Sir Lee Hughes day avoided.. or is it?

The would-be match-winner meets the actual match-winner..

Nottingham Forest – 3
Notts County – 3
(AET) – Forest win 4-3 on Penalties

A day of many distractions – with the country apparently up in arms and rioting for, erm, well, no particular reason that any of the ill-educated scrotes who’ve been asked can articulate and – for Forest fans certainly – the circus of the Wesley Verhoek transfer.  Despite the attempts by the local media this wasn’t ‘Derby day’ – it was, for me at least, a banana skin fixture that – for local peace of mind at least – we could really do with not losing.

Not least for Steve McClaren who could use a boost after a limp opening game against Barnsley.  Of course, not losing means winning in the Carling Cup – as these games are decided on the night these days.  With Camp and Gunter on international duty, there were some forced changes to personnel, and chosen ones too with Boateng withdrawing to the bench to make way for Raddy in midfield,  and McGoldrick being withdrawn to give Robbie Findley his first competitive start for us.

Moloney  Morgan  Chambers  Cohen
Anderson  Majewski  Reid

Something like that, anyway.  For Notts despite repeated protestations about his ankle injury, Lee Hughes inevitably lined up for the Magpies (and indeed, would last the entire game, including extra time).  Much as I share most football supporters’ dislike of him, he’s a dangerous player still.  Former red Hamza Bencherif lined up in midfield for them, and Craig Westcarr found himself on the bench.

A good early chance for the Reds saw Anderson get on the end of a Findley pass but nudge the ball just wide of the Trent End goal.  After this though it’s fair to say that Notts County had us under the kosh.  They harried, they hassled, they closed down and they pressed forward.  A long range effort from Bishop gave Smith a routine save to start with, shortly after a close range header from Lee Hughes brought a brilliant save from the forgotten man.

The ‘keystone cops’ routine in defence was leaving us frightfully exposed and affording opportunities aplenty to the away side – Smith was able to punch away another attempt by Bishop, and fortunately for us when it fell to Ravenhill he missed the target.  Eventually the Notts pressure did count though, a freekick was played into the area by Sheehan, it was nodded down and just evaded both Moloney and Morgan in the box to let Edwards sneak a toe on it to bundle it in.

It’s hard to say that Notts didn’t deserve the lead – they’d certainly worked for it.  The Reds came close to a quick equaliser when a freekick from Reid fell nicely for Greening whose effort was blocked by despairing lunges from County defenders.  Lewis McGugan looked to threaten, taking the ball past two men and was cynically felled by the third – he duly stood up and, with Reid alongside him behind the ball, spanked an unstoppable freekick into the top corner giving Nelson absolutely no chance in the Notts County goal.

Forest were on top now – a cracking cross from Majewski found Reid on the back post to head goalwards, but Nelson made the save.  Reidy – whilst not renowned for his headed goals admittedly – probably should’ve scored.  Findley did score moments later, a lovely ball in from Cohen found him where he headed back across the goal into the far corner.  Celebrations were cut short by an erroneous offside flag (not too short for the PA to blast out the embarrassing ‘goal music’ though).

Both sets of fans were positive at half time – County fans understandably because their side had certainly competed, Forest fans perhaps appeased by the Reds’ late rally in the game after a decidedly shaky start.  With news filtering through of how Derby were getting on at home to Shrewsbury it certainly cheered us up no end as we wiled away the half time break and tried to predict how the second half would pan out.

It started out as a mirror image of the first really – County were up for it, presumably with the barkings of ol’ Mad Dog ringing in their ears they went for the jugular.  Edwards put in a cross that Smith palmed away before Cohen completed the clearance.  A corner into the Forest area caused mayhem and pinballed around like crazy before eventually being cleared, again by Cohen.  A powerful strike from Ravenhill from a tight angle after another corner brought another good save from Smith.

McClaren opted to make his first change, withdrawing Anderson and replacing him with Joe Garner to give the Reds a more overt attacking outlet.  Whether it contributed, who knows? But Forest scored shortly after – a nice pass from Moloney on the right found Reid on the left, who crossed deep to the back post, Nelson in the County goal was napping a bit and perhaps unaware that Findley was there who managed to steer a volley past him into the goal to net his first (should’ve been second admittedly!) Forest goal.

Minutes later he could’ve had two – a mix-up in the County defence saw him get clear and unleash a powerful shot on goal but Nelson was equal to it and tipped it over.  The game remained high-tempo but both sides were struggling to forge chances, and Forest were looking at that dangerous level of comfortable.  If you watch Forest, you know what I mean, they looked in control but there’s always that sense that a cock up is around the corner!

