Football Diary

by Patrick O'Connor

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IN Lou Reed's 1972 song Perfect Day, the lyrics start 'Just A Perfect Day, Drink Sangria In The Park'.

For some people a perfect day may indeed be a visit in the park or a trip to the zoo or even a day at the seaside.

However football fans have their own definition of what constitutes a perfect day is – it's when you beat your closest, fiercest rivals in what is known as a 'Derby' match – a clash between two neighbouring teams.

But for myself, and my fellow 4,000 plus Derby County fans who went to watch our team play Nottingham Forest at their ground on the banks of the River Trent on Saturday, it didn't start out like that.

The game kicked-off at the early time of 1pm, not because it was being televised but on police instructions.

Over the years matches between Derby and Forest have been tempestuous affairs, both on and off the pitch.

The last few clashes between the two sides have seen two mass brawls involving nearly all the players and coaching staff and tempers can get also get frayed afterwards when supporters leave the ground and make their way home.

So the idea of a 1pm kick-off was, I presume, to reduce drinking time, but judging by the behaviour of some people, it didn't have the desired effect.

My brother and I, both life-long Derby fans, being much more mature adults (getting on a bit!) settled on a leisurely latte in the city centre before a gentle stroll to the match. The heavy police presence outside several of the bigger pubs indicated that this was no normal Saturday.

Forest had handed out a 5-2 drubbing last season when to put in mildly, we were bloody awful.

But as we took our seats (and at £33 a throw, very expensive seats they were) we were much more confident this time. Not for long though!

Inside a minute our goalkeeper had brought down their centre-forward, conceded a penalty and got himself sent off!

He was replaced by a rookie goalkeeper who had never played at Championship level before and he promptly failed to stop the spot-kick.

So that was it. Sixty seconds on the clock, down to 10 men and losing 1-0. Perfect day? Not on your nellie!

But that's where football is such a wonderful sport, it has the capacity to thrill and excite you and to throw up the most spectacular of surprises.

Against all the odds, Derby's brave 10 men stuck to their task and a brilliant individual goal later on enabled us to go in at half-time level on 1-1.

And then mid-way through the second half our 19 year old Irish midfielder, playing only his sixth ever match in senior football, scored a wonder goal to put us 2-1 up.

The packed stadium echoed with the sound of '”We've Only Got Ten Men” as Derby withstood a late assault by Forest to win the match.

As we streamed out of the game afterwards the smiles on the faces of Derby County fans could have lit up the galaxy.

And neither was our journey back to city centre dampened by two separate torrential downpours plus a hail-storm! (This is England in mid-September after all).

At moments like this football supporters feel that their team is invincible. It won't be like that of course and we're just as likely to lose our next home game and then everything will be glum again.

But for one just brief moment on Saturday it was:

'Just A Perfect Day

Watch Derby Win At Forest.'