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Lancashire Red: Revived 45’s

3 August 2013

Ah, there you are!  This summer feels like it’s gone on much longer than usual, or maybe we’re still getting used to the idea we’re actually getting weather worthy of feeling like summer. Or maybe summer should be re-named the silly season given the shenanigans of the so-called Premiership elite, whose every move has the world’s media literally panting in anticipation. A re-make of David Essex’s hit song Oh, What a Circus! wouldn’t even come close what with the protracted negotiations over Gareth Bale’s prospective move to Real, speculation over whether Man City can recapture their lost Premiership crown, and a warm welcome to that perennial circus to establish which player can emerge as Poncey Premiership Primadonna of The year, or in Joey Barton’s case simply Twitter’s Twit of the Year. And all that before we’ve even come to the massive wind of change at Old Trafford – oh. let’s simply not go there! As I say, and continue to yell in eternal frustration, it’s NOT all about The Filth! And apart from that reluctant mention these columns will continue to be Filth-free.

The biggest question of all however concerns something at our level. Quite simply: when is a transfer embargo not a transfer embargo? The fact that Udinese masquerading as Watford still managed to sign 14 players during this period – half of whom were between the clubs that created this loophole in the first place – makes a mockery of the authority in whoever imposed the embargo. In short, it stinks.

Blimey! Talk about getting fired up before a single ball’s been kicked. Welcome back to another season of Lancashire Red’s random ramblings, designed to give something of a sideways view on life as a Forest fan. I doubt anyone would deny that 2013 has been an interesting year so far, with the return of certain managers making for an intriguing theme. Doubtless the national media will be far more interested in The Special One’s second term at Stamford Bridge, but here on Trentside we’re more than content with the return of the man with Unfinished Business, which was far and away the high point of last season’s rollercoaster ride – only winning promotion at Wembley was ever likely to eclipse that.

So the fairy tale didn’t quite happen, but with an encouraging pre-season who says it won’t happen this time round? In a year we’ve seen a lot of long-awaited things finally happen, like Murray finally winning Wimbledon, are we going to see Forest back in the Prem before they’ve finished dualling the A453? As work there gathers pace, you can hear that clock ticking louder and louder.

So much for the prologue to another season of match reports through the eyes of the humble fan. What did we get today, then? Well if you can ignore the predictable (and IMO downright tedious) hype surrounding Harry Redknapp and QPR, I suppose it was as enjoyable as any other opening day, with the combination of warm weather and the Riverside festival to enjoy before the game an added bonus. Note to Simon Cowell, though. Forget about screening your X-Factor contest this year. The blonde girl with the guitar (sorry didn’t check the name but was on around 2pm) playing, among other numbers (both original and covered), Brown-eyed Boy could win it all on her own. The pub however had used the summer break as a chance to increase the price of a pint, something we’ll have to get used to, I suppose. Likewise the unwieldy 45rpm sized matchday programme which I hoped was just a one-season experiment. Content seems OK, though getting familiar with new/revamped features sometimes takes time at the start of a new season. A surprisingly short and unspectacular introduction by BD, though this may have been to accommodate some notes by Fawaz on the same page. Like the red cover, though.

Elsewhere, a lick of paint here and there, familiar faces to greet when taking my seat and trying to spot the differences with the usual pre-match music and routines. I can’t comment on half time as I disappeared into the concourse for a chat with friends, and in any case the half time ‘entertainment’ in recent years has been about as entertaining as watching paint dry whilst sleeping. The new home kit gets a nod of approval, a vast improvement since switching to Adidas – personally I thought the Umbro offerings were becoming increasingly drab, with most of the 2011-12 kit and training gear representing an all-time low.

Of course it would be anyone’s guess who might be playing today given the enormous strength in depth suddenly at BD’s disposal, and the anticipation of yet further signings can only be good news. Some of the regulars, sure, with Cohen, an amazingly slimmed-down Reidy and Lansbury featuring as you’d expect. Lichaj, Hobbs and Mackie among the new arrivals with de Vries and Paterson on the bench. However the boldest move was the inclusion of two forgotten men: Matt Derbyshire, having impressed during pre-season up front alongside Cox, and Ishmael Miller on the bench for a cameo late on.  Anyway, here’s the key stuff on today. 

Fixture
The Championship, Saturday 3rd August, KO 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest 1 - 0 Huddersfield Town
Venue
The City Ground
Weather/Conditions

Clear, bright
Away fans

2000 fans (dormant for long spells) confined to the bottom corner of the stand following NFFC reclaiming part of the Bridgford Lower. Most of them wearing Town’s traditional stripes though when they have ever clashed with the Forest red and white I don’t know, since today their team wore all yellow, clashing with the bibs worn by the Forest bench necessitating poncey pink tank tops to be worn on top.
Timekeeping
Some things don’t change! With the teams only coming out at two minutes to three there was bound to be a delay in kicking off, especially with Forest losing the toss and having to change ends to defend the Bridgford End. Did well to kick off only two minutes late.
The Match
We ought to have killed the game off as we entered stoppage time when at long last we caught them on the break in an exquisite move. Reid advanced left of centre with Miller keeping well up and was in perfect position to receive Reid’s pass. When it came however it was too high off the ground and Miller had no chance controlling it in the limited space he had, and under pressure from a defender the chance was lost. Only a couple more minutes though and the job was done.
 
In between all of this there were one or two scares when Dixon headed narrowly wide and Vaughan nearly made Collins pay for a mishit clearance, but it was Hobbs whose functional tackles spared our blushes.
 
