WHAT a fantastic match! It was an emotional draining. action-packed encounter fought out in an atmosphere that rarely dropped below hysterical.
It was a magnificent chaos, a dramatically charged confusion of pulse-racing passion and physicality, jammed to bursting point with incident and controversy and punctuated with outbreaks of some really breath-taking football.
Boro may have dropped two points at Forest and that was frustrating and disappointing – and predictable – but it was a brilliant encounter that had tingling supporters of both sides reaching for the valium.
Kei Kamara stabbed home on his first start after a brilliant counter-attack, then George Friend unleashed a weapons grade rocket shot for a screaming second.
In between those goals Jason Steele superbly saved a penalty from long time Nemesis Andy Reid and it seemed Boro were nailed on for an historic victory.
Then fired-up Forest launched a furious counter-attack, swarming forward and thumping balls into the box in a sustained route-one assault that could only have been stopped by the United Nations imposing a No Fly Zone.
Naturally Boro cracked. That is their frustrating fatal flaw this term.
First the relentless barrage saw Matt Derbyshire – a player with goals against Boro written into his contract – send a diving header in off the post. Then trundling penalty box HGV Darius Henderson – ditto – stabbed in a low cross to grab a leveller.
But relating the goals doesn’t begin to tell the story of a pulsating fractious encounter that fizzed and spat and bubbling just below boiling point throughout.
The spectacle was fuelled by a potent cocktail of anger and nervous energy, a rage radiating from the Forest dug-out that, wired up to the National Grid, could power Nottingham through the frostiest of winters.
Bridge-burning boss Billy Davis is a pocket-sized bundle of barely contained anger; a shouting, pointing, stomping Caledonian volcano at war with the world.
The pint-sized Primark Fergie is currently fighting the local newspaper, sparring with sections of the national media, battling factions of his own fans and exchanging sniper-fire with a string of former board members from the old regime.
In his previous stint at Forest he spent most of his time in verbal fisticuffs with the hierarchy of his own club too, using press conferences to berate the board and demand more money to spend..
The steaming siege mentality is the engine that has driven his career and fuels his teams. And on matchdays it is directed onto the pitch. It is contagious: the Forest team and fans have become incandescent by osmosis.
Davies and his backroom staff spent the entire 90 minutes frothing at the fourth official, the referee, Boro, his own players. And anyone else who knows him. He jumped and pointed and shook his fists at the sky, petulantly stamped his feet and at one point did a cartoon dance of fury that Yosemite Sam would have been proud of. It was a compelling spectacle and great entertainment.
To be fair, while ‘Krakatoan’ is probably Billy Fury’s default setting, he did have plenty to be angry about. And Tony Mowbray did his share of bottle-kicking and dug-out thumping too on a night dominated by refereeing decisions… athough we shouldn’t complain too much as Boro definitely came off best.
The game was marked with chaotic outbreaks of skirmishing over penalties given, not given and at one point over whether or not the missed spot kick was being retaken. In between there was some fantastic football played on both sides and both Boro goals were brilliantly engineered.
Forest had an early penalty shout early waved away after Jonathan Woodgate looked to have handled as he came sliding in and charged down a shot. “You’ve seen them given”. That led to Davies and his crew – including David Kelly and former Boro keeper coach Steve Barron – surrounding the fourth official in a tetchy tag-team and generally barking at the moon.
Worst was to follow. Rhys Williams really clattered Majewski to concede the first half penalty. Mowbray insisted afterwards that his skipper had got the ball with a hefty tackle that had sent the ball in a direction that indicated a clean contact. Maybe, but he also caught the striker and sent him flying into a painful heap and the judder rippled around the ground and left a lot of people wincing.
Rhys got a yellow that possibly – probably – could have been a red and that sparked a lively skirmish as players squared up, pushed and pulled and gesticulated while Billy Fury’s steam kettle started to whistle on the touchline.
When Phil Dowd eventually restored order Steele superbly saved Reid’s spot-kick as he went full length to push away the low piledriver – and then followed another skirmish.
