BY STEVE MITCHELL
FOREST MAKE HISTORY AFTER LEAGUE CUP FINAL THRILLER AGAINST SOUTHAMPTON:
The first major silverware of the season has been claimed by Nottingham Forest after a thrilling 3-2 win in this afternoonâ€™s League Cup Final at Wembley.
Brian Cloughâ€™s side become the first club to retain the trophy after their replay win over Liverpool last season, but they had to come from behind to beat an impressive Southampton side, who led at half-time.
The holders were without England full-back Viv Anderson and imposing central defender Kenny Burns who were both injured. Million pound man Trevor Francis was ineligible for this competition for Forest having already played for Birmingham City earlier in the campaign.
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Saints boss Lawrie McMenemy fielded the same side that knocked West Bromwich Albion out of the FA Cup on Monday which meant a Wembley place for Austin Hayes, a player who had only made six first-team appearances for the south-coast club prior to this afternoonâ€™s game.
On the same side, former England stalwart Alan Ball was making his 32nd Wembley appearance and there was a chance for supporters to see the new Football Association official ball, which will be used in the league next season.
The holders and favourites made the early running; young striker Garry Birtles, fitting carpets 12 months ago, got on the end of a John Robertson cross, but his header was comfortably saved by Saints keeper Terry Gennoe.
The Wembley pitch was cutting up badly after the wintry weather across the country in the past couple of days, with patches of snow stacked behind the touchlines at the famous old venue.
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On 16 minutes, against the run of play, the underdogs took the lead; full-back David Peach played a superb one-two with Ball that completely split the Forest defence, leaving him with the simplest of tasks to knock it past Peter Shilton.
Southampton were now in the ascendancy and came close to doubling their lead shortly after when Terry Curran put in a teasing cross that almost fell at the feet of Phil Boyer; Shilton came out to try to claim the ball and somehow held on to it despite the close attention of Boyer and Nick Holmes.
Forest had been rocked but to their credit, they dusted themselves down and started to get a foothold in the game once again but rarely threatened Gennoeâ€™s goal, as the first-half rather fizzled to a disappointing conclusion.
Little did the 100,000 packed inside Wembley know that the next 45 minutes would be one of the most memorable played at the stadium in many years.
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Forest set about repairing the damage done by Peach and were almost level when skipper John McGovern threaded a ball through to Archie Gemmill; his shot rebounded off Gennoe and hit Alan Ball who was relieved to see the ball trickle wide of the goal.
From the resulting corner however, Southampton hit Forest on the counter-attack with Curran taking the ball over 50 yards down the field, only to lose possession on the edge of the Forest penalty area. Southampton were furious that match referee Peter Reeves had allowed play to continue.
Minutes later, Forest were level after more good work from Robertson on the left saw him put the ball into the Southampton box, as Saints defender Chris Nicholl dallied, in nipped Birtles to fire home.
Southampton were rocking and shortly after, Nicholl had to hook the ball away as more panic ensued in the Saintsâ€™ back-line.
Scottish international Gemmill was now orchestrating things in the midfield and when he released Birtles on the left, his hopeful cross squirmed under the body of Gennoe but luckily for him, the ball rolled agonisingly along the goal-line before Holmes hooked clear.
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Malcolm Waldron was the next Southampton defender to get into difficulty and after Tony Woodcock had picked his pocket, with the help of a huge bobble, his through ball to Birtles looked to have finally got Forest ahead, only for referee Reeves to rule it out for offside.
Birtles almost doubled his and Forestâ€™s tally for the afternoon when he connected with another Gemmill pass but couldnâ€™t keep his shot down. He had the ball in the net again shortly after, but was once again adjudged to be in an offside position.
Finally, with 11 minutes remaining, Birtles got his second after he was quickest to react as the ball fell loose 35 yards or so from goal; the youngster headed straight for goal, evaded the challenge from Nicholl and fired the ball under the body of Gennoe.
Four minutes later, the contest was all but sealed as Woodcock and Gemmill combined for the Englishman to seemingly put the game beyond Southampton.
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McMenemyâ€™s team kept going however, and five minutes later, Holmes got them back in it with a powerful left-foot drive that gave Shilton no chance.
