With more Notts County fans in the City Ground than they would’ve averaged at home last season, and Forest only reluctantly opening the upper tiers for the home areas – it underlines the danger that Forest might not be taking this fixture too seriously. Or at least the fans certainly aren’t – not that the early rounds of the League Cup generally do engender massive interest.
It’s true we’ve not faced our city rivals in a competitive fixture for 17 years, that day still celebrated as ‘Sir Charlie Palmer Day’ when a header from the aforementioned Charlie Palmer earned the Magpies a 2-1 victory over Forest at Meadow Lane. That season the Reds were to ascend to the Premier League in second place, whilst Notts County just missed out on the play-offs.
Times change for both sides since then, and that’s for sure – although Forest of course remain in the second tier. After a lengthy stay in the basement division Notts County sensationally underwent the Munto Finance ridiculousness – but the legacy of that most amusing of con-jobs has at least given them a leg-up to League One where with Martin Allen installed at the helm may give them enough to get up another league.
An opening day trip to Carlisle and a comfortable victory secured with three first half goals and no reply would suggest he has his side in confident mood. Certainly ol’ ‘Mad Dog’ will recognise the invincibility a win over Forest would deliver for him in the eyes of Notts County supporters – and as such, I’m anticipating them to provide a stern test for the Reds, who endured a less emphatic start to the season yesterday.
Whilst much of the County squad might be unfamiliar aside from perhaps names that Colin Slater mentions quite a bit, there’s a few recognisable names in there for Reds fans. Controversial front-man Lee Hughes undeniably knows where the net is, whilst Forest youth-team cast-offs Bencherif and Westcarr will undoubtedly be keen to impress. Ravenhill and Bishop too could prove a threat from midfield.
As for us, certainly a more attacking display is required from the boys in Red. Steve McClaren will hopefully have taken on board that neither McGoldrick nor Garner are suited to the lone striker role if your entire midfield is going to withdraw to the extent that ours did. I’m expecting him to mix things up a bit – although it’s too early in the career of the Reds manager for us to hope to predict matters!
A chance for the likes of Findley and Moussi who didn’t even merit a place on the bench could inject a bit more enthusiasm into the lacklustre showing on Saturday. Whilst the cup isn’t the priority, and there’s no real glory in defeating Notts County, a win would be a welcome boost for manager, squad and fans alike. I don’t think it will be easy though, certainly County will be more up for it than Barnsley were.
If nothing else a victory for the Reds will prevent what will seem like a lifetime of gloating from Colin Slater on Radio Nottingham. For that alone it’s got to be worth making the effort!! For Reds fans, their latest kit looks like a Derby shirt, so we could always pretend they’re the real enemy in order to muster up a bit of excitement for the fixture?
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