Boateng replaced McGugan with 16 minutes to go and it seemed to upset the balance of things, that’s not a reflection on George, but things seemed to go to pot a little bit.  No more so than when Westcarr turned in the box (admittedly, Wes appeared to be being impeded by another player) and fired a well-placed shot past Smith to give Notts the equaliser.  With all the pleas for peace and goodwill it was quite silly of the youngster to celebrate by going off to goad A Block!

It could’ve been a double-sucker-punch moments later, a weak clearing header from Chambers found an unmarked Hawley who brought another excellent save from Paul Smith in the Forest goal.  The goal breathed new life into Notts, substitute Montano played a great cross in towards Lee Hughes who got a goalbound shot off, again only to be thwarted by Paul Smith.  McClaren replaced Andy Reid with Marcus Tudgay.  Shortly after a freekick on the edge of the box saw us lamenting the substitutions of McGugan and Reid.

That said, Raddy clipped it over the encroaching wall well, but couldn’t get it to dip under the bar in time.  As four minutes of stoppage time was announced the Reds strove to try to finish it off in normal time – a quick freekick to Tudgay saw him net, but he was offside – and the game was forced into extra time to decide matters, finishing 2-2 after ninety minutes.  Both managers took to the field to brief their teams, with Notts culminating in a big team huddle, aww, sweet!

Forest started extra time strongly – Morgan and Greening both threatened from a corner, but it was of course the Magpies who took the lead in Extra time.  Hawley played a cracking throughball to the either-offside or spectacularly-badly-marked Lee Hughes who placed a deft shot well beyond Smith and curling enough to clip the post and find the net, sending the County fans into raptures.  Sir Lee Hughes Day beckoned.  An ugly notion.

Garner was unlucky with an effort that deflected and nearly evaded Nelson, but he was able to tip it over.  The resulting corner found Morgan who headed off-target.  After changing ends Greening blazed over from close range, admittedly an awkward ball in a crowded box.  A decent freekick delivery from Cohen found Garner who got to the ball in the air but put it over – Garner again struck a decent shot which had some fans almost celebrating, but it finished just wide.

As the County fans started to think they’d got the result they craved above all overs, Wes Morgan – in what must be at least the hundredth time we’ve deployed him as an emergency forward – came up with the goods, and then some.  The ball fell to him on the edge of the area, and without thinking he lashed it on the half volley and it went like an exocet into the top corner to take the game to penalties.  It was literally the last kick of the open game.  Which kinda serves all those who left early right!

Chambers won the toss, and predictably chose the Forest-populated Trent End goal to be the end at which the penalties would be taken – whilst the players assembled around the centre circle the two goalkeepers made their way to the goal.

The penalties:

  • Greening – clipped the outside of the post. Miss.
  • Westcarr – coolly struck and sends Smith the wrong way. Scores. Doesn’t celebrate like a twat this time.
  • Tudgay – Nelson unlucky with a hand on it, but goes in. Scores.
  • Hawley – another solid penalty, sends Smith the wrong way. Scores.
  • Garner – confidently struck into the bottom corner. Scores.
  • Bencherif – spanners it over the bar. Miss.
  • Findley – confident strike into the bottom corner. Scores.
  • Sheehan – cracking penalty into the top corner. Scores.
  • Boateng – ridiculous run up, telegraphed placed effort easily saved by Nelson. Miss.
  • L. Hughes – if he scores this, they win. He blazes over. Miss.

Sudden death:

  • Chambers – hammers it into the top corner. Scores.
  • Bishop – blazes over to hand the tie to us. Miss.

A pulsating encounter – and one for which Notts County deserve real credit, a tough contest.  Personally I thought the referee was a little weak in dealing with the repeated niggly fouls and gamesmanship from the Magpies – but equally he was quite lenient when Raddy appeared to clip Hughes in the box at one point, it was ineptitude rather than any specific biasedness which is a fairly common complaint from referees.

After recent friendlies have descended into farcical fighting, and with a backdrop of the cities of the UK under some kind of ridiculous spell of lawlessness, it is brilliant to not have to comment on any unrest between the two sets of supporters.  There was banter aplenty, but even after a game ending in penalties – where emotions run high – there was no trouble to speak of, which does great credit to the football supporters of Nottingham.

So, Sir Lee Hughes Day averted.  Or maybe we should refer to it as that?  For me this was a ‘must not lose’ rather than a ‘must win’ game – it just so happens that to achieve one the other occurs – so it’s a case of job done.  Some promising forward play here, some concerns over the defence.  However, the match was entertaining and just the ticket to distract from the disappointment of losing out on Verhoek due to homesickness.

As @terrythekitman said on Twitter, let’s make Derby-SURE we get Matt signed!