This undoubtedly marked a turning point as Forest looked like the pressure had distinctly been lifted, and to their credit settled down and played some decent if unspectacular football, and also allowed one or two personnel changes. Jamie Paterson came on to a rousing welcome from the Forest fans as he replaced Cox, Henderson replaced Mackie and, most notably Derbyshire came off to a standing ovation as he made way for Ishmael Miller. Who’d have thought that to happen even a few weeks ago?
 
And it was at this point that Captain Marvel delivered us from the growing frustration being felt in the stands. Having been fed the ball by Reidy, he advanced at pace, cutting through Town’s midfield like a knife through butter, exchanging a deft one-two with Cox before turning at the by-line and squeezing in an exquisite cross from the left, drawing Smithies in the process and leaving Lansbury with the job of saying thank you very much from two yards. Breakthrough at last, on 53 minutes, though even the goal celebration seemed strangely surreal. I was never originally a big fan of celebration music (probably stemmed from watching us concede too many goals away from home) yet here there was something distinctly missing. Don’t know whether this was a one-off or whether the music has been shelved altogether, though in the fine tradition of Forest goals the fans made up for it by quickly launching into ‘Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.’
 
This changed after the break though, when Darlow was called into action just seconds after the restart when Town broke through before Vaughan’s cracking shot forced arguably the save of the match as Darlow had to dive low to his right to deny Vaughan at the near post. This was one of the few scares we had all afternoon, but it did at least galvanise us into some more positive action, albeit Guedioura leaning back far too much was only ever going to result in people in the Bridgford Upper taking cover.
 
Could loosely be described as a game of two halves, with predictably neither side creating much at first. For Forest it was a typical opening-day performance, with repeated dead-end balls channelled down the left, too many balls being pumped up the middle with heavily-marked Derbyshire never going to get under or control the high ball, the midfield too slow to move forward so allowing the Terriers’ defence plenty of time to fall back, leaving the strikers starved of service hence Mackie having an unproductive game despite showing plenty of intention. There was also the tendency to give the ball away when attempting anything fancy when a simple pass would have sufficed and Guedioura ballooned into Row Z at least twice. Like I say, all pretty standard fare for an opening day, though in fairness this bore all the hallmarks of a squad of players still getting to know each other. In the opposite direction our blushes were spared by Huddersfield’s consistently poor crossing with Hunt more keen on giving his fans a touch of the ball than feeding James Vaughan who was Huddersfield’s main threat. All the same, Darlow and Smithies were reduced to role of spectators pretty much throughout the opening period, and Radio Nottingham spent more time describing Darlow’s kit than any of his actions on the pitch.
Highlights
Cohen’s lung-busting run incorporating a smart one-two with Cox before squaring to Lansbury for the goal. Darlow’s spectacular close-range save a couple of minutes earlier ensured we were not left chasing the game. Excellent debuts from Lichaj and Hobbs. Sending on Miller and Hendo late in the game to run at a tiring Terriers defence was a BD masterstroke.
Lowlights

First half pretty tedious with few chances created. A potential safety issue coming out of the Trent End after the final whistle. Heavy downpour or not, the serious congestion in the covered passageway outside the Trent End prevented fans coming down the stairs from moving for almost ten minutes in rising temperatures, not to mention fans’ impatience. Had any kind of emergency situation arisen this could have turned into something quite horrific. And where were the safety stewards?
Hero

A captain’s performance by Cohen, and a solid display at the back from Lichaj and Hobbs meant Darlow was rarely troubled.
Zero

Collins still looked cumbersome and error-prone at times which with less forgiving opposition would have cost us.
Referee
Graham Salisbury – Did OK. Showed restraint in use of yellow cards, though this did not apply to ex-Red Joel Lynch, much to the amusement of the home fans.
Entertainment Value

4/10 – second half atoned slightly for a dull opening 45. More a functional win than anything else.

5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
Promotion Rating
2 – Always hard to tell after just one game. Plenty to be pleased about, though equally plenty of food for thought. Out of our five August league fixtures this was easily the most winnable, even without the memory of the emphatic win we enjoyed last time this fixture was played. A few too familiar traits, especially in the first half, but on the plus side we’ve finally managed a clean sheet against Huddersfield, for the first time since our last season in the top flight!
Misc

Opinion appears divided over the performance of the PA guy today, noted not to be the usual one. Taking the Forest out of Nottingham seemed downright bizarre, though to his credit he did his best to rally the crowd stand by stand, a tactic once used by our erstwhile Steve Jordan now plying his trade on Humberside.
Predictably, the media was only interested in QPR and the other relegated Premiership clubs, and the Daily Mail online report contained basic inaccuracies like Forest celebrating only their second opening day win in seven years (so last year doesn’t count, then?) and it suggested their reporter was bored and left long before the end since Miller was listed as an unused sub.

So, a typical slow start to the season for Forest, though the win is most welcome, especially since all our promotion rivals won also. Out of all our August fixtures, it’s safe to say this was easily the most winnable, with visits to Ewood Park (must currently be our most miserable hunting ground and that must change) Vicarage Road and the DW Stadium in prospect. Still, plenty to be encouraged about, and once the squad gels this could be an exciting season for us. Time will tell whether Chris Cohen will be as pivotal over the season as Paul McKenna was as captain, but if he continues anything along the lines of today’s stirring performance the prospects are good indeed, both for him and for Forest. It’s great to be back!

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