Southampton fans were on their feet again shortly after, as Boyer chased a through-ball only to be denied by Shilton, who was off his line in a flash.
As the seconds ticked down, the Saints threw everyone forward but it wasnâ€™t enough and as referee Reeves blew for full-time, McMenemy went straight to Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor to offer his congratulations. A thrilling game had seen history made by the club from the East Midlands.
Nottingham Forest: Shilton, Barrett, Clark, Lloyd, Needham, McGovern, Gemmill, Woodcock, Robertson, Birtles
Southampton: Gennoe, Golac, Peach, Williams, Nicholl, Waldron, Ball, Boyer, Hayes (Sealy), Holmes, Curran
Goals: Peach (S) 16, Birtles (NF) 51, 79, Woodcock (NF) 83, Holmes (S) 88
Referee: Mr P Reeves
FIRST DIVISION ROUND-UP:
None of the top three sides were in action this afternoon; Liverpool and West Brom both saw their matches postponed due to the weather, and Everton had the weekend off because of the League Cup Final.
Arsenal failed to capitalise, however, after they were beaten by Ipswich Town at Portman Road. In a repeat of last seasonâ€™s FA Cup Final, goals from John Wark and an own-goal from Graham Rix saw Bobby Robsonâ€™s men triumph again.
Queens Park Rangers won a vital basement shoot-out against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, almost certainly condemning their west London neighbours to Second Division football next season. Paul Goddard, Glenn Roeder and Martyn Busby got the all-important goals; a Don Shanks own-goal providing Chelseaâ€™s consolation.
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This win keeps Rangersâ€™ hopes of First Division survival alive, whilst Chelsea are now five points adrift of safety.
Bolton Wanderers grabbed a precious point at Highfield Road against Coventry City as their fight against the drop continues. Frank Worthington and Neil McNab got the visitorsâ€™ goals, Ian Wallace and Barry Powell (penalty) replying for the hosts.
There were no goals at White Hart Lane between Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City and it was honours even at Ashton Gate, where Bristol City and Middlesbrough drew 1-1. Gerry Gow was on target for The Robins, David Armstrong replying for the visitors.
LEAGUE CUP FINAL:
Nottingham Forest 3-2 Southampton (Birtles 2, Woodcock; Peach, Holmes) at Wembley Stadium
Birmingham City v W.B.A (postponed)
Bristol City 1-1 Middlesbrough (Gow; Armstrong)
Chelsea 1-3 Q.P.R (Shanks o.g, Goddard, Roeder, Busby)
Coventry City 2-2 Bolton Wanderers (Wallace, Powell pen; Worthington, McNab)
Leeds United v Liverpool (postponed)
Ipswich Town 2-0 Arsenal (Wark, Rix o.g)
Manchester City v Aston Villa (postponed)
Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Norwich City
Wolves v Derby County (postponed)
League Division One table after close of play on 17 March 1979
|3||West Bromwich Albion||26||16||6||4||53||25||28||38|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||30||5||10||15||29||46||-17||20|
MONDAY MARCH 19:
FA CUP QUARTER-FINAL:
Southampton v Arsenal
TUESDAY MARCH 20:
UEFA CUP QUARTER-FINAL SECOND-LEG:
Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City
Aston Villa v Q.P.R
Coventry City v Manchester United
Liverpool v Wolves
WEDNESDAY MARCH 21:
EUROPEAN CUP QUARTER-FIANL SECOND-LEG:
Grasshoppers v Nottingham Forest
Rangers v Cologne
UEFA CUP QUARTER-FINAL SECOND-LEG:
W.B.A v Red Star Belgrade
CUP WINNERS CUP QUARTER-FINAL SECOND-LEG:
Barcelona v Ipswich Town
Derby County v Bolton Wanderers
SATURDAY MARCH 24:
Arsenal v Manchester City
Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur
Bolton Wanderers v Southampton
Chelsea v Wolves
Derby County v Everton
Liverpool v Ipswich Town
Manchester United v Leeds United
Middlesbrough v Birmingham City
Norwich City v Bristol City
Nottingham Forest v Coventry City
W.B.A v Q.P.R
FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler