In the absence of Championship football this weekend bar the play-offs, watching Final Score’s captivating selection of pundits discussing Middlesbrough v Southampton was not high on the agenda. After attempting to revise for this week’s law exam, I’ve decided the best course of action to fill the void is to write this post about my first ever game in the Nottingham Forest home end.
Forest’s Survival Sunday game v Ipswich was the first time my mate Marley and Me had watched a live game together, and what a game. It was surreal to think that people in the crowd once witnessed the Brian Clough era. Now they were watching Zac Clough come off the bench, as Forest slipped into the relegation zone with rivals Blackburn taking an early 2-0 lead at Brentford.
Any pre-match optimism abruptly turned into dread and disbelief, causing a tense atmosphere which encapsulated the entire afternoon. I Believe In Miracles played before the game, and Forest fans were praying for one after a nervy start by their team.
In the blink of an eye, Jordan Smith’s incredible save changed the game, and you felt straight away it could be a massive turning point. Forest went straight down the other end and scored a penalty, after previously being less creative than this website’s name.
A frantic half-time phone call from my brother at the Brentford game was followed by another 5 minutes later. Being the first one in the ground to know Brentford had scored was bizarre – I felt like the heroic Pheidippides, the Greek messenger who inspired the Marathon race.
After watching Mark Warburton for 18 months at Brentford, the brave attacking tactics in the second half came as no surprise. The City Ground momentarily erupted after Chris Cohen made it 2-0 shortly before Britt Assombalonga’s wonder goal. The stadium should have been bouncing for the whole game at 3-0, but a strangely flat atmosphere took hold after the dreaded goal music.
Maybe it was more relief than euphoria – scraping survival by 3 goals shouldn’t be anything to celebrate for such a big club. And to be fair “Oh City Ground” was deafening when Reds fans belted it out. In a scenario fair-weather fans across the country will be familiar with, we didn’t know the words despite watching a five-minute pre-match YouTube video of Forest chants.
Pitch invasions are always exciting, and the one four days later as NTU beat UoN 2-0 in Varsity wasn’t bad either. With us Trent Ultras smacking the corrugated fence at the back of the Meadow Lane stand, we created a louder atmosphere than Forest fans in the Trent End Lower did. After the final whistle we ran over to the Uni Of fans to have the last laugh after that banner. Ironically we went to McDonald’s after the game (if you know then you know).
Back to the red side of the Trent, and massive credit has to go to the players. Forest’s youngsters held their nerve and the big players stepped up. As well as Smith and Assombalonga, Eric Lichaj and young defender Joe Worrall looked bright. It’s difficult to judge purely off one game against a side with nothing to play for, but also beating play-off contingent Reading & Huddersfield at home is encouraging. Add that to the players saying they’re now ready to fire under their new manager’s attacking, risk-taking philosophy, and it’s daft not to be optimistic.
The only question mark is the new takeover. If the new owner lets the solid management team of Warburton, Weir & McParland get on with their jobs as they want, a sleeping giant could genuinely have a chance of returning to the Promised Land.
Results in football are never guaranteed, but an exciting, dynamic team is a given for Forest next year. As the Ipswich game showed, Reds fans will be watching a team that will be confident, and good enough, to go for the win rather than grind out a draw or narrow victory.
The £26 match ticket was money well spent, so I’ll see you next season City Ground. Maybe on the pitch?