If the Football League are looking for an advertisement for Third Division football then this was it. Fast paced attacking football, two huge sets of supporters, lots of noise and passion and played, for the most part, in a very good spirit.
Before we start, let's get the grievances out of the way - City will feel that the ref denied them a point. I actually thought he did well; kept the game flowing, gave the 50-50s to the home side (first time I can remember that happening in years) and wasn't crazy with the cards. The only issue is that Wes did appear to concede a penalty in the second half for climbing. He didn't give it, but he was probably fed up with City appealing for every little thing that happened during the game - to the point where we were shouting 'Handball' every time a City player kicked it.
We lined up in a brand new 3-4-3 formation:
Curtis on for Bennett, presumably to tighten up against their right winger, the welcome return of Cullip to organise the defence and Agogo leading the line.
The game started at a fast pace, with half chances for both sides. Then Commons breaks, beats one, shimmies in front of two others and goes down. It looked OK to me but Rish reckons he just stumbled. Commons and Southall line up to take the free kick, about twenty five yards out, slightly to the left of the box. Commons steps over and Southall places it in the net. One nil and the (four and a half thousand) City fans are silenced.
Forest then proceed to turn on the style. Honestly, the best display of third division football I have seen. Probably better than most Championship games. City played their part too - the ball mainly on the deck (although we did play it over the top for Agogo a few times) and extremely fast paced and entertaining. Clingan, in particular, was a revelation as he bossed the midfield with his tireless running and sharp passing.
However, the highlight of the first half was when a Forest and a City player both went down injured in front of the Brian Clough stand. The ref calls on both physios who proceed to run across the pitch. We start cheering Gary Fleming on - he reaches the injured players first, punches the air in triumph and we respond with a chant of "Easy, Easy!".
We knew the second half would be tough. City would come out of the traps fighting and basically pegged us back for most of the half. Rish commented that they couldn't keep up the fast pace - but they did. Forest decided that they would use Agogo's pace for most of their attacks (shades of Stanley Victor) and our passing ended up being nothing more than a ball over the top for Junior to run onto.
Harris started playing deeper, as did the entire team, and City piled on the pressure. I still thought we could get another - Bristol were not really forcing any saves out of Smith and they were leaving gaps at the back. Then Colinwood decided to take Agogo off as he was obviously tiring, much to the disgust of the bloke next to me. But Agogo had stopped running (understandably, given his work rate so far) and Grolt looked like a good bet for holding the ball up. However, he had a mare - no first touch, no control, no hold on the ball. Commons came off, replaced by Bennett, and we switched to a 5-4-1 (Curtis on the right, Bennett on the left with Southall and Harris in no real position). We played deeper and deeper, Grolt's inability to control the ball leaving us with no outlet on the few occasions we managed to regain possession. And then Colinwood made what I regard to be a mistake: he replaced Harris with Thompson (not Lester). We cannot hold possession. We are under pressure. We have no outlet for the ball. Perfect for Lester - get him to run at the defenders, we keep possession and he could get us another free-kick or even a goal. But no, Thommo shored up the middle, pushing Clingan out wide. And we spent the last ten minutes barely holding on, luck as much as judgement keeping the ball out of our net.
The Northampton fans mentioned this - bizarre substitutions that turn a comfortable win into a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat final ten minutes. It wasn't pleasant for us and spoilt what was the best game I've seen this season. City fans will be annoyed, especially with the ref, but crying wolf just seemed to get his back up. As it was, there were probably about three decent chances apiece, we took ours, Smith saved theirs.
Breckin - looked half a yard short today, with the odd stupid error.
Colinwood - idiot substitution invited pressure onto us and could have cost us two points.
Cullip - the entire team looks more confident when he is playing.
Morgan - especially in the second half he was giving it all the shimmies and step overs before hoofing the ball clear.
Harris - mainly for his first half performance that showed his work-rate, even if he didn't look like getting a goal.
Commons - tackles! He even tackled. As well as scaring the defenders with his running.
Agogo - an incredible work-rate and always looked dangerous.
And Man of the Match - Clingan. Bossed the show.
It looks like the 4-0 drubbing has been put to bed.