LFE Blog

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Tim Hopkinson - Nottingham Forest FC

East Midlands Derby

30/03/09 |

This week started off in frustrating fashion but finished fairly well. On Monday I reported for physio on my ankle that I’d gone over on during Saturday’s game. Monday and Tuesday consisted of treatment from the Academy physio and ice baths because I couldn’t do any exercise on it or else it’d just swell up.

It was ironic because my team-mate Robbie also injured his ankle on Saturday but did the opposite foot to me. Whilst going through with our treatment we played games like naming international players beginning with a certain letter – the person who couldn’t think of one when going round was out.

Macca our other physio was too good at it, he knew too many, whilst Immers resorted to cheating and making lower league players up none of us had heard of. To be fair I was guilty of cheating a few times too, but it’s always good to have a laugh when you’re injured because you can get quite down about not playing so it’s important to keep your morale up so you can get back training as quickly as possible.

On Wednesday I had treatment before education and I was ready to train on Thursday with my ankle strapped quite heavily. I felt a bit weak and a bit uncertain at first, but as the session went on I was more and more confident with moving on my ankle even though it wasn’t 100%.

I had treatment again both on Thursday afternoon for a bit and on Friday morning just to make sure the swelling was still down and under control. When I was named in the team on Friday I was buzzing, injured or not I wanted to play against Derby no matter what, and on Thursday and Friday I was desperate to prove I was fit enough to play.

Match: Derby County v Nottingham Forest

We reported to the City Ground for 9 o’clock and set off for Derby shortly after in the mini-buses. I felt fairly fresh and was excited to be playing against them after missing the previous home fixture because I was ill.

When we arrived after a 30 minute journey up the A52, known as ‘Brian Clough Way’, we went out to have a look at the pitch. The pitch was at the top of the Derby Academy and you could tell it was high up because the wind was very strong going in different directions diagonally across the pitch, it was a challenge in itself to tell which way the wind was even going! The pitch was quite patchy in areas and it felt in someway quite soft in places too meaning perfect conditions for a local derby!

We went back in the changing rooms and got ourselves ready for the game, I had to get a strapping before the game for my ankle because it was still not pain free. We had some music on to get us pumped for the game and I got a bit of stick for opting to put a song on to get everyone going, but I wasn’t bothered, I was fully focussed and up for the game. We had a chat and our coach told us to put in a professional performance and work our socks off making sure we come out hopefully on top of what is a massive game.

We went out to warm up and straight away you could tell the ball was bouncing up a bit on the surface and the wind was sending balls where you hadn’t intended on them to go. We won the toss and had kick-off and as Tom (other striker) and myself lined up for it, I said to him “I want at least 3 goals between the two of us today”, he looks at me and says “3…we’re going to get 5 mate!”

We kicked off and straight away the ball was bouncing everywhere with both teams struggling to string together four or five passes. For the first 10 or 15 minutes Derby were clearly on top, they pinned us in and put us under a lot of pressure. With them playing with the wind up there most weeks they probably know how to deal with it and played appropriately by not complicating things in the middle of the park.

They got their reward for their pressure by taking the lead from a deflected shot. If I’m brutally honest, we deserved to go 1 – 0 down because we didn’t start off the game well at all. Ten minutes later we unfortunately lost Tom to injury, and he was replaced by Karlton in midfield. With this change it actually altered the game in my eyes. We then got used to the conditions and played a lot more direct and created chances.

After half an hour or so we got a break through, I managed to latch on to a header from Karlton that went past the centre back and after taking a few touches I managed to poke it past the keeper who came racing out. It stayed 1 – 1 until half time and for the remainder of the half we finished off stronger out of the two teams and our confidence grew. At half time our coach told us to do pretty much the same as before and keep things tight at the back and in midfield, but stretch them down the wings if we can.

Five minutes into the second half we took the lead, Danny played a through ball to me from defending a corner and I managed to get away from my defender and run in on goal and take it round the oncoming goalie before putting it in with my left foot which seemed to take an eternity to hit the net! At 2 – 1 up we wanted to try and see out the game for the remainder of the half and take the win.

There were chances at both ends, Derby had a couple of near misses, I was guilty of missing a half chance which I hit straight at the goalkeeper and we also forced a couple other saves out of their keeper. With about fifteen minutes of the game remaining we conceded a header which was very frustrating because we’d played so well and then to concede a soft goal like that was annoying to say the least.

At this point their confidence was high and they tried to force the game on us, leaving them exposed to the counter attack. We didn’t want to buckle under the pressure and with about ten minutes or so remaining we got our reward. Our left-back Sibbo got eye contact with me and played a ball over their centre back. From there I somehow managed to header it twice and then place it over the outstretched goalkeeper and trickle into the net. How it went in I will never know, but it did and that’s the main thing! We all piled on in the corner celebrating taking the lead.

After that we kept things tight and on the ninetieth minute we went 4 – 2 up when I timed my run to perfection and latched on to George’s through ball before lobbing the goalkeeper who raced out yet again. It was a great win against our local rivals after losing to them earlier on in the season and on a personal note it was great to get the goals because it’s been a frustrating time for me and goals have been hard to come by recently so hopefully I can continue this form next week when we play Stoke at home!