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Lancashire Red: Value Added Treats

12 January 2013

Having been in an almost permanent bad mood since the New Year’s Day debacle at Ewood Park, aggravated by the dismal cup exit last week (as I suspect most Forest fans have been too) I’ve tried to get my head round the arguments surrounding the inexplicably timed recent change of management. But two weeks on, inexplicable remains the operative word and deja-vu a prevailing feeling.

My phone was becoming rather hot with the various messages exchanged with an increasing sense of disbelief as Final Score relished the way in which we picked up our favourite machine gun to shoot ourselves in the foot with as we threw away first our lead against Oldham then parity in personnel following Collins’ irresponsible lunge to leave us well beaten by a second Latics side in two cup competitions in the same season.

Depending on peoples’ point of view, some will be saying it will all settle down and McLeish will make his mark. How soon is anyone’s guess. This time last week the more popular consensus suggested we’re already back on the Megson/McClaren road to oblivion, and if it’s possible to identify one thing worse than losing the dressing room, it’s that the dressing room was never found in the first place for it to be lost. Such was the view at Molineux as Wolves reacted to their embarrassing FA Cup exit by dispensing with the latest incumbent apparently guilty of just that. If McLeish had found himself in this position after only three games, then he might as well have packed up and gone, sparing himself the humiliation of being the latest Forest manager to ponder over yet another defeat at the hands of our mutton-molesting neighbours. In fairness, however, if he and the boys pull off a win at Prideless Park next week, then the least we fans can do is give him a chance, even if the promotion boat has sailed without us.

But wait! There’s the small matter of that first home league game and the run-up to that. No-one could accuse him of sitting back and taking a wait-and-see approach. Newly arrived from West Brom on Thursday and straight in was Gonzalo Jara Reyes (an unknown factor but welcome nonetheless); clear direction evident with regards the goalkeeping situation and an eagerly-awaited home debut for Mr Darlow, and the welcome return of Elliott Ward. There was no need for anyone to say this was a must-win game today, though the initiatives listed above more than compensated for the enforced changes elsewhere. Collins suspended, Reid and Ayala injured and Camp effectively on gardening leave and Guedioura away on international duty. This didn’t explain why there was no place in the squad for Blackstock, especially with various prodigal sons in the form of Greening and Derbyshire on the bench today, though I sincerely hope there are positive plans for Dexter’s future on Trentside.

My special guest for today’s game was my Dad, making his first visit to City Ground for nearly eight years. This itself was a risky move since neither of his previous two visits had seen a home goal being scored, and his away record has been considerably better. No pressure then, against a Posh side just scoring goals for fun lately, and packed with ex-Forest players and loanees to possibly haunt us!

Just for a change, and as an added treat, I decided we’d upgrade and watch the game from The Castle Club (something we did once a long time ago) and I found myself almost directly below my usual Trent End seat – certainly in a good deal more comfort and warmth, though at the expense of much of the atmosphere around the ground being behind glass, not to mention the usual banter enjoyed with those normally sat around me.

FLC, Saturday 12 January 2012, 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest – Peterborough United
The City Ground

