My sixth trip on my journey towards completing the 92 took me to the City Ground to watch Nottingham Forest. My other half and young daughter were on board for the trip to Nottingham, although they were sampling the city’s shopping not the football. Around a two and half hour drive was completed, everything straightforward and quite a nice drive to be honest. We arrived in Nottingham around 3 hours before kick off, having more than enough time to grab some lunch before the match.
We chose to eat at Thaikhun in the Victoria Shopping Centre, decent food and a good fill. None of us were able to finish our meals. Once we’d finished our lunch it was time to part ways as the City Ground was calling me. I jumped a black cab to the ground, which cost me just under 6 quid. I knew that the two Nottingham clubs grounds were the closest in the country but wasn’t expecting them to be separated by the River Trent. That certainly added to the drama of the situation, which club do you support? What side of the river are you on?
Anyway onto the match, my seat was in the Brian Clough Stand Upper tier. Situated as always near the halfway line, I took my customary photos of the stands and the pitch then watched on as the players warmed up prior to kick off. 3 O’clock came and Forest started the game strong, pressing Reading high and early and forcing numerous mistakes from their opponents. Clearly determined not to let Reading settle into their passing game it was no surprise to see Forest take the lead when a misplaced pass from the away side ended up with Britt Assombalonga racing through on goal, a cool, calm and extremely cheeky finish seen the Forest number 9 lift the ball over the onrushing Ali Al-Habsi, 1-0 to Forest after 31 minutes. They didn’t stop there as the rush for further goals continued as Mustapha Carayol cause havoc down the left hand side time and time again, giving Chris Gunter a headache on his return to the City Ground. A few efforts well saved by Al-Habsi after cutting in on his right foot were all Carayol had to show for his good work. Reading looked increasingly unsettled and frustrated as the half drew to a close as they could not get their foot on the ball and play their usual game.
Forest had a deserved 1-0 lead at the break and Reading left much to be desired. I headed down to the gangway below at the interval, deciding against a pint, or bottle of Heineken in this case. I opted for a bottle of Diet Coke and a boost chocolate bar. I was back in my seat in time to see some junior fans take penalties against the Club mascot at the Trent End.
The second half started at a frenetic pace from a Forest point of view, they had doubled their lead after just a minute. Assombalonga the man on target again putting Reading’s slack defending to the sword. With the away team clearly still mentally in the changing room, Forest took full advantaged and capitalised while on top by making it 3-0 with Carayol firing low and hard past the away ‘keeper. A deserved goal for the tricky wide man, his relief at getting on the scoresheet evident in his passionate celebration. Having given Forest a 3-0 head start it was easy to see how this Reading side had succumbed 7-1 away to Norwich a few weeks prior. However, around the 60 minute mark they decided to start playing and getting the ball down and into feet. Yann Kermorgant the ageing striker reduced the deficit with a header inside the box. All of a sudden it was the home side looking nervy in possession and unable to control a simple pass. Reading took the game to Forest and were rewarded when Kermorgant again found the net at the second attempt to set up a tense finale to the match. 3-2. Reading went for the equaliser but to no avail, they pushed defenders up the pitch in search of a third but inevitably left holes defensively, Forest did their best to exploit this and very nearly did when Assombalonga thought momentarily he had completed his hat trick before the linesman raised his flag for offside.
Full time result Nottingham Forest 3-2 Reading. The former European Cup champions getting a crucial win to aid their fight against relegation. The majority of the 20 thousand plus crowd delighted with the much needed victory.
I walked back into the City Centre after the match, wandering past the Nottinghamshire cricket ground Trent Bridge and over the River Trent on my way. I met up with my partner and daughter back at the Victoria Centre. We stopped off for a teatime picnic in the car close to Nottingham Castle before embarking on our journey home. All in all a really enjoyable trip to Nottingham and my first to the unforgettable City Ground. I’ll be back to the banks of the River Trent on my journey towards the 92, but next time it will be on the other side, at Meadow Lane. I will certainly be casting a glance back over to the City Ground from the other side.