Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Nottingham Forest 2 D***y County 3
It’s my second trip to Nottingham Forest in a week; before that, I’d not been since last August, when they entertained the Royals of Reading. My non-league readers will be ditching me in their droves, as I’m at the Queens Park Rangers game on Saturday, followed by a trip with Sticky junior, the week after, to Birmingham City’s St Andrews ground.
I don’t really want to go tonight, given a choice of Ilkeston v Eastwood or Forest v D***y, I’d take the former every time. I take one for the team; the boys are desperate to see this game, they’ve have never seen the Reds v the Rams before.
I’ve paid £44 for the tickets. White Van Man rings up and tells me to be ready for 6.30pm in The Fairway car park. Shepshed Dynamo captain Ian Screaton (Screats) is picking us up.
We troop down the pub and Screats polls up right on cue. The kids are excited and White Van Man is on top form. He runs through his normal repertoire, desperately trying not to swear as the kids are in the back. Sticky junior pipes up that he bombarded White Van Man’s van with snowballs when he saw him crawling down the road the other day. The big man roars with laughter and threatens revenge.
We talk about Shepshed’s slump in form. Screats is hurt and upset by it. Two months ago they were assured of a play-off spot; mid-table mediocrity is the best they can expect now.
We pull into The City Ground, Brian Clough Stand, car park, at just before 7pm. WVM is insulting all the gatemen and demanding a free car parking space. The banter is plentiful. He’s allocated bay 40. We literally walk a few steps to the turnstile. I’ve not parked this close to a ground since Goole AFC in December.
One or two ‘sheep’ flock to the away end. We are sitting up in the heavens. We normally take a pew in the Main Stand; not a chance tonight, we’ve done well to get a ticket.
It’s early doors and there are less than one thousand in the ground; the players aren’t even warming up yet. The boys have brought a flask of hot chocolate and some sweets with them.
Sticky’s favourite DJ is delving into his HMV selection box. He plays Living for the Weekend by Staines Indie band Hard Fi. He follows it up with Starz in Their Eyes by Just Jack. His best one of the night is Stop Me by Mark Ronson featuring the brilliant Melbourne born singer Daniel Merryweather. It’s put me in the mood for football.
The tiles on the nearby houses are covered with a sprinkling of snow. Opposite where we sit the Rushcliffe Civic Centre towers above the ageing Main Stand.
The Rams’ fans taunt the notorious ‘A’ Block. Forest’s top boys are gracing the local watering holes, oiling their larynx, so they can out sing the enemy.
One transfer caught my eye last week and disappointed me so much. The Jamaican Claude ‘Comedy’ Davis has reacquainted himself with Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace for the rest of the season. I watched him play for ‘The Sheep’ against Preston North End in the FA Cup last season. The comedy value was second to none. In moments of depression, anxiety or anger I think of that performance to bring a smile back to my face. It was side-splitting. If only he was playing tonight. Billy Davies paid the Blades £3 million pounds for his services.
D***y lies on the River Derwent and has a population of 236,000. It’s famous for Rolls Royce, Railways and Toyota. Actor Alan Bates and the engineer Richard Arkwright were born in the area.
I have my own reasons for disliking ‘The Rams.’ I saw my team Lincoln City play them twice in the old Division 2 back in 1985. We were chased to the station at the Baseball Ground and spat on and threatened at the return game at Sincil Bank, when they invaded the home end.
The overrated Paul Jewell has been removed. Nigel will steady the ship before history repeats itself and he follows in his father’s footsteps.
Jewell signed 23 year old Liam Dickinson during the summer from Stockport County. He was immediately farmed out to the Terriers of Huddersfield. He scored goals for fun. He then went to Blackpool and scored four goals in his first two starts. Only a dodgy FAX machine prevented a last minute deadline move to ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds.’ Why can’t this boy get in their first team?
Forest are a bit skinny tonight. The bench looks like the local Monty Hind Boys’ Club. Incredibly their right back, the stylish, up and coming, Brendan Moloney, is cup-tied, having turned out for Rushden and Diamonds in an earlier round, when on loan. Bennett, Moussi, Anderson and Earnshaw are injured. Joe Garner is suspended.
