Now let’s all be brutally honest here and admit that even in our wildest dreams, we didn’t quite see that one coming. Put your hands down at the back, there – you HOPED it might pan out like this but in your heart of hearts, didn’t really think it would.
Things were going alright, until Henri Lansbury nodded forcefully into his own net from a well delivered corner. We had decent possession, were getting forward and super little Benny Osborn was making decent inroads down the left. Furthermore, we were extremely unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty after Jake Buxton wrestled Michal Antonio to the floor. To be fair though, Henri was having a bit of a personal disaster: passes were going astray and his lethargic style of dragging himself around the pitch was generally ruining people’s day. As the ball bounced forcefully off his head and rippled the net, the only consolation to be found in this desperately sorry state of affairs was that we’d got to fifteen minutes before conceding.
Commonly accepted procedure to conceding a goal in recent times has been to lie down, belly facing upwards, and let the opposition give it a good old rub and tickle. And for ten minutes or so, it looked like standard protocol was to be effectively carried out as Derby came at us with the whiff of a smashing in their nostrils.
But not today.
In retrospect, managing to avoid an utter and total collapse after that first goal, was fundamental to the final score line. Jack Hobbs stood strong and even Kelvin Wilson looked focused today. Yes, we did look a bit of a shambles until half time but as the whistle blew, I felt that given the circumstances, the performance was one of improvement on recent weeks. If that’s mainly down to the avoidance of a complete crumble after conceding an unfortunate goal, that’s still a significant point since it meant that our collective bellies were going to remain defiantly ground facing…which would be nice.
As the second half commenced, we battled hard, broke the game down and got a foothold thanks to a more urgent approach in closing Derby defenders down so as to prevent them moving through their, on their day, impressively slick midfield. On such small thing like winning a tackle or forcing a throw-in, is confidence slowly but surely restored. Britt Assombalonga and Richard Keogh had a good old-fashioned hustle and bustle all afternoon – just the sort of thing you want to see between a striker and big burly defender. You just sensed that Britt had rattled and annoyed Keogh enough to put him off his game and although he walked the line, Britt had had a little cheeky twinkle in his eye. Sure enough, his inner confidence was justified as he squeezed home from a set piece after a delightfully unintentional assist from Jack Hobbs. We’d take a draw and a battling performance. Lee Grant might be a smidgen disappointed that he didn’t do better.
The Rams fans were getting restless: Keogh aimlessly passed a seemingly simple ball out from defence straight into touch. Will Hughes was not around to keep thing ticking over in the middle of the park and Super Little Benny kept getting the ball and driving forward. It couldn’t happen, could it? No. Not really. Maybe? No. Just no.
But it did. Osborn picked up the ball just inside the Derby half and carried it forward. Just like Forest defenders are wont to do, Derby defenders backed off and admired Super Little Benny’s boots – which is fair enough since they were very nice. Options were on but as he approached the penalty area, he whacked it true and hard. The net rippled but it wasn’t actually in, was it? Was it? It was? Oh. Oh, my word. Scenes. Once again, Lee Grant might be a little disappointed with that. But Super Little Benny has always had this in his locker - left foot, right foot, he don't care.
Stuart Pearce enjoyed it. Andy Reid and Chris Cohen in the stands just in front of Fawaz and Steve McClaren enjoyed it. We all quite enjoyed it. Frankly, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving young man who was denied an outstanding first goal at White Hart Lane in the League Cup by a lick of crossbar paint. We love Ben Osborn: our love for him is true and deep.
There were more scenes as a Derby fan tried to lamp Kelvin Wilson after the final whistle. He should be disappointed with himself.
As Stuart Pearce was awarded the Brian Clough Trophy and said a few words, I seemed to have something lodged in the corner of my eye. Weird coincidence that was.