FOREST AWAY: Bristol City, FA Cup 4th Round, Friday 26th January – Fan Guide
Whatever lies in store for Nottingham Forest in the years to come, I will always, always have that happy memory of Bristol City away in 2021 to make me smile. We didn’t know at the time that far greater days lay not too far away, but that rain-soaked night at Ashton Gate may have been the first dagger into the black heart of our 23-year malaise.
Although much of the game has long since left my brain, those final moments can never be forgotten. That it was Lyle Taylor, a player that never really struck gold with us, who conjured up first the equaliser from the penalty spot and then that late, slightly awkward, tap in at the back post a minute later adds to the legend of the tale. As does that it was bleak midweek match that had attracted a devoted, loyal crowd to trek down from Nottingham. Maybe there was some reward in there for all those years and often painful nights trudging around the Championship.
I can still picture Taylor’s sodden curly pink hair in front of us, but there wasn’t too much of an opportunity to look at the pitch as we were consumed by a feverish, chaotic away end. When the winner crossed the line, there was an eruption that I’m still not sure has been surpassed since, despite some of the huge goals of the last two years.
Bodies twisted and fell, tangled in with multiple others; wild screaming filled the away end and inexplicable delight filled the face of every single travelling fan. It was truly momentous, especially when looking back in hindsight about where that team was headed. By the time that game came around, Steve Cooper had already inspired a considerable upturn in fortune but there was something about that night, about how we came back from the dead, that always makes me think it was the real beginning of our renaissance.
TRAINS: If you’re travelling from Nottingham there is little hope of finding a train back. The last service leaves Bristol Temple Meads at 20:59 and arrives back at 3am. If you are, perhaps as a more local fan to Bristol, travelling via train just be warned that it’s a long walk to Ashton Gate.
ROAD: A Friday trip down the M5 can often be a frustrating experience but the time of year will hopefully make it a little calmer. There are a couple of options to reach Bristol from the motorway, but I’d strongly recommend departing at Junction 19 (Gordano Services) and making your way in from there. Take the left after the entrance for the service station down the A369 (Martcombe Road) and follow that single carriageway for several miles.
One of the issues with Bristol, as referenced in our Q&A below which also carries some suggestions, is that parking can be difficult close to the ground. Previously we have used Bedminster Cricket Club which you’ll reach before getting close to the ground. The upsides are that it’s only a short ten-minute walk to Ashton Gate and it has a club house that will welcome away fans, but parking is now stupidly expensive I am informed at around £25 so you will want to consider other options. Heading a little further in towards the ground may offer better parking spots but it’s usually a right pain to get away again afterwards. Just past the cricket club is a housing estate on the right which has usually had some free street parking but these spots will likely fill up quickly. Some other paid car parks can be found around here too, hopefully a fair bit less than £25!
If this game had been able to remain on a Saturday, it would have been an excellent cup draw for pre-match drinking. Bristol, including the areas closer to the ground, offer some excellent pubs and bars. Given it’s unlikely many of us will get the chance to sample the city centre which is a couple of miles away I’ll focus only on the venues in reach of Ashton Gate.
First of all, the pubs very close to the ground have always had a very strict home fans only policy. But you can get a drink without having to walk too far. Around the corner from the ground is North Street which is traditionally more away friendly. The recommended place to gather will be the Tobacco Factory but there are a few places close by which are also worthwhile stops. A little further up is a more traditional pub called the Spotted Cow which we’ve drank in a couple of times.
The enclosed map shows North Street on the right and the Bedminster Cricket Club on the left (shown as The Clanage), with Ashton Gate central.
If you have time for a bit more of a walk, across the big park opposite the stadium you can reach the Hotwells area in about 20 mins. There are a few pubs around a marina and, even in the colder temperatures, it’s a really good spot. The main pub is the Nova Scotia which we’ve visited many times previously.
Q&A with Bristol City fan Paul (@TheExiledRobin)
It’s been a couple of years now since our last visit to Ashton Gate but that last trip will always be fondly remembered by Forest fans. Probably not so much by Bristol City fans though. Many of us consider those two late goals to be the real start of our promotion push. Presumably that was a real sickener that night?
