If ever there was a chance of us to record our first even win at Pride Park then this surely was it? Twenty-three points separated the teams before kick off and both of the teams previous games on Tuesday night had brought differing fortunes in the Reds favour. But still there was a nervous and uneasy feeling for many of us in the Spondon Snooker Club. We all knew we could win but actually doing it was a different thing altogether...
In a season of sublime football coupled with outstanding victories and a long unbeaten record, there has not been too many low points so far. By 3pm, I was back in that all too familiar refrain. The same feeling that has been a running theme throughout the last decade but one that I hadn't experienced since last March; that terrible game at Burnley when we last lost away in the league. It returned with avengance Saturday afternoon as Savage and co strolled to victory without even needing to put in the 'heroic' performance that they insist it was. We were awful and they were marginally better.
Perhaps some consolation can be taken from the fact that they performed to their maximum capabilities while we were woefully short of reaching the levels that we have witnessed on so many occasions this campaign. That said, it isn't really a question of who is the better team these days; both sets of supporters know that which gave them cause for such jubilation.
Maybe we were due a blip, maybe it was for the best in the long run but it doesn't make it any easier. Savage, of course, was loving it. He'd been his usual crap self but danced around like he had beat us all by himself. The guy almost seems to realise that he's blagging his way to his thousands of pound a week but somehow manages to fool his manager and his fans that by pestering the referee at EVERY single occasion and bemoaning EVERY Forest player on the floor that he is deserving of his money and his place in the team. Inevitably he was keen to rub it in just as the game was about over. Antics that he demanded were outrageous back in August during his national media campaign that only led to everyone realising he was actually rather hypocritical after his scarf waving antics were made public knowledge.
His manager should also come in for a deal of stick. His sly, critical comments began after the home game in August and continued in the build up to this one. He is always looking to point out the impeccable behaviour of himself and his players which was downright ludicrous while he has also continued to provide excuses for our great season; calling our fifth against QPR 'lucky'! What about the other four, Nige? Im sure he missed his players involvement in the latest mass brawl too; handbags turned into a near riot when one of his subs charged from the bench to kick things off. Nigel wasn't far behind yet will undoubtedly praise the behaviour of his team this week while criticizing the disgraceful attitude of Billy Davies' side. I don't think i'd of shook his hand either.
The handshake that never was actually became a prelude to the only real highight inside Pride Park. Davies ignored Clough and his moral high ground, instead marching towards the Forest fans at one end. Ignoring the widespread jeers that came from the rest of the stadium he began pointing to the skies, then to his chin and then back at the sky. The message was clear. 'Keep your chins up, we're going up'. It produced a fantastic response from the 2,500 Forest followed by 'E I E I E I O' which, for a moment, stopped the celebrations in the home end. They wouldn't have cared a great deal but it served to put focus on the bigger picture.
The battle has been lost but the war will be won.
In his match report following the West Brom game on Friday, Trig mentioned that the final half hour of that game was the 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' time when Forest defended their lead until the end. The replay in a freezing Birmingham was a continuation of that show it seemed. While a virtual reserve team still maintained the stylish football us supporters have become accustomed to, it failed to hit the dizzy heights of Friday evening a few miles from away. Primarily, this was only a cup tie which, in essence, means little to us this season.
We arrived into Birmingham at 6pm, only an hour after picking PL up from Sandiacre, only to spend the next thirty minutes driving round the city centre. The players passed us on the team bus but heading in the opposite way so we managed to eventually turn round and head in their general direction.
We got parked next to the away end in a car park which should really have been closed. The snow on the ground was uneven at best and was covered in thick snow. We sensed it would be a problem after the game.
Trig and PL headed to Mcdonalds while myself, Caygill and Rob, a late addition to the trip, set off in search of a pub. At one point we ended up on an extremely dodgy looking area where there was not a caucasian face to be seen. We swiftly turned round and tried elsewhere.
Soon enough we discovered The Roost, a decent little pub at the top of the hill away from the ground. Some of its inhabitants didn't seem to friendly but we were left alone fortunately. By 7.30pm we were heading through the turnstiles of the away end finding a much bigger turnout than expected. An impressive 1700 Reds had braved the elements to get to the match and made up a large percenetage (and all of the noise) of the total crowd of 9,000.
The game was not too dissimilar from many games at the beginning of the season when it was difficult to comprehend just how we didn't win. It bodes well that a Forest line-up including only three guaranteed first teamers managed to carve open an in-form Birmingham team who fielded the same eleven that drew with Manchester United at the weekend. In that context, we should be somewhat delighted although we certainly didn't get what we deserved.
Problems were already mounting in the car park when we returned after the full time whistle. A couple of transit vans were stuck fast in the snow and were skidding all over the place. We helped out by giving them a push before further assistance was needed elsewhere. We pushed one van all the way to the exit as the driver struggled to keep control in the icy conditions. During our good work, I kept hearing these words in my head...
'In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. They promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.'
Der de der der, der der der..........
So, beaten away... sort of. Maybe its for the best although i'd much rather be travelling to Merseyside next weekend.
If West Brom was the Lord Mayor's Show then January 30th 2010 is off the scale. Not even the joint birthday bash of Barack Obama and the Queen can touch it.
I cannot wait.
It is returning, through the darkness... Carbonari's winner that sent us down, Marlon's last minute miss, the coffee cup, humiliation under Kinnear and not forgetting those masks...
This will be the day when the Reds return. For Nottingham, for victory and for the end of Derby itself.
