Automatic for the people..

Nottingham Forest – 3
Yeovil Town – 2

Cheltenham Town – 2
Doncaster Rovers – 1

How can I start to sum up today?  Particularly since I’m not staying long, I’m off to the pub for a well-earned pint or several.  

Firstly, my heartiest congratulations to Cheltenham Town who secured survival in League One as well as giving us the opportunity to nick second spot.  I’m genuinely thrilled for them, I reckon they rank officially as my second team now!  Commiserations to Doncaster and Carlisle who have been worthy challengers over the course of the season – we as Forest fans know what it’s like to have something nicked from you at the last minute, so I’d hope that you won’t find too much gloating around the place.

It was great to see so many Yeovil fans stick around to join our celebrations too, every encounter I’ve had with fans of the Glovers has been positive (even if the games haven’t been), so it was nice to see them entering into the spirit of the day and cheering along with us once the game was over, hats off to you – and to the team too, who contested the game as we started to come a bit unstuck in the second half.  It was a tense afternoon!

I will endeavour to pull a better match report out the bag tomorrow, because frankly I’m itching to get down the pub – but the final congratulations must go to Smoulds and the boys for maintaining their great end of season run, sure, it wasn’t always pretty – but they held their nerve and now can rightly celebrate avoiding the playoffs and have a well earned rest in preparation for next season.  It’s not been a classic season, but boy I’ve never felt like that at the City Ground in many a year.

The goals are about all I can think to sum up, the first was of course scored by fans player of the season, Julian Bennett (congratulations, Jules) – and frankly, whilst I poo-poo people generally when people compare him to Psycho, but this particular goal and build-up was worthy of the great man himself.  Bennett flattened Marvin Williams with a hard-but-fair challenge, before having the ball laid back to him by Tyson, which he proceeded to blast into the ‘net with the outside of his left foot.

Commons provided the second goal just five minutes later, the hard-working Ormerod picking him out perfectly with a weighted through-ball that put him clear of the defence and into a one-on-one chance with Steve Mildenhall, who was unable to prevent Commo slipping it through his legs and into the waiting goal.  At this point some bugger started a rumour that Cheltenham were winning, I seem to remember this happening last season too, and whoever it is, it’s really not funny!

Yeovil showed they had no intention of being pushed over, nicking a quick goal back as Peters made a great run through a half-asleep looking Forest defence; McGugan put in a challenge but it fell kindly for Stewart who played it back to Peters who gave Paul Smith no chance at all with a decent finish from close range.  Shortly after this news that Cheltenham really had scored filtered through, unleashing an elated roar from the Forest fans.

Shortly after this we regained our comfort zone, Cohen was fouled just outside the penalty area – I jokingly commented at the time we should let McGugan take it as Commons would spanner it into the wall, well fortunately McGugan did take it – and curled a beautiful and powerful strike into the top right hand corner giving Steve Mildenhall no hope in hell of keeping it out.  After this Forest piled on the pressure – Morgan was unlucky from two consecutive corners and Commons was putting in some fantastic crosses from the left (take note – that’s where he should play!!).

There was an arguable shout for a penalty when Wes was hauled to the deck by a couple of Yeovil defenders, and finally Yeovil showed they weren’t out of it when Williams was sent clear by Stewart who conspired to completely miss the target from around the penalty spot much to the relief of the home support who were convinced it was going to peg us back again.  And that was half time, realistically it could have been about 4 or 5 goals to Yeovils 1 (or 2, had Williams done better).

The other reassuring thing was that we were playing some nice one-touch football at times, in neat little triangles – putting in crosses and creating chances; it was with disbelief Forest fans contemplated the second half.  Cheltenham winning, Forest winning by a comfortableish margin and playing really well aside from a couple of defensive lapses – it all seemed a bit too perfect, a bit too alien to a group of fans so used to being the ones photographed crying at the end of the season.

The second half started as the first had ended, Forest dominated possession but seemed to struggle to have the cutting edge they’d found in the first half – and this let the visitors come back into the game.  Perch put in a fantastic block (having earlier made another superb tackle – his performance today is worthy of highlighting), but picked up a knock in the process – prompting Smoulds to throw Junior Agogo into the action – and odd move, considering their relative positions.

Agogo’s first action was to tee up a chance for Tyson, the pass was a very poor one but credit to Tyson who used his pace to get hold of it and around Mildenhall, but the shot from a tight angle was cleared from the line by Skiverton.  Seemingly all at the same time Doncaster equalised and then Yeovil scored again from a quickly taken corner – again the Forest defence was caught napping leaving Andy Kirk with the easy opportunity to head in from close range.  Of course, as results stood we were still in second, but it certainly set a few sphincters twitching.

From listening to the radio summary it transpires Doncaster were to throw the kitchen sink at Cheltenham – they even hit the post at one point, but at the time the first we knew of it was that Cheltenham had once again taken the lead.  The atmosphere, which had been excellent in the first half and more subdued in the second, lifted again – with the majority of the fans standing and singing (thank heavens for some reasonable stewarding today!) and it seemed to have an impact on the Reds players – particularly Tyson who characteristically worked his arse off.

Breckin replaced the injured Chambers, and immediately started to marshall the lads which was probably needed – Wilson switched to rightback, which didn’t fill me with comfort – but Yeovil had started to either tire or ease off.  Brett Ormerod was withdrawn for Arron Davies and received a deserved ovation as he left the field, as news filtered through to us that the Cheltenham game had finished with the home side winning.  It still felt tense awaiting the three minutes of stoppage time, but when that whistle went the ground literally erupted.

There was the inevitable pitch invasion, which can be frustrating when you’re in the upper tier, but after attempting to prevent it, the police and stewards gave up and allowed the pitch to fill with dancing Forest fans, who caught hold of numerous players including Junior Agogo and Chris Cohen.  After it had died down and everyone was off the team re-emerged for a deserved lap of honour, taking applause from all the Forest fans as well as the numerous Yeovil fans who had remained to take in the celebrations.

After attempting a hand-holding length-of-the-pitch run and Klinsmann-type dive, the excitement got the better of the fans again who encroached and almost collided with the players; but what a day, the like of which it seems so long since we’ve witnessed!  I found myself almost numb and disbelieving after the dancing and the singing had died down, I don’t think it’s going to sink in properly until some time in the middle of next week.  So I’ll write it down.  We finished second, we’re definitely promoted to the Championship, we don’t have to play in the playoffs, and we’re playing Derby next year!

My mission statement when I started this blog last season was that I hoped to be able to diarise the start of some kind of recovery for Forest; it’s come a year later than I’d hoped – but bloody hell it felt good despite the wait!  A huge well done to all the Forest coaching staff and players alike, you’ve really pulled this out the bag and we’re all so thrilled you probably wouldn’t believe it – even after the scenes you witnessed today.  I still can’t quite believe it’s real, but I’m going to go and sink a few pints now which will surely help confirm it!

This did actually turn into as comprehensive match report as I ever manage to garble together for you, so I probably won’t do another one – but I’m sure I’ll have more to say tomorrow once the hangover fades.  Thanks for those of you who’ve stuck with me this season through all my moodswings, and for Vassilis in particular, mate I’m going to try to take a leaf out of your optimistic book – because you were right all along, fella!