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Lancashire Experience: Ill-gotten Gains

30 September 2012

Health Warning time! This is not for the faint hearted. As always the opinions expressed in this X-rated report are based on the fans eye view (i.e. mine) and are categorically not representative of Nottingham Forest Football Club (though frankly it’d be no surprise of the club were to concur with any of what’s written here). 

Everyone knows that derby games have a different edge compared to other fixtures, though it would be fine if it was merely a matter of bragging rights at least until the next meeting. 

Unfortunately when it comes to facing D3rby, the manner in which the fixture is won or lost is more the talking point. 

That’s three on the bounce we’ve lost now to this lot, each occasion shrouded in its own controversy, and this latest episode has left me (and countless others no doubt) more than slightly P****d off about it. 

As far as our most Berated and Hated were concerned it was business as usual: single out the hit-man and subject to enough rough stuff to get them either stretchered off, sent off or preferably both.  Today’s unlucky winner was Dex who was subjected to a torrent of heavy stuff, though he was far from alone in the first half. 

It didn’t take D3rby long to cotton on to the fact the referee (more, a lot more of which later) was giving them carte blanche to carve us up at will with virtually no incentive to stop and who wouldn’t get more than slightly rattled at that? 

Predictably SOD was the very essence of diplomacy in the post-match interview, refusing to be drawn on the contentious sending-off, presumably resigned to the fact that any successful appeal is about as likely as a basement flat in Hebden Bridge remaining watertight with all this stinking rain we’ve had. 

Fortunately that requirement doesn’t apply to the humble fan, and it was reassuring to find most fans who commented shared the same view – tantamount to Mr Madley about as likely to appear on anyone’s Christmas card list as this year’s English summer going down as one of the driest.

Fixture
FLC 30 September 2012, 1315
Nottingham Forest 0 – 1 D3rby County
Venue
The City Ground
Weather/Conditions
Overcast, but mainly dry
Away fans
As vile and ugly as ever, all 4000 of them.  They contributed to a typical derby day atmosphere as you’d expect, at least at the start.  They quietened down as Forest attacked their end first half and then resorted to the usual gleeful chants following their fortuitous advantage.
TimekeepingWonders will never cease!  Could the presence of the Sky TV cameras be the sole reason we actually kicked off on time today?  Surely not….
The Match
First half all Forest, punctuated by some cynical challenges from Jake Buxton, Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and that lard mountain Conor Sammon. Dex and Reidy on receiving end of a severe battering. Neither ‘keeper severely tested, with Forest creating little in the way of clear cut chances. D3rby resorting to the usual tactics and conning the ref at every turn, culminating in Dex’s dismissal 30 seconds into the second half. The ref must have been the only person in an entire arena of almost 30000 people and the lack of reaction from any D3rby players or fans suggested there was NO WAY this was ever a sending off.  Forest, clearly (and understandably) rattled at the injustice of it all allowed their guard to slip for nine minutes, long enough for D3rby to mount a rare attack involving Paul Coutts’ shot being blocked into the path of Craig Bryson who hammered home from a couple of yards, enough to send the 4000 ugly mugs behind into gleeful celebration.  Was ever a goal so ill-deserved?  Maybe that’s why D3rby lacked the strength to go on and kill the game off as a contest. Credit to Forest who did at least try to fight back, though I’d have liked to see Billy Sharp on a little earlier.  We also lacked the width necessary to give D3rby’s midfield anything much to worry about.  On the rare occasions we had a crack on goal Frank Fielding will have had few easier saves to make all season, even from Gillett’s cracking shot late on from 20 yards. Plenty of effort from Forest, plenty of intention.  But we lack that cutting edge in a way we’ve seen before at this stage in the season and it’s starting to hurt. All in all, a frustrating afternoon.
Highlights
Forest in control for most of first half, despite little in way of penetration, and we did at least manage to stem the D3rby tide for most of the time after going down to ten men (and nine for a short while).
Lowlights
D3rby’s cynical tactics that they got away with time after time, whilst Forest were harshly penalised.  The sending off of Blackstock undoubtedly changed the game, not least since he was our main chance of making anything happen in front of goal.
Hero
Ironic we should be enjoying Chris Cohen’s first league start since having the dubious honour of being crocked in last season’s version of this fixture.  Today’s display reminded us just how much we’ve missed him and how much we look forward to him making his presence felt once more.
Zero
No contest: see referee notes below.
Referee
It is not, never has been, and never will be, rocket science to understand the need for an experienced referee with some pedigree for handling fixtures like this.  In Robert Madley we got neither.  Was it inability or unwilling to punish D3rby’s thuggish tactics until Andy Reid collected the first card of the game for something quite innocuous by comparison?  His credibility and control of the game was blown away in that instant, not that he had any control or authority in the first place.  If Blackstock was shown a straight red for what barely warranted a yellow for an aerial challenge that never in a million years could be regarded as malicious (though which Keogh predictably made a meal of) why was Buxton allowed to get away with no fewer than FIVE bookable offences before eventually being carded?  By my reckoning D3rby should have been down to nine men by the break.  The crowning glory came late on whilst Fielding employed time-wasting tactics by holding onto the ball beyond the regulation time with Cox and Lansbury bearing down on him.  So who gets booked?  Who do you think? One cannot help but wonder what information referees get passed to them prior to a fixture, especially one of this significance, and how they should treat certain clubs.  Based on what I’ve seen so far this season (and several previous for that matter) I can only deduce that referees come with a brief to single out Forest for harsh treatment for some offence that neither you nor I will ever find out when or how it occurred. What’s more, I doubt Mr Madley will have had any qualms about it given the 4th official today was a Mr Woolmer, possibly the same one who enraged the Forest travelling support big-style at Walsall seven years ago for sending off Rune Pedersen for a challenge as tenouous as Blackstock’s was on Keogh today? As already stated, anyone in an official capacity will be strictly limited on what they can say on today’s incidents.  What cannot be argued however, is the fury of 20000+ fans.  Hearing chants of ‘Worst ref in history’ for the first time ever just about says it all.
Entertainment Value6/10 – if only for Forest trying to make a decent fist if it.
Promotion Rating4 – Referee blunders or not, some concerns beginning to emerge.
Misc
All sorts of theories are being bounced around now as we slither down the table – did the recent international break really upset our rhythm, and can we use the next one to get it back?  Have we really been sussed out now? Why have we become brittle at the back all of a sudden?  Is this revamped squad still in the gelling process?  Whatever the reason, the early season gloss has well and truly worn off now – not a good prospect with Blackburn due in town this week, one hopes we can capitalise on their current predicament whilst they search for a new manager.  A couple of back-to-back wins now should see us right.  But with Cox, Blackstock and Guedioura all suspended, suddenly all those loan signings have some significance, though who will partner Billy Sharp on Wednesday is anyone’s guess right now.  If this gives JJ the ideal platform on which to make his City Ground return, then bring it on!

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