For all his remarks and techniques aimed to downplay his sides promotion credentials, Billy Davies has surely now been exposed. Everyone in this league knows now, if they didn't before, that we are without doubt a force to be reckoned with. If they didn't before, people will know that regardless of what he says in the coming weeks NFFC are promotion candidates. And do you know what? He probably thought that all along!
Several years after the doomed 'We're serious about promotion' campaign, it seems that we are finally getting pretty damn serious about it. Now it could just as well be said to the players of West Bromwich Albion who didn't look anything like the dead certs they appeared to be a few weeks ago.
The day couldn't have got off to a worse start when a signal failure at Birmingham caused utter chaos on the railways. No trains could get in or out of Birmingham for a good few hours leading to cancellations and severe delays.
I poled up to the ticket office at 11.15am at Nottingham station and was informed of the problems. I hung around on a platform for a train I knew wasn't going to come, eventually being advised to get a train to Derby. After ten minutes of being sat on the train, we were told to alight due to the train being cancelled! We were advised to catch the Matlock train calling at Derby along the way. This train was in no hurry and took an age to arrive. In the mean time, one of my fellow passengers was getting a little flustered and was complaining to staff and someone at the other end of a phone. I didn't recognise him immediately but I soon realised that this impatient twat was Lee Hughes of Peter Trembling Circus FC. In the end he left long before the train arrived to presumably pursue other means of transport. Hopefully he had a safe journey, those icy roads can be a killer.
I arrived into Derby shortly before 1pm, the time I should have just been arriving in Birmingham. Further delays ensued which I wont go into but I finally arrived into Birmingham at 2.40pm. Shortly before my arrival I heard from the others that were travelling up slightly later. Their train at 1.37pm was cancelled and there was no sign of any way of getting to Birmingham by train anytime soon. They subsequently decided to drive to the West Midlands. The same fate would await PL and also Gerb and his lot later. PL ended up bribing Mad Mick to get on the 'sold out' Forest coaches while Rob Brown drove in his carpet van.
I had a few errands to run in Birmingham hence my earlier departure time which was a blessing in hindsight. I trawled around the city centre before making my way to Wolverhampton via the Metro system. I arrived at the Royal London only shortly before the arrival of the others; Trig, Cags, Mitchell, Matt and Chris who had parked nearby.
Our visit to Wolverhampton was primarily to meet Trig's Wolves supporting mate, Andy while Hoppitt and Alright Dave also travelled the short distance to meet us there. The biting cold weather put us off frequenting other bars so we stayed put until we got the 7pm tram back along the line I'd headed up earlier to the Hawthorns.
The following from Nottingham just about filled the away section and was, in my opinion, the best support we've given all season. Throughout the entire game was a non-stop chorus driving the Reds on to victory. The goals brought carnage in the away end, particularly the two after the break which put the seal on a win and launched us to our highest league position for many a year.
Raddy's was simply breathtaking; it happened in the blink of my eye but I can still see it now as it cannoned in off the bar sending Raddy and 2,500 Reds next to him absolutely crazy! Sensational is not even the word. A truly remarkable finish.
Not long after we arguably scored an even better goal. The finish wasn't as spectacular, although still impressive, but the team play beforehand was first class. At our last away game some woman in the Forest end at Watford had demanded we 'play as a team'. She got her wish with third as it was flicked and pushed around by the boys in Red with apparent ease eventually falling to Chris Cohen on the edge of the box. Cohen, incidentally, was the only one involved in the move to have more than one touch; his second sent the ball crashing into the bottom corner of the net.
PL and I went absolutely mental. It wasn't the scoreline or even our impdending rise into the top two that was causing this, it was the stunning football which we were producing. For me, seasons of dour and unattractive play were being swept away and buried like the ball nestled sweetly in the back of Scott Carson's goal. I was punching the air with sheer delight inadvertantly catching the frame of PL's glasses sending them flying off his face! Fortunately no damage was done.
The consolation goal subdued things slightly as the home team pushed forward and threatened for the first real time in the game. The Reds held on though and the party kicked back into top gear in the final few minutes.
At the end I climbed up onto the side of the stand on a little ledge and joined my fellow supporters in providing a rapturous ovation for Billy and the players. 'We're Nottingham Forest, unbeaten away' echoed round like never before. I think i'm correct in saying that many had picked this fixture out as the defining test up to now and our convincing display has left us all thinking of what is to come. Dreaming is dangerous territory as we have found out in the past but who can blame us? Unbeaten away, unbeaten in seventeen games, one goal conceded in seven and football that none of us have seen as good for several years.
Snowballs were flying around outside as Forest fans partied down the passageway onto the streets outside and onto coaches or trams. Gerb and Nick travelled back with Brace so I joined Caygill in Rob's van. It's funny but no matter who's driving or which team we've played, whenever passing through Birmingham we always find ourselves at the bloody Bescot Stadium. Friday was no different as we realised were heading the wrong way. It's like there's a magnet drawing us there for no apparent reason. It did though mean we ended up passing the team bus on the way after with myself and Cags hanging out the window and saluting them as we drove by.
My phone had it's own signal failure yesterday meaning I had a flood of texts come through just as we reached Nottingham. I'd already received a text from the Sea Beast in Cape Town earlier who was watching the game while I'll leave you with one I received from Glen who's dad is a West Brom fan. It's good to be a Forest fan again.
'DADROY 1 GLENROY 3. FACT'.
Amen to that.