Hooters on London Road provides a perfect halfway house between the City Ground and Nottingham centre
I mean, what a game this one is, eh?
Twenty four years after our past top flight visit to the City Ground we arrived in one of England’s great cities for a game against one of English football’s big clubs.
You can take your years of Wimbledon, Wigan, Bournemouth, Brentford etc. being here “on merit” as people either scrap over tickets to a titchy ground, or have to watch a home crowd that barely outnumbers the visiting fans semi-celebrate a win that Newcastle inevitably invite on.
None of that today, or should I say tonight, as we found ourselves shunted to the monstrously unappealing Friday night slot.
Following on from a pair of miserable / infuriating visits in the Championship, we had to deal with another evening kick off here, albeit one that only needs one day off work.
Anyway, off we set and Nottingham pretty much over delivered for me, having not ventured this way since 2009. The set up at Notts County is a no brainier, with their club bar hosting away fans. After a quick swish around the city centre we headed to Meadow Lane, to a well staffed, decently priced bar packed full of Mags. The St Patrick’s day offers of Baby Guinness for £3.50 were part of the reason I didn’t make the post-match comments. The rest was the game itself.
Having rescued the win against Wolverhampton, this match was pivotal to the rest of the season. Bank the points and suddenly the pressure was on Spurs, with our game in hand an asset, while the next game at home to Man U could see us win our way above them. Back to back wins and the potential to kick off a decent run and United had done everything they could to influence this, sticking on the lucky blue kit that has delivered a 100% win record to date.
The start was strong and United should maybe have had an early lead as Trippier sent Murphy away down the right and his excellent fast cross found Willock, who was maybe stretching a bit and put it wide when scoring looked easier. Five minutes later Trippier fooled everyone by sliding in a free kick along the ground which Isak latched onto. Renan Lodi deflected his shot goalwards but it bounced back off the crossbar.
Forest were second best in all areas but it seems to be the way at the minute that teams are catching us on the break. We all feared Shelvey turning it on as he used to against us before he joined United, and it was his long pass that created the opener against the run of play. Botman felt the pressure of Andre Ayew breathing down his neck and he sold Pope horribly short with his attempted backpass. Emmanuel Dennis latched onto it and produced a cool finish over Pope’s head onto the far corner. Mission here, as we had to come from behind against a side who hadn’t lost at home since September.
You had to fear it was going to be one of those days when Sean Longstaff had two opportunities, smacking the crossbar via a deflection with one and sending the other horribly high. Newcastle kept pushing though, and with most people resigned to a half time deficit, including my mate Tansey who had returned to the concourse in the huff, the leveller came out of nowhere. Saint-Maximin released Willock into the box and his cross seemed to be behind Isak, but the striker seemed to hyper extend his leg backwards to connect and send a shot inside the far post that we’ll no doubt see over again many times.
This felt like a hell of a time to equalise as Forest’s changing room was no doubt very different at half time after this and United had the momentum for the second half. This included a change, as ASM had been feeling an injury that will be another concern for depleted personnel post-internationals, but Elliot Anderson was to emerge from the bench to turn in his finest performance for the first XI, which was so close to coming with a crowning glory.
With United bossing the second half, Bruno found Isak in space in the box. He slipped over while attempting to centre it but the ball rebounded back off a couple of Forest players. Isak showed tremendous skills in controlling the ball while standing up, then destroyed the defence with a couple of turns before pinging it to the back post where Anderson did brilliantly to outjump Aurier and place a header across the keeper for his first senior goal.
The scenes in the away end (which had become a bit of a free for all at half time) were a sight to behold but there was a sickening twist. In a move I’ve never seen before, the VAR decided to send the ref over to the dreaded pitchside monitor.
It turns out that Longstaff was offside when the ball pinged off the Forest player next to him on it’s way back to Isak. This should have made zero difference but the officials conspired to rob Anderson of a treasured moment for his hometown club. Never mind Elliot son, it’s coming and there’ll be another day. It’s Man Utd up next…
The officials had been a pain in the backside as Bruno in particular took a right kicking in the face of heavy handed tactics from Forest’s players, with our old mate Shelvey particularly lucky to stay on after the sort of headstrong lunge we got a bit used to during his time on Tyneside.
It came as a magnificent surprise then, when we got a crucial decision to win the game deep into injury time. Mind, you’d have to be on the take somewhere to not have given this one. Willock swung a cross in that Isak beat Moussa Niakhate to, but the defender had inexplicably extended his arm in jumping and Isak’s header was blocked by that very same arm. Niakhate helped make up the referee’s mind by showing immediate remorse, head in hands while screaming at himself for his idiocy. It was practically the last kick of the game and we had a penalty.
Forest started the gamesmanship immediately despite their man’s visible confession, with keeper Keylor Navas taking on the role of chief workie ticket in the melee that was created to try to put off the penalty taker. That taker appeared to be Trippier, who was stood on the spot with the ball under his arm waiting calmly for the moment. This was a slightly odd choice, I thought, but consoled myself with the memory of his clinically executed pen in the shoot out with Palace. However, it all turned out to be a clever ruse, with captain Tripps shielding the actual taker, Isak, from the attentions of the rabble with a brilliant acted diversion.
For all his attempted mind games, Navas was rooted to the spot as Isak calmly stroked the ball in.
That away end could confidently erupt this time, knowing that justice had been served and United had the points.
The Hooters on London Road provides a perfect halfway house between the City Ground and Nottingham centre, so me and my mate Hutch stopped off for a banquet of excellent chicken wings served by lasses in tiny hotpants to reflect on an ultimately successful caper.
There is work to be done when we reconvene in April, but this game may well be talked about as a pivotal point in what still holds promise of being an incredible season. The fact that Isak, the clear man of the match, has now slotted in fully into the striker’s role, can only increase confidence on this front.
Howay Eddie’s injury time Mags!
Stats from BBC Sport:
Nottingham Forest 1 Newcastle 2 – Friday 17 March 8pm
Isak 45+2, 90+3 pen
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Forest 39% (47%) Newcastle 61% (53%)
Total shots were Forest 5 (2) Newcastle 15 (6)
Shots on target were Forest 3 (2) Newcastle 4 (1)
Corners were Forest 3 (1) Newcastle 7 (2)
Referee: Paul Tierney
Attendance: 29,362 (Newcastle 2,900)
Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Longstaff, Bruno, Willock, Murphy (Ritchie 84), Isak, Saint-Maximin (Anderson 45)
Dubravka, Dummett, Lascelles, Targett, Manquillo, Lewis, Wilson
(Nottingham Forest 1 Newcastle 2 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Go HERE)
(3 Positives and 3 Negatives to take from Nottingham Forest 1 Newcastle 2 – Ready HERE)
(Watch official Nottingham Forest 1 Newcastle 2 match highlights HERE – Goals, excitement, controversy)
(Official Newcastle United injury update following Friday’s 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest – Read HERE)
(BBC Sport comments from ‘neutrals’ – Very interesting on Newcastle United after win against Nottingham Forest – Read HERE)
(Good morning Tyneside! Just look at that Premier League table now…Read HERE)
(Gary Neville tackles the controversy after Nottingham Forest 1 Newcastle 2 – Read HERE)
(Nottingham Forest 1 Newcastle 2 – The instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)
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