Johnson rewards Megson's gamble

Nottingham Forest 2 Huddersfield Town 1
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The Independent Football

There was special joy for the long-suffering home fans who made up the bulk of a crowd of almost 25,000, a remarkable attendance for League One, when the winner was thumped in by David Johnson, their popular and formerly free-scoring little striker who has known pain in his time as the City Ground, and not only because of a broken leg. Johnson is one of those not in Megson's long-term plans, though that may change now.

It was fitting, too, that the delightful ball which sent Johnson haring through the visiting defence was supplied by Kris Commons, outstanding for Forest in the hole behind the front men. Though Johnson's first strike was blocked by Paul Rachubka, the goalkeeper could not cling on and Johnson fired home.

By parading six new names in his first line-up, Megson underlined his plea that Forest must stop looking back to the Clough glory days and forward to the reality of existence in the third tier of the English League. But sentimentalists can be forgiven; this was, after all, the 25th anniversary of the last time Forest paraded the European Cup around the City Ground.

The club's chairman, Nigel Doughty, owned up that this season "doesn't look an appetising prospect". But Forest's loyal followers were there, if not quite in the numbers of last season, to show they intend to do their part in lifting the club back to where they feel they belong.

The victory was hard-earnt against a Huddersfield who won seven of their last eight games last year. They are a well-drilled unit, discounting the touchline extravagances of their manager, Peter Jackson, which put Megson in the shade for a change. Their football, particularly in the first half, was as impressive as the size of their following, which filled the Bridgford end of the City Ground.

Gradually, however, Forest managed to get it together, thanks to the solidity of the ex-Norwich midfielder Gary Holt and the ever-threatening Commons. When Commons sped away from John Worthington to supply an inviting cross, the Forest captain, Gareth Taylor, headed downwards but narrowly wide.

As the crosses continued to come in from Commons, Forest moved nearer and nearer to a score. Another Taylor header flew wide before he chested one down for Commons to pull past a post with his left foot. In the final seconds of the first half, the goal finally came. Scott Dobie beat Andy Holdsworth to a Commons centre, controlled it on his upper body and saw his volley turned on to the bar by Rachubka. But Dobie was quickest to the rebound, bundling the ball in.

There could have been more in the early stages of the second half, but Huddersfield earnt what they will feel was a justified equaliser just past the hour. Danny Schofield, summoned from the bench less than five minutes previously, diddled two defenders in confined space before being brought down by a third, Danny Cullip, as he cut inside for a shot. Pawel Abbott, whose intelligent roaming made him the best Huddersfield player, put away the penalty confidently.

There could have been a second for Huddersfield, Rune Pedersen brilliantly turning aside Andy Booth's header, but as Taylor tired, to be replaced by Johnson, Megson upped the stakes by bringing on a tall defender, Wes Morgan, and pushing him up front, too. Clearly, he intends to make it a bold season. This was a promising start.