This time of year is either great or heartbreaking, depending on whether or not you happen to support a football team in the mix with something to play for. It might be in the way of promotion or relegation but most supporters, including Nottingham Forest fans would want something to play for with just a few games left.
There’s nothing worse than having to watch the team you follow up and down the country play through motions, with their heads already on the beach in Marbella and thinking about sipping cocktails until the wee hours.
Players will always maintain that doesn’t happen but they know deep down that the intensity undoubtedly drops when there isn’t a great deal to play for as the campaign winds to a close.
Back in 2008, Forest had a big incentive. Win against Yeovil at the City Ground and if Doncaster failed to beat Cheltenham at Whaddon Road they would return to the Championship after a three-year absence.
Interestingly the Reds had lost to Yeovil in the play-off semi-final the season previous. This was a chance to win retribution at its finest and boy were Forest up for the occasion.
All three goals were pretty good on this particular day but it was the opening goal that typified desire and gives us chance to reminisce about a hometown boy who fulfilled a dream by playing for Forest.
Julian Bennett wore his heart on his sleeve. Cut him open and he would bleed the Garibaldi and he gave the football club plenty of blood, sweat and tears during his time on Trentside.
It’s funny but I don’t actually think Bennett’s goal after just 12 minutes would have counted in the non-contact era that we’re forced to witness these days.
A cross by Kris Commons was headed clear by Adrian Forbes and has the ball rolled towards his teammate, Bennett anticipated it well. He believes he can win the tackle and good god does he win it, with an almighty challenge which leaves his opponent stricken on the floor.
It was a fair challenge to be honest, foot was relatively low and he does play plenty of the ball but it wasn’t the most impressive part of the goal.
He picked himself up and lashed an unstoppable effort with the outside of his left-boot beyond Steve Mildenhall in the Yeovil goal. Take that!
As he wheeled off in celebration, kissing the badge on his chest, you can hear in Colin Fray’s voice on commentary you can hear the emotion pouring out. He spoke for everyone that day with the way he summed up, ‘the boy from across the way in the Meadows scoring on what could be promotion day’.
Touching on Colin for a minute, I have to say what a pro he is. This season we’ve been forced to watch the games on IFollow and we’ve been put through some really traumatic commentary in the process during our away games.
It was great to see Colin and Steve Hodge back in position for the Easter trip to Cardiff and I believe the Radio Nottingham stalwart is a master of his trade.
So many of the goals I’ve picked for this series have been watched over and over again on YouTube and the commentary from Colin has given me goosebumps at times. Keep up the good work.
Back to Bennett and that particular day and we all know what happened.
Kris Commons and Lewis McGugan had Forest 3-1 up by the break and although Yeovil did pull another back with 16 minutes remaining, the Reds stood firm.
The roar which echoed around the City Ground when news filtered through of Cheltenham’s win over Doncaster was amazing.
I just remember us all running on the pitch in jubilation, not really sure what to do – or who to hug next!
Fair play to Yeovil that day too. A year after Forest fans had stayed in the ground to clap their heroes off the pitch after they had reached the play-off final at our expense, they returned the favour.
After the dust had settled the Forest player returned for their lap of honour and a special bond was created with the Glovers faithful as they all remained in their places to offer congratulations.
Football is truly great at times like that and I’m sure it’s a moment Bennett won’t ever forget.