CRASSSSSH. The final whistle went to the sound of shattered hoodoo. And as the ghosts of an ancient hex were exorcised, dreams of glory and possibilities rushed into the vacuum: “if we can win HERE…
Boro took an historic axe to Forest. That’s an “I was there” moment. If the club;’s marketing department have anything about them they ‘ll rush out a commemorative t-shirt. “I’ve seen Boro win at Forest. ” Not many people have been able to say that since decimalisation.
But then we are getting used to Aitor lifting curses. The last league away day was another momentous moment as we ended the Hillsborough hoodoo. We’re on a roll…
Yesss! George celebrates lifting the Curse of the City Ground
Boro’s win at the City Ground was the first this millennium. Last time we came home happy was in March 1999 when Brian Deane scooped home a lovely late winner in a 2-1 victory in March 1999. A lot of people will barely remember it.
A lot of fans will never have experienced Boro winning at the City Ground. Some may have given up all hope and submitted themselves to the superstition and the statistics and written the day and the points off since long before the fixture computer started to whirr.
Since that last win, at the height of fears about the “Millennium Bug” and the end of civilisation, Boro had lost five and drawn two in what seemed a forlorn fixture that taunted us with the certainty of heart-break.
Before that top flight win you need to rewind back to 1973 when the world was still in black and white, smoking was compulsory, we were so poor there were only three days in the week and you had to put money in the telly to watch Yorkshire TV. Britain had just joined the Common Market. Gilbert O’Sullivan was top of the charts. It was before Big Jack ay Ayresome, before Brian Clough at Forest. It was even before Sunderland last won a trophy! It feels like before time itself.
Boro had won just once in 22 games going into the clash. Once in 42 years. That is a serious jinx. It is the Haley’s Comet of football. Entire generations of fans have never seen or imagined or expected or dared to hope to see a win at Forest. That stain has gone now.
Not that it was easy. It wasn’t. It was tough. It was a nerve-shredding, stomach-churning exercise in psychological terror as Boro survived a string of scares, nightmare spells of heavy pressure and the habitual last 10 minutes of screw-turning with all the needles bouncing into the red at the death. We even endured a penalty watched through fingers and – at home – from behind the settee.
But then, that’s why we watch football: it puts us through the emotional spin cycle and gives every single nerve ending a good work out. Especially at Forest. So we came away battered and bruised and mentally drained and physically aching from kicking every ball but there will be a Ready Brek glow of satisfaction and a growing sense of self-belief.
If this team can tick off the historic hoodoos that have seen us crash so often in the past then who knows what is possible? It will peel a way a few dark layer of pessimism built into our DNA and let a few flowers of optimism shoot.
And, when the pulse-rate drops and wild-eyed raving subsides, we will know it was a brilliant game. Not just an historic occasion but a fantastic spectacle, a pulsating high-tempo battle between two sides who had a good crack at winning. And one that most objective observers will accept that Boro deserved to win.
A well organised, well balanced side showed spirit and determination and a few flashes of skill going forward and demonstrating grit, battle and bottle at the back. Forest were good. They gave it their best shot. But Boro were just better in every department.
It was a fantastic game. An entertaining and absorbing archetypal end-to-end encounter that twisted and turned and demanded total attention. You couldn’t look away for a second. What a blistering start. Boro could have been two up before they scored and then could have been behind before Forest levelled.
Both keepers made superb saves as the teams ripped into each other and created a hail of chances. For a spell Boro looked like they would score with every attack and De Vries had to make a string of great saves including one excellent double block to keep them in it. Then Boro looked rocky at the back for a spell and Forest fired in shots.
It was breathtaking stuff. That will pay the nations’ armchair army back for Boro’s small screen stuttering last season as High Noon shoot-outs saw our heroes firing blanks against Leeds, Watford and Bournemouth.
Naturally the tempo dropped off. A bit. Not much. And the quality dropped off. A bit. Not much. Passes went astray. Mistakes crept in. Tackles grew wild. But that’s no surprise given the almost unsustainable tempo. But Boro edged it even when the game grew scrappy and the yellow cards started to fly (my favourite was Clayton’s for staging an impromtu celebration of the Rugby World Cup.)
Boro really wanted it though. There was energy in every department with relentless high-octane determination all over the pitch. At the back Dani Ayala was a Colossus barging puny Earthlings aside as he crunched into challenges and won everything in the air – and scored to celebrate the birth of his new son – ably assisted by the rest of the best defence in the league. It wasn’t easy and it was probably their toughest test so far but they held firm.
Up front David Nugent chased and harried and went systematically toe-to-toe with every one of Forest’s back-line, backing in and squaring up with the three behind him weaving in and out going forward and beavering away tracking back.
Clayton: Armour-plated midfield Terminator and tackling machine
And in the middle armour plated Adam Clayton – my man of the match – was outstanding. His industrious and aggressive patrolling of the midfield like a Terminator programmed to tackle anything in red was awesome and frightening. He slammed into tackles but also played some brilliant balls, long and short – and not just sidewards – to quickly recycle possession, switch the flow of play and tighten Boro’s grip on the game .
Superstition smashing shot-stopper saves from the spot
Then there was the keeper. Our Greek Dimi God. After a potentially costly blunder against Brentford some fans were pointing the finger and thinking he had handed Aitor his own head on a plate and opened the door to new boy Michael Agazzi.
Since then he has been amazing. He made some great saves to redeem himself in that Brentford match then at Forest he was outstanding. He faced a string of shots and went full length to claw, palm and scoop away goal bound efforts in the first half then early in the second he came quickly off his line to charge down what looked like a leveller. And then, when the pressure was really on, he saved a penalty. At Forest. In a win.
That’s his place in folklore assured.