Hart: It was no fun in the dug-out
PAUL Hart may have been breathless after climbing the many stairs it takes to meet the Press following this epic, but he was also breathing a sigh of relief after his spirited young Forest side saw off play-off rivals Ipswich Town.
PAUL Hart may have been breathless after climbing the many stairs it takes to meet the Press following this epic, but he was also breathing a sigh of relief after his spirited young Forest side saw off play-off rivals Ipswich Town, writes Derek Davis.
Hart is tipped by many to take over at Premiership Leeds United next season and it is easy to see the attraction after moulding this promotion-chasing side.
He certainly knew the importance of coming from two goals down at Portman Road to extend Forest's advantage over the Blues to seven points with two games in hand.
Hart said: "If Ipswich had won it would have put them within touching distance of us even though we have games in hand.
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"I consider Ipswich to be the best side we have played. I said it after our game at the City Ground and I say it again now. If they had not had the start they had then they would have been in the play-off places if not further.
"I hope we don't meet them again in the play-offs."
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Thrashing Norwich City 4-0 recently was a satisfying victory but Hart believes this win was more significant.
He said: "In context of the importance of the game it was our best win of the season. We have performed better in many ways but with what it means this is a terrific win."
Although they moved up a place to fourth, the Forest boss is still looking over his shoulder: "Our next four games are Leicester, Wolves, Sheffield United and Reading – we could get relegated yet," he joked.
It was a thrilling game but not one Hart particularly enjoyed from a coaching perspective.
He said: "We have been through everything in that game. Ordinary defending, strange decisions and plenty of goals. It must have been great to watch as a neutral but it was not much fun in the dug out."
Town went two up with goals from Tommy Miller, his second from a controversial twice-taken penalty.
Hart had no complaints against the initial penalty award after Andy Reid tripped Pablo Counago, but, along with most of the stadium, was baffled by the referee's decision to have the penalty retaken.
All the players had retreated to the halfway line in expectation of a free kick against Ipswich as Counago was booked for trying to force the ball over the line after Darren Ward saved Tommy Miller's initial kick.
Hart said: "He must have decided Darren had moved forward, yet he saved at the foot of the post. I know he is good but how he got his body into that shape I will never know."
Forest hit back to go 3-2 up by the break after strikes from substitute John Thompson and Marlon Harewood. Richard Naylor was 'credited' with an own goal for their third but Hart insisted it belonged to the young replacement.
He said: "That is Thompson's goal, it was on target and the defender could not get out of the way of it."
Thompson had come on for Riccardo Scimeca in the 20th minute who went off after being ill. Hart explained: "Scimeca was sick on the pitch. We thought he was over a virus but the game took its toll so we had to take him off."
Their winner came from a Harewood header in the second half after Marcus Bent had made it 3-3 and Hart was delighted with the way his young charges had coped once more.
He said: "This is a young side who have been through a lot of experiences in the past 18 months. They have played with nine men and all sorts of things happening to them.
"Now we have been two down and still they come through. We come to try and win every game and so far, most of the time, it has been working."
But Hart knows he won't be able to breathe easy until mid-May.