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A day out at Meadow Lane

Saturday 29th July 2017
The Nottingham Derby, as previously documented an unusual encounter between two sides from the East Midlands. I visited the game last week and enjoyed it. But what's Meadow Lane like, was it a dull pre-season friendly or a ferocious game of Nottingham pride?

In a previous article, I wrote about the history of the fixture, we discussed how important the game can be. Both clubs have rich histories, yet sadly for both sets of supporters, the glories of yesteryear are not replicated in their contemporary fortunes.

Meadow Lane is situated on the outer-rim of Nottingham city centre, near the West Bridgford area. Given how close the clubs are situated to each other, it was a foregone conclusion that the supporters would be drinking in the same pubs. The red of the Forest fans and the black and white from the County kits seemingly the only colours throughout the bars and streets leading to the ground.

Entering the ground; you can tell the facility is an older setting. It's been the home of Notts County since 1910 and as a result, there's that historic vibe that can't be replicated by modern grounds. Upon further inspection, it's clear to see the ground has gone through renovation work over the years but little has changed.

I took my seat in the kop end and found myself right amongst the die-hard County fans, a few a rows in front of the resident drummer. Songs goading the opposition started early before a ball was kicked giving an indication of how the evening was going to pan out.
The game started in fine fettle with Notts County taking it to their rivals from across the river, with former Newcastle forward, Shola Ameobi, having a crack at goal. The ex-Nigerian international couldn't convert it, however, although the fans still showed their appreciation for him; as he has a chant dedicated to him. Even if it's not very imaginative (it's just his name, repeated, over and over again!), it's an indication of how much of a fan favourite he is, despite only joining the club back in February this year.

Other veterans in the squad included Jon Stead, the journeyman of South Yorkshire and the East Midlands and the former Manchester and Leeds United man, the (not so) new Alan Smith. These three made it a real occasion for the casual onlooker, who can now say he's seen such cult icons play.

After the initial phases of the game, Nottingham Forest really flexed their quality on the game and showed why they are two leagues above their opposition in this game. They ploughed forward and looked like the only side in it for a long time. That said, they also tired during the game and the last ten minutes were very laborious to watch.

The first half was notable for the crowd and their energy. Two Nottingham Forest fans somehow made it to the County home end and were exposed to the Magpies. The collective of home fans created a wall of sound in their direction. Most of it abusive. This made it a very uncomfortable setting for those on the wrong side; eventually leaving it to the match security to usher out the misplaced fans. Although once ejected, the stands were united in a common love for the Magpies, not that any rival supporters had left. That and the constant singing of archaic chant: “I had a wheelbarrow, the wheel fell off” chant, made for a really great atmosphere in the kop end.

Half-time came and went it out major incident and no goals to report. The bar is an ugly looking one, reminiscent of black ice on a poorly tarmacked drive, with elements of the industrial area of the original Crystal Maze show. Sadly, the bar was out of pies and only served Carlsberg. Less said the better. However, this was still an improvement on what I experienced a few months ago at the City ground. I actually could move around the ground without fear of being morbidly crushed. Oh and no pie is better than the sludge I was served across the river.

The second half started and Forest showed off the athleticism of a Championship side and how their conditioning was superior to their city rivals. They continued to boss proceedings it wasn't long until the subbed-on youngster, Ben Brereton, put the Tricky Trees ahead just after the restart.

Some games are injected with fresh ebullience after a goal, this particular game was not. The goal was followed by a magnitude of changes and consistency was off the cards. Both sets of supporters tried to rally the troops, but nothing seemed to translate from the stands on to the pitch. Alan Smith coming on the pitch was a particular highlight, who looked pretty sharp for a man who is 36-years-old and had limited time on the pitch.

Despite Smudge's fresh pace, he couldn't help County get a grip on the game. They continually gave the ball away and seemingly invited pressure from the other side of the Trent. Forest heaped up their game and it was when they'd scored again, not if. Although play did feel awfully limp throughout most of the second half.

Last season's Greek signing, Apostolos Vellios, came on in the second half and slotted home Forest's second goal of the game to ensure a 2-0 win the Nottingham derby. Given the late timing of the goal, the home fans had seen enough and headed home.
Footage of the game.

Notts County could easily still hold their heads up high despite losing this game, Forest is one of the bigger sides in the Championship and the League Two side held them off for large periods of the game. Forest get the plaudits of winning the game despite not looking clinical against a lower division side. In the end, the Nottingham derby probably deserves a bigger occasion than a pre-season game. The fans made the atmosphere within the ground made the game a lot better than the offering from the pitch.

Altogether a good day out at Meadow Lane, I was disappointed not to sample the pies. A good stadium with a faithful following which is very vocal about their rivals. Whether the atmosphere is as good on a standard league game, I'm not so sure. A good evening out, I would visit again.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 

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