A 3-1 win over Hartlepool United in the first round of the Capital One Cup saw Nottingham Forest through to the draw in some comfort. Tom Stewart offers a fan’s eye view from the City Ground…

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Round One of the Capital One Cup and with League Two Hartlepool as our opposition the potential was there for arguably the biggest upset of the round. Forest named a typically strong side for the occasion, as is appearing to be Billy’s favoured method to approaching cup games – with not a single Academy player in sight.

The defence saw three changes as Dan Harding, Greg Halford, Jack Hobbs and Gonzalo Jara Reyes lined up with Dorus de Vries given his debut in goal — in my opinion a back five that would do well in any Championship side. And as well as having Chris Cohen, Eric Lichaj and Danny Collins to pick from, it is great to see that we are still looking to improve in defence with the addition of Kelvin Wilson looking ever likely.

The midfield saw two wingers in Jamie Paterson and Jamie Mackie out wide with Adlene Guedioura and Radi Majewski in the middle; Guedioura in the holding midfield role. The forward partnership was Simon Cox and Darius Henderson (or Darius Vassell if you are the Tannoy announcer) and with Cohen and Andy Reid both on the bench, Hobbs was given the captain’s armband.

Billy was absent from the touchline but I soon spied him next to Fawaz in directors’ box. I also spotted Sara Al-Hasawi, Abdulaziz Al-Hasawi, Jim Price and Hassan Saif — it’s nice to see them sat in amongst the fans and not hidden away. Fawaz and Billy even responded to fans’ requests for a wave on a number of occasions.

The game got off to a very slow start with the general feel of a pre-season friendly. Apart from some clever runs from Mackie down the right wing not a lot happened until the ninth minute when a cross from Mackie was met by Halford who forced a goal-line clearance and then headed the return shot over the bar.

This attack was followed by another on the 15th minute when Paterson refused to give up on losing the ball and did well to win a corner which Hobbs met at the back post but headed wide by a couple of feet.

Hartlepool didn’t have much to offer in terms of attacking, with their 4-4-2 formation soon altering to a 5-4-1 to suit Forest’s attacking dominance, which enabled Harding and Jara to make use of the space on the wings. The odd loose ball that did make its way towards our goal was calmly met by the head of Hobbs, who had their number 33 under control throughout the game.

On the 23rd minute mark, Hartlepool did manage a break which resulted in them having ample space on the left-wing to work with. Cox noticed this and sprinted to catch up with play and fill the void, and in doing so he caught the boot of the Hartlepool player and landed awkwardly which forced him to be stretchered off and replaced by Matt Derbyshire.

Paterson had the first real shot on the 28th minute which was aimed straight at the goalkeeper and didn’t cause him much of a problem. A quick boot up the field for a Hartlepool attack was stopped by Guedioura but, with ample amounts of space to sprint into, he was too slow on the attack and tackled from behind.

It started to get to a point where every attack was finished before a shot could be made, either because we were trying to make one pass too many or trying to take a player on and ending up at a dead end. I felt that if a long-range shot was made it would take them by surprise and this happened in the 32nd minute when Majewski found space to shoot and the ball crept in to the left of the ‘keeper.

 

The next chance came a couple of minutes later when Jara found himself in space and was surprised to receive the ball from Guedioura. He shot from an angle and it was straight at the ‘keeper; a rare chance for Jara as he was always in space on the right but seldom given the ball.

Mackie showed great determination a few minutes before half-time, after being wrestled to the ground. He managed to pick himself up and beat the player to the ball and with a couple of fancy flicks managed to work himself into a position to shoot. Again the shot was directed straight at their ‘keeper and didn’t pose too much of a threat. And with that the last few minutes of the first-half dwindled away.

The second-half started just as slowly as the first had finished, with not a lot happening until the 51st minute when Harding tried to lob the ‘keeper from 30 yards but it was just catching practice for the ‘keeper. Another quick punt upfield to a Hartlepool midfielder led to some clever passing from their forwards, they managed to get into the box but ran out of steam and didn’t manage to get the shot in, a lucky escape for Forest.

The 54th minute saw Guedioura attempt a shot from over 30 yards out, this resulted in an angry Davies stand up from his seat in the directors’ box and emerge from the tunnel a minute later, straight to the touchline to show his grievance.

Reid was told to warm up and came on to replace Mackie on the hour mark, instantly giving the whole team that extra boost needed to get them through the remaining half hour. Showing great passing and movement in midfield, it wasn’t long before he found room for a shot which tested the ‘keeper and won us a corner. The corner whipped in by Majewski was headed in at the back post by Halford, who took it well and deserved to be on the score sheet.

It was Reid again who provided a touch of class a couple of minutes later to create the last of Forest’s goals, whipping a curling ball in from the left touchline to find Derbyshire at the far post who headed in from a good way out into the corner, another well taken header and a good confidence boost for him.

With about 20 minutes to play, Billy replaced Henderson with Miller which was met by many grumbles from the crowd. I have to say I agree, I fail to see what Miller offers to the team and I would have much rather have seen McLaughlin given a chance. Miller did have one effort which was wellied towards the goal and hit a defender on the way, not achieving much apart from giving the defender a dead leg.

That was about it as far as the game was concerned, the Forest players seemed to relax and lose interest in getting forward, Hartlepool’s persistence was rewarded on the 75th minute mark as a cheap header by Neil Austin crept passed de Vries to make it 3-1.

Overall, a tidy performance from Forest. A respectable crowd of 9,081 were there to watch it, including just fewer than 200 away fans. It was a shame not to get the clean sheet but the winning mentality continues.

You can follow Tom on Twitter: @TomStewart88

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