The pitch is perfect. D***y won’t have played on a surface as sound as this; you could run your Dyson over it.
The game is exhilarating from start to finish. Forest win a corner in the first minute and D***y are caught napping. Cohen takes it short and receives the ball back, before cutting inside. He’s unopposed and pulls the trigger, smashing an unstoppable shot into the back of the net.
Latecomers fly up the stairs from the bars and toilets; they’ve missed the goal. Derby respond with Commons curling a shot wide of Smith’s post.
Forest are rampant, the Rams can’t cope with Tyson who is playing on a different planet. He wants the ball all the time, he chases lost causes and has a heart as big as a bucket. Rams’ skipper Connolly cannot live with him. Tyson leaves him for dead and crosses for McGugan to hit a vicious volley which is well saved by Bywater.
Tyson once again exploits D***y’s right hand flank, he knocks the ball around Bywater and falls theatrically, Chris Foy points to the spot, but controversially produces only a yellow card. Tyson hits the penno like a rocket into the roof of the net. The fans including The Groundhopper are delirious. You bastards, you chased me and spat at me in 1985, 24 years of hurt, it’s been worth the wait.
The D***y flock are silenced; they no longer twirl their scarves around their heads. Forest play a ten minute spell of champagne football. They showboat, we ole, it’s pure theatre. There’s one touch, shuffles, shimmies, nutmegs and dummies: we’re loving it.
But it’s a different D***y now, the ‘young man’ is at the helm. They are not bad-mouthed, bullied or belittled like they were under the jumped-up Jewell. Commons is playing like a man possessed, he hits a thunderbolt from close range which Smith does well to react to.
D***y pull a deserved goal back on the half hour. Glaswegian winger Gary Teale is marauding down the left, he floats a ball in, Rob Hulse peels off the defender and heads home. He wheels away in celebration; they are back in the game.
We all pause for breath at the break; I’ve seen nothing like this for years, and I include the non-league. £44 looks a bargain.
D***y are different gravy in the second half. Robbie Savage plays in a more advanced position and shows his experience.
Cohen has a great chance to extend Forest’s lead but won’t use his weaker right foot. A professional footballer with one foot; I’ve seen a few of those tonight. Don’t academies encourage their pupils to use two feet?
D***y are all over Forest like a rash; Nigel wants his pound of flesh. They equalise on the hour. It’s a replica of their first goal. Teale, who was frozen out by Jewell, and has been farmed out to the northern and southern outposts of Barnsley and Plymouth, dances and jinks his way down the wing,, it’s another delicious, in swinging ball, there’s no sign of Paul Smith (Finley our pet rabbit comes out his cage more than Smith does off his line) Green, a player I saw perform in the Conference for Doncaster, heads home.
Their flock raise the roof, it’s game on. Commons is running riot. He gives a performance alien to anything I ever saw him do in a red shirt. He’s spinning, fighting, tackling, moving, shooting on- site and, battling, For a neutral like me, I am glad I have witnessed his game.. Forest have nothing to compare with his creativity.. The Forest fans are hurt because they know what they are missing.
He’s playing on adrenalin. He waltzes through four players but is denied by a block from the impressive Perch. Moments later a 20 yard shot from him canons off the upright, with Smith nowhere near it. The goal his game deserves arrives on 74 minutes. He pounces on a poor clearance from Luke Chambers and smashes the ball home, via a huge deflection. I applaud. I’m the only one. You have to admire pure genius.
Forest fight back, they don’t know when they are beaten. McCleary misses a sitter. By now Morgan has been pushed up front for nuisance value. Perch has clashed with Hulse and has been stretchered off.
The youth club has arrived. The bath has been run for Tyson, his performance has been world class, what a shame it’s not Commons threading balls through to him, rather than the ale house clearances from the back.
Morgan rampages down the Forest left and manages to cross a ball to the far post, young Northern Ireland midfielder Mark Byrne gets it all wrong, he leans back and screws his shot high and wide of the post. I feel so sorry for the boy.
The game is over. I can’t describe it. I won’t sleep tonight. I’ll play every ball.
Man of the Match: Kris Commons