Spoils Shared On Derby Night

Notts County 2-2 Nottingham Forest (Friendly) 26.07.22

Tuesday night, late July, the sun shining down on the glistening Trent beneath the summer sky as Garibaldi Red mingled midst Black & White down the famous old Meadow Lane for a battle of Nottingham, respectful folk of both armies walking past the statues of Jimmy & Jack, often stopping off to doff their cap. Some would even phone in hand take a quick snap.

Fans of both sets sharing drinks with another. A family affair for some, the banter starts with laughs and ends in giggles before another round is ordered at the Trent Navigation, in reality it means nothing more than a bit of local pride, this pre-season friendly bout for the Derek Pavis Trophy, these days Forest a formidable four leagues in front of their nearest neighbours from across the water, three years and counting non league are Notts. At least the big gate leading to a delayed kick off, will provide some much needed funds to the County coiffeurs. Not that they’re desperate having yesterday sold Callum Roberts.

It should have been a tale between the stars, Roberts verses Johnson, winger verses winger. Neither will play, the Geordie Messi having signed for Aberdeen, the Welsh Wizard nowhere to be seen.

Instead, Forest line up underwhelmingly understrength. A start for Jordan Smith who’s long slipped the pecking order. Biancone their only summer signing of note in the team, captained by Ryan Yates, one formerly of Notts of course, returning from injury suffered early on this summer.

Up top is Sam Surridge, himself back from an op, Lyle Taylor alongside, playing desperately for his future, perhaps eyeing his next move?

As for Notts, fresh from a midweek draw at Boston last, they’re strong. But for the injured Matt Palmer & Connell Rawlinson, it’s as good as they get. Head Coach Luke Williams keenly intent to see where his side is at.

Starting confidently too, as Notts have the swagger to play out from the back, one or two sticky moments for Sam Slocombe who’s not as comfortable with the ball at his feet, he nearly lets in Surridge, Laryea then combines with Cafu to race down the wing and supply the former Bournemouth striker who’s shot is blocked by a defender.

The Magpies first go close on 14, Ojeda is sloppy, not for the first or last time in the half, O’Brien finds Ruben Rodrigues who turns Biancone inside-out before shooting at Smith who denies the Notts star man with his feet.

Half chances for the Reds come and go, Mbe Soh heads over a corner by Cafu, but Notts look the better team, the real pressing is from them with intent to attack, Ojeda again caught in possession, Rodrigues having fun, looking sharp, he back heals to Austin who curls a shot well saved again by Smith.

A flurry of corners and a few near misses, Notts are in full control, but with five minutes remaining until half time, Cafu finds space, finds Surridge, and the Reds break towards goal with the striker cutting in and curling one home right footed in trademark fashion, the Reds first shot on target, perhaps the clinical difference in Premier and National League?

Notts still have time to fightback, Rodrigues somehow finds himself in the area before dragging a shot, deflected up and against the post, Forest end the half on the ropes, skipper Ryan Yates hobbling off as the visitors defend yet another corner, seeing out the remainder with ten men.

Three changes made at the break by Steve Cooper but no change in who’s attacking, Rodrigues starts the second period where he left off the first, twisting Biancone in pieces before feeding Langstaff who blasts home a leveller for Luke William’s Magpies just three minutes in.

The scores aren’t level at one each for long though, a free kick, not even in shooting distance, think Metgod, think McGugan, think Cafu, curling into the top corner for all of 30 yards.

Mighten goes close soon after but Notts aren’t done yet, a curling cross by Cameron from the left is misjudged by Smith, the ball falling to the feet of Austin who blasts home past two defenders on the line.

Smith’s error is huge but he’s the busiest of the two keepers by far, saving at the feet of Austin after more good work by Rodrigues, the Reds shot stopper taking a hit for his troubles before Nemane blasts over another opportunity ahead of calls for some much needed Forest substitutions.

As the skies darken and the new recently installed Notts floodlights kick in, Sam Austin finds space on 76 and curls straight at the goalkeeper from the edge of the area, shortly after Lyle Taylor at the other end finds Konate who’s shot is blocked amidst half in vain appeals for handball, the ping pong continued as Smith is called into action again, diving to his right to deny Rodrigues, the ball rebounding to Austin who blazed over from eight yards a huge opportunity to give the Magpies victory.

As the rain suddenly appeared to this unlikeliest of cup-tie style endings, chances continued to come and go for Notts, Rodrigues feeding Austin who danced his way into the box, before narrowly firing wide with the ball kicking up off the side netting to fool many into thinking it was a goal. Not to be however as the Magpies make do with two.

For Forest, who ended the game bar Lyle Taylor with a complete team of kids, ‘they certainly won’t be winning anything with’ them… True on this occasion too as Notts probably felt hard done by not to take all the glory, local bragging rights, and the Derek Pavis Trophy back upstairs to it’s locker… That particular piece of silverware to be shared, handshakes all around as Nottingham halves the spoils… A last laugh for County fans perhaps who can at least say… “Premier League, you’re having a laugh”, but Forest have bigger fish to fry upcoming, starting with Valencia in their last friendly of the summer before opening up at Newcastle for the first time in the top tier since 1999.

Notts having freshly held Premiership opposition will next head to York on Saturday for their last friendly, before their National League campaign kicks off against those ‘other’ Magpies of Maidenhead on Saturday 6th August at Meadow Lane.

Notts County: Slocombe, Cameron, Baldwin, Brindley, Chicksen (Taylor 82), Nemane (Vincent 82), Francis (Scott 64), O’Brien (Bajrami 64), Rodrigues (Mitchell 82), Austin, Langstaff (Adebayo-Rowling 82).

Nottingham Forest: Smith, Biancone (Hanks 87), Mbe Soh, Donnelly, Laryea (Larsson 74), Yates (Fewster 46), Ojeda (Hammond 46), Mighten (D. Taylor 70), Cafu (Konate 70), L. Taylor, Surridge (Abbott 46).

Venue: Meadow Lane (14,041)

*Main image @NFFC Alex Mighten tussles for the ball with Ruben Rodrigues.

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