With all of the recent transfer activity, it seems as if all of the action on the pitch, up and down the country has been overlooked to some extent. Thankfully, January is now behind us and so we can once again focus on the game itself, rather than the goings on behind closed doors.
Last Saturday’s match between local rivals Derby and Nottingham Forest was always going to be a spicy affair. This was the return fixture from the now infamous meeting earlier in the season at the City Ground, where Forest striker Nathan Tyson incited the away supporters by waving a flag in front of them, sparking a mass brawl between players from both sides. The result of this brawl was that Forest were fined £25,000, while Derby received a £20,000 fine, both clubs having £10,000 suspended.
It is a shame then, although perhaps not surprising, that the return fixture at Pride Park proved to be just as hotly contested, with tempers eventually boiling over, and another confrontation breaking out in front of the subs benches. It was Derby’s Jay McEveley and Forest’s Chris Gunter who clashed first but this was swiftly followed by the majority of playing and coaching staff from both sides. Action from the authorities was inevitable, and both clubs have now been charged by the F.A. for failing to control their players. Both parties have two weeks to respond to these charges, but it seems that further penalties are likely.
Incidents like this are often dismissed, as immature footballers get caught up in the passion of the game. However, it is rare that the managers are the focus of the attention, but that is the case here. Billy Davies refused to shake Nigel Clough’s hand at the end of the match, accusing the Derby boss of having deliberately kneed him in the back of the leg during the melee of players. Davies has since followed up making a formal complaint about this matter to the F.A. and the League Managers Association.
It seems a shame that a fixture involving two famous sides of English football had to end in such a sham of a fashion. Of course there is a great rivalry between the two sides, but there should be no reason for the contest to end in farce, twice in one season alone. A clash of rival teams is always an exciting moment in any season for players and fans alike, and it is expected to be that little bit more edgy than a regular fixture. Here’s hoping that lessons are learnt and that we won’t be seeing a repeat of these scenes any time soon. Incidentally, Derby won the match 1-0, with a late Rob Hulse header proving to be the difference between the two midlands sides.
Dipping into the F.A. Cup, it was another fantastic round for the clubs of the football league as midweek replays saw both Crystal Palace and Notts County progress at the expense of Premier League opposition. Leeds were unable to make it a hat-trick on Wednesday night, succumbing to a Jermaine Defoe hat-trick as they bowed out at Elland Road, but their F.A. Cup run has certainly been an eventful one. Nobody in the city is likely to forget that famous win at Old Trafford anytime soon.
Crystal Palace’s victory came against a Wolves side who despite their league position, are certainly no push over. Although administration has rendered Neil Warnock’s side a relegation contender, a run in the cup will be a very welcome distraction. Their victory over Wolves has netted them a precious windfall in prize money, as well as an extra cash injection due to the match being broadcast live on television. With their fifth round match against Aston Villa also due to be broadcast live, Palace can look forward to a further cash boost shortly. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it is just a small drop in a big ocean, but it is still money that they would not have had without Danny Butterfield’s unexpected hat-trick on Tuesday night. The disappointment of relegation and losing Victor Moses will have undoubtedly seen morale take a knock at Selhurst Park, but it is moments like this which can inject a bit of positivity back into a club. Defeating Martin O’Neill’s Villa side will be a tall order, but it is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility. This story might not be over just yet.
Credit must also be given to Notts County for their fantastic replay victory over Wigan. Having led their Premier League opposition 2-0 in the first match and succumbing to a draw, most would have said that County had lost their chance. However, they more than matched Roberto Martinez’s side again and this time held on for a famous victory, which sees them as the lowest ranked team left in the competition. They will entertain Fulham in the fifth round, a fixture that will be a welcome boost to another club which has faced financial uncertainty recently. Another day of F.A. Cup magic could be just the tonic for the County faithful.