Sympathy for a vanquished adversary is not an emotion many managers care to show, yet Brian Laws could not pretend it did not pain him a little to see his Scunthorpe side embarrass his old club on Saturday.
Forest were awful yet Laws, who had six years at the City Ground after Brian Clough signed him in 1988, sought not only to mitigate on their behalf but loyally insisted they will still win promotion in spite of a toothless performance that made Scunthorpe look a much likelier prospect.
Scunthorpe! The period during which Laws wore the Forest shirt was almost a decade on from the zenith of the club's achievements. "Forest will always find it tough against teams with less money and less potential because they [Forest] are the team to beat," he said. "Players are inspired by that and by playing at the City Ground, where the pitch is like a bowling green, and I thought our players today were very inspired. But Forest are a very good side and I still predict they will be promoted."
Scunthorpe kept the ball on the ground and tore Forest apart, although the goals scored by Clevedon Taylor, Andy Keogh, Iain Morris and Billy Sharp said as much about the home side's abject defending as the incisiveness of the visiting attack. Forest, however, remain top of League One and a defensive record of only six goals conceded in the first 12 matches of the season suggests this was an aberration rather than the portent of a downturn.
Colin Calderwood, their manager, is banking on that. "Hopefully, we have put all our bad performances into one basket in one day and it will not happen again until Easter," he said.
Goals: Taylor (28) 0-1; Keogh (36) 0-2; Morris (66) 0-3; Sharp (90) 0-4.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Smith; Curtis, Breckin, Morgan, Bennett; Southall, Perch, Gary Holt, Commons; Lester, Grant Holt (Harris, 56). Substitutes not used: Pedersen (gk), Thompson, James, Hughes.
Scunthorpe United (4-4-2): Murphy; Hinds, Crosby, Foster, Williams (McBreen, 83); Taylor, Sparrow, Baraclough (Mackenzie, 84), Morris; Keogh, Sharp. Substitutes not used: Lillis (gk), Byrne, Mulligan.
Referee: I Williamson (Berkshire).
Booked: Nottingham Forest Commons, Lester; Scunthorpe United Hinds, Baraclough.
Man of the match: Sharp.
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