Monday, 30 September 2013

Nottingham Forest 1 - 0 Derby County

The wait was over. The arguments about ticket allocations had run their course. In glorious sunshine, the latest instalment of the East Midlands Derby kicked off to a thunderous rendition of 'Mull of Kintyre.' After all the hype, was there any chance the game could actually live up to it? Of course not.

Local derbies are never the prettiest affairs, often resulting in overuse of the Big Book of Football Clich├ęs. Form goes out of the window. You have to win the right to play. And so on. This one was no different. Pitting a good home record against an equally impressive away one, somebody's form was likely to go out of the window. Luckily, this time it wasn't ours.

I have to admit though that upon first seeing Forest's starting line-up I wasn't confident. Collins and Moussi? Thinking about it now I guess it made sense, having players who are natural to their positions rather than 'square pegs in round holes.' At the time though it felt like a risky team to have picked.

The first few minutes of the game were nip and tuck, with no real fluidity from either side. Then, Andy Reid threaded a lovely pass through to Radoslaw Majeski whose rasping effort forced the excellent Lee Grant to tip wide. Shortly afterwards Guy Moussi gave the ball away, and was then substituted due to injury, with Dan Harding coming on at left back and Chris Cohen moving into midfield. I remarked at the time that it might be a blessing in disguise. It didn't quite pan out like that though.

For, after the substitution, Derby dominated possession. They did so, however, without ever looking really threatening. Craig Bryson (I think) sent a long-range effort just wide, Jonny Russell failed to connect with a header from a decent cross and Will Hughes fell over a lot, but it was never really seat-of-the-pants stuff for the Forest defence. I vaguely remember an excellent sliding tackle from the colossal Jack Hobbs though.

About five minutes before half time, Henri Lansbury won the ball just outside the Forest penalty area and galloped forward. Following a couple of blocked Jamie Mackie efforts the ball broke to Eric Lichaj who saw a curling drive deflected just over. From the resultant corner, Reid's flat, pacey delivery picked out Jack Hobbs far better than any of Derby's defenders managed, and he emphatically nodded Forest into the lead. Delirium ensued and almost intensified before the break as Reid skinned Derby right-back Adam Smith and crossed for Mackie to shoot. Grant was quickly off his line to block though and the half finished 1-0, a scoreline that was a bit harsh on the visitors.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, but with Derby chasing the game it allowed Forest to create more. Another brilliant Reid cross was surprisingly headed wide by Darius Henderson - it seemed the kind of chance that the Forest frontman should have gobbled up. Derby continued to huff and puff but the Forest house never looked in danger of being blown down.

Djamel Abdoun replaced Majewski and immediately gave away a free kick just outside the area after upending a Derby attacker. Hughes' resultant shot was easily grasped by Karl Darlow. I think that was the longest that Hughes managed to stay upright all afternoon.

The next action of note saw Cohen gain possession in the Forest half and run right at the Derby defence, forcing Gollum Richard Keogh to bring him down in the penalty box. Despite Keogh's protestations, which may or may not have included him calling inept referee Simon Hooper a 'tricksy little Hobbit,' a penalty was awarded and Keogh was sent off for his second bookable offence. (The first having been a dangerous bite on Samwise Gamgee foul on Majewski).

Up stepped Big Darius to take the spot kick but his low effort was brilliantly saved by Grant. It wasn't a bad penalty in fairness and one has to applaud the goalkeeper. This turn of events was always likely to spur Derby on and indeed it did, but again the expected siege never really materialised. Derby substitute Conor Sammon's weak effort which was easily saved by Darlow was the closest they came; whilst the once-again-excellent Reid could've capped a great display late on when his shot was repelled by Grant. There would be no further scoring however and, following an inordinately long five minutes of stoppage time, the whistle was blown and the day was won.

Special mention has to go to Collins and Hobbs. Despite my misgivings, the former had an excellent game whilst Hobbs was quite simply imperious, winning everything in the air, almost everything on the ground and, of course, popping up with the goal. Once again I was impressed by Abdoun. In a match that was never made for him he didn't get much chance going forward, but he never shirked his defensive duties and made a couple of decent tackles and clearances.

This wasn't a dominant or free-flowing Forest performance but, this time, it didn't need to be. The result was what we all wanted and that's what we got. And so, to Charlton.

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