Dry, getting colder – the pitch looking increasingly worn.
Away fans
Some 1600 travelling fans for this semi-local fixture who sat largely dormant throughout, bar one small contingent near the back of the stand. Suspected little noise from them apart from when they equalised.
Seemed OK, another punctual start.
The Match
And that could have been how we would have remembered the game as the minutes ticked down, but we’ve come to learn over time that a game is more exciting with Radi on the pitch than off it, and although we know he can score spectacular goals, his prowess at taking corner kicks shouldn’t be forgotten.  This was demonstrated three minutes later when Radi’s inch-perfect delivery found Ward whose bullet header sent the home fans into rapture, and no doubt prompted a more than satisfied look on McLeish’s face having brought him back to City Ground only three days ago. Before the game had started my Dad had asked what it was like celebrating in the viewing gallery at such moments, to which I had no answer having previously seen no goals scored. Today we got answers in more ways than one – the first being more a case of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, the second enough to shatter the glass (though still probably missing much of the atmosphere normally experienced outside. A fitting climax to a thoroughly enjoyable day, though I’m not sure who was the most relieved – my Dad at having broken his City Ground goals duck, or McLeish at finally landing his all-important first win as Forest boss?
Still plenty more end-to-end stuff, albeit no glaring threats to Darlow’s goal, but a strong candidate for Miss of the Season came with just over ten to go after excellent work down the left, this time involving Cox set Radi up with easily the best chance of the game. From eight yards out in front of goal it looked far easier to score, so how Radi came to balloon it over only he will know, though the look of horror on his face was all too plain to see.
The equaliser came from another corner. George Boyd’s kick was met by Lansbury who could only head it back across the goal. I was mindful how this fixture last season (on Boxing Day of all days) was ruined by the curse of the ex loanee returning to haunt us with the game’s only goal. Today I thought we coped with Boyd pretty well, so it was kind of inevitable that another ex-loanee in the form of Scott Wootton was in the perfect position to blast the ball home from twelve yards, giving Darlow no chance.
The lift in mood was noticeable and Forest were beginning to play really well, despite the game taking on a more end-to-end feel. Darlow stopped a couple of relatively tame Posh efforts with aplomb whilst at the other end Billy Sharp was denied when Olejnik stretched to turn a headed ball wide of the post.
Took a while for the game to settle down, and both Jara and Harding were a little sloppy with the ball initially, but we gradually started to put some neat moves together which continued for most of the game. My Dad was particularly impressed with the moves forward by Cohen, Harding and Radi down the left (Cohen obviously revelling in his role as stand-in captain whilst the other two eager to live up to their star billing in today’s matchday programme). Inevitably we couldn’t make it count in the final third that the build-up play deserved, but we had a big boost, somewhat bizarrely, just before the half-hour mark when Lansbury’s corner kick found Halford who headed it back across goal and was seemingly cleared off the line by Ferdinand. As this was all taking place at the other end it was easy to assume the attack had broken down and that was that. It was only thanks to a muffled explosion of noise (piped through speakers in the viewing gallery) that we realised a goal had been given. Good work by the lino – who needs goal-line technology? (Don’t ask Daren Ferguson that!)
Plenty of good organised moves and build-up play, making us look dangerous going forward; Ward’s bullet header to win the game provided a suitable climax to the whole afternoon, and results elsewhere gave us a timely boost. Our first ‘Double’ of the season, and against a side who’ve ruffled a few feathers lately.
Making those chances count, as always – epitomised by Radi’s glaring misses from close range. We could have had four or five goals today.
A solid league debut by Karl Darlow (not that he had too much to do); Jara settled down well after a slightly shaky start; Radi’s overall contribution worthy of his MOTM award (apart from those two misses of course).
Greening showed little change from how we’ve seen him in the past, and was on the pitch all of five minutes before he was booked.
Eddie Ilderton – Did OK. Good call with the opening goal.
Entertainment Value6/10 – From a Forest perspective functional without dazzling, though might have been a different story had some goals come from open play (all three today came from corners).
Promotion Rating3 (almost pushing for 2) – Results elsewhere generally kind to us with Hull and Cardiff both failing to win at home. Still one hell of a dog-fight among the chasing pack for 6th place though.

Nonetheless, the service provided by all staff bar none was courteous and very friendly, making for a really enjoyable experience overall. Of course, the positive result helped!
Watching from the Castle Club viewing gallery certainly has its points, especially on a cold day like today, which my Dad certainly appreciated. With it being KFAQ it was well patronised, albeit much of the atmosphere is lost through the glass, and celebrating a goal was almost surreal with few people doing the full celebration routine.
Today’s game satisfied my curiosity about using The Castle Club, which nowadays is a good deal less formal than my last visit there some 13 years ago. That may have explained why the catering facilities seemed to be somewhat scaled down this time, however the appeal to families who were there in numbers today does seem to work, albeit there is little to keep them entertained apart from the numerous TV screens showing a rather dull QPR-Spurs lunchtime game, and the host struggled to make himself heard during his interview with Bryn Gunn around half an hour before kick-off. The room itself does not appear to have changed much, and there were plenty of framed signed shirts from the Class of 2002 adorning the walls (Prutts, Harewood, Bopp, Roche, Doig, etc). The food offered from the somewhat limited menu was quite excellent and good value, which offset the price of very expensive drinks from the bar.

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