14 Responses

  1. Excellent summary, however Westcarr did pull a sneaky gesture at theTrent End when he scored his penalty. No need.

  2. So what WAS the story with Hughes? Just lies?

  3. Hi nffc. What a rollercoaster that was.

    I was in the game, sitting in the C block, a few yards away from Derbyshire! (he he) Well, as an Olympiakos fan I can assure you all the boy can score for fun. However, I’m not sure he’s the robust striker who will keep defenders occupied. He’s got an appetite for football, he was Cup Final MOTM in Greece two years ago (another heartbreaker where Matt scored early in the second half to bring his team back in the game, equalised in added time while suffering from concussion -!- and then 38 penalties were needed for Olympiakos to win!), he knows the way to come up with a goal especially in derbies. I like Matt a lot and would love to see him in red (again – lol). But if we do sign him, I’m afraid someone among McGoldrick-Garner-Tudgay should go out on loan, because having four strikers with more or less the same characteristics is not too wise imo.

    I’m leaving Findley out of this, because he is faster than all of the above (including Matt) and he showed us a piece of what he can do last night. From where I was sitting his first goal did not look like offside at all – but then again, maybe the linesman had a clearer view.

    Findley was one player we ‘gained’ from the match. The other one was Paul Smith. Fantastic saves, not at fault for any of the goals, the ‘forgotten man’ as you said must be happy that we progressed, so that he can have one more chance to impress. And if he goes on with performances like last night’s, then I’m sure he can give Lee Camp a good run for his money.

    About the new signings: Reidy still has a long way to come to his old Forest form. At times he looked too heavy, was too easily stripped of the ball. But credit to him for the pass to Findley for the second goal. He looks like dealing a bit with the bad habit to come towards the centre of the field, leaving us with no left winger and sometimes obstructing Greening’s job too (plus his co-operation with Chris I-hate-playing-left-back-and-it-shows Cohen is not too productive). Jonathan for his part is very solid, calling for any ball in midfield, seldom making mistakes, a more confident version of McKenna with a far better ball distribution. As for George, you are right that McGugan was not necessarily the man to take off for him, but now I’m 100% convinced that he will add strength to our midfield. He can tackle, he can keep the ball and he’s cool under pressure. Don’t have him take a penalty again though!

    Something that is beyond me, though, is our defence continuously struggling, especially in the middle. The Morgan-Chambers tandem, who did so well last season, seems to be cracking too easily and giving up too many chances to the oppositions. Almost all the County chances (including two of their three goals) came from our inability to clear, namely in set pieces. If SMC doesn’t sort that out, I’m afraid we are going to be in trouble. It happened in the PSV game, in the Barnsley game, it happened last night, it shouldn’t happen again.

    A final note: Why did we field only 5 subs when we could have 7? Someone please tell Steve that the new rules don’t apply to Cup games. Moussi, McCleary and McGoldrick were sitting in front of me when they could be on the bench. The gaffer looked frustrated at times, throwing away water bottles and stuff. Then he went out and praised his players’ fighting spirit!

  4. Notts appeared to be a bunch of thugs masquerading as a football team. That, married with a shit ref made it a brutal night for Forest. Bet there are plenty of players nursing bruises this morning. Dirty bastards. Typical Martin Allen mentality I’d say.

    As for Westcarr, I know someone who knows him well and they tell me he’s a complete wanker. So up himself and always believed he was the best player Forest EVER had. Yeah right. So his attitude, celebration and gesture to Trent End I would say is just typical of him.

    One thing this morning Craig, YOU ARE A LOSER!

  5. What a great match (only spoilt by the totally negative Wally behind me who kept saying that Forest “lacked composure” and that we will have a “relegation battle on our hands this season” – even when we won!). I’m sure most Forest fans thought that Lee Hughes was going to score that penalty – what a terrible finish. I thought Finlay took his goal(s) well and we looked better when we changed to 4-4-2. Our defensive issues are being caused at full-back in my opinion and although Cohen is clearly giving it a real go, he will cause Chambo and Morgan some real issues this season – we need a proper left-back!

    The Verhoek saga appears to be a very odd one to me and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move to another English club before the end of the season – maybe we could have another go in January? Anyway, strong rumours are circulating that Matt Derbyshire is signing with Miller this week – these guys will make a difference and help the team play how McClaren wants to. Although I want him to do well I think McGoldrick needs to move on and maybe Garner or Tudgay should follow him out of the door – they really are lacking in confidence at this level and it shows.

    I’m sure things will start to fit into place under Schteve, but we really do need to be patient as he is definitely going to try to revolutionise the way the team has played for the past 2.5 seasons. It struck me last night that despite his obvious faults, Billy got his team playing at least 50% better than any other manager would. In hindsight, he would’ve struggled to harness that nervous energy again for another season so he had to go. Schteve is a completely different character and he will need time to get things changed around. The fans need to be patient!

