Date:Sunday October 20 2013
19th October 2013
Nightmare coach trip with a happy ending
This is going to be more review of the day than a review of the match, since I missed the first half, but here goes…
We left DC at 0930 on Coach 1 of 3 and all went well until we`d just got past Didcot on the A34 and heard and almighty bang from underneath the bus. To say it didn`t sound good would be an understatement. We all thought it was a puncture & the driver duly pulled over at the next lay-by to check out the damage.
Word soon went round that it was actually a burst air bag that had caused the problem, meaning the bus was unsafe to continue its journey. I didn`t even know that coaches had air bags & I`m still not sure why one would be underneath the seats, but there you go. A man from Volvo had been called and those at the front were busy on their phones trying to work out a way to get us to the game.
Coaches 2 & 3 stopped behind us and various lucky people (not me & my mates) were selected to get off and continue on to the game on spare seats on the other buses. To be fair to the coach stewards, I wouldn`t have wanted to have to choose who got to go and who got to stay behind, and their policy of picking out anyone with kids was fair enough, I think.
So, it wasn`t looking good at this stage. It was about 1115 when we broke down and the next thing we heard was that a replacement coach from Bmth was being sent up to take us on to the game. Immediately calculations were done regarding whether or not we`d make kick off and it was pretty obvious we wouldn`t, as the new bus probably wouldn`t reach us before 1330 and Nottingham was still a good 2 hrs away. There were lots of discussions amongst the passengers as to why a replacement bus (or a couple of minibuses) couldn`t be sourced from a company in nearby Oxford, which would have got to us a lot sooner. I presume it was the cost factor that precluded this, but this is pure speculation.
Anyway, the man from Volvo turned up and, of course, did that thing that all mechanics do - took one look at it, grimaced a bit, sucked some air through his teeth and shook his head (do they get trained to do that?). Turns out the bus would need to be towed to Didcot and it would take 5hrs to repair/replace the airbag (naturally, health and safety was also cited somewhere along the line), so Coach 1 was now officially dead.
I should say something here about the departure times of the supporters` coaches this season - they don`t leave any wiggle room at all for incidents such as these. I`m sure they had 2 hours leeway built in last year, which was fine by me - if you get there early it`s more time in the pre-match pub & I`d rather get there too soon than too late. If this bus had left at 0830 yesterday instead of 0930, we`d still have made the kick off, despite all these shenanigans. The coach to Burnley next month leaves at 0830, for example, which seems far too late to me. Also, going to the pre-match pub, chatting to the locals, hearing the different regional accents, etc. is all part of the very enjoyable awayday ritual for me - just getting there for the game only is nothing like as much fun.
So, where was I? Oh yes, stuck in a lay-by on the A34 for 2 ½ hours, that`s where. Next thing that happened was the appearance of a minibus from Excelsior - hopes were briefly raised that this had come to ferry some of us to the match, or at least to the next service station whilst we waited for the replacement coach but, oh no, it turned out the minibus wasn`t licenced to carry passengers (I`m not making this up) and had come to take the replacement bus driver home! Confused? I was. At this stage some passengers decided to call a couple of taxis to take them to the game - at a cost of £40-45 a head, or approx £180 per cab. I think they said they were going to try and claim the money back from Excelsior - good luck with that.
Finally, at about 1335, the replacement coach turned up & we all jumped on - there were only about 20 of us left at this stage - and just as we`d got going I was somewhat astonished when we turned off the A34 and drove towards Oxford! Turns out some people wanted to go home and were being dropped off at the Oxford park and ride. This made us about 10 mins later than we otherwise would have been…
Once we got to within about 40 miles of Nottingham we were within range of the local radio commentary of the game, which was played through the bus, and the first thing we heard was that Henderson was being subbed after 5 mins due to a shoulder/arm injury (can others confirm?). It was interesting hearing the commentary from a Forest perspective, and they seemed to be saying that the first half was a bit fragmented, with no real pattern to the game. Apparently Rantie had a couple of good chances (including a one-on-one with the keeper early on), but didn`t put them away. Personally, I`m not convinced he should be keeping Brett out of the side, but I`m sure he`ll be fine once he gets his first goal. I also don`t think we`re feeding him properly - he needs balls on the ground he can run on to, rather than crosses in the air which he`s never going to win.
Anyway, I digress. I was still on the bloody bus at this stage of the game…We heard the commentary of the Forest goal, which sounded like a screamer out of the blue, then finally saw the Trent Bridge cricket ground floodlights and realised we were almost there. We eventually arrived at 1545, just in time to see a couple of female cops arresting one of our fans, and bundled off the bus and into the ground. We were gasping for beer at this stage, and my mates queued up at the bar whilst I ducked in to see what was left of the first half. I saw the last couple of minutes, in which Grabban hit the post when I thought he must score, and then it was half time.
I went back to the (slightly cramped) concourse, which was already rather busy in the bar area, & told my mate to buy an extra round of beers as it looked like we`d never get served again in time if we wanted seconds. What I didn`t know was that my other mate (are you keeping up?) had already had the same idea & bought an extra round, meaning we were each faced with the prospect of necking 3 x 500ml bottles of gas-filled Carlsberg (outrageously priced at £3.70 a bottle) in 15 mins…
I`ve never drunk so fast in my life & felt like I was full of bubbles when we took our seats for the second half. I thought it was quite an open game and we gave a good account of ourselves. It was good to see Daniels back, coming on to replace Harte at half time, but, in general, I`d have to say we allowed them too much space to run at us and I`m glad they didn`t take their chances.
The most glaring Forest miss occurred when one of their players (Henderson??) found himself through with only Allsop to beat. Ryan came out & then stopped, clearly not wishing to dive in and risk getting sent off as he did at Leeds, and their guy more or less rounded him and missed an open goal. At this point tiny shivers of hope spread out from my spine - was it to be our day after all? Forest also had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed, following which we broke quickly with Rantie charging at their defence, but he couldn`t quite get enough space & time for a shot.
It got to 90 minutes and the board went up indicating 5 mins of added time, and then it happened - Pugh scored, and I don`t think I`ve ever been so happy to see a goal go in. Apologies to all the random strangers I bear hugged (including the Forest steward, who, fair play, took it well) but it was one of those moments that remind you of why you go to the football - pure joy. I know it was only a draw and not a victory, but, after the day we`d had it seemed to make it all worthwhile. We could even have won it as well, as Grabban had a great chance right at the death, but didn`t get enough on his shot.
Back on the bus then for the journey home after another eventful awayday. It took quite a while to get away from the ground, but amusement was provided by a bunch of what looked like 12yr old Forest fans on a street corner, giving it plenty including a full moon from one of them. We also drove through some monsoon rain for a brief period.
My final word must go to the stewards on Coach 1, who were great and did everything they could under the circumstances to get us to the game. It was quite a day.
Report by CourtJester
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Date:Sunday October 20 2013
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