Ah yes, I remember play-off semi-final second legs..

Billy's boys weren't up to it today, but I hope the wee man sticks around!

Nottingham Forest – 3
Blackpool – 4

This is becoming a bit of a habit isn’t it?  The first thing we must do is offer hearty congratulations to our opponents.  Of course, there were referee decisions to howl at in both fixtures, but it would be a hard-nosed Forest-blinkered individual to say that Blackpool weren’t worthy winners of the semi-final.  I truly and deeply wish them well in the final – well played Tangerines.

An early lead was just what Forest needed on the night, and achieved – but Ian Holloway’s men stood by their manager’s words and stayed positive and attacked throughout and ultimately triumphed thanks – in no small part – to a deadly appearance from soon-to-be-jailbird DJ Campbell, who put in an Arron Davies-like performance with a hattrick to give Blackpool a win on the night.

That’s four times they’ve beaten us over 90 minutes this season, and really, whilst the disappointment bites – it’s hard to begrudge them anything.  The better team won, and I’m prepared to say it and wish them well at Wembley (made spectacularly easy given the distastefulness of their potential opponents admittedly!).

Billy went predictable, and that’s not a criticism – it might well have been the best side available to him given the task at hand to get a two goal advantage.  As it turns out, is wasn’t enough.

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Perch
Cohen    McKenna    Majewski   Tyson
Blackstock    Earnshaw

It was a decent atmosphere from the sell-out crowd, and early doors Raddy had an effort which was over – it was end-to-end though, with former Reds loanee Ormerod striking a volley well – but finishing just over the bar.  Then it all seemed to be going according to plan, as the Reds managed to take an early lead with a well-worked and taken ball.

Dex as involved in the build-up leading to Raddy Majewski crosing to Earnie who made no mistake at all from the finish to level the tie – before haring to the Brian Clough Stand to unleash his customary celebration.  This really woke up the fans who were in decent voice, and not long after he maybe ruing not making it two as he beat the offside trap but couldn’t unleash a clean shot – having to settle for a corner.

But Blackpool threatened still.  An Ormerod cross needed to be put out for a corner by Perch, and Adam was allowed to hit an effort from range which Camp needed to look alert to tip over.  Cohen tried from range but didn’t get a good contact and Gilks was – despite the initial dive – able to see the ball wide for a goal kick.

Some nice play between Cohen and Dex culminated in the latter having an effort on goal – but it was weak and didn’t realy challenge the keeper.  Then was perhaps the moment we did have a gripe with the officials as Dex broke through only to be pulled up for an offside flag which I understand TV replays suggest was as dubious as it looked from my seat.

So at half time we were reasonably content to have levelled the tie – of course the away side offered considerable threat but we’d offered a reasonable account of ourselves too.  Blissfully unaware (but perhaps mindful of past play-off disasters) we awaited the second half with some degree of excitement and optimism.  Oh how premature that was to prove to be!

Moments in to the second half it seemed we’d got the perfect start – Earnie broke through and put the ball in the net.  Fortunately for me I’d spotted the late flag, unfortunately many fans hadn’t – it looked dodgy to me, but then I’m biased – I’m not sure what the replays showed.  It was certainly a pivotal point in the match, though.

The breakthrough for Blackpool came just shy of the hour mark, Keith Southern had found Campbell with a decent pass and uncharacteristically Camp came haring off his line for no real reason, giving the striker the opportunity to score a fairly soft goal – albeit a well-taken one (well-taken is the watchword for Blackpool!).

No sooner had the away fans had their resurgence of atmosphere control we were back in it though, a Gunter cross was met by Blackstock and ultimately ended up at the feet of Earnie who crashed it into the top of the net from short-range to once again level the game on aggregate and ignite the home fans into song.

Alas, it wasn’t to last – and I’m sure you know how the story ends – a shot from Dobbie deflected horribly and found the net to restore their lead without giving Camp the vaguest of opportunities to save – whilst a the other end a quick break culminating in chances for Blackstock and Earnshaw were met with an excellent double save by Gilks.  Whilst I like to try to be positive, it was starting to feel like the writing was on the wall.

It really felt like that when Dobbie again proved tormenter – picking up the ball after it was lost by Perch to find our other tormenter Campbell, who again finished with aplomb from 12 yards to give the visitors a bit of daylight in the tie for the first time.  The pair combined again when Dobbie shot, Camp parried and Campbell finished a pretty much open goal from six yards.

The consolation goal perhaps summed things up for us – late substitute Dele Adebola of all people burst through and almost cocked up the opportunity to score before the ball rebounded kindly for him infront of an empty goal.  Stoppage time was already in effect and it wasn’t a particularly well celebrated goal – to say the least!

All in all, a very disappointing evening’s work for the boys in Red – but I return to my starting theme, congratulations to Blackpool who showed some real nerve and battling attacking spirit.  I truly hope they triumph at Wembley and don’t really much begrudge them their trip to the capital as we didn’t really do enough to earn it, it has to be said.

As for Forest – it’s easy to get swallowed in disappointment, but I never really expected a play-off finish this season.  To have finish third compared to nineteenth last season is a fantastic achievement and whilst the end is sour, it’s been a tremendous season and one the players, staff and fans should be proud of.  I’m still proud to be a Red and I’m sure those of you reading are too.

Have a good summer all (I’m sure I’ll have a few things to post during the summer months), and on 22nd May let’s all cheer on Blackpool in their ongoing play-off adventure against either Cardiff or Leicester.

And remember, it could be worse, we could have an unelected Tory Prime Minister… oh….. what a shit night!