Rams Hold On For A Draw-Bragging Rights Are Shared
Forest went to Pride Park on Saturday, well backed by a vociferous army of just over 4,000 fans. They were treated to a battling performance in freezing conditions and will have come away from the game pleased with the efforts of their team, but disappointed not to have taken all 3 points, the Brian Clough Trophy and more importantly, the bragging rights for the East Midlands in the 1-1 draw.
In a week that brought about some dramatic upheaval and change at the club, it was good to get back to the real business of playing football and what better way of doing just that than a match against your fiercest rivals, in their own back yard. Alex McLeish made just the one change to the side that beat Peterborough the previous week, bringing back Danny Collins in place of Dan Harding.
The game got underway, with a sellout Pride Park raising the volume levels to fever pitch and it was the home side who settled first. However, the Reds` soon got a foothold on the game and began to take control after the first ten minutes. Recent encounters between these two sides have been feisty affairs to say the least, but there was little sign of the strong arm tactics employed by the Rams on previous occasions in this game. Referee Mark Clattenburg had a fairly easy afternoon as it turned out, but he handled the occasion well and allowed the play to flow as much as he could.
The first real chance of the game fell to the home side, when Jamie Ward sent a bullet of a free kick straight into the Reds` defensive wall. Darlow initially dived the right way, but the ball took a wicked deflection and went narrowly wide of the post and out for a goal kick.
Soon after, Simon Cox almost sent the travelling Trickies wild, when some neat build up play ended up with him hitting a decent strike from the edge of the box. The shot had Legzdins well beaten, but the ball bounced off the bar and a relieved Rams defence were able to clear the ball. This was a good period for the Reds` and their dominance paid off when Cohen put us in front after some good passing play between Majewski and Cox. The move ended with Cox slotting a short pass into the box, where Cohen was on hand to slide the ball past Legzdins. Cohen needed two stabs at the ball, after fluffing his first attempt, but his second effort was coolly dispatched into the net.
Forest took their deserved lead into the break and for the first time in a few years at Pride Park, the travelling Trickies were happy at half time. There were plenty of smiling faces on the concourse and outside where a fair few were having a crafty fag. Somewhere mixed in with the smell of tobacco, I got the misguided sense of victory in the air as well. That sense of victory was to be short lived, because despite Forest starting the second half in the same fashion as they finished the first, we somehow and rather stupidly allowed the Rams back into the game.
Forest were on top and looking well in control of things, when Simon Gillett was guilty of losing possession in the middle of the park. Conor Sammon robbed the dwarf midfielder of the ball all too easily and was able to find his way to the edge of the Forest penalty area. He side footed a pass, to the grateful Jamie Ward, who had the simplest task of putting the ball past Darlow and into the Forest net.
The goal awoke the home fans from their slumber and for the first time in the game, Forest fans knew they weren't the only people in the stadium. The goal gave the home side a temporary lift and mainly due to the fact that Forest players were sitting back and allowing them to come at us, the Rams were looking to add to their equaliser. That pressure was short lived, as once again the lads settled and went about trying to secure the points.
Fair play to manager Alex McLeish, who gave it a real go and was as positive in his team selection, as he was with his substitutions too. My man of the match Majewski was replaced on the hour mark by Dexter Blackstock. The lanky Forest striker, now formed part of a three man strike attack, with Cox and Sharp leading the way. Moussi came on shortly afterwards to replace Gillett, who by now had gone from a man having a decent game, to an accident waiting to happen.
It would be unfair to say that we laid siege on the Derby goal, but we had a few golden chances in the second half to seal the game. Dex was probably guilty of missing our best chance, when he headed a teasing Lansbury corner over the bar, when he was in an unmarked position just inside the box.
Although this encounter was often scrappy, it still made for a tense and pulsating game. The neutral may say the draw was about right, but my slightly biased opinion says we should have had all three points.