The travels of Phil #11: Up To Nottingham – 90 minutes to decide a season

As a rule, I like to avoid tense situations. I’m a laid-back person, and so I like my entertainment to be much the same. However, this time, I thought I should put myself through the wringer. It was the last game of the season, and if Forest could better Bristol City’s result, and at least equal Blackpool’s result away at Swansea, they would sneak into the automatic promotion places, and go up to the Championship without having to face the “play-off lottery” as it is widely known to cliché-ridden pundits in TV and radio studios up and down the country. It had all the makings of a nervy afternoon. In the end, it didn’t quite turn out that way…
 
The day began early, with my alarm nagging me awake shortly before 6am. I had a taxi to the train station booked for 7am, and had to be in Shenfield by 8.30am to meet Dan. As it was, I made it to the station in plenty of time, and was left standing on the platform for a good fifteen minutes before my train arrived. I then made it to Shenfield by 8.10, and Dan picked me up a few minutes later. After collecting his friends Andy and Dave (a West Ham and fellow Forest fan respectively – Dave may well have featured in previous posts regarding
Forest matches and Dan), we were off!
 
We made very good time, with Dan enjoying the freedom of the motorways all the way up to Nottingham, and even with a brief stop-off at Peterborough service station, we were in Nottingham by 11am. However, we proceeded to squander all the time we had gained looking for Dan’s hotel, a quest which took in a zig-zag tour of central Nottingham, brief chats with a traffic warden (asking directions, nothing to do with being parked in the wrong place) and a random passer-by, a drive-through tour of the Meadows (scene of most of Nottingham’s gun crime) and a couple of industrial estates/business parks.
 
Once we found the hotel – a Holiday Inn – Dan then tried to check in at the Travel Inn next door, and when we finally made it to the right building, it was time for the first beer of the day. After all that driving, we were quite thirsty, and it disappeared quickly. I can proudly claim to have downed mine before anyone else. Shortly after that, we all piled into a couple of taxis and drove to Casa (a pub on Trent Bridge) to meet up with more Forest fans.
 
After about an hour and a half of football-orientated socialising, I made my way to the ground. I was sitting in Capital One Corner for the first time (I usually sit down the other end of the Brian Clough Stand), along with Tutts, Andy and Dave. Dan was lurking down the front of our block with Alan (one of the people we met up with at Casa). The ground was close to full, with only one block obviously empty (as you may be able to see from my photos – a link to them can be found at the bottom of the post), and a reported attendance of 27,472. As the game got underway, the atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic, but news of Bristol City’s early goal against Rotherham subdued the crowd somewhat, and though the mood lifted briefly thanks to inaccurate reports of a Rotherham equaliser, it stayed that way for most of the rest of the match. By the time Bristol City scored their second goal shortly before half-time, most fans had already given up hope of stealing into second place, and thoughts began to turn to the play-offs. There was no longer any tension in the air, and the mood turned a little flat.
 
The second half began in much the same way as the first. Forest were clearly on top, but Crewe still managed to fashion a handful of chances, some better than others. Only ten minutes into the second half, Bristol got a third goal, and the dream was definitely over. Barring an amazing comeback from already relegated Rotherham, Forest were in the play-offs. The were still a few incidents to keep the fans interested – a minor difference of opinion in the huddle of players at a corner which involved Luke Chambers kicking out at one of Crewe’s players (the referee didn’t see it), which led to James Perch and Michael O’Connor squaring up (the referee did see it, and booked O’Connor); Scott Dobie hitting the post only minutes before the final whistle; and Luke Chambers having a header cleared off the line in the dying moments of the game. However, all the efforts were in vain, and the match ended in a 0-0 draw.
 
As the final minutes had been played out on the pitch, off it the stewards and police had been steadily surrounding the pitch in order to catch anyone who wished to invade the pitch. The fans had been politely requested to stay off the pitch in order to allow the players to do a lap of honour unmolested both before the game via the club website, in the matchday programme and over the PA system throughout the game, but a few still thought it would be a good idea to run onto the pitch. One unintentionally provided one of the more amusing incidents of the afternoon; having run onto the pitch he started showing off to the fans still in the stands, only for the police to bring out an Alsatian to help contain the crowd. The show-off took one look at the dog and legged it, only to be rugby-tackled by another officer and led away in handcuffs.
 
Once the small minority of fans who wanted to invade the pitch had been cleared away, the players returned to the pitch and proceeded to do their lap of honour at a leisurely pace. Every player who had represented the club at any point of the season (and was still on the club’s books – the likes of Nicky Southall, Neil Harris, Danny Cullip and James Henry didn’t appear) was there, strolling round the pitch and thanking the fans for their support. David Prutton even went as far as removing his training top and throwing it into the crowd just below where we were stood.
 
After the players had done their lap, we all returned to Casa for a brief while, though shortly before 6pm, Alan, DanR, Scott and I said our goodbyes to the others (in their case, only temporary goodbyes, in my case permanent) and they walked me back to the train station on their way to another pub. The rest of the group were off out in Nottingham for the evening to celebrate several birthdays, including Dan’s 30th. I, on the other hand, was back off to Colchester so that I could continue my revision.
 
I finally got back to Colchester just before 10pm, and was deposited home by a bus shortly before 10.30. By this point, I was worn out, and quite glad to get home. Despite the match being a little disappointing, I had had a good time, and was looking forward to the prospect of Forest playing Yeovil in the play-offs, and the possibility of a trip to the brand spanking new Wembley should Forest overcome their green-and-white opponents.
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