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Meldrum's Verdict: Nottingham Forest 1 AFC Bournemouth 1
THE old adage ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper’ has somewhat bitten the dust in the age of iPads and iPhones. This was one in the ‘i’ for the Nottingham Forest supporter known only as True Red.
Presumably, Eddie Howe glued a tablet computer to the dressing room door. Team talk done. Thank you very much.
For those wondering what this is all about, the Nottingham Post website last week printed a piece of writing at best described as ‘disrespectful’ and, at worst, as ‘appalling’. It was also inaccurate on several levels, although also open to debate on others.
In the piece, True Red had claimed Eddie Howe’s “minnows” would feel “dazed” by the “grandeur and history” of their famous opponents. Not likely. Cherries had dominated in spells at Elland Road under the lights just a few weeks ago.
Howe’s men, it was claimed, would also be unable to compete with the “prowess, power and financial muscle of the Trentside team”. How must True Red have felt when Darius Henderson’s “prowess” saw him miss an open target from inside the penalty area after 61 minutes? That gilt-edged chance would surely have handed the “two-time European Cup winners” all three points against the “inferior” side from “Hampshire”.
The image of Brian Clough is everywhere at the City Ground and the stand named in his honour looms over the turf where Forest romped their way to the 1979 European Cup final, against Malmo in Munich. A year later, they beat Ajax 2-0 in the semi-finals at the City Ground to book a final place against Hamburg at Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium. It is a glorious history that cannot be called into question.
But even Old Big ‘Ead would have had his head buried in that green jumper after reading the musings of True Red.
Billy Davies, the current Forest manager, spoke eloquently and respectfully post-match about Cherries, giving them credit for their performance.
There was not a single “no comment” as the local Nottingham writers tore up their makeshift betting slips in both surprise and frustration. Davies charmed the notebooks off the visiting press.
Perhaps he, too, had read True Red’s ramblings after all.
On the City Ground’s hallowed turf, Davies’s “unstoppable machine” was halted for just the second time at home in the league this season.
Cherries joined Middlesbrough (2004 League Cup winners and 2006 UEFA Cup runners-up) in taking points from the City Ground – “a famous stadium where the biggest names in world football once plied their trade”.
And it was deserved.
Cherries could have taken the lead in the seventh minute. Tokelo Rantie seized on Andy Reid’s poor back pass and looked to round goalkeeper Karl Darlow, but was smothered at the key moment and the chance was gone.
A minute later, Howe was rocked by the loss of his own goalkeeper Stephen Henderson. In an accidental clash with Forest striker Simon Cox after he had saved well from Djamal Abdoun, Henderson was left screaming in agony with a suspected dislocated shoulder. He could be facing six months on the sidelines.
The five-minute delay as Henderson was treated on the pitch seemed to leave both sides cold. Henri Lansbury, Forest’s best player, pulled his shot woefully wide after play had restarted.
A shot from Rantie at the other end was saved by Darlow. Cox then fired wide for Forest.
Lansbury, though, handed Forest the lead six minutes before half-time.
The midfielder had been left in acres of space and was not closed down quickly enough. He let rip from 30 yards and Ryan Allsop had no chance.
As the interval loomed, Lewis Grabban was denied by the post after Steve Cook’s long throw had caused mayhem in the hosts’ penalty area.
True Red’s half-time Bovril was presumably supped with a wide smile.
Allsop saved well from Cox just before the hour. Then, Henderson fluffed his lines with the goal gaping.
The big striker had done the hard work in rounding Allsop as Cherries’ back four appealed in vain for offside, but his weak shot trickled embarrassingly wide.
Henderson’s afternoon went from bad to worse when his thunderous header from Reid’s corner hit the back of the net, before being chalked off by referee Phil Gibbs for a foul on Cook.
In the 77th minute, Pugh finished well and looked to have levelled but the assistant referee had flagged for offside. Harry Arter’s drive whistled over the crossbar.
It was a second-half performance that deserved some reward and Howe got it when Pugh swept the ball home following superb work from Rantie. It was the first minute of stoppage time. The so-called “unstoppable machine” was stopped in its tracks, while large parts of the City Ground fell silent.
The storm clouds gathered above the Brian Clough Stand as the media waited for Davies. An early firework display was surely waiting.
“It (the article) certainly did not come from any of us. The one thing we never do, despite what people might think and what people might say, is disrespect any team that has earned the right to play in the Championship,” said Davies.
“Other people’s opinions, I can’t control.”
Take note, True Red.
Star man – Elliott Ward
Forest supporters know all about Ward after his two spells on loan at the City Ground last season.
So his commanding and towering performance at the heart of Cherries’ back four would have come as no surprise.
Ward, alongside the ever impressive Steve Cook, snuffed out the danger when faced with both little and large.
The former Norwich man dealt with the pacy threat of Simon Cox as well as coping superbly with the aerial strength of Darius Henderson.
Both Ward and Cook are comfortable on the ball and were the starting points for several of Cherries’ best attacking moves.
Cherries: S Henderson (Allsop, 11, 7), Francis 7.5, Ward 8*, Cook 7.5, Harte 6 (Daniels, h-t, 7), Pugh 7, Arter 7, Collison 7.5, Surman 7 (Pitman, 73), Grabban 7, Rantie 7.5.
Unused subs: Elphick, O’Kane, Thomas, MacDonald.
Booked: Collison, Pugh.
Forest: Darlow, Jara, Collins (Wilson, 45), Hobbs, Cohen, Abdoun, Lansbury, Majewski (Mackie, 64), Reid, D Henderson, Cox (Derbyshire, 72).
Unused subs: Harding, Halford, Paterson, de Vries (g/k).
Booked: Cox, Lansbury, Hobbs, Darlow.
Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands).
Attendance: 28,070 (including 1,067 away supporters).
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