started with a change in management at Forest. Elias Jutkevius departed as first team manager, and was replaced by his former number two, Qayum Shakoor. At the time of his appointment, Shakoor said “We aim to offer young, hungry players opportunities to progress up the football ladder, via strong links that have seen numerous scouts attend our fixtures. This has resulted in our players training with clubs such as Fleetwood Town, Aberdeen and Crawley Town, as well as clubs in Spain, Italy and Denmark.”s This was perhaps a sign of things to come for Forest.
It’s always hard to gauge a team’s level from pre-season matches, but after a promising draw against Aveley, Forest lost 3-1 to Wembley, Manford Way and Grays Athletic. The final pre-season game came at home to Stotfold, where Forest put in an impressive performance to win 5-1. But come the end of the season, Stotfold sit firmly rooted to the foot of the Spartan League table.
The first league game of the season was a visit to a wet Hullbridge, often a tough place to visit. In what was probably a sign of things to come, two pretty leaky defences played out a 2-2 draw, with Forest coming from behind twice. Indeed, we missed a hatful of chances in the last few minutes, and should have taken all three points.
August started awfully, with a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Takeley, who many tipped to push for promotion this season. Mo Sagaf got his first goal for the club, but a number of defensive mistakes cost a Forest side which had already made five changes since the first game of the season just three days earlier – a sign of the inconsistency which would blight Forest’s season.
Two of Forest’s most promising players then departed, with Muhammadu Faal and Nana Yiadom joining Dulwich Hamlet in the Isthmian Premier.
It was therefore a bit of a surprise when Ohiami Long’s 90th minute goal secured an FA Cup draw against the always strong FC Romania. Forest took a 14th minute lead through Germaine Dua in the replay, but couldn’t hold on, eventually going out 2-1. The visit of West Essex sat in between the two FA Cup fixtures, where Essex completed a extremely routine 2-0 win.
Already on their third goalkeeper of the season, Forest picked up three points against a 10-man Wadham Lodge side, with a comfortable 3-1 win where Dan Medina, Brad Harris and Josh Wandera scored three first half goals.
A trip to a deserted Spotted Dog followed, with an own goal and one from Nathan Okoye secured a point against Clapton, though it was another game where Forest rued missed chances against a very below par Tons side.
September was a busy month for Forest, playing 8 games across league and cup competitions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an especially positive one. A dreary performance at Sawbridgeworth saw Forest lose 2-0 before an even worse effort meant Tower Hamlets put five past us. A trip to step 6 Framlingham should have been winnable (on paper, at least), but Forest failed to turn up and were easily beat 2-0. By now, Forest hadn’t even looked like scoring in three games. So it was a bit of a turn up when former Forest manager Tony Ievoli’s Woodford Town were seen off 4-1, thanks to goals from Hafeez Sanusi, Vicente Belho, Azhad Masoud and Mohamed Koita.
Conceding injury time goals became a habit for Forest this season, with eight points dropped from conceding goals in the 90th minute or later. Steve Carvell’s 94th minute goal grabbed his Sporting Bengal side three points at Wadham Lodge in a 3-2 win, but Forest bounced back to win against Hackney Wick – Brad Harris’ goal straight from a corner the highlight.
A 3-0 defeat to a clinical Saffron Walden side in Essex Senior Cup didn’t seem to affect Forest too much as they went 2-0 up against Southend Manor just four days later. After completely dominating the first half and sitting comfortably, Forest let in three soft second half goals to lose 3-2.
Tomorrow, we look at the run in to the new year.