  6. Surely it should be Sir Westley Nathan Morgan Day?!

  7. Great night to be there. Ref was woeful, but (unlike Sat) at least he paced out the 10 yards.

    Google’s goal was astonishingly good. Bodes well for a repeat of last season. Findley was excellent.

    Agree the defence is shaky. Maloney had one of his least effective games in the shirt, and conceding 3 at the city ground to league 1 opposition is way short of the standards we’ve previously set. (Admittedly one was Boateng pratting around)b

    Overall I’ve been unconvinced by the ‘prem pedigree old guard’ schteve has signed. Boateng/Greening looked pedestrian on saturday and Reid’s distribution (his main asset) was shocking. Neither Boateng nor Greening redeemed themselves tonight either – Boaty at fault for the 3rd goal, Greening inconspicuous all game, and both missing their penalties!

    However, I thought Reid began to justify his selection with some beckhamesque delivery. It is scary to see him lollop around at a pace that makes you think you’re a slowmo action replay though. As my son said “He’s like the left wing version of Adebola”. I hope the coaches work in some better fitness and motivation into him.

    Cohen did quite well, not least because with Reidy statuesque he got to play left wing for much of the night!

    Will Miller / Derbyshire do it for us? I’m not sure either is the big strong target man we need. Goldie continues to look the weakest link. I’m still rueing not snagging Kris Boyd. Best goals to games rate of any striker we’ve had in the last couple of years, even when he was getting back to fitness. But no use crying over spilt milk.

    I finish with the 2 chants we can now sing, following the recent transfer debacles….

    “One Wes at this club. There’s only one Wes at this club… One Wes at thi-is club….”

    Or how about “We’ll never greet Ver Ho-eck. We’ll never greet Ver Ho-eck”

    Gallows humour.

  8. Good points:
    1. the spirit (which I think we have to thank Billy for) is still there.
    2. we know about Findley’s pace but his passing and finishing didn’t look too bad last night either.
    3. I thought Greening kept our passing game ticking over right up to the end – nice to see some composure at the heart of the team, even though McClaren was clearly losing patience with our refusal to hit the long ball in extra time (and to be fair, it was a knockdown in the box that set things up for Wes).
    4. excellent morale boost.
    5. and perhaps this will stop one or two Forest “fans” from leaving early in future.

    Bad points:
    1. defence looked very dodgy.
    2. I like Garner and I always want him to score and he looked OK last night but we definitely need another striker.
    3. and a left back (sorry Chris).

  9. Looked like a stonking game from the highlights well done lads we need more bodies in and fast.Findley looks sharp and has a good eye for goal he needs somebody to play off him though.

    U reds

    From all your comments Reidy needs sharpening up !Great blog,and I’m sure Steve will get everything sorted out !

  11. […] follow it on the night, so rather than pretend to know anything, I would respectfully direct you to NFFCBlog’s report. The one thing I can confirm is that Wes’ goal was fantastic, and out of absolutely […]

  12. this game should of been shown on tv, im sick of seeing leeds again and again…..does me nut in

  13. Overall,a match report which puts many ‘professional’ sports writers to shame.Only slight carp,was that Greenings pen was easily parried by Nelson rather than clipping the post.Ironically,neither he nor Boateng transmitted any confidence that they were going to score,whilst our other takers.including Luke,looked calm and assured.
    The comment about Moloney being ineffective was most unfair.The whole Notts tactic from every Nelson kick was to hit it to the left wing for a header on to Hughes who always moved across ready to feed off it,and on just about every occasion,Brendan dealt with it admirably in addition to overlapping well down the flank and frequently playing excellent passes to feet or attacking the Notts defenders himself.In general,looks better both defensively and as an attacking wing back than Gunter who has really declined over the last few months.
    Interested to see how Freeman played for Wales U21 at LB tonight after his impressive midfield performances in pre season.However,everyone talking of Cohen as a central midfielder is ignoring the opposition he faces:Greening,Boateng,Moussi ,McGugan and Majewski,plus Reid and Anderson will make a guaranteed midfield slot for Chris very doubtful.
    What we desperately need still,especially if Miller joins Derbyshire in signing for us, is a real winger,as Verhoek would have been.Still feel that,with a full squad,Reid will be best suited to relatively short spells as a sub when we look to a slightly different approach.Quick,hard tackling midfielders are going to find him far too easy a proposition over longer periods.’Ando’ works hard and is obviously quicker than Reidy but still never looks capable of taking on and beating defenders other than by trying to push the ball past and outpace them.McCleary has more wing attributes,but has almost certainly not even had a chance to try to persuade McClaren that he is likely to improve on the disappointments of previous seasons,as he has missed all pre season and is,presumably,still suffering from injury.

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