Smithy: made wonder saves to earn us a replay
Derby County – 1
Nottingham Forest – 1
And so we must play them about three times in a month, with three years of being parted this season is turning into overkill on the Forest vs Derby rivalry (I refuse to include the nonsense that is that ill-conceived BC Trophy friendly). The replay will be a week on Wednesday.
The news that Billy Davies was unable to attend the game was met with some derision initially, until it was confirmed that it was due to his desire to be with his son after undergoing a major operation. It kind of puts things into perspective really, and even an event as huge to us as a game against Derby pales into insignificance in the face of such events. So naturally, and I’m sure you all join me, first and foremost we wish a speedy recovery to Davies Jnr, and send our best wishes to Billy and Martha Davies who must be worried sick.
So, having been herded from the train station to the ground it was already pretty full. To be honest, the atmosphere at these games always ends up being an anticlimax for me; because football chanting has gotten so unimaginative, from both sets of fans. Although I do like the ‘Commons is judas..’ chant, I must admit. Oddly the Derby fans seemed to be chanting about our impending relegation – poor loves can’t have seen a league table lately can they? Let alone a form table!
So, it transpired that Wes too has familial issues so was forced to miss the game – a big miss for us, and of course I extend the same good wishes to Wes and family at a tricky time. Ned shuffled the deck and put Lynch at left back with Wilson returning to the centre to partner Brecks, with Chambers at right back. In midfield Cohen, Perchy, Lewis and Anderson lined up in a flat four, with Earnie and Tyson up front. The notable omission from the Sheep line up was Commons, who was on the bench, with Barnes starting the game. Savage too was in the starting line up, which I must admit before kick off I was pretty happy about.
The teams were led out by a sheep, which is basically the Derby equivalent of a cheer leader – something for the male members of the crowd of that way inclined to have a perve over, and the sides took to the field to that godawful music that I’v e never bothered to identify that Derby come on to the pitch to.
The first half was, in honesty, best forgotten – a scrappy game of football between two struggling sides – with the home side slightly on top, and probably deserving their lead they took into half time. There were flashes of good things from Forest – Earnie did well to get the ball in a crossing position, but supposed Forest-target Stephen Bywater did well to get between him and Tyson. A long ranger from the diminutive striker shortly after was straight at the keeper. Despite Derby’s possession, they hadn’t mustered a shot on goal yet.
Teale provided Smith with his first test, skipping through two Reds defenders down the left but ultimately landing a tame shot at Smithy. Forest appeared to be sitting back to hit on the counter – which, frankly, is always a bit terrifying as a spectator who has watched Forest try to defend for a concerted period before. That said, Derby suffered quite a bit of ‘poor last decision’ syndrome that we too are familiar with. Smithy was on his toes to put a rare shot on target from Barazite round the post for a corner.
The home side did, as we know, take the lead though – and it was a well worked goal – Connolly made a good run down the right and crossed into the box, one player dummied it leaving Rob Hulse the opportunity to strike a well-placed shot low into the goal giving Smith (who still gets maligned by random idiots in the Forest crowd) no chance to make the save. This understandably rather amplified the home fans, and quietened the Forest fan. Forest sustained some more pressure before going on the offensive, Tys won us our first corner of the game with an effort saved by Bywater, the referee denied us our second when the ‘keeper clearly made a save from Earnie but instead he gave a goal kick.
Ned obviously did some good work at half time, the first thing he did was replace Joel Lynch with Garath McCleary – I don’t like singling out players for criticism, but Lynch is appalling. I realise he’s not actually a left back but well, he’s just not good. Garath went out on the right, Anderson switching to the left, with Cohen tucking in at left back which is a waste – but given the options open to us the best choice I think. We really do need to acquire a credible left back solution in the transfer window.
The evidence of further good work during the half time team talk was apparent immediately – Forest looked much more ‘up for it’ and created their first chance early after Wilson broke forward well to find Tyson, who brought a routine save from Bywater. Another Tyson break saw him kicking his heels awaiting his teammates catching up before being forced to cross before any other Red shirts could make it forward in support. Forest were starting to play with more purpose and it started to wake the travelling support up – and quell the pretty-quiet-already home fans.
McCleary was starting to have an impact on the right – offering more of an ‘I’ll take you on’ type of play compared to Anderson’s earlier ‘run-at-them-with-pace’ solution. He got one ball in to Chambers whose effort was blocked, and shortly after provided the ball that would get us the equaliser. In an almost carbon-copy of the Derby goal a cross came in from McCleary on the right, Tyson dummied and Earnie received the ball, turned and struck an excellently placed shot past Bywater to send the away end completely mental.
Kris McCommons was introduced shortly after, to a suitably rousing unwelcome from the Forest fans – although the Derby fans do seem to have genuinely taken to the pie muncher. He immediately had an opportunity to make himself a hero, put he put his shot over the bar rather than on target. After this there was a delay after Anderson had gone to ground under a challenge from Connolly. It appears the loanee landed awkwardly on his arm – which has subsequently been shown to be a fracture to his forearm and a dislocated wrist. Ouch. Hopefully the jeering Sheep fans to our left feel a bit silly for suggesting he was milking it. Fools.
So, latest on the list of good wishes are to Anderson who has just started to make his mark in the side, I think. He will apparently miss around six weeks during recovery, which is bad news – all the best to you Paul, and here’s hoping for a speedier-than-predicted recovery. Get lots of green veg down you for the carbon and vitamin D content!
Arron Davies was put on to replace the injured McCleary, and once the game recommenced Forest had lost their rhythm somewhat allowing the home side to come back into it. Fatty turned and hit an excellent long range shot which Smithy did well to get two fists to, and see it safely over the bar for another corner. Derby, sensing a late winner to ease the pressure on their new three-games-no-wins gaffer, piled forward. Smith pulled another amazing save out the bag to deny Hulse a headed goal from six yards, and then again from a Luke Varney effort.
There were six minutes of added time, during which Earnie was subbed, to an ovation from the Forest fans and some boos from the Derby ones, Garner was his replacement but to be honest, the game finished how it had begun with lots of scrappiness and not a great deal of cohesion from either team. It ended properly after Cohen went in very late and scythed down Varney, injuring himself in the process. He picked up a yellow card for his troubles, and also heralded the arrival of full time.
A good way to judge a result is by the fans reactions – the Derby fans mostly trudged off (whoever designed Pride Park didn’t think about the logistics of people getting out, as often Derby fans will want to leave quite quicky I would’ve thought!) as it takes AGES. The Forest fans were content to stay and applaud and chant for their team – particularly Earnie who was absolutely loving it. Ultimately, I think a draw was fair as I said yesterday – but we can thank Smith in particular for the opportunity to have a replay, when hopefully Billy and Wes will be back in the fold.
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