Welcome to another edition of Balls in the Air, our weekly eye on Nottingham’s professional football scene, and what a week it’s been, not least for Nottingham Forest who scored a thrilling extra-time win at Premier League Newcastle United in the League Cup during the week – and in doing so earned a plum tie with Chelsea, the current Prem champions, in the next round.
Despite falling behind early on to Aleksander Mitrovic’s opener The Reds never let their heads drop and a two goals in two minutes from Jason Cummings meant that Forest led just after the half hour mark. Forest were looking in control now however a goal from Rolando Aarons in injury time meant the sides went in all square at the break.
The second half saw both sides have chances but neither able to make the breakthrough and so extra time was needed to decide this thrilling match and the winner came thanks to Tyler Walker – a player Notts boss Nolan has said he’d love to see on loan at Meadow Lane – directing a Jack Hobbs header past former Forest keeper Karl Darlow. Forest withstood a late bombardment from the home side to see out a thrilling win and landing a tie against Chelsea was certainly the icing on the cake.
On a related note I just have to say how ridiculous it was that the third round tie was held in Beijing at 4.15am (UK time). Just another reminder of how far football has gone from being the fans game.
The Newcastle win capped off a great week for Forest against sides from the North East coming days after a well earned win over newly-relegated Middlesborough at the City Ground. After a impressive start had seen The Reds take six points from their opening three games the visit of big spending Boro was seen as a real test for Mark Warburton’s side and also saw former fan favourite Brett Assombalonga return to the City Ground for the first time since his £15 million move north. Thankfully Brett seemed to forget his shooting boots, missing several chances, after Forest had already taken an early lead thanks to a great finish from Barrie McKay. Forest looked to have wrapped things up late on when Daryl Murphy fired home from the spot after Brett Bereton was bundled over in the box. The visitors rallied late on and Ben Gibson fired home with seven minutes left to ensure a nervy finish but it was too little too late and Forest made it a third win from four and sent out a strong message to the rest of the championship.
So a great week for Forest, and a pretty good one for Notts County as well as they picked up a first win on the road with a thrilling victory over Wycombe Wanderers. Wycombe’s Adam’s Park has been a pretty happy hunting ground for County in recent years and so it proved this time around, though it wasn’t without its drama.
County surged into the lead with two goals in a minute around the quarter hour mark. First up Richard Duffy, a player who has been rejuvenated under Kevin Nolan, headed home from Dan Jones’ cross to put County ahead on his 50th appearance for the club. Then just a minute later some comical defending saw Adam El Abd put the ball into his own net, cannoning off a teammate, to give the visitors a two-goal cushion.
All looked rosy at the break, of course this being County it was anything but and just minutes into the second half Nick Freeman fired in a cracking effort from just inside the box to halve the deficit. The home side were on the charge now searching for an equaliser and it would have been of little surprise to anyone who has followed Notts for more than five minutes when it came. Albeit in stunning form as Joe Jacobson curled a stunning 25 yard free kick past Adam Collin and into the net.
All square and the impetus seemed to be with the home side now as they looked to complete the turnaround, however Notts, under Nolan, are not a side to give up easily and with just six minutes left they found themselves back in front when substitute Jonathan Forte nodded home from close range. Notts now needed to ensure they didn’t let Wycombe back in again and with a minute to go any hopes of another comeback ended when Lewis Alessandra fired home his first goal for the club ensuring County left Adam’s Park with three points and a second successive League Two win.
While it was a good week for County and Forest the same, sadly, cannot be said for Mansfield Town who slipped to their first defeat of the season at Accrington Stanley thanks to an injury time goal. In a game which The Stags dominated for large parts they found themselves having to come from behind after Kayden Jackson fired home just ten minutes in. Striker Lee Angol fired home his first competitive goal for Mansfield on twenty-five minutes and that seemed enough to ensure a share of the spoils only for Billy Kee to bundle the ball home in the second minute of injury time and thus earn the home side the points and ensure Town headed back to Mansfield feeling rather unlucky.
Mansfield will be hoping to bounce back on Saturday but face a tough challenge as promotion favourites Luton Town make the trip to the One Call Stadium, The Hatters have been on fine form at home, including a thumping 8-2 opening day win over Yeovil. However their only way game saw them slip to a surprise defeat at Yeovil and Town will be hoping to ensure Luton’s travel woes continue.
Notts meanwhile see themselves playing a day early as they welcome Stags’ conquerors Accrington Stanley to Meadow Lane tonight looking to make it four wins (three in the league) on the bounce and continue their unbeaten run at Meadow Lane. With special offers on tickets the Pies will be hoping to for a bumper crowd for this late night matchup which could see County top the table – for a night at least.
Forest welcome local rivals Leeds United to the City Ground on Saturday (hence the move for the Magpies match) and are looking for a third big win of the week. The match which will kick off at 5.30pm will air live on Sky TV for those unable to be there and with the two sides sitting fourth and fifth in the table at present it promises to be a tasty matchup between two sides with a huge history.
So another big weekend for all three sides as County and Forest look to continue their impressive runs of late while Mansfield will be hoping to bounce back after their first league defeat. With the season heading towards September all three sides will be looking to hit some consistency as new players start to feel more settled in the sides and we should start to see some signs of what kind of seasons the teams might be in for.
What do you think of your sides start to the season? Do you think they can mount a charge on the promotion spots? Let us know what you think by tweeting us @NottinghamLIVE with the relevant hashtag – #Forest #Notts #Stags
No column next week as I’m away so I’ll be back in two weeks time, unless anybody fancies penning a guest column for us next week? If so drop us a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
Darren Patterson – @pogester