When Nottingham Forest went into the last game of the 2010/11 season, away to Crystal Palace, it was blazing sunshine, and Forest went on to win comfortably, to seal their play-off place.
As fans made their way over Trent Bridge for the last game of the 2011/12 season, we were treated to rainy, chilling weather. Rather appropriate, mirroring the disastrous fall the team has endured in the space of a year.
With Cotterill fielding a strong team, intent on giving home fans something to cheer about at last, and Portsmouth’s team littered with a blend of spirited youth and experience, it had the ingredients to be a fairly open game, enough to distract from the bitter weather.
Forest were the team to start off the better, creating openings, as McGugan and Guedioura went close. The only early threat belonging to Portsmouth was discovering the cause of Chris Maguire’s mysterious obsession with the floor, making himself an early enemy to the majority of the Forest faithful. Getting into a duel with Gunter, he conceded he wasn’t man enough for the battle, disgracefully throwing himself to the ground, claiming he was elbowed, when it was clear to everyone no contact was made. Humiliating moment for him. Mind you, he’s contracted to Derby County, so he’s had lower moments in his career.
After that, the game had a bit of a subdued spell, livened up by a few hopeful Forest long-range shots, which ended up being ballooned over. With Pompey fans immediately thinking of the money opportunities, they kept the balls to themselves and they all mystifyingly went missing. Soon to be seen at a Portsmouth car boot sale, raising funds to keep the club alive.
Portsmouth went on to have a few chances of their own, with a couple of shots taken from long-range, dealt with questionably by Lee Camp, spilling them yards in front, with no Pomoey strikers willing to gamble, thankfully so.
Forest throughout, were playing some thoroughly decent football, knocking the ball around well, asking questions of Pompey. What they lacked in the 1st half however, was a cutting edge, and it was quite clear they needed to go up a gear, and goals would come if they did.
The Reds started the second half well, and created chances. Dexter Blackstock went close, but was denied by Jamie Ashdown, and it looked like it was going to be another one of those says for ‘Dex’. That’s until Forest broke the deadlock, when Cunningham’s cross arrived at McCleary feet back post, who played it back across goal, accidentally or not, to the feet of Blackstock, who kept his composure to calmly side-foot the ball home.
Forest, hoping to put Portsmouth to bed, were again continuously frustrated, as Blackstock saw his header, from a corner, clawed away by Ashdown. It didn’t take long though, for Dex to take his total to 8 for the season, as an Andy Reid corner was headed in, with Garath McCleary proving enough of a distraction for the keeper, and the ball found its way in. For a player who spent two thirds of the season rehabilitating, he’s done extremely well to come back in, and score some vital goals that have seen Forest safe.
Additionally, it must be said how much of an honour it was to see Forest score from a corner. For months now, they’ve won countless corners, and never looked like scoring from them. With Reid’s reputation for being a good set-piece deliverer, it was baffling to see him remain in this role, as the drought proved to be very embarrassing, reflected by the look of relief on the faces of Reid and Blackstock, when one was finally converted.
The ‘hair on the back of the neck being raised’ moment, came when loanee Adlene Guedioura was substituted. The part this man has played in the survival can’t begin to be described. A superb player, who’s heart and passion would put his fellow Wolves colleagues to shame. He’s become a fans favourite, and that was made obvious when he departed. With 20,000 fans to a man, up off their seats to applaud him, with chants of ‘Sign Him Up’ circulating. Feelings mutual, as he later tweeted, “I’m going to do a little video, to explain my feelings about NFFC. Already big big thank you”. This epitomises his personality, and his ‘on the pitch’ manner. A fine professional, and a rare asset for a footballer nowadays, to really care about fans as much as he does.
He feels loved by us, and we feel loved by him. Come on Adlene, a perfect match!
Following the goals, the game came to an end, with Portsmouth fans in full voice. Without a doubt, the best bunch of supporters we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming to the City Ground this season. Many dressing as Robin Hood, and others coming prepared with banners, they showed their fine humour, and serious element to their support of Pompey. From start to finish, they refused to stop singing. 2,319, and every single one, their club can be proud of. As the Forest players departed for the first time, intent on coming on again for a lap of appreciation, Forest fans waited in silence. That is until, Portsmouth fans belted out, “I’m Pompey till I die”, greeted with thousands of Forest fans applauding them back, in recognition of their position, and the support they’ve given their doomed club.
Hundreds of Portsmouth fans remained, to acknowledge the Forest players, and especially, former manager Steve Cotterill. Succeeding that, their fans rejected the option of leaving, passionately chanting for their club. Forest have had horrible season, and questions have been made over decisions made by Steve Cotterill. Regardless of that, we still have a club to watch, every week.
With that in mind, fans across the country should spare a thought for Portsmouth fans, who turned up in their thousands to watch what could’ve been Portsmouth F.C’s last ever game. As clubs up and down the country make plans for next season, Portsmouth’s future remains in doubt, potentially putting their fans without a team to support. Full admiration goes to all Portsmouth fans, and it’d be a shame to lose such a club, with fans like yours.
For Forest fans, I think a holiday is in order. A hectic summer ahead, and all we can do is wait to see what happens.
Thanks for coming 2011/12 season, but shut the door on your way out.