Derby County vs Nottingham Forest

March 19 1982, Swedish pop sensation ABBA release their latest track ‘Head over heels’  as popularity surrounding the band continues to rise.

Timeless classics, Mamma Mia, Super Trouper and Dancing Queen, made ABBA no strangers to newspaper headlines magnifying the success of the Scandinavian quartet.

ABBA are unique for numerous reasons, let alone becoming adopted sons and daughters of the United Kingdom. A global cinema screen hit ‘Mamma Mia’ was to ignite the modern generation with a distinct love for such a traditional pop group. A film based on love, full of high and low points, events witnessed by groups on mass, and the finale.

The most appropriate of songs you may ask? ‘Take a chance on me’ and that’s exactly what Derby County Owner Mel Morris did with his latest addition to the squad.

Now there’s a new Swedish star in town. Derby County’s own chance card, Marcus Olsson.

On the birthday of former Rams manager and ex Forest hero, Nigel Clough, it seemed fitting that his two former employers would take to the field and lock horns in search of three points and rights to the urn named in honour of his late father.

In a season riddled with disappointment and trouble both on and off the field, the two sides came into this game looking to turn their fortunes around.

Nottingham Forest owner Fawaz Al Hasawi sacked manager Dougie Freedman in the build up to this crunch match following five defeats in the last seven games.

Under a transfer embargo, off-field struggles and the odd injury along the way, Dougie was doing a good job and so this decision came as a surprise when sat in fifteenth and all things considered.

Derby on the other hand were still in transition since the sacking of Paul Clement, not to mention the horrific last ten minutes of football played in Rotherham the previous week. A game that saw Derby surrender a three goal lead in the space of five minutes.

Disgruntled and distraught, both sets of fans feared the worst for the impending doomsday. A draw was inevitable in my books. Neither team in form, both fighting for pride and points, in front of the sky cameras so added pressure was injected into the game.

The game had already begun before the two sides graced the hallowed Pride Park (The IPro) turf. Darren Wassall, former Nottingham Forest player under Brian Clough in the Rams dugout, whilst Paul Williams, seven-year Derby pro, was head of the Nottingham ship.

Forest set up with five in midfield, the lone striker being newly acquired loanee Federico Macheda. Jamie Ward who had suited up in black and white for the last five years was now in red, but he could only make the substitutes bench.

Wassall kept the faith with the same starting line-up that featured at Rotherham, imposing only one, quite bizarre change by swapping right back Cyrus Christie for academy graduate Jamie Hanson.

All that was left was for the players to emerge.

31,000 home supporters created a sea of black and white with flags, scarves and the latest DCFC 1884 flag being revealed.

Tom Barclay
Photo by Tom Barclay — Forest fans surrounded by the sea of black and white

As far as derby games are concerned the opening encounters are usually very conservative. Neither team willing to give the opposition the merest sniff of a chance but both sides wanting that early break-through to give them the upper hand.

Gary Gardner who the week before returned to the City Ground for his second spell on loan, tried to replicate his mid-week thunderbolt as he chanced his hand from long distance (maybe one too many times).

Derby when in possession looked nervous, passes going astray, minimal opportunities and some poor mistakes.

Like any game though, the minute George Thorne got involved Derby looked a different side. Bryson unearthed a gaping whole between the five-man Forest midfield, who struggled to pick him up all afternoon. Olsson was getting the better of Lichaj down the left-hand side whilst Thorne began dictating play from the defensive midfield position.

With few chance in the whole of the opening half, it was goalless come the break and it was time for new ‘football advisor’ Harry Redknapp to sprinkle some magic dust in the changing room.

The appointment of Redknapp was a surprise to the fan base, but at the simple request of head coach Wassall who felt he needed some guidance. Wassall said:

“This is a great opportunity for me and the rest of the coaches to work with somebody of Harry’s experience for the remainder of the season.”

So Harry and Darren along with Kevin Phillips and the rest of the Derby backroom staff went to work inside what would be a very jittery dressing room.

Paul Williams would have been much the happier manager, as his team came to do a job and completed that job till half way.

The second half was completely different.

A rejuvenated Derby side came out on the front foot. Chris Martin who has failed to make a mark in the ‘big’ games for Derby was finally coming out of Matt Mills’ pocket.

A change of shirt for Jeff Hendrick saw him swap long sleeves for short sleeves and what seemed a new footballing brain too.

Faster football, precise passing, solid defending a bit more excitement about each attack. Derby were pressing and Forest looked tired.

It wasn’t until ten minutes before full-time when the deadlock was broken.

Following a long passage of possession for the home side, a lofted ball forward from youngster Hanson found the head of fellow academy graduate Hendrick.

His knock down fell to Martin who laid of Bryson before Ince slipped Olsson who behind who curled the most delicate of shots into the far corner, past a sprawling Dorus De Vires.

olsson baby
Getty images — Olsson wheels away in celebration as Mancienne looks on

Two minutes later the ugly side of what recently has been a feisty but not dirty encounter emerged. Scott Carson who went untested all day rose highest to claim a corner before being clattered into by Mills. Richard Keogh didn’t take too kindly to this and confronted the opposition captain.

At which point, Mills threw his arms into the chest of Derby’s captain throwing him to the floor getting away lightly with merely a yellow card and a headlock from George Throne.

And so that was that.

A tough afternoon for the red dogs, but an afternoon to savour for the Rams.

To end this how the blog began it only seems fitting to leave on another classic from ABBA. Until next time Forest 

The winner takes it all



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