Let’s hope England fail in 2018 World Cup bid..

My desire, is always to be here, oh City Ground!

My desire, is always to be here, oh City Ground!

This is no anti-Doughty missive, I quite like our sometimes maligned owner.

However, his recent speil on the Official Site is little more than rhetoric – albeit nice to hear stuff.  One thing I did pick up on nestled amongst his words which piqued my interest, something that we haven’t really heard about for a while – and somewhat of a shift in direction compared to what we’ve been told in the past.

Here is the passage that drew my attention, and it’s made me somewhat excited about those mysterious machinations that were threatening to drive us from our beloved City Ground!

“Plans for our new stadium are progressing though this will always be dependent on the World Cup being held in England in 2018. If this is not the case, then it is probable that we would rebuild the Main Stand and refurbish The City Ground to give us all a stadium we can be proud of in the coming decades.”

So it is possible for us to rebuild the Main Stand.  The standard response to this very obvious suggestion has always been that it wouldn’t be allowed by the planners, but clearly that’s not the case.  Frankly, I would rather go without the inevitable hassle of England hosting a World Cup and remain at our spiritual home, and retain one of the dwindling number of grounds with some character and – in my biased opinion – the best setting in the UK.

So there we have it, some shift toward us remaining where I’m sure most of us want to remain.  A refurbished City Ground with a new Main Stand sounds much more palatable than the ‘Capital One Bowl’ scarring an out-of-town location, like so many of these new arenas do in environs surrounding us!

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A right Royal draw kicks off the season..

The Moose!  The Moose!  The Moose is on fire!

The Moose! The Moose! The Moose is on fire!

Nottingham Forest – 0
Reading – 0

The game started for me with the bizarre sight of the hideous child-scaring mascot Robin Hood abseiling from above the Brian Clough stand, accompanied by a few Royal Marines.  This was an odd start for what was an exciting afternoon to be back at the City Ground, but it was nice to be back for a league game, still feeling the residual glow from seeing the Sky Sports presenter make Paul Jewell look silly with ape-related comments (Paul Jewell said something like “We have to get this monkey off our back”, to which the interviewer said “It’s more like a gorilla, isn’t it, Paul?” – quality!

But before all this it was good to meet Vasillis for a pint before the game, a long-time commenter on these very pages.

So, the game.  Given the injury situation with seemingly all our attack minded players, it was predictable to see Earnie in a rather isolated position up front on his own, behind him sat Arron Davies in the ‘drifting’ position, with a midfield four behind of McGugan, Moussi, Perch and Cohen, who frankly lacked any obvious ‘positions’ (with the exceptions of Perch and Moussi who both played quite deep in the middle).  The defence was Chambers, Morgan, Wilson, Bennett as we’ve seen so many times before, and of course Smithy in goal.

More often than not we appeared to be in a kind of Christmas Tree formation, with three midfielders sitting deep, two attempting to bridge the gap and Earnie up front on his own – although the predictable struggle to get the ball forward to the front man was evident, there was plenty to be pleased about on today’s showing against a side who were playing in the top flight last season – and have only lost a couple of their key players in this time.

Straight from kick off Forest were on the attack, with Earnshaw capitalising on a defensive mix-up from Reading to pass through to Chris Cohen whose shot struck Perch-lookalike James Harper.  Reading seemed content to allow us to play the ball around and hit us on the break, and it was on these breaks that sphincters were twitching a wee bit, because they were quicker than what we’ve seen before.

Probably the highlight of the first half was a left-footed thunderbolt from Guy Moussi from around 25-30 yards, which struck Ibrahima Sonko in the face – despite his best efforts, the big defender was unable to stay on his feet and sunk ungracefully to the deck.  Earnshaw nearly got in on the rebound but was in an offside position.  Shortly after this he picked up the ball deep and struck from 25 yards just wide – although Hahnemann looked to have it covered all the way.

Matejovsky had lengthy treatment after a challenge with Perch (which looked fairly innocuous) and eventually required a stretcher to be brought on to carefully remove him from the pitch; so it could prove to be a nasty injury – hopefully not.  Forest finished the half strongly, and quite infuriatingly the referee blew the half time whistle just as we were shaping up to take a corner, which we’d won from another Moussi effort that Hahnemann had to tip wide.

Half time saw basically a crash course in scrapping from the Royal Marines on a series of mats around the pitch; I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing you should be encouraging football fans with!  It was quite funny speculating whether or not the Marines were really ‘giving it some’ to their compadres given the big crowd egging them on, I think some of the pain ‘acting’ wasn’t exactly put on from some of ’em!

Wilson needed treatment after Doyle cynically left his foot in after Wilson dispossessed him and appeared to give his leg a good studding; Perch dropped in to centreback whilst Wils awaited permission to return to the field to resume, which he did.  At the other end Moussi shot from range again, deflecting this time to earn another corner – from which Hahnemann bought a ‘foul’ from the referee.

Forest started to press going forward, it at times our build up play was sublime – but there was never a final ball (sound familiar?), having taken out Matejovsky already, Perch collided with his replacement Cisse and rendered both players requiring treatment.  McGugan did well to get the ball to Earnshaw going forward, but the striker was blocked at source.

Moussi involved himself frequently, always making himself available for the ball – and earning appreciative shouts of “MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSE!” whenever he picked up the ball, and latterly an even more amusing cry of “THE MOOOOSE! THE MOOOOSE! THE MOOOOSE IS ON FIRE!” emanating from A Block and enthusiastically picked up around the rest of the ground.  A series of corners came to little as Reading defended resolutely.

As noted before, Reading looked dangerous on the break; and when Hunt crossed to Doyle, his header looked a goal all ends up from close range – but somehow Smith had the reactions to tip the ball on to the crossbar giving Bennett the opportunity to get the ball fully cleared to safety.  McGugan picked up a booking after conceding a freekick (which didn’t look like a foul), but throwing the ball away petulantly.

Shortly after he was withdrawn for Emile Sinclair, which – whilst the player himself didn’t exactly excite me, made me excited that we might have a partner for Earnshaw, but sadly Smoulds opted to play him on the right.  Our last chance fell to Earnie, who picked up a Davies header and tanked across the two defenders, but the turn and shot was weak and straight at the ‘keeper.  

The game ended with Reading pressing with a couple of corners coming in; I was hoping the referee would do to Reading what he did to us in the first half and not give them a chance to take them, but he did and we cleared – Smith finally clearing to bring the final whistle, and a deserved warm round of applause for the Reds as they returned to the changing room.

I’m chuffed with that showing, given our injuries.  If Reading are amongst the favourites, then we didn’t look out of place at all – and once we work on a more credible means of getting the ball through midfield into a proper chances for the likes of Earnshaw and (when fit) Cole, Garner, Tyson and Anderson we’ll be laughing.  I hope.  I’m still laughing anyway, we were above Derby without even playing a game – now we’ve played and we’re still unbeaten!

Reading players were frustrated by us, shown by the niggling fouls and cynical dragging down of players – this is promising stuff, it’s not a ‘tactic’ I would associate with Coppell – I think it was a reaction of their players borne of frustration.  I was pleased to see this.  I was a bit disappointed in the travelling fans who only really made a bit of noise early in the second half, but equally I was disappointed in the low attendance – Sky or no Sky.

But on the pitch, anything but disappointed – a good solid start to the campaign against an on-paper challenging opponent – well done lads!  I’m struggling to pick between Moussi and Perch for man of the match, which probably shows what kind of game this was really – defence certainly came out on top, but it wasn’t a ‘boring’ 0-0.