that the first match I’m writing about was in fact the final match of
last season and therefore not only happened nearly five months ago, but
also took place before many of the transfers I wrote about in my Season
Preview last month.
Southampton, The City Ground, Sunday
3rd May 2009, 1pm
Having secured their safety before this match, and with Southampton
already relegated, there wasn’t anything to play for really, and Billy
Davies took the opportunity to rest a couple of his senior players,
giving Wes Morgan and Nathan Tyson the day off. This game was also Ian Breckin’s last for the club. Billy Davies had announced earlier in the week that he couldn’t guarantee Breckin regular first-team football and so wouldn’t be extending his contract.
The relaxed atmosphere clearly affected the players, and Forest strolled through the first half without building any real momentum or creating any sustained pressure. There were a couple of half-chances for Dexter Blackstock and Rob Earnshaw, but nothing concrete. Southampton took the lead after only 16 minutes through Bradley Wright-Phillips, who ran onto a throughball with the Forest defence in a bit of a mess and slotted past Paul Smith.
Half-time saw the introduction of Joe Garner in place of Dexter Blackstock. However, Forest’s fortunes didn’t change until the 73rd minute when Garner looped a volley over Kelvin Davis from over 25 yards. The game looked like it was going to peter out into a draw until Luke Chambers connected with Chris Cohen’s corner and sent a bullet header into the back of the net in front of an appreciative Trent End. Things got even better in injury time as Rob Earnshaw tucked away a rebound after Arron Davies’ shot was saved by Kelvin Davis.
After the final whistle, Ian Breckin led the players back onto the pitch for a lap of honour, with the rest of the squad hanging back to allow him his own standing ovation from the crowd.
Derby County, The City Ground,
Saturday 29th August 2009, 1pm
went into this match on the back of an impressive if draining
2-1 win after extra time over Middlesborough in the Carling Cup four
days before. However, their league form hadn’t been so good, and they
were still awaiting their first win of the season. In fact, their home
record read two games, two defeats. Derby, meanwhile, had notched up a
couple of wins, though over clubs generally expected to struggle, and
came to the City Ground having won there on both of their visits last
season. It was time for all that to change, and change it did.
Things could not have got off to a better start for Forest, as they
took the lead within the first minute. Chris Gunter’s cross was half
cleared, and Radoslaw Majewski belted home the loose ball from 25
yards. Things got even better not long after as a Chris Cohen free-kick
was headed into his own net by Rob Hulse, though Dexter Blackstock
attempted to claim credit as the nearest Forest player to Hulse. Forest
completely dominated the first 45 minutes, with Paul McKenna
particularly impressive, and it was no surprise when Nathan Tyson broke
the Derby offside trap, ran onto a Blackstock throughball, rounded
Stephen Bywater in the Derby goal and slotted home to make it 3-0.
Derby did have a goal ruled out for pushing with the score at 1-0, but
this was one of the few attempts they made on goal in the first half.
The second half was a different story. Derby manager Nigel Clough
substituted the anonymous Kris Commons and replaced him with Lee Croft
who posed much more of an attacking threat. By the hour mark the Rams
had dragged the score back to 3-2 with deflected goals from Miles
Addison and Jake Livermore, though the second was highly dubious
following a fairly obvious handball in the build-up.
The score remained the same for the rest of the game, thanks largely to
some last-ditch defending and some sloppy play from Derby. Forest were
briefly reduced to 10 men right at the end after Paul McKenna sustained
an ankle injury with all three substitutes used. There was also a brief
altercation between Garath McCleary, Nathan Tyson and (unsurprisingly)
Robbie Savage following a late and unneccesary challenge on Majewski.
The most memorable incident of the match happened after the final
whistle, as Tyson acquired a corner flag bearing the Forest badge and
proceeded to parade it in front of the Derby fans. Unfortunately, due
to my position right next to the tunnel, I missed this entirely, and
only heard about it once I got home.
Ipswich Town, Portman Road, Tuesday
15th September 2009, 7.45pm
was my third trip to Portman Road, and each of the two previous
occasions had seen Forest beaten, 6-0 and 2-1, so it wasn’t hard to
believe that I was in for a disappointing night. However, Forest were
much improved on previous years, and with Ipswich enduring their worst
start for years there were indications that this might be the time for
things to change.
The weather on the way there wasn’t promising. A cloudy day turned into
a drizzly evening and as Emma and I sat in the stadium, the heavens
opened. There were points during the first half when a
bouncing/skidding ball caused a sheet of spray to come up, and on a
couple of occasions players slipped. As a result, the football wasn’t
great and with Ipswich scoring inside the first minute, I had a sinking
feeling in my stomach. It was going to be one of those nights where
Forest were an inch, a stray pass, a refereeing decison away from a
good result but that inch would be an inch too far; that stray pass
played by a Forest player and not to one; and that decision would go
against the Reds and not for them.
As it turned out, I was wrong. The rain eased at half time, and after
the break the weather was pretty dry. Forest improved and gradually
took control of the match, though this had been coming towards the end
of the first half. The atmosphere at the game, dead despite the home
team’s lead, improved dramatically ten minutes into the second period
as the Forest fans broke into a sustained rendition of "Robbie Earnshaw
is a Red, is a Red, is a Red; Robbie Earnshaw is a Red, he hates
Derby!". Our singing was rewarded by his introduction from the
substitutes bench (though it could be argued that the sight of him
stripping off provoked the song), and within seconds he had dummied a
throughball, picked up the lay-off from Dele Adebola and lifted the
ball over Richard Wright for Forest’s equaliser.
Throughout the match Ipswich had been doing their best to stifle Forest
with a fairly disruptive approach to the game, and their niggling
nearly cost them the game in the final moments as a stray pass went to
Dele Adebola, who surged through the defence towards the Ipswich goal.
However, at 34 he lacked the pace to get clear and instead was wrestled
to the ground on the very edge of the area by the subsequently
red-carded Gareth McAuley. [What was
I saying earlier about the inch and the stray pass? This time the stray
pass went for us, and the inch against – another stride and it would
have been a penalty and almost certainly three points] Robbie
Earnshaw stepped up, but failed to find the net with his free-kick, and
both teams had to be satisfied with a point.