With the Football League’s season drawing to a close, a sigh of relief was breathed by supporter’s of Nottingham’s two football clubs, although they both found themselves fighting completely different battles.
In the Npower Championship, Nottingham Forest officially sealed their play-off place for the second year running with a comfortable 3-0 win at Selhurst Park against a Crystal Palace side forced to rely on other results to guarantee their Championship safety. Needing a point to keep the much-coveted sixth place away from Leeds United, Forest were never made to look uncomfortable as goals from Lewis McGugan, David Mcgoldrick and Marcus Tudgay gave them their fourth win on the trot.
For Billy Davies’ men however, the hard work begins now as a play-off semi final with Swansea City awaits. Hailed for their attractive style of football, Forest’s opponents will be no pushover as they seek to banish the memory of being eliminated at the same stage to Blackpool. The underdog tag may well suit Forest however, and with a team already experienced in the challenge of the play-offs, along with a great run of form, everything might be coming together at just the right time if Forest are finally going to give Nottingham students Premiership football next season…
Drop down a tier to League One, and you’d have found a pitch invasion at Meadow Lane as Notts County celebrated securing their League One status. It feels like a million years ago the world’s eyes were on it’s oldest football league club as they won League Two at a canter under presumed Middle-Eastern millions. This season has been one of transition and stability, although the latter has been hard to come by with the club sacking two managers this season. Third manager of the season Martin Allen however, seems to have had a galvanising effect on the side at a crucial point in the season, recording vital wins against Swindon and Tranmere Rovers to put County in charge of their own destiny.
Their opponents were Brighton, who had already been crowned champions under a spectacular season under Gus Poyet. Indeed, they demonstrated the ruthless qualities that had got them in such a position, Ashley Barnes putting them into the lead with just over ten minutes on the clock. County however, knowing a point should see them cling onto their League One status, were quick to draw level as a strong run from Craig Westcarr was ended by a dangerous ball across the goal that Albion defender Gordon Greer was unlucky to turn into his own net.
It was a stumble over the finish line to what has been a difficult season for County. Previous managers Craig Short and Paul Ince struggled to get them away from the relegation places and paid the price with their jobs, although a strong FA Cup run including wins against Sunderland and a draw with Manchester City proved a welcome distraction. But with rumours of continued investment in the playing squad from Chairman and benefactor Ray Trew, along with an experienced manager at this level in Martin Allen, there remains plenty of reasons to remain optimistic at Meadow Lane.