Introducing our new weekly feature where we take a look back at some unforgettable football memories. In the first instalment, Neil Evans recalls when Forest and Saints produced one of the most exciting opening day encounters of all time.
19th August, 1995: Southampton 3 Nottingham Forest 4
John Major was Prime Minister and Take That topped the charts with ‘Never Forget’ (although, I have tried to) the day the sides met. And note the date of the first round of Premier League games – the 19th – it really is true, football seasons begin earlier than ever!
Blackburn were the reigning champions from the previous season with Forest having finished a strong third. Southampton had also had a good season and, with Alan Ball in charge, a comfortable 10th. Forest began the campaign under manager Frank Clarke having sold star striker, Stan Collymore to Liverpool, while Dave Metherington had replaced Ball on the south coast. This season would also be notable as the first with 20 teams (as is the case today) cut from the 22 that had existed previously.
And what an opening day cracker they served up, with Forest defender Colin Cooper’s sensational 30-yard free-kick soon cancelled out by Matt Le Tissier’s unerring accuracy from the spot as he slotted home Saint’s equaliser. ‘Le God’ would miss one single penalty in an illustrious career, ironically against Forest and saved by Mark Crossley. Ian Woan’s wand of a left foot and débutante Bryan Roy increased the visitors advantage to 3-1 at the break.
Southampton weren’t done; and more silky Le Tissier skills led to another opportunity to score from 12 yards . . . Two-three and game very much on! Forest, wearing a ghastly yellow away kit, had other ideas and a sweeping move allowed Woan to tee-up Roy for his brace. The last word would, inevitably, go the mercurial number seven as a rasping free-kick made for a frantic finish and a wonderful contest. Le Tissier finished with the match ball, without so much as a point to show for his efforts in front of an adoring home crowd. The Dell is, of course, no more but, believe me, Forest’s four goals there were a rare sight indeed.
Forest’s season would end in mid-table whilst the Saint’s survived on the last day, on goal difference, sending Manchester City down alongside Bolton and QPR. It would be double delight for the red half of Manchester with United securing a second ever domestic league and cup double. Ah, the memories . . .
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