Britt Assombalonga returned to the City Ground last Saturday, but was overshadowed by his cut price replacement Daryl Murphy.
The Middlesbrough striker, who cost a whopping 15 million pounds, fluffed his lines on his big day out. In stark contrast, Forest’s veteran Irishman did exactly what he’s been recruited to do, graft and score. As I keep saying, it’s early days for everyone in the Championship but this was an opportunity to prove or disprove that the 13 million pound difference in price tags were justified!
When Daryl Murphy signed for Nottingham Forest in the summer, many, including myself were surprised to see him getting a three year deal at the ripe old age of thirty four. A few thought that the transfer fee of two million pounds was excessive but as I continue to say, he cost one million more than a guy we bought in 1979! His penalty against Boro on Saturday was his third goal in as many games and placed him as the second highest marksman in the division thus far. This will come as no surprise to Newcastle United fans, who universally praised the Irishman during his brief spell at the Toon.
I watched both strikers carefully on Saturday, knowing that they’d be the basis for this very blog. Two very different types of hit men when you place them side by side and a definitive age gap also, a decade to be precise. Britt entered the arena as only he could, cocky and confident that he’d score against his former club. However; his over exuberance proved to be his undoing by the time that the final whistle had been blown. Meanwhile, Murphy seemed to go under the radar as he moved stealth like in the early periods of the match.
Forest began the game like a team possessed against Middlesbrough and the crowd certainly played their part too; mainly thanks to a pre match production from the effervescent Jonny Owen. The Welsh filmmaker who’s “I believe in miracles film” smashed the sporting film charts, is idolised by the Nottingham Forest faithful and rightly so. Had it not been for the miracles film, the club’s one hundredth and fiftieth year would have passed by the City Ground like driftwood in the Trent. As for his latest production; he’s raised the bar even higher this time.
As early as the twenty second minute I began to smell desperation in the air around Britt Assombalonga, his overreaction to a tackle by Bouchalakis was uncalled for and you got the feeling that he was trying too hard to impress. Meanwhile, Daryl Murphy continued to drop deep, pop off those early passes and rejoin the attack with those curved runs that are his trademark. In all fairness to Britt, he did get into some fantastic goal scoring positions but wasted them time after time. On another day, the Congolese forward could and should have bagged a hat trick; it would be remiss to omit the brilliance of Jordan Smith in the Forest goal whilst we’re on the subject too. He thwarted Assombalonga twice, when the former red looked odds on to get the goal he so desperately craved.
As the chances continued to go begging, Britt’s petulance increased with every miss. Following the Bouchalakis incident, he then elbowed and drew blood from Matt Mills before cynically clattering Jordan Smith in the seventy fifth minute. This was a pivotal moment in the game because the fifteen million pound man had finally imploded, much to the delight of the home supporters. Fast forward two minutes and you see a polar opposite, our two million pound veteran started and finished a sweeping move, and in doing so, the game itself as a contest. Murphy calmly controlled a ball from Eric Lichaj before holding off his marker and neatly playing in Kieran Dowell. The youngster’s cross led to Ben Brereton being bundled over for a penalty, which Murphy smashed home with ease past his Republic of Ireland team mate Darren Randolph.
My synopsis of the day’s events couldn’t have been simpler; Britt Assombalonga’s unhealthy obsession to make things personal cost his manager dearly. Meanwhile Daryl Murphy did what he’s always done; played for the team and scored in the process.
By Steve Corry