In memory of Billy Gray..

It was only back in December that I was reflecting on the FA Cup final in 1959.  I’m too young to have witnessed it in person, but had just watched what was a fantastic game on DVD.  If you didn’t the first time around I’d throughly recommend doing so yourself, it’s a stark reminder of the things about the game that have changed – some for the better, but much for the worst.  That 1959 Forest team were bloody good.

Only one member of that team now survives, Jeff Whitefoot contributed some moving words to the official site in tribute to his old team mate, Billy Gray, who passed away at the age of 83.  He joined Forest from yesterday’s opponents Burnley in 1957, and played 224 times for the Reds, netting 37 goals.  He returned to the club in the 1980s in the capacity of groundsman under no doubt close supervision from Brian Clough!

In the FA Cup run for which he and his teammates are best remembered, he scored five goals – including a vital one when there was an early threat of embarrassment for the Reds at the hands of Tooting & Mitcham.  His goal earned us a replay in the third round when it looked like an early exit was on the cards, and is firmly established in history as one of the most gifted players of his era.

Naturally heartfelt condolences to Billy’s family and friends – which I’m sure you’ll all share in offering.  A real Forest legend from an era that deserves to be remembered both fondly and proudly.  I’ll reiterate, watch that DVD and see how good we were – a fluid, skillful counter-attacking team that utterly dominated the final ’til Roy Dwight suffered a leg-break, leaving Forest with ten men for more than half of the game.

Even then, they still passed it around and tried to counter attack – it really is a joy to watch.

Rest in peace, Billy.

Back on track?..

Goldie: Matchwinner

Nottingham Forest – 2
Burnley – 0

Oof, for a considerable time this tie proved to be what the form table might suggest it would be.  The first half resembled a really slow brawl conducted by two men so inebriated they didn’t have the coordination to inflict any meaningful damage on one another.  To say I was a little bored would be an understatement.

From a Forest point of view the second half certainly improved – eventually you could actually tell which side was down to ten men after Bartley’s red card in the first half, and whilst Forest laboured ’til 73 minutes when substitute David McGoldrick broke the deadlock, there were a few more glimmers of hope in the build up.

Billy offered a few unexpected surprises in line-up, not least resting Gunts in favour of Moloney, the return of McKenna was bit of a surprise, but more so for me the inclusion of Moussi alongside him in midfield after he so obviously wilted latterly against Reading:

Moloney    Morgan    Chambers    Konchesky
McCleary    McKenna    Moussi    McGugan
Tudgay    Earnshaw

Before the game was a minute silence as a show of respect for Billy Gray, the recently deceased former Forest player who featured in the 1959 FA Cup win – I will take time later in the week to write more about him in due course.  The silence was immaculately observed by Forest and Burnley fans alike which is always good to see, and meant for a slightly delayed kick-off.

The first thirty minutes felt more like thirty years, both sides looked bereft of confidence and ideas, and struggled to keep hold of the ball for more than a couple of passes.  Burnley appeared to be set up to hit us on the break and/or go for a late run in the second half, whilst the Reds laboured to do something productive amidst groans from the crowd as passes went astray.

After the first half an hour suddenly chances on goal actually started to occur – the first fell to Burnley with a dodgy Wes clearance falling for Eagles, his shot looked to have fooled Camp who was forced into a good save with his legs diving the wrong way, the ball ending up over the bar at the expense of a corner.

Moments later might well have been the pivotal part of the game – it was hard to see what happened from my seat, but it appeared that Bartley went in stud-first on Chambers, and made considerable contact with him too – the defender was left down for a fair while whilst after the melee of angry players had subsided (perhaps a bit of an over-reaction?), the referee brandished the red card.

Forest’s first decent effort came soon after, a freekick from Lewis McGugan from an angle was smacked goalward-ish, but seemed to ricochet off Earnie and to safety.  As Burnley sat deeper it did offer the Reds more opportunity, a McGugan cross was heading for McCleary but for an interception from Duff giving the Reds their first corner of the match – on the 42 minute mark!

The final chance of the half was also from McGugan – a neat turn of his defender on the edge of the area opened up a shooting chance, his shot was reasonably well struck, but not with quite enough pace to beat the dive of Jensen who made a pretty comfortable save in the end.  A little more power and I think it might’ve slipped under him before he could hit the deck.

