Stuart Pearce lives to fight another day thanks to a dramatic late winner against Derby on Saturday, writes Reds fan Steve Corry.
Ben Osborn’s first ever competitive goal has all the similarities of a certain Mark Robins goal for Man Utd, many years ago.
As this is the biggest game of the season for both teams, I decided to get the predictions of two supporters from each club. Also, a clue as to how the game would be won and lost?
Forest fan Dale Towle predicted 1-1 and that Assombalonga would be the lone front man, “I expect Lansbury to be pushed into an attacking, forward midfield role to support the forwards too”. “The players need to step up and take some responsibility, having been shielded by the manager’s status for too long!”
Derby fan John Haywood went for a Forest win 0-1. “Derby will have a real go in the first 20 minutes but if Forest can weather the storm, expect a frantic midfield battle”. “Derby will really miss John Eustace in the holding midfield role, Mascarell can play this vital role but his strength is questionable”. “Antonio to bag the winner.”
Forest fan Kia Newland said “It wouldn’t surprise me if Derby won 5-1, they’ll probably run rings around us but they are prone to daft defensive errors though.” Our goal to come from the head of big Lars Veldwijk, coming on as sub.”
Derby fan Damien McParland went for 2-0 to the rams. “These games usually have an incident or two which could determine the outcome.” “The likes of Will Hughes and Johnny Russell have been in fine form of late with Russell providing Chris Martin with plenty of chances.” “Despite the loss of Ibe back to Liverpool, the additions of Warnock and Albentosa show that we are building for the Premiership. “The appointment of Steve McLaren eighteen months ago has totally transformed Derby County.”
The game itself provided controversy after just 6 minutes when Jake Buxton wrestled Antonio to the ground in the Derby box, the ref turned a blind eye and no penalty was awarded. From then on it was all Derby; they looked sharp and decisive all over the park. It was no surprise then to see them take the lead after just 15 minutes; what was surprising however the identity of the scorer . Henry Lansbury planted a great header into his own net, following Johnny Russell’s corner kick.
Derby went in to overdrive and a fair few Forest fans, including myself feared a repeat of last year’s drubbing. Jamie Ward’s 25 yarder was cleverly flicked on by Buxton which forced De Vries into a cracking save. Forest were struggling to get out of their own half and despite a couple of efforts from Hobbs and Assombalonbga that was all we could produce in the form of an attack. You sensed that if Derby got a second, it was game over. But they couldn’t quite turn the screw, Will Hughes curled an effort just wide before the break that was dangerously close to going in. As expected there were the obligatory bookings as Ward, Wilson and Gardner picked up first half yellows.
Forest limped in at half time, lucky to be just the one down; it looked like men against boys to be honest.
The second half started the same, Forest struggling to rack up three consecutive passes whilst the rams passed and moved with real conviction. Derby seemed to have a game plan that every player was comfortable with. Worryingly, Forest’s only plan was to get set pieces and block the Derby keeper whenever possible. From open play we looked devoid of any kind of drilled tactics but the confidence was growing, the longer Derby failed to add to their lead. Cyrus Christie, the latest Derby man to come close to scoring.
Then after 15 minutes of the half, Forest began to take control through sheer grit and endeavour. They began to show the kind of determination that Pearce was renowned for in his playing days. Although still not creating from open play they forced a number of corners and free kicks deep in the Derby half. Assombalonga pushed, blocked and kicked Buxton and Keogh at every opportunity, slightly underhand but if you’ve ever played a decent standard it’s par for the course. The Derby defensive pair were beginning to get agitated and Forest’s leading scorer could smell blood. No surprise then that it was Brit Assombalonga who got the equaliser after 74 minutes. Ben Osborn’s floated free kick was headed on by Tesche, the ball hit Hobbs before Assombalonga spun on a sixpence and fired home from 4 yards out.
This prompted Mclaren to bring on Darren Bent for Derby but by now it was all Forest. Tesche attempted to beat Grant from the half way line after 80 minutes, such was the confidence in the Forest team now. Derby had a late chance themselves when Keogh headed across goal for Martin to volley wide as he stretched.
The game looked to be ending all square as the 90 minute mark came and went; until a boy from Derby had other ideas. Robert Tesche did brilliantly well on the half way line before playing in Ben Osborn, the youngster drove at the rams defence as they all back pedalled. As he got inside the box, he unleashed a rocket of a shot past Leigh Grant, at the near post. The 20 year old from Derby had just scored his first ever senior goal and sent the travelling tricky trees into ecstasy. Stuart Pearce’s reaction was spine tingling as he leapt about like a man possessed as the enormity of the win over took him.
Before writing up this blog I had been over critical of this performance and received a lot of stick from my mates because of this. It was indeed a gutsy and emotional win but people shouldn’t get carried away. Fire and brimstone will only get you so far, to get to the premier league you must be able to ping the ball about like Derby, Brentford and Bournemouth. Pearce’s job is safe for now and hats off to him but this win does not change my opinion one little bit.
I would like to dedicate this blog to my good friend and Leicester City fan, Mark Foulds; who is currently battling a serious condition in hospital.