The facts are that if Nottingham Forest win their next two matches, they will be ‘almost certain’ to gain automatic promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 1998. Although even that’s still not really assured in the dizzy heights of the Championship, take Fulham’s 7-0 win against Luton Town last night, as we’ve known before, anything can happen in this division, until it’s mathematically impossible not to happen of course.
Waved off by a large number of fans at the entrance to the Nigel Doughty Academy yesterday, the Forest bus left for Bournemouth with the players, camera phones in hand, reminded by flags and flares and songs of ‘we are going up’ from the Garibaldi faithful, that this is no ordinary game, the biggest in twenty plus years perhaps? A cup final of sorts, win this and we’re in the driving seat to go up!
But we’ve been here before…
It usually ends in heartache too, big matches since the turn of the Millennium have often ended in numerous failures since the last time we in red played Premier League football… This time we hope it’s different, but before we get carried away, let’s remind ourselves of those games in the past, labelled as this is of course, the biggest of their time and most important of the season.
Sheffield United 4-3 Nottingham Forest (Division One Playoff Semi-Final 2nd leg) 15.05.03
The heartache of a Des Walker own goal the final nail in the coffin of a mammoth match that went the distance. If results don’t go Forest’s way this week at Bournemouth and Hull, a similar Sheffield playoff destination could happen again of course?
Paul Hart’s Forest initially drew 1-1 with the Blades at a packed City Ground before losing in extra time at Brammall Lane in one of the great playoff matches, the Reds actually went 2-0 up in normal time thanks to David Johnson & Andy Reid before Michael Brown reduced the deficit on the hour.
Substitute Steve Kabba then levelled up and in extra time Paul Peschisolido gave the home time a lead they stretched late on when Walker nodded into his own net. Rob Page put through his own goal even later in proceedings but by then, time was not on the Reds side, Sheffield United eventually losing 3-0 to Wolves in the final.
Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Nottingham Forest (Division One) 30.04.05
By the time the inevitable fate had appeared, the mess that was Nottingham Forest season 2004/05 had already been one that ensured only the inevitable was possible on that sorry day at Loftus Road. Gary Megson’s terrible team, inherited all be it, but not improved, went to QPR knowing only a win would save the Reds from going down into the third tier of English football for the first time since 1951.
Darryl Powell was sent off after half an hour making matters ever-more impossible for Forest, John Curtis then put into his own net on the stroke of half time, Marc Bircham made it 2-0 to the home side and although Eugene Bopp pulled one back late on, the desperate feeling of disappointment had long sunk in by then, Forest had beaten Burnley the week before to give themselves a glimmer of hope, but before that a run of eight games without a win had done little to tell signs that the club could survive.
Nottingham Forest 2-5 Yeovil Town (League One Playoff Semi-Final 2nd leg) 18.05.07
Having missed out on the playoffs the season before by two points, Forest were even more disappointed this season in missing out on automatic promotion by three points, having failed to win any of their last three games, but in facing Yeovil Town, a 2-0 win at Huish Park in the first leg of the play offs meant that anything but a heavy loss at the City Ground would see the Reds reach a Wembley final. What happened however was one of the worst nights in the clubs history.
Destroyed on the night by Aaron Davies and Chris Cohen, so much so the club decided to sign them the following season, flying winger Davies gave Yeovil the early edge but Scott Dobie had Forest back on level terms and going into the last ten minutes of the match, 3-1 up on aggregate.
However, a collapse of England batting magnitude allowed little old Yeovil to pull off the improbable in what is still renowned as one of the clubs best ever achievements.
Jean-Paul Kalala curling a shot which hit the post and bounced in off Alan Wrght for an 82nd minute own goal giving a real lift to the Glovers before Marcus Stewart made it 3-1 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate.
David Prutton was then sent off for Forest in injury time before Lee Morris gave Yeovil a 4-1 lead in the early exchanges of extra time and although Gary Holt levelled the tie again on aggregate a minute later, Aaron Davies ran through late in the first half of extra time to sink the ten men and take Russell Slade’s side through.
Nottingham Forest 3-2 Yeovil Town (League One) 03.05.08
Happier memories on a sunny bank holiday Saturday against Yeovil Town as Forest, in needing to win to gain promotion back to English football’s second tier, did just that, but the Reds certainly didn’t have it all their own way on the last day of this League One season.
It was one of our own, Julian Bennett who put the Reds one up early in the game before Kris Commons, remember him? Scored to double Forest’s advantage.
Peters did pull a goal back and as Forest fans listened in on the radios for the result at Doncaster, who themselves needed to win at Cheltenham to edge the Reds to automatic promotion, all looked to be going to plan as Rovers were losing 1-0.
Feeling confident at the midway point, Lewis McGugan curled home a trademark free kick early in the second half to make it 3-1 but as Kirk pulled one back on 75 news was that Doncaster had also levelled in Cheltenham, themselves only needing one more goal to pip Forest to the post.
