Story by Robin Popley
Key Match – Nottingham Forest 0 – 1 Derby County
In a typically heated encounter, it was Derby County who emerged victorious in this Brian Clough Cup Match, one of few league games that can boast a trophy to the winner. From the off-set, referee Robert Madley had to calm the tempers of both Forest, and The Rams. The first yellow card of the game was the first real highlight of any description and this was awarded to Andy Reid following a lunging challenge on Derby defender, Craig Bryson, who would turn out to be the hero on the day. Between him (Bryson) and Dextor Blackstock – who was eventually sent off immediately into the second half – there were more fouls exchange hands than words spoken on the pitch between either player. Victory mattered. The fans, as ever, knew that too.
The first chance of the game came through Chris Cohen for Forest, with the midfielder firing a relatively easy shot at Frank Fielding in the Derby net, saved accordingly by the goalkeeper. As tempers flared, free kicks soon followed, with Lewis McGuagan wasting a brilliant opportunity to test Fielding moments later. However, it was almost apt that in a half they were on the back foot for much of, Derby would create the best chance with Conor Sammon – a recent £1 million acquisition from Wigan – firing narrowly over Lee Camp’s goal before Simon Cox returned the favour moments later for Forest with the same outcome. Wide but only just!
Then the boiling point was finally reached. Dexter Blackstock was sent off inside 60 seconds of the restart, following a challenge to Richard Keogh’s face, although replays do suggest that by contrast to earlier challenges the striker made this was the least harmful. Nevertheless, whoever it was, a sending off was always on the cards. If this was the precursor the game had needed then we need a protagonist. Up step Bryson who tapped in on the 55th minute to send the Derby fans wild. Forest were silenced.
That is how it would remain despite an extremely good effort from Simon Gillett near the end. His rebound was superbly saved by Fielding, further adding to why he has been on the England team fringes, before and since his move to Pride Park last summer.
Cardiff joined Brighton at the top of the table with 16 points, following a comprehensive 3 – 0 home victory over fellow promotion rivals, Blackpool. Leicester City continued their fine form by extending their unbeaten run to three with their first away points and win at Middlesborough, Lloyd Dyer clinching the win late on in the day, to push the Foxes into the Play-offs for the first time since Opening Day. Peterborough surprised the entire division, by taking full points on the road against Hull City, Emile Sinclair with a hat trick. Crystal Palace also sent shockwaves through the league as they further added to Owen Coyle’s problems at Bolton with a slender 1-0 victory at the Reebok. In the highscoring game at Ashton Gate between Bristol City and Leeds United, it was Leeds who game out on top, with a 3-2 win. Wolves continued their fine recent form by winning yet again at home to Sheffield Wednesday by a goal to nil. Another shock was seen at Huddersfield as they were on the reverse of 3 – 2 scoreline against Watford. The hornets toppling the other joint leaders of the Championship (as things stood ahead of this weekend). Leaders Brighton were beaten by Lee Clark’s inconsistant Birmingham City 1 – 0 and there were draws in the games at Barnsley – where they were held 1 all by Ipswich – and at Turf Moor where Burnley and Milwall played out a 2 all draw.
The other draw of the weekend was between newly promoted Charlton and Blackburn. Steve Kean wasn’t present however, as following pressure leading up to this game, gave his resignation into the Venky’s thus beginning the search for a new Rovers manager. The 11 team watch with curiosity who will take over at the helm!