From the ashes of disorder on Nottingham’s streets on Tuesday night came a football match that was always going to either bring the city together or separate it further. Supporters inside the City Ground were treated to a pulsating tie between Nottingham Forest and Notts County, their first competitive clash for seventeen years.
The queue outside the Trent Bridge Inn was reminiscent of Friday night at Ocean as fans from all over the country flocked to West Bridgeford for the Carling Cup first round game. The West Bridgeford Stand was an uproarious sea of black and white stripes, the Notts County fans invading the City Ground in droves to show their support. A prematch announcement was made, reaffirming that the match would go ahead despite trouble in the city and around the country. Fans on both sides stood and applauded the message as the customary Mull of Kintyre played for the first of four times that night and the match was underway.
The events which unfolded over the next two and a half exhausting and exhilarating hours of sport were not to be predicted by any of the patrons of the Trent Bridge Ladbrokes. An early goal from County’s Mike Edwards set the game alight, with plenty of fast and inventive football from both sides. On the half hour mark, Lewis McGugan slammed home a 25 yard free kick into the top corner of the Trent End’s new red and black nets. After half time it was Forest’s turn to take the lead, with Robbie Findley steering in an Andy Reid cross to claim his first goal in a red shirt. Then former Forest man Craig Westcarr popped up with around 10 minutes to go and slotted an equaliser for County past substitute goalkeeper Paul Smith.
The match went into extra time. It was then Lee Hughes’ turn to emboss his name in the draft of the Nottingham Post headlines as he broke clear of the Forest defence to slot home what seemed for a long time to be the winning goal. That should have been that… but Wes Morgan had other ideas. Pushed forward from centre back to “try and knick something on”, the ball fell to Morgan well outside the penalty area as the referee put his whistle to his mouth. Morgan unleashed a powerful drive at the West Bridgeford goal which struck its target with a satisfying ping from the underside of the crossbar. The Forest fans were all out of their seat celebrating when the final whistle sounded, the scores all tied up at 3-3 and the match to be settled by penalty shoot out.
After a gladiatorial performance in the middle of the field, Jonathon Greening stepped up to take the first penalty. It clanged against the post as the Trent end fell silent once again. Westcarr, Tudgay, Hawley and Garner then scored their respective penalties before Bencherif blasted his into the crowd, making the scores level again at 2-2. Findley and Sheehan scored before Forest’s new boy George Boateng had his effort saved by Nelson. Lee Hughes then had to score to secure a Notts County win. He stepped up and blasted the ball high over the crossbar. The match went to sudden death as Forest captain Luke Chambers stepped up, head bandaged from an early collision. His penalty sent Nelson the wrong way, putting the pressure on County captain Bishop to keep the scores level. He too put the ball high into the Trent End and after two and a half hours, the teams were finally separated. Nottingham Forest 3 – 3 Notts County (Forest win 4-3 on Penalties).
Whilst there were grumblings coming from the Magpies that Morgan’s goal came after the allotted 2 minutes of time added on, they could hold their head high in the knowledge that they were a match for Forest in every way. Forest progress to the second round and, with Thursday’s signing of former England Under 21 forward Matt Derbyshire, they have added some much needed fire power to propel their cup run.