Nottingham Forest 2 Ipswich Town 1
Saturday 14 April 2018
John hadn’t been here before. I had, but not for a few years and it was a pleasure to go back. Kieran had already been this very season, but he’s just hardcore.
My first trip to the City Ground was on 31 March 1990. Brian Clough’s Forest side were 3 weeks away from the League Cup Final (where they beat Oldham 1-0). They were clearly lacking focus in the League, though, as they went down 1-0 to Wimbledon in a dreadful match watched by just 16,821. There are some decent shots of the game in the YouTube video here (please support Adam Smith’s channel):
Check out the scenes of Nottingham town centre at the end too! Some great forest chants on the video also
You can probably see us on 4.03, standing at the Bridgeford End next to the Wimbledon fans. The Bridgeford was a nice terrace but still spoiled by penning even a year after Hillsborough. The corner enclosure was particularly nasty for away supports bigger than a few hundred: starting big at the top, where you entered via steps at the back, it then funnelled down to a narrow, fenced point. This, and a particularly unsympathetic constabulary, nearly caused serious injuries on many occasions. (One of them, Celtic’s visit in 1983, is covered elsewhere on this site.)
My most recent visit was a collector’s item. In Nottingham on business towards the back end of 2006, I ended up sitting – not far from where we were today – in Forest’s record smallest gate for a competitive match, a measly 2,031 against Brentford in the Johnstones Paint Trophy. They won 2-1, a fact hardly anyone gave a monkeys about then or since.
Using the tried and tested “dump one car and go in the other” approach, we’d sorted out a likely-looking suburban street near Keele services. Unfortunately two carloads of men arriving in their neighbourhood was clearly the most exciting thing its elderly residents had seen in years, so we were forced to make alternative arrangements before they called the police.
Despite this the trip was routine enough. I’ve never been to Nottingham without hitting horrendous traffic from the M1 onwards, but this was a dream. We drove over Trent Bridge good and early and parked for a reasonable fee on Nott’s County’s club car park, where the stewards were as friendly as anything. As an added bonus they tolerated us wandering into the deserted ground, whose gates were conveniently open. There was also the chance for us to pay our respects to Jimmy, in the shape of Andrew Edwards’ excellent new(ish) statue of him and Jack Wheeler on Meadow Lane.
The CG has a timeless quality. Partly that’s because of its “iconic” location on the banks (how can something be on more than one bank?) of the Trent. And partly it’s because two of the stands have been there since at least 1980. The oldest is the Main Stand, aka the Peter Taylor Stand: built in 1957, it was famously damaged by fire during a match against Leeds in 1968 but subsequently repaired. It’s been tarted up over the years and the side farthest from the Trent, where we were, seems to attract the liveliest clientele.
The Brian Clough stand opposite – which used to be grandly titled the Executive Stand – is from the same stable as the Steve Bull/John Ireland stand at Wolves, and the old West Stand at Spurs. At the arse-end of the 70s, executive boxes were what every ambitious club dreamed of: smoked glass was good for keeping out the riff-raff, and you could turn the sound down if the language got too industrial.
Back then, winning European Cups under Clough and Taylor, Forest had a whiff of glamour about them: now, “we shall meet again soon to march to new triumphs” reads the sign on the modern Bridgeford Stand, quoting Giuseppe Garibaldi. As they conclude their 19th season away from the top flight it all seems a long time ago.
Flesh and wine
Honestly, where to begin? The area around the City Ground is like the Aya Napia of fast food. You could go to every home game for a season and eat something different each time. Sit down places, takeaways, food vans, hot dog sellers, you name it. The problem wasn’t what to eat but rather what not to eat. As it happened, fate took us past a Cypriot place doing a nice line in lamb kebabs, and when I was still hungry (due in part to dropping half my lamb meat on the pavement outside the “renowned” Trent Bridge Inn) there was an impressive pie selection in the ground itself.
The aforementioned pub was one of a number dotted about, including the popular fan magnet of Hooters (Ipswich fans could be seen converging on this from all directions). You could put together a decent crawl here without wearing out your Trim-Trabbs, and drink till ten to three without missing the kick off. Being sensible types, of course, we did neither.
For all that this game was the deadest of dead rubbers, featuring a McCarthy-less Ipswich (the hook-nosed one having been purged the week before) and a Forest side that hadn’t scored since February, the old place wasn’t far below capacity. A gloriously sunny day may have helped. Ipswich scuffed the lead just before half-time, and proceedings were only marginally better than turgid until the 89th minute, at which point some mule fouled Ben Brereton in the box when it looked easier not to. Brereton picked himself up and converted the spot-kick, Forest began to believe, and in the final few seconds Lolley popped up (sorry) to volley a winner that caused euphoric celebrations among the surprised home crowd. It only takes a second to score a goal, as someone round here once said.
Teams and goals
Forest: Pantilimon, Darikwa, Pereira Figuiredo, Fox, Osborn, Guedioura (Cash 59), Colback, Watson (Bridcutt 78), Lolley, Brereton, Tomlin (Vellios 78). Unused subs: Lichaj, Mancienne, Dowell, Capino.
Ipswich: Bialkowski, Spence, Carter-Vickers, Knudsen, Ward, Hyam (Gleeson 84), Skuse, Nydam (Connolly 57), Kenlock, Morris (Carayol 56), Waghorn. Unused subs: Sears, Crowe, Folami, Cotter.
Goals: Forest: Brereton 89 (pen), Lolley 95. Ipswich: Ward 38