The travels of Phil no. 13: Crystal Palace with Emma

When the fixtures were published in July, I skimmed through looking for all of Forest’s London-based away games and Crystal Palace was one of those that I picked to attend. After the season started, Emma said that she’d like to go to a football match and see what all the fuss is about, and so we decided to go to this particular match.

Travelling to the ground was quite complicated. I met Emma in Liverpool Street station, and from there we caught the Central Line to Bank, and then the Northern Line (southbound) to London Bridge station. Here we paused while I scoffed a (delicious) chicken and bacon pizza baguette from one of the Upper Crust shops/stalls that populate London’s train stations. From London Bridge, we caught a train to Norwood Junction and arrived just after seven o’clock. A walk of about half a mile brought us to Selhurst Park Stadium, and having been searched and frisked before going through the turnstiles, we were in the ground.

The match kicked off with Forest resplendent in their traditional red, which caused me a fair bit of confusion. Crystal Palace have, up until this season (as far as I know) worn a kit which is predominantly red with blue stripes, but last night their kit (which I can only assume is their home kit for this season) was white with a red and blue sash across it. As a result I was prepared for Forest to wear their away kit, which they didn’t.

All the early chances fell to Forest, and Palace didn’t look like they were either quite awake, or quite prepared for Forest, starting this game two points adrift at the bottom of the table, to start the game in such a confident and attacking manner. After a string of early corners and a couple of good saves from Palace’s keeper, Julian Speroni, it was no real surprise when Forest took the lead after 28 minutes. Palace conceded a free-kick wide on the right, and Chris Cohen swung in a deep cross to the back post. Nobody got the touch Speroni was expecting, and the ball crept in for a somewhat fortuitous goal. Forest continued to dominate the opening period, and went in at half-time in the lead.

After the break, Palace came out with more purpose and direction, and the game was more even. Despite this improvement in the opposition, Forest’s defence held firm, repelling several attacks, though they were dropping worryingly deep at times. The equaliser came slightly out of the blue. A fairly ordinary attack by Palace ended with Shefki Kuqi chesting down a long ball, turning quickly and sending a low volley under the body of Lee Camp in the Forest goal and into the back of the net. Suddenly, the confidence seemed to drain from the fans, and there was a real feeling of “here we go again”. However, Crystal Palace failed to build on this in the immediate aftermath and Forest were still the better team.

When Palace equalised, Forest had already made a couple of changes, replacing Rob Earnshaw with Nathan Tyson and Joe Garner with Matt Thornhill, and switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation, from the 4-4-2 they had been employing up to that moment. The new formation seemed to give Forest a bit more solidity in midfield, and despite concerted efforts from Palace to push on and steal a winner, the Reds still looked dangerous on the break. Tyson’s pace was causing Crystal Palace some problems, and if he had made a couple of better decisions, Forest could have had a couple more goals.

The winner came with nine minutes (plus an inexplicable four minutes of added time) remaining. Forest broke quickly following a Palace attack, and Chris Cohen prodded the ball through to Matt Thornhill, and though his first effort was saved, it seems he scrambled the ball over the line (I personally couldn’t see very well from my seat, though this didn’t stop me celebrating like mad and possibly breaking a couple of Emma’s ribs with my post-goal embrace). The remaining thirteen minutes seemed to last forever, and Palace started turning the screw, but failed to break down Forest’s defence, where Wes Morgan and Ian Breckin repelled everything that was thrown at them. The whistle finally blew, and Forest’s players celebrated with the fans. Emma and I made good our escape and made our way rapidly back to the train station in the drizzle.

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