Football without fans has been average at best. During an interview with The Athletic journalist Paul Taylor recently, Joe Worrall described it as ‘so, so poor’ and he’s certainly got a point.
With that in mind, I’ve opted to take a trip back down memory lane to reminisce about the goal which led to the most unbelievable scenes I have experienced in all my years following Nottingham Forest home and away.
Beating Derby is one thing but beating them in the second minute of stoppage time, having lost 5-0 the season previous and having trailed at half-time is a completely different ball game. Oh, did I mention it was in their own backyard?
Enter Ben Osborn.
The man who so often copped a great deal of criticism – the majority of which was unfounded – etched his name into Forest folklore on January 17th 2015 by firing home a goal that would live long in the memory.
I remember that day as though it was yesterday. We nearly didn’t go. Having seen pretty much every away derby-day since Pride Park opened, the 5-0 seemed just too raw to go through it all again.
Stuart Pearce was in charge for this one though and what wouldn’t be to like about roaring on the Reds led by one of our own in enemy territory? Based on that and that alone, the tickets were purchased.
On the trip along the A38 from my home in Mansfield, I was in pretty pessimistic mood it has to be said.
At the time I worked for Buy Mobiles, who up until the season previous had sponsored our fierce rivals and it’s fair to say I’d still not really lived the 5-0 result down.
Please don’t send me back to work on Monday and have to go through that level of banter again, Forest!
An own goal by Henri Lansbury seemed to send my phone crazy – yep, the Buy Mobiles lot anticipating a comfortable afternoon and possibly another 5-0.
That was to be as good as it got for the Rams though as Forest grew into the game.
The second half of that game was superb from a Reds perspective. Pearce’s team gave it a real go and should have really denied Osborn his special moment by wrapping up the contest way before stoppage time.
Assombalonga equalised with 15 minutes to go and I honestly wanted the whistle to blow at that moment. Let’s take the point, we’ve not lost 5-0 again and I can go to work on Monday morning safe from any ribbing.
Forest continued to probe though and when Lee Grant had the ball in his hands in stoppage time, his only thought was to bang it long towards Darren Bent. In truth, the game was petering out.
What happened next felt like slow motion.
Kelvin Wilson won a superb header to thwart Bent and although Robert Tesche mopped up it seemed as though Omar Mascarell would dispossess him.
He didn’t though and the big German managed to knock the ball to Osborn who as the SKY commentator put it that day ‘had open ground ahead of him’.
I saw Assombalonga peel away from Jake Buxton in the box and just remember thinking, just find him, give the star striker one chance to net the winner.
Osborn had other ideas though and I confess I didn’t really fancy him going alone, considering at this point he’d never scored for the club.
His shot from the edge of the area whistled past Grant in the Rams goal and when the net bulged the scenes that followed in the away end were just insane.
There’s a great video from high up among the Forest supporters that day and when Osborn shoots there’s almost a split-second of silence.
I’ve celebrated lots of goal in lots of grounds but if I could relive one goal celebration in my time supporting Forest it would be Osborn’s winner at Pride Park by a country mile.
It’s fair to say the banter increased ten-fold at Buy Mobiles on the Monday morning – only this time the shoe was on the other foot!
Football without fans has been somewhat lifeless and hopefully, at some point in the near future, we can enjoy more moments like the derby-day of 2015.