Nottingham Forest’s 2011-12 season has been diabolical, but despite that fact, away games at Birmingham and Leeds will be fondly remembered in amongst the drab everyone aims to forget. One match that is memorable however, isn’t necessarily for the game itself, but the occasion.
When Forest drew our little brothers from down the road, Notts County, in the League Cup 1st round, there was always going to be added interest, predominantly from the Black and White side of the Trent. Notts County, despite their geographical distance, don’t take up much time in the minds of the Forest faithful, as for a while now, they’ve been nowhere near competitive enough to take a genuine interest in, although they’re showing signs of possibly changing that.
The pre-match build up was marred by events that had nothing to do with football, as rioters descended on various cities across the country, mainly London, and put many games in serious doubt, as policing numbers became an issue. Matches involving Tottenham, Charlton, Crystal Palace, and the England team, were all postponed, as parts of the country came to a standstill, praying common sense would prevail.
The Nottingham derby was also plunged into doubt, and it looked at a time, that it would have to be rearranged. Fortunately though, the game went ahead, and we were treated to a great spectacle, spoiling the 21,000 fans that turned up. Notts County took the lead, through Mike Edwards, and Forest hit back, with an outstanding curling free-kick from Lewis McGugan, which gave Steve McClaren his first goal as Forest boss.
In the second half, Forest gained the lead of the first time in the match, with Robbie Findley’s first goal in a Red shirt. The enthralling encounter continued to entertain, and former Forest benchwarmer Craig Westcarr grabbed the equaliser, and strangely celebrated inticingly in front a of the baffled A Block, as the deluded idea that Forest fans cared about him seemingly got to his head.
Extra time arrived, and Notts took the lead nine minutes into it, when Lee Hughes placed his shot to Paul Smith’s left, hitting the inside of the post and finding its way into the back of the net, to the delight of 6,000 Notts fans who’d made the long journey. With time ticking over, and Notts fans growing increasingly excited at the prospect of victory, it was looking like it was going to take something spectacular to take the game to penalties.
Up stepped Wes Morgan. Rarely did his attempts of playing as a striker in the dying seconds of a game succeed, but Wes didn’t want to keep with the script this time. Receiving the ball from Findley, he ambitiously and fearlessly, wellied it towards the top corner, and to the shock of everyone present, it found its way into the red and white coloured net.
Forest beat Notts 4-3 on penalties, sending the Reds through to the 2nd round.
The most integral point wanting to be made, is the trouble free, commendably brilliant atmopshere before, during and after the game. This enabled local police, in their high numbers, to deal appropriately with the other troubles occuring in the City of Nottingham that night.
Nottingham gets a bad press. Football gets a bad press. On this night, 21,605 supporters attended the local derby between Forest and Notts, and no arrests were made. Not one. It only takes one idiot to lose all sense of what’s right, and for something to spiral out of control, but not at this game.
The game held little importance, but nobody can deny that the immense pride of being a part of that occasion, did over-ride the sour feeling of seeing the negative aspect, as Nottingham hit national headlines for all the wrong reasons.
A highly contested meeting, with all of those observing remaining responsible, and overall, doing Nottingham, and the game of football proud.