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Match From The Past - When Manchester City Chopped Down the Forest

A Look Back at When the Little Old Blues Destroyed Brian Clough’s Men

Soccer - Today League Division One - Nottingham Forest v Manchester City - City Ground Photo by Phil O’Brien/EMPICS via Getty Images

Manchester City take on Nottingham Forest at the Etihad Stadium this evening as they look to keep the pressure on Arsenal at the top of the table. The blues have won both their home matches so far, scoring four goals in each. And, with Erling Haaland grabbing a hat-trick and Julian Alvarez chomping at the bit to make his impression in the Premier League, the match hasn’t come at the best time for the league’s new boys.

However, it is worth remembering that things don’t always go to plan and a side that goes into a match as an underdog can sometimes spring a surprise. That’s exactly what happened in today’s Match from the Past, which goes back to a League Cup tie between these two sides at Maine Road. Forest were strong favourites, but City’s blend of youth and experience would cut Forest down to size.

The setting

In 1987, City had, once again, been relegated to the second division. Mel Machin had been appointed as manager during the summer, taking over from Jimmy Frizzell, who himself filled in when Bill McNeill left to join Aston Villa. With the coffers low, Machin improvised and promoted many of City’s youth players to join the experience of Neil McNab, John Gidman and Imre Varadi. At the time of the match, City were 12th in Division Two, having won and lost five, and were unbeaten in just two matches

Forest, meanwhile, were one of Division One’s top teams. From 12 games played, they had won eight, lost two and were fourth in the table, just two points behind leaders Liverpool and second-placed Queens Park Rangers, and boasted household names such as Stuart Pearce, Des Walker, Neil Webb, Gary Crosby, Nigel Jemson and the boss’s son, Nigel Clough. Managed by the legendary Brian Clough, no one gave the blues a chance of progressing.

What happened?

With just two minutes on the clock, City were in front. Eric Nixon, who was the villain of the first leg in round two, launched the ball upfield. Paul Stewart was left in acres of space by the Forest defence, and he had time to head the ball between two Forest defenders to find Varadi. The striker took a touch before firing home to give City the lead.

Stewart and Varadi had been linking up well all season, and the pair combined again before half-time to make it 2-0. The duo played a neat 1-2, Stewart’s ball forward has cleverly back-heeled to him by Varadi and Stewart rode his luck, with the ball rebounding off the defender back to Stewart, who rifled home to further stun Forest.

The faithful would have been forgiven for expecting a Forest comeback, but Varadi made sure of a fourth-round visit from Watford with a third goal. John Gidman’s long free kick from defence was met once again by the head of Stewart. The former Blackpool man nodded down to Varadi, and City’s top scorer made some space before hammering a shot that took a deflection over the keeper and into the goal and send City into the fourth round.

How we lined up

Mel Machin again mixed youth with experience. Eric Nixon started in goal while veteran defenders John Gidman and Kenny Clements were joined in defence by Steve Redmond and Andy Hinchcliffe. Ian Brightwell partnered Neil McNab in midfield, while Paul Simpson and David White ran the wings. Paul Stewart and Imre Varadi completed the line-up.