Ahead of Wolves’ Good Friday clash with Nottingham Forest, columnist Graham Large looks back at one of the most memorable meetings between the two sides.
The rivalry between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest has produced plenty of memorable matches over the years.
But arguably the most famous meeting between the two sides took place at Wembley 35 years ago. The two clubs were paired together in the 1980 League Cup final, and the contrast in competitive strength was stark.
Forest were aiming for a third consecutive League Cup win and were also the reigning European champions, whereas Wolves’ hadn’t won anything since their first League Cup win six years earlier.
Forest manager Brian Clough even allowed 65-year-old trainer Jimmy Gordon to lead out his side. Gordon was due to retire at the end of the season, so Clough decided to play tribute to the man who had been there during the highs and lows of his managerial career.
Everything appeared to be set up for a Forest win, but nonetheless Wolves overcame the odds and clinched their second League Cup triumph – thanks in large part to an embarrassing mix-up between Forest defender David Needham and goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
Prior to the game, Wolves assistant manager Richie Barker had studied Forest meticulously. He knew that dangerous John Robertson needed to be stopped, so central midfielder Peter Daniel was moved out wide to counteract the Scottish left winger.
It proved to be a tactical masterstroke.
In the 66th minute, Daniel’s long through ball caused the fateful confusion between Needham and Shilton, and left Andy Gray to score one of the easiest Wembley winners in history.
Ironically Gray, in his first season at Wolves following his British record £1.17 million transfer from Aston Villa, nearly missed the game through suspension.
Gray was due to serve a one-match ban in a league match against Villa on the Monday before the final. However, a possible FA Cup quarter-final replay between Villa and West Ham would have meant that the Wolves game would be postponed and Gray would miss the final. For 89 minutes, it looked like Gray would have to sit out until Ray Stewart scored a last-minute penalty to win the match for the Hammers.
The goal sparked an inevitable Forest comeback but they failed to utilise their dominance and Wolves stood firm to secured a famous victory on the hallowed turf.
Historically, Wolves hold the upper hand in this fixture having won 54 times as opposed to Forest’s 42, with 24 ending in a draw.
However, the previous three meetings have all ended in wins for the Reds, the most recent of which came in a 3–0 win at Molineux in November 2014.
More worryingly, Wolves have only won one of their last 10 league games at the City Ground, when Michael Kightly scored a late winner in March 2009 – also the last time Wolves defeated Forest.
Nevertheless, that victory provided Wolves with a crucial three points in their successful 2008/09 promotion challenge. Could history repeat itself in April 2015?
We’ll have to wait and see.