However, that goal would instead come from Cheltenham as they delivered a late winner and as Forest survived the fans cheered and spilled onto the pitch in celebratory scenes we’ve not seen for a long time since. We’ll be hoping that something like this won’t be too far away in 2022.
Nottingham Forest 3-4 Blackpool (Championship Playoff Semi-Final 2nd leg) 11.05.10
Another play off classic and another game that didn’t go Forest’s way as the tangerines came to town to take glory and impose more Red misery after edging through with an entertaining win following on from their slim 2-1 first leg lead inflicted at Bloomfield Road.
A game that had everything had Robbie Earnshaw net early doors to square the tie up on aggregate, but ‘DJ’ Dudley Campbell again gave Blackpool the edge by squaring things on 56, Earnshaw not to be outdone put Forest back in the lead before Scott Dobbie levelled and from there Blackpool took off.
Two more goals by Campbell in quick succession, took the tie away and despite a late Dele Adebola strike, Forest were dumped out having had a fantastic season to finish well behind in third to champions Newcastle United and second place West Bromwich Albion who the Reds both beat that year, Billy Davies would come again, but unfortunately to the same disappointing outcome next season.
Swansea City 3-1 Nottingham Forest (Championship Playoff Semi Final 2nd leg) 16.05.11
Damage had probably been done in the home leg as Forest failed to score having played the majority of the match at the City Ground against ten men, the Reds finished sixth in the season and made the playoffs with four successive wins to end the regular campaign.
Swansea however were decent, a great footballing side Managed by Brendan Rogers, and when Leon Brittain gave the home side the lead at the Liberty it looked a tough ask for Billy’s Boys, tougher still when Stephen Dobbie doubled the Swans advantage.
Robbie Earnshaw did pull one back late on and as Forest gambled by sending the goalkeeper Lee Camp up for a corner, Darren Pratley broke and smashed home from halfway into an empty net to send the Reds back to Nottingham, assured of nothing more than Championship football the following season. Swansea themselves going on to reach the Premier League, after a 4-2 win in the final against Reading.
Nottingham Forest 2-3 Leicester City (Championship) 04.05.13
With both teams needing to win this last match of the season to secure playoff status it was Forest who had the positional edge going into the game at the City Ground, that edge was furthered when Simon Cox gave the Reds the lead but a deflected Matt James effort soon tied things up.
Andy King gave the away side the lead into the break but Elliott Ward headed level early into the second half. As it looked like results elsewhere would see both miss out on the playoffs to Bolton Wanderers, Anthony Knockaert then struck late on, to send Leicester through in last day, last minute, drama, the Foxes however would themselves lose even more dramatically to Watford in the semi-final at Vicarage Road.
Nottingham Forest 3-0 Ipswich Town (Championship) 07.05.17
It was simple, match what Blackburn do, and stay up, the task for Mark Warburton’s men going into their last game of the season against Ipswich Town.
The tension on a sunny Sunday in May was soon eased for Forest supporters as Britt Assombalonga scored from the penalty spot but there were few nervy moments, Jordan Smith making a stunning save to deny a leveller before Chris Cohen’s deflected strike made it 2-0.
Assombalonga grabbed a third and despite Blackburn winning themselves 3-1 at Brentford, Forest stayed up on goal difference, just two better than the Rovers, enter pitch invasion and celebration for a team ensuring a tenth successive season in the division.
Nottingham Forest 1-4 Stoke City (Championship) 22.07.20
It still haunts us Forest fans now, as one of those ‘it can only happen to us’ moments. Weeks previous, a 1-0 win at Derby would guarantee pretty much a playoff place for Sabri Lamouchi’s men, having season disruption through covid, not ideal, but surely the boys would see it all over the line quite comfortably.
A late leveller at Pride Park meant Forest wouldn’t win that game, they would fail to win their remaining six in total, but still only needed to lose ‘respectably’ against Stoke City to ensure they made the playoff cut on goal difference.
What happened, was a Yeovil like night at the City Ground, the only positive perhaps, that due to covid protocol, nobody was in the stadium to have to witness it.
Stoke led early and that’s how it stayed until Toby Figueiredo dared wake them up by levelling on the hour, James McClean and Lee Gregory then made it two and 3-1 with news that Swansea City, the only team that could catch Forest on goal difference, were 4-1 up at Reading, an own goal by Nuno da Costa, his only ever Forest goal in fact, sealing the fate in the last minute of the extended season to ensure a six goal last day swing, Forest missed out on the playoffs and would soon part ways with Lamouchi, as the Swans pipped them to the post in the most dramatically and disappointing fashion, we’ll be forgiven to be considered as Forest fans pessimistic, but even if the Reds do get a result at Bournemouth tonight, until that fat lady has sung in Hull, we’ll be determined to state that it’s never over, until it’s over, and these are your reminders that it doesn’t always go our way!
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @AwayDays23 Forest fans wave the team bus off ahead of leaving for Bournemouth.