From Chelsea To Yeovil
By the time the January transfer window closed fans were left bemused to say the least. Out went Cullip, Southall and Thompson and in came Chambers (for an undisclosed fee) and the surprise loan signing of former Red David Prutton. The failure to adequately replace Southall would ultimately lead fans to question the clubs sense and reasoning. The first rumblings of discontent were calmed by the loan signing of Reading wonderkid Paul Henry, but after only 3 mins of first team football, he was sent packing after failing to live up to the hype.
The Chelsea game had been an embarrassment. The post match stats made for uncomfortable reading and along with the performance were best forgotten. The Reds had a vital midweek game away at Carlisle to follow. Although the game saw new sensation Lewis McGugan make his debut, Forest lost 1-0 in another below par performance. A win could have seen the Reds back in the top two.
By the end of February, Forest were in 3rd spot, but Scunthorpe were pulling away and had a 7 point lead over the Reds. The sides form was inconsistent and a good run of results was not looking likely. March would be a difficult month with games against fellow promotion candidates Doncaster Rovers (lost 1-0), Scunthorpe (drew 1-1) and Bristol City (drew 1-1). Wins against Chesterfield and Huddersfield did little to raise aspirations of promotion as chances had been lost to make up ground. Come the end of the month, Forest would be residing in 3rd spot, 4 points off an automatic place.
Fans were preparing themselves for the dreaded playoffs, but manager Calderwood was insistent that automatic promotion was still achievable. Every game from here on in would become a must win game. Millwall was first up and a reunion with old boy Neil Harris. Forget the fact that he couldn't hit a barn door whilst in a Red shirt, because it was written in the script that he would ruin the day for Forest. He did ruin the day, as the Lions roared onto a 1-0 win. The next game was against soon to be relegated Rotherham on a Bank Holiday Monday at a near sellout City Ground. The Reds limped away with a 1-1 draw. Three straight wins were to follow and a renewed sense of hope was beginning to appear, particularly after the final away game at Orient. The day saw Forest get a convincing 3-1 win and results elsewhere meant they were somehow in with a chance of an automatic spot. The game ended with one of the most memorable moments of the season, when both sets of supporters applauded each other. Forest because the O's had made their season safe and Orient because the Reds had a shot at automatic.
It went to the wire and a last day showdown with Crewe at home. The City Ground was packed to the rafters. The supporters were right behind the lads. The lads however could not rise to the occasion. It was to be of little consequence though, as Bristol City beat an already relegated Rotherham, to deservedly claim the 2nd automatic promotion spot. So the playoffs it was and a 4th versus 5th semi final against Yeovil, with the 1st leg away.
What happened next over two legs had to be seen to be believed. Steven Spielberg would have been sent packing from his Hollywood home if he came up with the script. Forest came away from Huish Park with a 2 goal advantage, despite being played off the park with 2 well taken penalties from Commons and Perch. The 2nd leg should have been a formality. The fans knew better and were cautious in their approach to the game. The message boards were filled with warnings against complacency and fears of their heroes bottling it. Forest put in a disgraceful display. No ambition or desire to win the game was on show, even though their performance was being beamed to the nation on Sky TV. Wave after wave of Yeovil attacks were making a mockery of the 2 goal lead. Not only did the visitors get the 1st goal, they went and threw it away. 3-1 on aggregate and they should have had no chance. Bizarre substitutions and bizarre tactics meant that a 3-1 lead was thrown away and extra time and a few thousand heart attacks were to follow.
The Reds began to implode and for want of a better expression, committed footballing suicide. Prutton was sent off, Morgan gifted the opposition a goal, the injured Wright scored an own goal and Yeovil romped home deserved 5, yes 5-2 winners on the night. The result leaves the Reds with a 3rd season in this graveyard of football. The fallout from this game has still to settle. It has left wounds like open sores in the hearts of the fans. It has also resulted in the manager wielding the axe in the direction of nine players, not enough in the opinions of some.
It's now the close season and the rebuilding has begun. In hindsight, Forest probably finished where they deserved to. The fans will demand better and will not accept the same again. The manager must learn from his mistakes. Mistakes he readily admits to having made. If he can learn and attract some decent quality playing staff to the club, then the future may be bright. But fans are yet to be convinced of the clubs ability and ambition to do this. The new season is only a matter of weeks away and I like many have yet to renew my season ticket. The club knows as well as I do that I and the rest will renew, for it's in our blood, but they should not take this blind loyalty for granted. The fans deserve better and it's up to the hierarchy at the club to give it to them.