Wise words indeed. Based on what we’ve seen over the last eight days however, that surely begs the question: has he found something even better than a magic wand? Only two games in, and we’re looking at a totally transformed squad comprising the same players that just two weeks ago looked totally rudderless and firmly on the road to nowhere. Just how has he done it?
A question as unanswerable as that asking why we didn’t beat Bolton. Yet now we’ve got our Billy Back (no surprises to hear that chanted to the rafters tonight) a sense of realism seems to have prevailed. Yes of course it would be fantastic to embark on a run of wins like we had three or four years ago that was enough to take us to the playoffs, and whilst it’s mathematically possible there’s no reason not to hope that might happen. Of course there’s some stiff competition among the chasing pack and I don’t really fancy facing any of them right now. But the commonly held view among people I’ve talked to suggests that making the playoffs this season would be something of a bonus and I would gladly take that and see where it takes us.
Tonight’s game was definitely in the winnable category, though those of us who remembered this fixture around 12 years ago will also remember the added attraction of cheap tickets to fill the ground, only to see it all go disastrously wrong when they beat us 3-1. Were we tempting fate with a similar offer tonight? There was always the possibility of a backlash after The Terriers had a right good softening up at the hands of The Latics in the Cup after all.
Just look what happened….
FLC, Tuesday 19 Feb 2013, KO 1945|
Nottingham Forest 6 – 1 Huddersfield Town
|Venue||The City Ground|
Faintly hazy, temperature dropping rapidly
|Away fans||Around 1600 took advantage of the cheap ticket offer, though many of them had seen enough with 20 minutes still to play.|
Despite the special build-up to this game, kick-off was punctual.
But wait! The fun’s not over yet. Quite a few fans had gone as we entered stoppage time, but there was time for one last hurrah when another Reid cross found Henderson who nodded home for his first Forest goal with seconds remaining. As complete a victory as you will see, and the fans went home positively buzzing.|
Yet, despite Forest going into overdrive, it certainly wasn’t all one-way traffic. Huddersfield still managed to regroup and try and catch us on the counter, albeit embarrassing themselves in the process. None more so when Vaughan broke clear with only Darlow to beat. The sight of his shot sailing well wide was enough to send hundreds of Terriers fans towards the exits and large patches of empty seats could soon be seen in the Bridgford Lower. It was still a reminder of some lapses in our defending that need to be looked at (and by this time Collins had replaced Ward) although by now everyone was on such a high the result was well beyond doubt. The tempo had inevitably dipped a little by now, rather like the temperature which seemed to be falling rapidly by the minute and the game looked set to wind down. McGugan and Henderson came on to allow Lansbury to receive a standing ovation as he left the field. You had to feel a little sorry for the hard-working Billy Sharp who played no part in the game tonight, though I suspect he was ready for a rest ahead of some tricky games coming up.
Ten minutes after the re-start and the fun continued, and rarely was a goal more deserved after the dazzling performance of Henri Lansbury had dominated the midfield tonight and Saturday. Here, he jinked his way into the Trent End box before calmly sliding the ball home from twelve yards. This was sheer bliss, and a feeling for so long absent from Trentside – say about 20 months? – was back in spades, with BD delighting the fans on all four sides of a packed City Ground with the desired response to chants of ‘Billy, Give us a wave!’
Needless to say everyone wondered if we could keep it up in the second half as we were feeling positively spoiled now for arguably the first time this season.
It was our fourth goal which was the real killer, and arguably the high point in a feast of highlights. In contrast to five minutes earlier this was a solo effort from our favourite Pole after Town’s defence was carved open by Cox before Radi unleashed a totally unstoppable rocket of nuclear strength from 30 yards which almost took the net away with it. What a goal. What a hat-trick! And how the lady who sits two places to my left will regret her decision to beat the HT crowd by disappearing to the kiosk for a drink and so missing that goal (needless to say we were quick to ask her to go and do it again!). How we enjoyed the playback during HT as the feelgood factor had once more descended on City Ground. 4-1 up, I couldn’t resist texting my Wigan-supporting girlfriend pointing out it had taken us half the time to achieve the same scoreline it took them 90 minutes to do!
