Despite not being a fan of early kick-offs, I still arrived in Nottingham on a real high (partly, I guess due to being able to park in my usual area surprisingly easily, despite the diversions and road works – it was a different story on the way out, but it didn’t matter by then) and in complete contrast to the prospect of visiting Dinglestown last Tuesday I was really fired up for today, and despite the midweek setback felt optimistic of a positive result today. Five games since lifting BC Trophy was far too long and there was no reason for that not to change. Was form going to play any part? We all know how that can go out of the window on days like these, but it was our impressive (and hitherto unbeaten) home form matching their equally impressive away form. There was a great air of expectation emanating from the open terraces of Southbank Bar and especially The Riverbank, whose pre-match pint and delicious bacon rolls went down a treat in the bright late morning sunshine.
So far so good, though there was more than a few mutters among the fans once team news had been released. With late news of injuries to Paterson and Chalobah, and Kelvin Wilson still not ready to return from his recent back injury, that meant starts for Radi, Collins and The Mousse; all of whom featured on Tuesday night at The Dingles, questionable performances in the case of the latter two.
Needless to say the atmosphere inside the ground was electric. A huge injustice happened here last season, and the programme features reminded us of the hideous result the year before. Now was the time to put that to rights. Today was one of those days what being a Forest fan was all about.
The Championship, Saturday 28th September, Kick-off 1215hrs|
Nottingham Forest 1 - 0 D3rby County
|Venue||The City Ground|
Bright sunshine, Easterly breeze but quite warm
2000 fans crammed into the corner of Lower Bridgford, and out sung from their left, right and above. With plenty of vocal Forest fans occupying the other half of the stand the desired effect was well achieved.
Kick-off punctual (just) as you’d expect for a televised encounter, even allowing for a change of ends following D3rby winning the toss. Some bizarre allotment of added time given two lengthy stoppages in the first half and little more than substitutions in the second, resulting in an agonisingly extended wait for the final whistle. Ref must have dropped his watch.
Predictably this let-off galvanised D3rby and shortly after we were defending another free kick at close quarters, this time Hughes rolling the ball wide for Bryson, though the threat passed easily enough. Even so, we looked distinctly nervy as the minutes ticked down as D3rby threw caution to the wind and committed men forward, although it created gaps at the back to be exploited on the break. This we did in fine style in the very last minute as we sensed the game was finally won. It was Reid who broke forward, combining well with Halford (on for Hendo following the penalty) and although Reid struck the ball well it was Grant once again who provided the heroics by tipping the ball out for a corner. It didn’t matter now. The job was done, and how the celebrations could begin. This was my first sight of seeing the BC Trophy being lifted, which Cohen did with aplomb. It also meant it was going to be a very slow journey in traffic along Loughborough Road afterwards, but with victory secured and time on my side for once, I didn’t care.|
The second period saw the game continue at a similar high tempo, and not surprisingly names started going into the ref’s notebook almost as frequently as the subs were coming on (Abdoun taking all of nine minutes between coming on and getting booked). Attention then focussed on the two goalkeepers. Darlow, who was having a superb game (every save cheered to the rafters by the Forest fans), denied a Will Hughes free kick, whilst at the other end Lee Grant saved a penalty in spectacular. Yes, we missed another one! The drama started with Cohen being tripped by Keogh, enough for the ref to show Keogh a second yellow having already pointed to the spot. Hendo picked up the ball and fired wide to Grant’s right. It looked fairly well struck from the other end, but Grant got to it and pushed it round the post to give the D3rby fans behind the only real incident to cheer about all afternoon.
We were only five minutes from HT, but there was time for potentially an even more spectacular moment when Reid jinked his way into the box from wide left having left his marker for dead near the corner flag. The guy’s skill on the ball this season has been incredible and when he managed to thread it to Henderson who was only ten yards out a second goal looked likely and would have happened but for the alertness of Lee Grant who managed to smother the ball. No matter, everyone was cheered off as the whistle blew for HT.
The corner, taken by Reidy swung in from the right while an unmarked Hobbs ran from the edge of the box to meet it with a powerful header past Lee Grant and in. Cue scenes of wild celebration among the Forest faithful as if our season to date was leading up to this moment. Only a few minutes earlier I’d texted an old school pal I’m meeting up with in a few days’ time. As he’s a D3rby fan I suspect there’ll be a few digs on both sides, but for now I was happy to gleefully send those immortal words ‘Pick That Out!’ as 26000 Forest fans launched into ‘That Loving Feeling’.
It was from a D3rby move involving Ward and Forsyth that we managed to break out of this period of pressure and a brilliant run by Lichaj into the box having been set up by Cohen eventually forced a corner after his shot took a deflection.
A great start from Forest who had the ball in D3rby’s half for much of the first 20 minutes, with Reid, Radi and Mackie giving D3rby real grief down the left. The rhythm was upset though with an injury to Moussi after only 15 minutes, and the reshuffle following Harding’s arrival (another who featured on Tuesday) meant Cohen could move play further forward, though it left Radi more isolated. Challenges flew in thick and fast on both sides, with Forest penalised with predictable regularity and Mackie receiving treatment complete with heavily bandaged head following an aerial clash of heads in one attack on the Trent End goal. D3rby came into it a little more, though Hobbs and Collins did a good job of keeping Will Hughes and Craig Bryson at a safe distance.
|Highlights||No doubt Hobbs’ goal shortly before the break was what we craved, though Reid’s jinking run into the box from the left a couple of minutes later was simply sublime. A clean sheet – our first in a while, thanks to a confident display by Darlow. Elsewhere, it was one of those feel-good days with both Manchester clubs getting beaten into the bargain.|
Penalty misses seem like becoming a habit once again, despite getting away with it. Could easily have cost us dear. Another clutch of yellow cards, and rightly or wrongly given there’ll be suspensions kicking in sooner rather than later.
Any D3rby fans who bought a programme will not want to dwell on the front cover for long, or even the player with star billing. Hobbs was immense at both ends of the field and took his goal brilliantly. Reid’s performance today was also outstanding, both in set pieces and open play. A word also for Collins: has had his critics this season, a lot of it justified. Today he started as he meant to go on, and three deft tackles and clearances inside the first ten minutes showed why he’s not ready to be written off yet.
Not exactly a day for Nigel Clough to remember, though I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Obviously he won’t be thanked by Forest for helping to engineer D3rby’s first win at City Ground in a generation a couple or so years back, but he’d done a decent enough job on limited resources to become one of the FL’s longest serving managers at a club.
Simon Hooper – not a familiar name as far as these reports go. He certainly did a better job than the referee we got this time last year, and was brave to award the penalty (and the second yellow to Keogh in the process) right in front of the travelling fans. That said, he was consistent in awarding just about every single free kick against us. And where did he get that second half added time from?
6/10 – more typical derby day encounter than a footballing spectacle, though some short bursts of excellent football was played at times. At least a goal provided a suitable climax, with a penalty and sending-off thrown in for good measure.
5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
|2 – Currently seven points clear of our tally from this time last year ensures the season progresses in the right direction. Too bad most teams around us won also, though that has now opened up a five-point gap between 7th and 8th place, with ourselves still only two points shy of 2nd place, but for that gap to be closed some serious attention needs to be paid to making those chances count, be that with a proven goal-scorer added or otherwise (and why does Dexter Blackstock continue to be left out of league fixtures, despite starting last Tuesday?). Definitely work in progress, but the sort we’re enjoying now at least.|