2019/20 & 1983/84 last minute goals
First published in "Forest Review" on Friday, 6th March, 2020 versus Millwall
Matty Cash and Lewis Grabban’s recent late equalisers at West Brom and Middlesbrough respectively have helped correct our unfortunate trend for conceding late goals this season.
Against tonight’s visitors at The Den in December, Millwall’s Aiden O’Brien levelled so late it was accompanied by a modern “90+2” vidiprinter annotation.
In our next match, Middlesbrough’s late penalty cost us a further two points and, in the space of just eleven January days, Reading denied us a further four points with late goals to twice grab 1-1 draws.
The first of those Reading matches included Tobi Figueredo’s own goal which he’d be unable to recreate if he tried another hundred times.
That goal was so late that armchair fans might have presumed the match over until that late twist which really should have been recorded as “90+5+2” (in fact, I was still on the steps of the away end having fallen over celebrating our goal).
There has been much discussion on our style of play this season, not least from the other visitors we are welcoming tonight, Sky Sports. Just imagine if we’d collected those extra eight points?
I personally think much of the debate on Sky and elsewhere has been fair, although it’s taken a while for the football world to fully appreciate the nuances of “La Mouch Ball”.
It should be remembered that much of our success in the 1980s in particular was built on the philosophy of defending deep and breaking at speed and with precision.
That “second” Clough team were experts – just look on You Tube at the counter-attacking goals by Steve Hodge and Colin Walsh at Celtic in 1983 as an illustration.
Ironically, that 1983/84 season could also have been much different if it wasn’t for painful late goals.
As it was, we finished third in the top flight - the first of three such finishes that decade - and only fell at the semi-final of the UEFA Cup due to the corruption at Anderlecht covered in the QPR programme.
After a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in our first away game, our woes started at Anfield the following Saturday when, inevitably, Ian Rush scored late. For younger readers, Rush scoring against us was as familiar as Rudy Gestede in the current era.
One of the many “firsts” for our club was participating in the first ever live league match at Spurs in October 1983 when we lost 2-1 to a late Steve Archibald goal in front of the ITV cameras.
The return match against Spurs in February 1984 was even more dramatic. Chris Hughton’s equaliser in ITV’s highlights was so late that “90” was burning brightly on that lovely electronic scoreboard (wonder where that scoreboard was retired to?).
When Match of the Day visited the City Ground for our next home fixture, Arsenal’s Paul Mariner scored the only goal in the last minute after a rare mistake by Hans Van Breukelen.
Interestingly, the matchday programme noted that “elements of the press were not too happy about the type of football we’re playing”… albeit we ended league top scorers with 76 goals.
Having completed a double of conceding last minute goals at home to the North London rivals, we then repeated the feat on our travels in the West Midlands.
The week after Arsenal we somehow lost at Wolves to a last minute own goal from Paul Hart. Hart has not forgotten the incident and only recently was still claiming a foul for a push from Tony Towner’s cross.
This match will never be forgotten by his team mates either. Wolves were bottom, had been hammered 5-0 at the City Ground earlier in the season and subsequently fell straight through the leagues from the top to fourth flight in successive seasons.
In lieu of bonuses not being negotiated for the UEFA Cup run, our players were on an unprecedented £3,000 just to avoid the defeat they ultimately suffered, despite having “been so on top it was embarrassing” according to Steve Lee on BBC’s Grandstand after the match.
Two weeks later it was Aston Villa taking advantage of our late afternoon generosity as regular 80s foe Steve McMahon nicked the winner.
So, in total, seven points lost to late goals - plus late winners for Southampton and Anderlecht in the cups too. As Brian Moore noted on the Football League’s official end of season video, we only finished six points behind champions Liverpool.
Back to the present season and maybe another unusual scoring sequence might be reprised tonight ... keep an eye on Ben Watson in the 56th minute to see if he can add his third goal of the season in the eleventh minute of the second half at the City Ground.
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