If he wasn’t able to score himself, he did the next best thing by playing a major part in the next goal as a result of some superb build-up play involving himself, Guedioura and Blackstock before finally playing it on to Radi who rammed it home from 20 yards. A superbly worked team goal which had the fans positively drooling.
Three minutes later we were ahead when a trademark Reid free kick from a wide position was helped past Smithies by a glancing header from Ward and as the mood in the stands became increasingly upbeat, the players in red shirts scented blood. This period undoubtedly was the finest we’ve seen from Lansbury in a red shirt as he totally bossed the midfield, going close to scoring more than once.
It was as if everything suddenly fell into place with the lid firmly locked. The passes connected, we managed to cope with Huddersfield playing it tight (totally unlike Bolton on Saturday) and Lansbury in particular was in his element. You had to feel sorry for him though in the 20th minute when he burst into the box to go one on one with Smithies, mis-hit for the ball to fall for Radi who had the simplest of tap-in’s. Not that anyone was going to mind now we were back on terms. The next 25 minutes was one of the most awesome displays of football I have ever seen as we proceeded to rip Huddersfield to shreds, so no surprises if this report sounds a little breathless.
Then it happened………………………………CLICK!
Not part of the script was that, but the fans accepted it and got behind the boys who regrouped almost immediately. Even during the opening ten minutes we were mounting attacks of our own, albeit giving that feeling something wasn’t quite there, or like a vehicle travelling at speed with a door not quite fully shut.
One constant with every fixture I’ve watched against The Terriers is our inability to keep a clean sheet. The early exchanges set the stage for an evening of end-to-end football, with Huddersfield making it clear we were not going to have it all our own way. One early attempt to hit Darlow’s upright was the warning which we failed to heed and eight minutes later they took the lead after a Neil Danns cross from the left highlighted our defensive frailties, and gave Vaughan a relatively easy job of thumping the ball past Darlow.
|Highlights||Barring the first ten minutes or so, you could say the whole game was a spectacle right to the end. How often in the past (especially during the last 18 months) have we been able to say that? No, thought not. Take your pick of any of the goals – for me it would be Radi’s 3rd and 2nd followed by Lansbury’s in that order. Who needs Goal Of The Month with what was on offer here tonight?|
|Lowlights||Defensive frailties were exposed at times, especially in the opening 15 minutes and definitely some work still to do. But, as I’ve observed before, on a night like this when it’s all happening at the other end an odd goal conceded is a small price to pay for scintillating attacking and productive football. Those who disagree, what’s the alternative? Nil-nil football at best, lose ugly at worst. We had plenty of that last season.|
|Hero||Delighted for Radi, getting his hat-trick almost exactly a year on from his last one; Lansbury positively on fire and richly rewarded with his 55th minute goal; Reidy, as ever with some exquisite crosses; good support by Jara, just like on Saturday, Guedioura a constant threat; Darlow growing with confidence with each minute played – I could go on, but in truth everyone in a red shirt did their bit tonight to devastating effect, and how we loved them all for it!|
|Zero||Let’s just say it was a far from happy return for Joel Lynch, whose only lasting souvenir from his visit was a deserved yellow card.|
Paul Tierney – Got the balance spot on between allowing advantage when warranted and penalising some bad fouls..
|Entertainment Value||9/10 – this was like turning the clock back to some of those games during BD’s first spell here. Fun fun fun!|
|Promotion Rating||2 – With a result like this I’m finding it harder to resist drawing parallels with the 2005-06 season as I dare to dream of a repeat of a six-game (or was it seven?) winning run under Charlie and Frank [Barlow] that catapulted us from the brink of relegation mid-Feb to the top six by Easter, and it all started with that 7-1 demolition of Swindon.|
|Misc||No better time to wipe out that slowly growing goal deficit, never mind celebrate Billy’s first win since returning. The question of course, is can we keep the wins going with this new found belief? .|