At half time we compared the beards we’d managed to grow and marvelled at how each of us had aged about a decade it seemed like we’d spent so long sitting there.  I exaggerate of course, but it was a half to forget for the most part probably from both fans’ perspective.  The hope was, of course, that we could make the extra man pay as the game wore on.

In truth, the second half started with more tempo – but in both directions.  A number of times we commented it was tricky to see where Forest were making the extra man count, indeed, without making the effort to count it was tricky to see which side was playing with a man less, such was Burnley’s workrate and Forest’s lack of creativity or mobility.

That said, there was more purpose than in the first half (not difficult!).  An early McGugan freekick was excellently struck toward Chambers who couldn’t quite get on the end of it, having to see it carry on and wide.  Lewis again was the architect, this time on the left where he beat his defender and crossed toward Moussi, but Jensengot there first.

The chance of the game so far came after – yes, him again – McGugan struck an excellent freekick from outside the box, Jensen made a cracking save, but parried the ball out to Earnshaw who appeared to be shoved as he headed it against the bar.  The referee waved away any appeals and, to be honest, even under attentions from a defender Earnie should be doing better there!

What looked like ‘one of those’ chipped passes forward from McKenna actually turned into a cracking ball to Earnie, who found himself clear of the last defender, but with the not inconsiderable hulk of Jensen closing him down – the big keeper did really well to smother the opportunity almost as soon as Earnshaw had the ball under control.

Burnley had opportunities too – Dean Marney had an effort from range which at least made Camp a bit uncomfortable, but he was able to dive and cover it relatively easily.  With the Reds still struggling to break down Burnley, Billy made a double-change with Raddy coming on for Moussi, and McGoldrick on for Tudgay.

An early foray down the right gave McGoldrick his first time on the ball, the second was put the ball in the net.  Lewis won a freekick after being cynically dragged back by a Burnley defender wide on the left, he took the freekick himself which deflected, falling for Goldie who swivelled and finished excellently to give the Reds the lead.

But for more excellent goalkeeping from Jensen it could’ve been two as well – McKenna found McGugan’s excellent run, which saw both him and Earnie against one defender, Lewis cleverly took it out wide and smashed a viciously swerving shot, alas it was a little too close to Jensen who made an impressive save.  Earnie was looking for the square ball, but to be honest I think Lewis was within his rights to have a pop.

Billy chose oddly to withdraw Brendan Moloney at this point to put Chris Gunter on, I thought the youngster (ha, I say youngster – I’m pretty sure he’s older than Gunts!) had had an excellent game and didn’t appear to be tiring.  He received a great ovation from the home crowd, and even a bit of a chant – which is nice, but harsh on many of the regular players who don’t have chants!

There were signs of calamity Forest at times, Burnley were increasingly gung-ho in their play as the game wore on, and we can be pretty susceptible to that at the best of times.  A late aerial assault culminated in Chris Iwelumo thankfully heading not quite over-Camp enough to prevent the Reds keeper catching it without falling back into the net!

The security of the second goal came in stoppage time – again McGugan was heavily involved down the right, he found Earnshaw on the left, who gave the ball to McGoldrick who put it into the top of the net from thirteen yards to secure the points, and hopefully secure some much-needed confidence for the games to come.


Spot the ball: Bartley goes in on Chambers, Eddie Howe things this is a tackle. Go figure.

As the scores elsewhere were confirmed (did anyone else feel dirty about cheering a Derby win?) it was a double-bonus, leaving us just a point away from the play-offs which certainly feels better than the four points adrift we found ourselves on Saturday.  Eddie Howe has kicked off about the red card so it will be interesting to see it again, as noted above, I couldn’t see it clearly.

Having said that, having been critical of a certain other red card lately I’ll reserve judgement – one thing I will say is that I was disappointed in the way some of the Forest players reacted (although they had a fine lesson in what that can achieve recently).  However, what is undeniable in this instance was that the ball was miles away and there was considerable contact from the player.  And Billy Davies stayed in his technical area.

A much needed win – hopefully a big confidence booster ahead of what is a very very tough trip to Norwich on Friday evening, once again where the TV cameras will be there to allow a nation to scrutinise our demise.  Or perhaps we might give the viewing public a surprise like we did all that time ago against West Brom.  Ah, how one of those performances would be welcome now!