The ref pointed and briefly to have ordered a retake and Boro players reacted angrily – Albert Adomah was booked and a few others could have followed – while Reid grabbed the ball and stood on the spot serenely amid a Western Saloon scrum. All that was missing was flying bar stools and a terrified piano player in a bowler hat.
After a moment’s bedlam Dowd clarified his gesture: it was a corner. At that point crack health and safety officials and fire engines were mobilised as Davis appeared on the verge of spontaneous human combustion.
In the second half the simmering continued, the tension crackled and the temperature rose. The Forest crowd were fantastic. Both sets of supporters were. They goaded each other with old school call and response banter. “You’re not famous any more.”
But at two down and stung by injustice the home fans dug deep and tapped into Billy Fury’s tangible vitriol and roared their team on in the final 20 minutes.
There were only 19,000 in but it felt like a lot more as the engrossing atmosphere magnified the response to every tackle, every decision and every attack.
You can’t help but feel that, had the situation been reversed, had Boro been two down at home with 20 minutes to go that a big chunk of the Riverside crowd would be trickling away morosely to ‘beat the traffic’.
Forest pulled a goal back and the crowd ramped up the hysteria levels to critical mass.
And the volatile mix exploded soon after when Forest were denied a stonewall penalty. Henderson was clean through and into the box and bearing down on goal when Steele came out and went sliding into a tackle that sent him sprawling.
It looked clear cut. Steele caught the striker full on and he went flying. After the game the snappers were showing the evidence, zooming in on-screen to pictures of stud on flesh contact and a face twisted in pain as the Forest man went flying – too artistically though. His acrobatic arc seemed a little too rehearsed for Dowd.
With players squaring up in the Boro box once more, spit flecked fans behind the goal baying for blood, and wild-eyed Davies going beserk the referee ran over reaching for a card and it seemed certain that Steele would go – and with all the subs used too- and that Forest had a penalty.
But then Dowd flashed a yellow card at the stunned striker for diving and Boro were off the hook. Davies wailed, wounded by injustice and impressively finding another level of ticking time-bomb malevolent threat while in the far side Boro fans could be heard laughing in disbelief.
There was no let-up in the relentless draining drama. Forest scored their second after carving down the right and finding Henderson at the near post and the anxiety levels ramped up again. The dials were all bouncing into the red now. The ground was shaking. She’s gonna blow…
Then it was Boro’s turn to point and scream. At the death a ball into the box found Jutkiewicz with his back to goal and as he tried to control and turn he was wrestled down to the ground by Halford who had both arms tightly wrapped around the striker. It would have been a foul in Rugby League.
Mowbray was up and kicking water-bottles while Mark Venus roasted the fourth official and incredulous Boro players surrounded the ref. It may have seemed that Jutkiewicz was backing in. It may have looked 50/50 from his angle. And we all know that refs value their integrity and would never do something as crass as ‘even it up’ … but equally you can’t help thinking that Dowd saw the incendiary possibilities if having turned down the Forest penalty he then gave Boro one and they scored. It would have sparked a riot. The ground would have gone into meltdown. Davies would definitely have exploded.
Then to wrap it up Ledesma was sent off for a rash tackle from behind. He chased 20 yards to chop down a player who was going nowhere and was hemmed in by two defenders. By then no-one had the emotional energy to argue.
The whistle went leaving everyone drained and frustrated.
Naturally Boro were bitterly disappointed to have lost from a winning position. Again. They have only won one game all season and no matter how well they have played there is no arguing with the stats. (Or is there?… one defeat in six.)
But there were positives: Kamara looks useful in both boxes; Boro looked good on the counter; Steele was superb; they bounced back from the Ipswich debacle to get a point from a team that will surely be among the play-off pack; they showed grit to not fold under pressure in an intimidating arena; Boro didn’t lose at Forest – historically adjusted that is a famous point.
Most of all though it was a fantastic spectacle. It was magnificent entertainment. It was dramatic. It was enthralling. Tingling. Draining. Totally engaging and with the outcome in the balance right until the whistle. It put everyone in the ground through the emotional wringer,
Where’s the Valium?