What a difference (less than) a year makes..

Lewis caps off a good day in the office from the Reds with a magnificent solo goal..

Nottingham Forest – 4
Doncaster Rovers – 1

It was an afternoon sullied by only a couple of things really, the fact that we couldn’t prevent the visiting side from scoring a consolation goal, and the dreadful ‘integration zone.’  This saw foam-hand toting fans of both Forest and Doncaster ensconced in the lower Brian Clough stand.  The foam hands cunningly double-sided bearing the emblems of both clubs.  I hate it.  It’s crass, it’s the kind of thing Derby do.

No more please, Reds.  As for the half time mascot ‘race’ with them both looking at each other throughout to make sure the result was a draw, well, it took an already shit idea and made it into a complete farce.  It might sound mean spirited of me, but for me football is about passion, about rivalry, about us versus them – it’s not about being a family fun day.

Anyway, rant over.  Having spent a pleasant time with Deepingred before the match we’d decided we were looking forward to the game, but felt uneasy at the idea of looking forward to it.  If that makes sense, you see, the vibes are pretty good at the moment – on a good run, Billy having been on the charm offensive with the fans, some favourites back from injury – and opponents who, bogey-side aside, we should be able to beat.

It would seem that confidence is still not something that sits naturally with us grizzled Forest fans, especially as we approach December – traditionally the start of our traditional deep-winter slump in form.  There were, of course, to be no real worries on that score today.  Last time Doncaster visited us they did us a favour, they beat us and got Smoulderwood sacked!  Today we lined up with:

Gunter   Morgan   Wilson   Shorey
McCleary   McKenna   Majewski   Anderson
Blackstock   Earnshaw

A very positive line-up, which pleased most of the fans around us, and yet further options on the bench.  It was looking promising, except really there wasn’t much progress made in the first ten minutes.  Forest laboured to keep the ball as Doncaster worked hard to close down everyone quickly.  The visitors showed glimpses of the passing game they’re known for, and indeed, the end-product they’re known for too (ie, not much of one!).

Earnie was looking lively and tried to create chances for Blackstock and McCleary, both of whom were dealt with ably by the Rovers defence.  However, it wasn’t long to wait.  “We never score from corners” I said, tongue in cheek to a neighbour, as Raddy hit a decent ball into the box, Gunter headed goalwards but it was cleared where Anderson kept it in at a narrow angle, he drilled the ball into the danger area which picked up a deflection into the net from Roberts.

In the first half though Forest were content to let Rovers have the ball quite a bit – they weren’t always penetrative with their possession but did cause a few hearts to flutter when Blackstock had to be on hand to block an effort, and then Gunter the follow-up from Coppinger at the expense of a corner.  At the other end Earnie dummied and span well in the area but wasn’t able to beat Sullivan at his near post from an angle.

The always dangerous but frequently offside Billy Sharp probably should have done better when Shields found him but the former-Blades striker could only drag his shot wide.  Right before half time McCleary did well down the left, I was waiting for a cross to Anderson on the far post but he cleverly picked out the onrushing Majewski whose left-footed volley went over.  Would’ve been some goal, that!

So half time came and there was that familiar feeling of cautious content amongst the Reds fans.  Certainly nobody felt the game was won, however given Billy’s words at half time often having a positive impact the second half was awaited with some degree of eagerness.  The less said about the poxy mascot race the better, frankly… or have I mentioned that already?

Forest came out the blocks faster in the second half – Gunter, my man of the match, was doing sterling work getting forward to overlap and it seemed to work better now McCleary had switched to the right wing.  He put in a dangerous ball early doors which almost gave the Reds another goal by means of own-goal as Hird sliced his attempted clearance but for a corner, fortunately for him.

It was thirteen minutes into the half which saw the Reds double their lead – a corner again, Majewski again, this time it needed no scramble – Wes Morgan rose magnificently at the far post to plant a towering header into the Trent End goal to rapturous celebrations from fans and players alike.  I don’t think anyone does ‘happy when I’ve scored’ quite like Wes in the Forest squad, it’s brilliant!

The Reds began to look comfortable now, winning the 50:50’s and passing with much more ease and style than they’d managed previously as Rovers heads were starting to drop.  However, this phase didn’t last and the visitors did rally with a quick sequence of three chances – any of which could have changed the dynamic of the game had they been converted.  Sheils dragged a shot wide, Sharp missed with a header from an Oster cross and another shot ended up wide.

As the visitors focused their energy on attacking Forest were able to hit them on the break, Majewski had the ball on the edge of the box and looked set to shape up for a left-footed shot but instead dinked a delightful throughball to Earnie, who made no mistake at all in finding the bottom corner of the net for his second goal in two games – this time the obligatory Earnie somersault happening infront of the Trent End as relief flooded the City Ground that the points were in the bag.

It was only a couple of minutes later when recently-added substitute Lewis McGugan capped off the game for Forest with a fantastic goal.  His first touch was to control the ball on the run, his second lashed it into the goal from a nigh-on impossible looking angle.  It was literally breathtaking as I found myself stood up and unable to cheer, seriously, it was a good goal!  Rovers had just taken off Sullivan presumably due to injury, so I felt a bit sorry for their sub keeper.

Dele had also been introduced for Dex, McGugan replacing Majewski, the last sub was McGoldrick for Earnie.  The blip happened from a corner, well taken but we should have been able to deal with Billy Sharp who headed in well to give the visitors a consolation – and make Lee Camp go mental.  Understandable really – it was probably the only serious on-target threat on goal he’d faced all afternoon so his frustration is understandable.

McGoldrick could’ve made it five as he tried to prod the ball past Ben Smith whilst I thought he was being fouled, he should’ve probably gone to ground – but at the end of the day we didn’t really desperately need the extra goal – but well, it’s nice to get ’em isn’t it?  Full time came, and we’re up to fourth at least until we know how Cardiff and Blackpool get on in their games in hand.

As I said above, plenty of good performances throughout but I’d give man of the match to Gunter who not only defended stoutly but provided real threat going forward too.  McCleary also had an excellent second half, and well, everyone had a good game – which is always a bonus!  Well done Billy and the boys, another great weekend’s work!

Generally games against Leicester tend to have a fairly one-sided level of excitement, but with them dropping a couple of points today it gives us the opportunity next weekend of elevating ourselves above them in the table.  Certainly whilst I struggle to see them as local rivals, I certainly see them as rivals for where we’d like to be in the league – and on that level this will be a potentially fascinating fixture.  Can’t wait.  Cautiously, of course.