Steve McClaren’s short tenure at the City Ground thus far has proved exceedingly fruitless. Nothing has highlighted this more so than the events of the early kick off on the banks of the Trent on Saturday.
The early omens were good. The Rams goalkeeper Frank Fielding brought down Ishmael Miller inside the six-yard box, giving Forest a penalty and earning himself a red card. Andy Reid fired the spot kick past the replacement goalkeeper and the Reds put one hand on the Brian Clough trophy.
Jamie Ward contentiously levelled for Derby amid the home fans’ cries of “your dad’s ashamed of you” to Derby manager Nigel Clough, as his brilliant, jinking run capitalised on Chris Cohen going down injured, with what was later confirmed as a ligament damage, that is set to keep him out for up to a year.
Despite Forest’s domination and some superb footwork from Miller, Forest were unable to create another noteworthy opportunity and allowed Derby to grow into the game. Jeff Hendrick drilled home the winner for the visitors on the 72 minute mark.
The result was a stark contrast to the 5-2 triumph of last season and left Forest fans questioning their team’s mis-spent summer. The decision to sack a successful manager in Billy Davies, the loss of nine players on free transfers and the failure to secure a strong left-back are central to Forest’s decline.
On Tuesday night, Forest played host to Newcastle United in the Carling Cup 4th round. It was a great contest with superb play on both sides but the Magpie’s goal deep into injury time halted Forest’s cup run.
Peter Lovenkrands opened the scoring for Newcastle five minutes before half time with a powerful header from close range. Shortly after the resart, Robbie Findley created some space and drilled home a 25-yard drive to level the scores.
The visitors were then gifted a slightly dubious penalty and Lovenkrands put Newcastle back into the lead. Five minutes later it was Matt Derbyshire’s turn to beat the offside trap and round the visiting goalkeeper, finishing better than Fernando Torres could manage in Manchester on Sunday. Derbyshire’s goal was enough to take the game to extra time. Soon after the restart, Simpson put the visitiors in front once again with a cross which drifted agonisingly over the head of Lee Camp. Six minutes from time, Ishmael Miller created an opportunity for Macus Tudgay to equalise for Forest.
From then on it seemed that Forest would once again face a penalty shoot-out. However, in the final minute of extra time, Coloccini popped up at the back post to tap in a header, bringing a sudden end to Forest’s Carling Cup campaign.
Despite the defeat, Forest showed determination and endeavour which was sadly lacking against Derby County. Defender Joel Lynch played superbly for the entire match, proving his worth as a central defender. McClaren has also acted swiftly to replace Chris Cohen, who appeared on crutches in the directors’ box on Tuesday, with QPR veteran defender Clint Hill, giving a much needed boost to the rearguard.
It is surely not unreasonable to hope that the performance against Newcastle marks a significant turning point in the fortunes of Nottingham Forest and a positive step forward for Steve McClaren.