Town 0-1 Forest
By David Mitchell
Fleetwood Town tested their Championship opponents for large periods of this Capital One Cup first Round tie and served notice that they are going to trouble many sides in the npower League Two this season.
Nottingham Forest moved into the next round with a Dexter Blackstock goal from close range in the 56th
minute but for the Cod Army faithful in the crowd of 3611 it was an encouraging start to the season and Town will be hoping for a cracking good atmosphere when history is made on Saturday.
There was no better way to start a landmark season. From a cluster of experimental pre-season friendlies, Fleetwood Town marched out alongside a club who have been to the very top of European club football. To add to the sense of occasion and the expectancy around the ground, Nottingham Forest ambassador, Frank Clark, presented Town Chairman, Andy Pilley, with a gift to mark the club’s promotion to the Football League.
Town’s team contained six new signings with Micky Mellon opting to play Conor McLaughlin in midfield. Much of the early play was in the middle third of the pitch with Town playing the ball confidently and using both flanks. The first chance fell to Town and it was courtesy of two of the four Preston old boys on show. Barry Nicholson flighted a 12th
minute free kick on to the head of Jon Parkin to force a save from keeper Karl Darlow, promoted with Lee Camp on international duty.
Town maintained the pressure but wasted another free kick in the 16th
minute when Andy Mangan delayed his shot. The Championship side’s first threat came a minute later, Youl Mawéné spreading himself to block a shot from Radoslaw Majewski. Town retaliated immediately, a move started by clever work from McLaughlin in midfield. The Northern Ireland international found Dean Howell on the left and the full-back’s cross tested Forest at the back post. Steve McNulty, assured in defence, found Shaun Beeley in space down the right with a beautifully weighted ball, only for the cross to be wasted.
Calm in defence, energetic in midfield and creative going forward, Town were clearly on top as the half hour passed. Jamie McGuire, one of only three from Blue Square North days, was never far from the action. A measure of Town’s dominance was that Forest’s first corner did not come until the 34th
minute. As storm clouds gathered behind the Highbury Stand, the pressure was building on Sean O’Driscoll’s team.
Town had a chance to strike in the 37th
minute. McNulty created an opening for David Ball whose progress was checked by a late offside flag, a decision which gave fourth official, Gary Hilton, an ear-bashing from both benches! Andy Reid provided Scott Davies with a rare save as his free kick floated in from the right. Town’s momentum, not surprisingly slowed down as half time approached but Forest were unable to capitalise with just a shot from Blackstock which he will prefer to forget about...high, wide and not very handsome.
Forest almost made Town pay for their failure to capitalise. Moments into the second half, Lewis McGugan bent a free kick across Town’s goal from the right touchline. For a moment, Cod Army hearts stopped. A Mcnulty chip found Ball who put the much taller Daniel Ayala under pressure without finding a way through.
There was a stroke of fortune for Town in the 51st
minute. Blackstock got a boot to a low cross from the left and the ball cannoned off the crossbar. Forest were rejuvenated and, five minutes later, Blackstock gave them the lead. Davies failed to collect the ball as play came in from the left and Blackstock capitalised from close range. Town came back, Ball striking wide from outside the area just before the hour. It was the former Peterborough striker’s final act as he was replaced in the 62nd
minute by Steven Gillespie.
Forest were looking more convincing and it was proving to be a much busier half for Davies. A bicycle kick by Greg Halford was comfortably taken in the 65th
minute. Mellon turned to the creative ability of Lee Fowler who replaced McLaughlin after 68 minutes. Soon after, Mcguire worked hard to win a free kick to the left of the Forest area and Nicholson found Parkin’s head yet again but the big man’s header was mis-directed.
McGuire continued to be a driving force but his enthusiasm got the better of him in the 72nd
minute and a booking followed a tackle from behind on Reid. The play switched from end to end, McGugan’s trusty right foot sending a shot narrowly past Davies’s far upright and Parkin climbing to meet Beeley’s cross. Adlene Guedioura hit a low ball into danger from the right as spectators’ heads in the Parkside and Highbury Stands switched from side to side.
With three minutes left, Gillespie found a gap opening in front of him and shot narrowly over Darlow’s bar into the Memorial Stand. Deep into added time, Parkin got to yet another ball in the air and, for a moment, it looked that there might be a dramatic late twist before Darlow collected the looping header.
The applause ringing round the ground as Town left the field was tribute to a battling display. Bring on Torquay United!