I’d forgotten about that…yes it really was. We’d started the season reasonably but inconsistently, with 16 points from 11 games, but had a real penchant for conceding late goals.
Those two (both Lyle Taylor?) were two of 12 that we conceded after 90 minutes that year, which ultimately killed any chance we might have had of genuinely competing. To concede one is disappointing, to concede two was careless and unprofessional and led to a lot of unrest.
Ashton Gate looked and sounded great during the replay against West Ham. Can we expect something similar for our visit? Will it be another big crowd?
Yes, it’s a great venue when it’s full and the lights are on – especially when fans have something to anticipate and get excited by. The ticket prices have been set at the same levels as per West Ham away and home which is fantastic and makes it affordable to most, so another sell out must be likely.
We’re often a little self-critical of our home atmosphere, not helped by giving away fans the whole stand and having our core singers tucked away a little in the opposite corner, but I’m sure it’ll be noisy on Friday night.
What has the change of manager done for Bristol City and what are the ambitions for the rest of the season?
It’s been quite evolution rather than revolution so far. Nigel Pearson was popular and given a lot of credit by City fans for steadying the ship, and generally making us a more robust, organised and hard-working team (from the point of conceding too many goals, especially late, mentioned above). Manning is a modern, young, patterns and phases of possession manager, heavy on the tactical side whilst trying to play good football.
Defensively we’re fairly solid and amongst the best records in the division, although still remain susceptible to mistakes. Going forward we’re more a one goal a game, somewhat counter-attacking team, especially struggling to break teams down who sit in with a low block. I don’t expect Forest to do that, so it should be a good open game.
In terms of the season Board expectations are always top six. Fans appear a little more restrained, perhaps unusually, and with the squad we have, a top half finish would be deemed acceptable to many, I believe, especially having sold Alex Scott to Bournemouth in August.
Can you shed any light on the move to a Friday night? I heard it may be linked to Bristol Rovers being at home.
The rugby team are playing home on Saturday and the Women’s team also have a WSL match against West Ham on the Sunday. They play all their home games at Ashton Gate following promotion – and it’s working, they’re currently averaging the fifth highest attendance across Europe!
Good job we’re playing before all of that instead of afterwards…
It’s a shame it’s not a Saturday as I’ve always found Bristol a great place to visit and drink before the game. What are your recommendations for away fans looking for a pub? I recall that those closest to the ground are very strict with admittance.
It’s not the easiest for away fans that’s for sure. There is nothing around the ground at all pub-wise, but in the stadium area itself there’s plenty of bars and space outside, fans generally mix well, and they often have a band playing and some decent street-food type vans available too.
Otherwise, it’s the long walk from the town centre and some OK options along the waterfront and river, but a good 30-minute walk minimum.
We traditionally park at the cricket club on the road in. Is that still operational and will it be okay with the current wet weather? Are there any other parking suggestions?
Parking isn’t great either! We’ve just sought planning permission for a hotel, basketball arena and multi-storey carpark at the stadium, but that’s a few years away yet!
If you’re driving, then Bedminster Cricket Club as you mention is still a reasonable parking option (although pricey – and worth pre-booking and subject to rain!) and I believe you can still have a drink in the clubhouse there too.
Alternatively, there are park & ride bus schemes available that drop off and pick up outside the ground – details are all on our website but most conveniently for you is probably Avonmouth, as you come off the M5 (AG1). It’s free to park then £5 I believe for the bus ticket.
What’s your score prediction for Friday?
As said, with you presumably coming onto us as the higher-division club it could be a really good game – and obviously depends a little on what sort of team you field. We’ll go strong, although we are missing two key midfielders in Joe Williams (suspended after a tackle you may have seen in the last round) and new loan signing Scott Twine, who is cup-tied. I’ll go for an entertaining 1-1 draw – which is probably the last thing you and Nuno want.
Thanks to Paul for his insight.
See you all in Bristol.