Forest struggle to serve up fitting tribute to fallen manager Clough

Nottingham Forest 2 Rotherham United 1 aet
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The Independent Online

Brian Clough was probably too busy amassing silverware and firing off pithy quotes to watch the TV sit-com Whatever Happened To the Likely Lads?. But last night, as The City Ground remembered the most remarkable of managers, an unremarkable Carling Cup tie reminded 11,168 spectators that, as its theme song reflected, "the only thing to look forward to is the past".

Brian Clough was probably too busy amassing silverware and firing off pithy quotes to watch the TV sit-com Whatever Happened To the Likely Lads?. But last night, as The City Ground remembered the most remarkable of managers, an unremarkable Carling Cup tie reminded 11,168 spectators that, as its theme song reflected, "the only thing to look forward to is the past".

Not for the first time in Forest's history, the names Clough and Taylor were on everyone's lips. Gareth Taylor, the tall target man in Joe Kinnear's side, wasted little time cancelling out Chris Sedgwick's early goal for Rotherham United. He also headed the winner from point-blank range after Alan Rogers' shot looped into the air off Mike Pollitt four minutes into extra time.

Even if Forest's future looks distinctly ordinary, Taylor's opportunism sent the faithful home in good heart after the sadness of Clough's death on Monday.

Until his second goal, the meeting of two of the bottom three in the Championship - in which neither has won - went to form. David Johnson had the best chance to end the stalemate, but failed to convert an 88th-minute cross from a yard out - a clip-round-the-ear offence in Old Big 'Ead's heyday. Kinnear admitted these were "emotional" days for Forest. "We've had thousands of people down here, laying wreaths and signing the book of condolences," said Clough's latest successor. "It seems like the whole of Nottinghamshire has been here. It's been hectic, but we had to get a result for the greatest manager this club has ever had."

Progress in the League Cup is expected at Forest. Two European Cups are worth any number of domestic baubles, but this was the competition in which Clough's team consistently excelled. Six times they reached the final, winning four.

By poignant coincidence, Rotherham were Forest's first League Cup opponents in the Clough era, 29 years ago last month, when a 5-1 win completed a 7-2 aggregate success. The team that would conquer a continent was taking shape, seven players going on to collect a European Cup winner's medal.

Fewer than 8,000 turned out that night, and before Clough's passing, Forest would have been grateful for such an attendance. Just 2,000 tickets had been sold. While the official memorial game will be Sunday's visit of West Ham United - when Kinnear is threatening to join in a mass green-sweatshirt tribute - many fans clearly did not want to wait to share in the communal grief.

Displays of shirts and scarves, flags and flowers have become a routine part of mourning a football icon. However, even the most hardened cynic would have been moved by the messages left. Felt-penned on a green top was "Be Good", a catchphrase he would add to his autograph. Amid the red strips were tops from rival clubs, including one from Leeds United, candidly inscribed: "Our loss for the second time."

Only the hum of the electricity broke the minute's silence. Then the chants began. Starting with "Brian Clough's a football genius", the most raucous part of the crowd then sang "We hate Derby" (where Clough lived for 30 years) before "Brian Clough and Peter Taylor" acknowledged that the greatest triumphs came when this most singular man was part of a double act.

The match itself was never likely to be a fitting monument to his memory. Rotherham went ahead after nine minutes through Sedgwick. Seven minutes later, Taylor side-footed Forest level.

Soon after half-time, a cross-shot by Rogers clipped Rotherham's bar, sandwiched between cries of "You'll never beat Des Walker" and a chorus of "We're on the march with Cloughie's army, we're all off to Wemberlee".

The buoyant mood was out of keeping with the modest fare on offer. Rotherham, attired from top to toe in funereal black, gave as good as they got until the closing minutes of normal time. Johnson's wastefulness at that stage could have been costly, but Taylor finally gave Clough's people what they craved.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Gerrard; Perch, Morgan, Doig, Robertson; Impey (Bopp, 85), Jess, Evans, Rogers; Johnson, Taylor. Substitutes not used: Roche (gk), Tarka, Gardner, Beaumont.

Rotherham United (4-4-2): Pollitt; Stockdale, Swailes, Gilchrist, Minto (Hurst, 81); Sedgwick, Warne, Garner (Vernazza, 98), Mullin; Barker, Proctor (Hoskins, 96). Substitutes not used: Montgomery (gk), Scott.

Referee: M Fletcher (Worcestershire).

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