“Thus the first of many interesting games between the two clubs in after years ended in a win of one goal to nothing for the Forest.”
A score-line occasionally disputed down the years, the afore-mentioned sentence actually lends credence to the truth, emanating from that of Forest’s nineteenth-century historian, and repeated in the pages of Don Wright’s 150 year history of Nottingham Forest, Forever Forest,’ and is one that surrounds that of the first-ever, Trentside derby, Notts County vs Nottingham Forest.
The two of world football’s foremost football clubs, founded just three years apart, with County the first in 1862 and Forest shortly after, in 1865, are separated, geographically at least, by a few hundred metres, and the River Trent, would first lock horns on this very day, 155 years ago – Thursday 22 March 1866.
Deemed to be first of all the derbies, an impressive statistic when considering the number, and magnitude of, football clubs the world over. But the Trentside affair, that was contested on four occasions within the first twelve months – a 1-0 win for Forest, a 0-0 then 1-1 draw, and a 1-0 for County, in March, April, December and February respectively.
The goal-scorers of those games, Forest’s were that of W.H. (William Henry) Revis, and W.R (William Roe) Lymbery, whilst County’s winner in the February would be that of W.A. Hodges.
Lymbery was himself, for a season or two it states, the first gentleman to don the captain’s band for the Garibaldi, with Wright opening the second chapter of his club history with the apt statement that Lymbery was that of ‘the Grand Old Man of Nottingham Sport. ‘
As for that first game, it was billed as being ‘the red-shirted Garibaldi’s of Forest versus the maroon and mustard striped Lambs of Notts County,’ it was, as mentioned earlier, Forest’s earliest club historian who’d put the full-time score as being one-nil to Forest, not the goalless draw as reported the following day in the ‘Nottingham Daily Guardian’ that historian, way-back-when, said of the key moment from a game played out on the Old Racecourse on the Forest that –
“After a sort of steeplechase race across the goal-line and over the railings nearest the grandstand between Hugh Browne and W.H. Revis, the ball was touched down by the latter and the place kick, fifteen-yards at right angles from the goal-line, taken by the same player. Thus the first of many interesting games between the two clubs in after years ended in a win of one goal to nothing for the Forest.”
Even five years later, in 1871, the ‘Tourist’s Picturesque Guide to Nottingham’ would state about County’s narrow success the following year that –
“It was at The Forest that Notts finally avenged their first ‘derby’ defeat when, on Thursday 28 February 1867, according to the ‘Nottingham Journal,’ W.A. Hodges scored the only goal after ‘a smart piece of dribbling.’”
Early in their chapter discussing the beginnings of the famous FA Cup, ‘The History of the English Football League Part One – 1888-1930’ (Michael Slade, 2013), said that –
“The first hint of a game that the modern supporter might be able to identify with was that of the Notts County – Nottingham Forest clash of 1866. The only score of the day came at the end of a ‘negative, scoreless afternoon’ (shades of the present day) when ‘there was a sort of steeplechase across the goal-line and over the railings nearest the grandstand between Hugh Browne and W.H. Revis, the ball was touched down by the latter and the place kick, fifteen-yards at right angles from the goal-line, taken by the same player.
“The ball had merely to go between the posts as there was no crossbar. As can be deduced, the Nottingham game was a hybrid, relying on a mixture of Rugby, Sheffield and London rules, but with the expansion of the FA to accommodate Sheffield uniformity that’s not far away.”
On the other-side of the Trent, County claimed a goalless first with, in ‘The Notts County Miscellany’ (David Clayton, 2017), and under the intriguing sub-heading of ‘Stranger Danger’ it was said that –
“The first recorded match between County and Nottingham Forest was on 22 March 1866 when the eleven men of Notts took on the seventeen of Forest! With rules still in their embryonic stage and pretty much anything going, the game ended 0-0.”
As for that ‘Stranger Danger’ sub-heading, which is in reference to a match reporter of the day having a County player as being ‘A Stranger,’ there are no records of that name existing with the club.
Whilst in ‘The Victorian Football Miscellany’ (David Brown, 2013) backs up that County version when, in his Notts County history section that –
“By the following year, County had a local rival in the shape of newly-formed Nottingham Forest. The first Nottingham derby was played on 22 March 1866 and ended as a goalless draw – despite the fact that Forest fielded 17 players to County’s 11. A rematch in 1867 finished 1-0 to County, with Hodges the scorer.”
At least reports agree on the fact that Forest fielded a somewhat impressive, seventeen players in that first, very first, derby match.
Although a rather defining statement could well be that on the Notts County website, one that takes the favour of….
In their 2016 article ‘Herbert Kilpin: The Lord of Milan and the Origins of Notts County,’ about that first encounter against Forest, taking place at the Forest Recreation Ground, in front of some 4,000 spectators, that –
“County may have lost that game 1-0 but they beat Forest to lifting the FA Cup when, in 1894, the defeated Bolton Wanderers 4-1 at Goodison Park.”
For the record, Forest’s first FA Cup success arrived four years after County’s, in 1898, when they would defeated their other rivals, Derby County, 3-1 at the Crystal Palace.
Regarding that Forest team of 1866, the Garibaldi had somewhat of a Daft connection, the Daft family in fact, with four of the family playing cricket for Notts; Richard, said to be England’s best batsman of the era, his son Harry meanwhile would turn out for both County and Forest, whilst another, Charles, was in the team for that first meeting.
The first competitive meeting between the two sides, early games were deemed to be friendlies, of challenge matches, came on 16 November 1878, near thirteen years after they first crossed paths.
At Trent Bridge, in the FA Cup, the result would also go in favour of the Reds, they emerging 3-1 victors, Owen netting for County in replies to goals for Forest from Turner, Goodyear, and Smith – Forest would go on to lose to the eventual winners, Old Etonians, in the semi-finals at the Kensington Oval.
Competitively though, throughout that 150+ years of Trentside derbies, it’s Forest who lead the way, both in number of victories, and registering the highest scores, twice registering 5-0 success, in 1900 and 1953.
The last time the two sides opposed each other was near a decade ago, on 9 August 2011, in the League Cup First Round, a game that would finish in a 3-3 draw after extra time, Forest going through 4-3 on penalties.
A see-saw game, over 120 minutes, had County in front through Mike Edwards; Forest took the lead courtesy of goals from Lewis McGugan and Robbie Findlay, before Craig Westcarr took the tie into the extra period.
County would again take the initiative, Lee Hughes netting, but Wes Morgan would score a smasher to send the game to penalties, Forest eventually succeeding. Luke Chambers would net what would prove the winner prior to County’s Neal Bishop missing from twelve yards.
There’s been a few friendlies since then, feisty affairs (off-field) at that, but the odds on another competitive fixture do remain slim, cup draws withstanding, as both sides are at opposing ends of football’s vast pyramid.
As for that first derby, the Trentside derby, all the way back in 1866, which football, and of course Nottingham as a whole, were the victors.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @dannypea the Forest Recreation Ground is where the first ever Nottingham Derby was played.