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There's Only One Reds in Nottingham

20 October 2012

Ahh, that’s much more like it!  For the first time in what seems like many months of not a couple of years we’ve finally been convinced that Forest have not forgotten how to turn domination into goals after all.  Even better that it was at the expense of the division’s top club, against whom our record is inconsistent to say the least. 

Of course, the international break has intervened since the win at Peterborough, and whatever peoples’ theories as to how helpful or disruptive they’ve been this season, there was nothing like a clash with a high-flying club to put them to the test.  We’ve had our share of heartache in the playoffs over the last ten years, but I think Cardiff can probably trump that now, having advanced further and still not achieved promotion.  If promotion was decided purely by clubs’ length of time spent at this level, I reckon both Cardiff and Forest would be pretty much front of the queue.  If only it were that simple.

With the season almost at the quarter stage, no-one is showing signs of running away with it.  Since scaling the dizzy heights of third place early on we’ve dropped to 14th place and back-to-back wins have returned us to touching distance of the playoffs, whilst Blackpool who led only a month ago are now below us.  In short, this season’s Championship is tighter than it’s been for years, and it’s about as easy to predict the main promotion contenders now as it is for our politicians to know how best to organise a p*** up in a brewery.

FLC 20 October 2012, 1500
Nottingham Forest 3 – 1 Cardiff City
The City Ground
Fair, becoming bright, dry
Away fans
A predictably noisy contingent of approx. 1500. Noisy, that is, until the 27th minute when they were silenced by Forest’s double strike.  The brevity of their goal celebration late in the game underlined they were never going to pull three back in 15 minutes. Many still wearing the blue of old, now relegated to the club’s away colours.
TimekeepingWould you believe it?  Another punctual 3 O’clock start, and not a TV camera in sight!  Some faffing about ensured the 2nd half would be late starting, though.
The Match
Eventually Cardiff decided to try playing football long enough to put some moves together, though the normally vocal travelling support’s silence suggested they’d left it far too late. Their consolation goal 15 minutes from time came after our defence had gone to sleep, a high looping ball into the box was calmly headed in by a poorly marked Helguson to start a jittery finale, especially when a sustained attack saw Smith’s shot denied by the upright then Noone by Ayala and then Camp in rapid succession.  Despite our two-goal lead, the last thing we needed now was a repeat of the closing stages of the Charlton game, but then we suffered a further setback when Guedioura’s second yellow reduced us to ten men for the final six minutes (plus five for stoppages!).  Fortunately some disciplined and crisp passing to feet saw us spin out much of the remaining period, with The Moose and Maloney called in to help shore things up.
Needless to say the second half would prove a different story and Cardiff certainly came roaring back, though not before they found themselves three down, courtesy of genuine cause for celebration.  Barely two minutes from the off, and Billy Sharp works a neat one-two with the newly-arrived Radi (on for Cox) and although it left him with only Marshall to beat, it was a tight angle and far from the easiest chance he’s had since arriving here.  Not that Billy appeared the remotest bit bothered, and promptly buried it to spark wild celebration in the stands.
Could loosely be described as a game of two halves once Forest had got to grips with Cardiff’s tendency to take a leaf out of D3rby’s book with the belief that a physical approach was more likely to get results.  What cannot be denied however, is that love him or loathe him, Cardiff sorely missed the injured Craig Bellamy and lacked any kind of punch up front in the first half, save an early attempt requiring a good block from Ayala. This scrappy period was brought to an end when Cox was brought down 2 yards outside the box by McNaughton, a challenge worthy of a yellow card, though the absence of which was punished in a much better way.  Up steps Reidy for the free kick which appeared to sail over the wall in slow motion to land in the top corner. Exquisite. It had been coming, but we had barely enough time to get used to being a goal up midway through the first half, because 90 seconds later we were two up.  This time a trademark Halford long throw was the vehicle (cue various towels dotted around the edge of the pitch being grabbed by Halford and Gunnarsson at regular points) and despite an initial clearance by Cardiff, Halford’s cross then found Ayala unmarked who headed home for his first Forest goal. Compared to all our other games so far this season this was dreamland, and chants directed at the Bridgford Lower of ‘Top of the League, you’re having a laugh’ gave you the measure of the calibre of this Cardiff side with its Bellamy-shaped void all too plain to see.
Billy Sharp’s goal to end the wait for his first strike – his reaction and celebration in front of the delighted Trent End told its own story, though Reidy and Ayala’s goals were superbly taken too.  The controlled passing to feet during several stages of the game had the home fans almost moaning with delight, and I can’t remember the last time that every move sparked wild applause like it did today.
Forest defence going to sleep to allow Helguson to pull a really soft goal back. Discipline is still a concern, exemplified by SOD’s decision to replace Cox at HT following his outburst at being booked (yet again) which almost landed him in further trouble, and Guedioura’s rash challenge which did land him in further trouble.
Lee Camp was outstanding, following being a virtual spectator in first half, his saves kept the 2nd half onslaught at bay. Ayala’s confidence continues to grow, today making him a hero at both ends for the first time.  Reidy’s influence was a constant as usual, and Radi’s trickery created openings, crowned by the chance created for Billy to open his goal account.
Guedioura’s first game back from suspension, and another ban to follow.  Although unlucky to be initially booked for diving (from the Trent End Upper it looked a genuine stumble, though we’ve seen them given!) his rash tackle later on was worthy of a card.  Really need to sort this one, Adlene!
Darren Drysdale – No particular form of note, and for first half hour did OK, but similar to recent experiences here, he was typically lenient with Cardiff’s shoving and shirt-pulling whilst Guedioura’s 58th minute booking looked decidedly harsh – a decision which would have further ramifications later on.
Entertainment Value8/10 – Once Forest were up and running this really felt like a step back two/three years in time when domination had goals to show for it week in week out – at home at least.  Despite Cardiff’s wrestling tendencies, some beautifully controlled passing to feet by Forest made for the best performance of the season.
Promotion Rating1 – Some more games like this and we’ll certainly be in the reckoning.
Inevitably today’s programme featured a favourite from both clubs.  First he was theirs, a few years later he was ours, then he went back to being theirs to languish on the bench, and now he’s been farmed out to an Israeli club on loan. Even with our decent strike force now, I’d still have Robbie Earnshaw back tomorrow, and Cardiff missing Bellamy would probably have wanted him back today. Whatever happened to the half-time entertainment?  At the start of the season we had a great guest singer competing for our very own N-Factor, plus a new fan’s challenge which last time out was over after a single kick.

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