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Stalking the Ex - Assessing Zach Clough’s Nottingham Forest Debut

There's still a chance we could get back together. Right?

There was something excruciatingly watchable about Zach Clough's debut for Nottingham Forest, live on Sky Sports at the City Ground.

I mean, you wouldn't follow your ex to the cinema with her new gentleman friend, would you?

You wouldn't sit three rows behind them, deliberately coughing during the intimate scenes of a rom-com, rustling your popcorn excessively as the will-they-won't-they on-screen couple declare their affections for one another.

You wouldn't follow them in the car, praying to any almighty deity that will listen to your pleas that she won't invite him in for "coffee". There's never coffee.

Just me? Ok.

I won't deny it, there's an unsubtle but nonetheless beautiful poetry when seeing the name Clough on the back of a Nottingham Forest shirt.

In fact, after just eight minutes, when Clough's name had been uttered by the commentator, Don Goodman replied: "it just feels right, that". When the game had started, I'd forgotten my broken heart, and was willing Zach to do himself proud.

Like Bolton Wanderers, Forest have seen much better days, but it's a club steeped in footballing history. As far as new homes go, though he can undoubtedly aspire to better, there are far worse clubs to make the next step.

Clough, given the number 16 shirt at the City Ground, was employed in the number 10 position behind sole striker Britt Assombalonga, a role recently vacated by Henri Lansbury, who made his return to Forest for the visiting Aston Villa.

However, after just 24 minutes, Clough had moved out to the left wing, with Jamie Ward moving in-field.

Clough's first touch was an attempted pass to Ward which went straight out of play.

Hardly the best of starts. However he soon made amends, picking up the ball from deep and running at James Chester, before powering a shot way over. Forest started well, and enjoyed 70% of possession in the first ten minutes.

The game soon changed in the 19th minute, when Jack Grealish (whom I've always maintained is inferior to Zach) teed up Jonathan Kodjia, who curled a wonderful effort in at the far post. Villa were 1-0 up. From that point, Villa's 3-5-2 formation seemed to nullify Forest's attaching threat, with Clough nor Assombalonga seeing much of the ball.

That changed in the 34th minute, when Forest won a free kick, located very much in Clough territory. Clough elected to take from 22 yards out. In an almost carbon copy of his last goal for Wanderers at home to Charlton, Clough went for the far post.

Unfortunately, his effort whistled just wide. However, the tide had turned, and the home side were on top. Their pressure paid of when Clough cut in from the left wing in the 41st minute, teeing up Jamie Ward, whose shot was spilled by Sam Johnstone, only for Britt Assombalonga to bundle home.

Forest came out for the second half in buoyant mood. However, the second half lacked the pace of the first. As the game became more frantic, the creative players from both sides became increasingly sidelined. Clough would be dragged inside in the hope that he'd see more of the ball.

With 74 minutes on the clock, Zach appeared to have switched to the right side of the three supporting midfielders. Cash was replaced by Brereton, who occupied the left wing. The fluidity of Forest's creative midfielders would be impressive if it paid dividend - in fact, it's bloody annoying trying to keep up.

What's worth noting is that both Cash and Ward were substituted before Zach (Ward was replaced by Thomas Lam with 13 minutes to go). Though he had a quiet game, you can't doubt that Zach was given a fair crack at the whip in his first game.

The ill-disciplined Grealish, who had been booked for kicking the ball away in the first half, was shown a second booking in the 78th minute for a trip on Eric Lichaj. Steve Bruce reacted, substituting Jonathan Kodjia and Scott Hogan for right back Leandro Bacuna and winger Albert Adomah.

Forest dominated, but couldn't break through Villa's resolute defence. Zach found space on the edge of the Villa box in the 83rd minute, only to strike well over.

With four minutes left, Zach was substituted for Mustapha Carayol to a decent ovation from the City Ground. Forest went on to find the illusive winner when Brereton fired home from an Assombalonga knock down.

All in all, it was a quiet debut from Clough, with some flashes of his ability. I'd be keen to know what Forest fans think of the Bolton Messi's debut.

For us fans? Well, they say time's a healer. But I prefer booze. Lots of booze. So much booze that you look at Chris Long on the TV and see a blurred figure that may as well be my departed love.

My tears could fill the River Trent; Zach could be the second Clough to walk on it.