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Lancashire Red: Through The Mist

5 March 2013

Same players, different team! What a transformation. Was this really the same team whose season suddenly became derailed when we visited Portman Road barely three months ago?

There’s no doubt we’ve allowed that feeling we experienced three years ago to creep back, when wins were followed by more wins, especially at home. And now that we seem to be scoring at a rate of nine goals in three games rather than the other way round, expectations of winning each time we come to City Ground are on the up once more. Nothing wrong with that, though the more cautious will point out we can’t have it all our own way every time (rather like supporters of The Filth!) and tonight went some way towards proving that point. Three months ago we might well have lost this fixture. In the event, however... 

FLC – Tuesday, 5th March 2013, KO 1945
Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Ipswich Town
The City Ground

Oh, mist rolling in from The Trent! A real pea souper
Away fans
I think they were there – it was almost impossible tell from the Trent End through the mist, especially with them sat high up the Bridgford Lower. Good job we didn’t have reason to hear them celebrate anything.
A couple of minutes late, which was probably understandable given the conditions. Still problems with the PA system, now limited to an abridged version of the pre kick-off burst of Mull of Kintyre.
The Match
Deadlock broken, and with barely five minutes to go, there was time to go for a second which we almost managed on a couple of occasions between trying to frustrate Town with sustained sequences of keep-ball across the back. Six minutes of stoppage time felt like six hours, and the final whistle was greeted with massive sighs of relief.
Well come it did, and no-one will attempt to deny it was more than a touch fortuitous. It was Lewis who found the space some 20 yards out before unleashing a low shot which took a considerable deflection, enough to wrong foot Henderson, and the Trent End were first to launch into undiluted celebration before the ball even crossed the line.
We went close a couple of times – one effort by Reidy drawing a top-drawer save from Henderson, and another by Blackstock actually finding the net before being ruled out for offside. Still we pressed, the fans beginning to stir uneasily, wondering if/how/when (in no particular order) the breakthrough might come.
But the game took a further twist five minutes later when Reid was brought down at high speed close to the players’ tunnel. Stearman’s challenge was crude at the very least, he’d already been booked, and referee Webb duly obliged with the second yellow.  Off, and as the minutes began to tick down with little sign of a breakthrough, the topic of conversation drifted towards a certain game at Highfield Road in 2001 when we kept Coventry out having been reduced to nine men, much to the disgust of their own fans, and the delight of those of us lucky enough to have witnessed such a thrilling rearguard defensive display. I couldn’t bear to think what the fans’ reaction here would be if Ipswich were to achieve a similar shut-out.
Not surprisingly there were mutters around the stands as we recalled that playoff encounter with 10-man Swansea who kept us out. Perhaps wisely, BD pulled Lansbury off (having been booked in the Martin incident) and turned to the player he believes can still make the difference: Lewis McGugan.
Despite the occasional goal attempts at either end the main talking points of the opening period were more of a disciplinary nature, which took a dramatic twist five minutes before the break when Lansbury brought down Martin just outside the box. It was a dangerous enough place for us to concede a free kick, but an even more dangerous move by Martin in a hitherto evenly contested game by deciding to lamp Lansbury with an elbow. The Trent End had a grandstand view of it, whilst the ref had, from five yards, a ringside seat. Totally nonsensical, and cue the ‘Cheerio’ chants from all around as Martin trudged off.
No doubt the intention was there among the red shirts – it’s just a pity Ipswich came to defend in numbers, for which you have to hand it to them. That’s not to say they didn‘t create any chances themselves: Ex-Red Lee Martin (barely remembered) provided Town’s main threat, albeit from a distance, whilst at the other end (not that fans in the Trent End could see) Cox – no doubt fired up by his part in Radi’s goal at Hillsborough on Saturday – was more determined than ever to get his name on the scoresheet with some (sometimes accurate) wild shots. This occasionally led to chances being wasted when a simple pass to others nearby would have paid handsomely – or maybe his vision was clouded by the swirling murk which descended (and occasionally lifted) all evening.
Reid’s thunderbolt volley late in the second half, before McGugan finally broke the stalemate. Yes, it could be deemed rather lucky, but who’s not going to take them when they come along? The return of Hutchinson proved a welcome bolster in our defensive resources. Oh, and The Filth getting a taste of their own medicine at Old T – maybe the Premier League should employ some Turkish referees to level the playing field!

Some defensive mistakes could have cost us tonight: Radi letting Chopra through, forcing Darlow to save with his feet; a stray Ward header allowing Murphy though with just Darlow to beat – good job their finishing was like last season’s version of ours. With Billy Sharp ill, limited resources up front meant a striker-less bench.
Simon Cox was a major threat up front (and though he is desperate to return to goalscoring ways he needs to be aware of red shirts around him to avoid wasting opportunities for others; Darlow continues to grow in confidence with a third successive clean sheet. Happy Birthday, Chris [Cohen]!
It was an unhappy return to City Ground for the three ex-Reds: Michael Chopra as anonymous as he was during his time wearing a red shirt apart from pouncing on a rare Radi mistake; Lee Martin having a brain-octomy by lashing out right in front of the ref; that leaves Luke Chambers whose legacy must surely be that infamous pop at the fans this time last year, and not surprisingly was roundly booed every time he went near the ball – how the mighty are fallen!
David Webb - Initially did a passable impression of a jumped up little upstart with early bookings for Ward and Stearman, but in reality he asserted his authority on the game in the right measure. I wonder if he would have sent Nani off had he been at Old Trafford tonight? (I haven’t stopped laughing yet)
Entertainment Value5/10 – BD’s assessment of the game was reminiscent of one of our less memorable games the first time round when he described us as ‘leggy’. With Ipswich playing it tight it was never going to come even close to emulating the Huddersfield or Wednesday games.
Promotion Rating2 – On a night when Boro and Brighton both drop points the gap between us and 6th place is down to two points. Even Leicester look vulnerable despite that game in hand.  Good job we did win tonight though, with Bolton suddenly looking ominously close, thanks to their last-gasp winner.
Another win makes it four in a row, though you can’t help wondering how this game would have finished had Ipswich still had 11 players on the field. Something to ponder on as some very tricky fixtures loom. Ipswich might be justified in thinking the way they played deserved the point they undoubtedly came for, and had it not been for the red mist that descended on Lee Martin they might have achieved that or even better.

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