| Report by Pod
"…got a carrot in my shoe"
It won't be necessary, or possible, to withhold the score to develop tension within this report and toy with you, the readers, waiting to find out what happened. We won 2-0, withstood pressure from Birmingham for the greater part of the match, prevented Birmingham scoring from an unjust penalty, got a goal from a penalty won on the break and minutes later as the final whistle approached got another on the break to secure the points.
I would have been content with a point or even a reasonable performance and a modest defeat. Forest came into the game having had a disappointing result when they dominated possession against Norwich two days ago but had been unable to score. Birmingham's preparations were disrupted by a fruitless trip to Craven Cottage where the game was called off at late notice.
Both teams have had a disappointing pre-Christmas period, Birmingham's matches seeing a controversial defeat at Ewood Park and a surprising draw at home to, the apparently uncooperative, QPR. A quick read through the Birmingham websites showed that they felt that their team was playing reasonably well, though not spectacularly, but was unable to convert possession and dominance of a game into goals. Ironically a bit like our experience against Norwich. Or, with even more satisfying resonance, today's game.
Having seen Mark Burchill return to Celtic when his wage demands were subject to inflation, Saturday's [non]game was expected to see the return of Geoff Horsfield, both to Craven Cottage and fitness. Apparently Geoff Horsfield was known as "the Horse" at Fulham. I personally prefer to refer to him as "the Donkey" and looked forward to another afternoon watching him spurn chances and try to pick fights with people younger and less bulky than himself. Another fascinating fact I found when delving, was that Dele Adebola weighs 16 stone, which rather alarmingly is only slightly less than me.
Anyway, the match. Unfortunately, my ticket was for a near subterranean seat right in the corner of the Sentinel Railway Stand and therefore my normal razor-sharp dissection of the match, its key events and indeed tactical nuances will not be possible. This week's match report will be delivered in an Impressionistic style.
The match started beneath wintry and threatening skies, the pitch was very soggy and, during the warm up, the ball could be heard to squelch when landing in the penalty area immediately in front of us. The first minutes of the match saw Birmingham waste no time in setting the pattern of the match. The ball was delivered forward quickly via the wings and the Forest goal was attacked time and time again. Gary Jones made several crucial interventions both with his head and tackling and continued to show enough awareness to be close to the epicentre of play time after time.
After 14 minutes, apparently, a penalty was wrongly awarded to Birmingham. Under close attention from Tony Vaughan, Geoff Horsfield lost his footing when attempting to turn in the sodden Forest penalty area. That a man of his bulk fell over when trying this manoeuvre in such treacherous conditions was no surprise, but the referee's assistant, whose viewpoint was probably equidistant to my own - though possibly obstructed by the outhouse-like bulk of Horsfield, saw some sinister intervention from Vaughan and flapped his flag energetically to attract the referees attention. And our scorn and derision and disbelief.
Admittedly Horsfield had been the victim of some fine and resolute Hjelde-esque shirt grabbing as he attempted to make his way into the box but he had been conspicuously unhanded as he crossed the white line and from my, unusually for this afternoon, good viewpoint, he merely fell over. Thud. Squelch.
The penalty, taken apparently by Martin Grainger - last year's player of the season, was hit firmly and low to Beasant's left and he confirmed his exalted status as "England's number one" by saving both the penalty and the consequent shot from the rebound by Nicky Eaden. We reacted with overt and exuberant delight. A man sitting close by punched the air and shouted. Others clapped. Some swore as their decorum momentarily deserted them.
The remainder of the first half saw Forest withstand constant pressure with little happening at the other end to threaten Birmingham. Prutton came closest running incisively from midfield and shooting powerfully wide, and with a suggestion of a deflection.
And now for a brief foray from Impressionism to Surrealism. Shortly before half-time the ill-natured Birmingham fans sitting to our right broke into song. The words were indistinct and may have mentioned "Europe" and "Blues" but equally they could have been singing "I've got a carrot in my shoe" or "whoopsadaisy what a to-do" or indeed almost anything and the Forest fans echoed their song for the rest of the afternoon with mumbling and "uhh uhhh uhh-ing" replacing the original words - whatever they were. It was very funny in a "you had to be there" sense. Trust me.
Half-time came and went and we started where we'd left off with Birmingham constantly threatening and on one occasion having about 5 or 6 consecutive corners with the ball constantly fizzing across the box and thankfully evading any touches from the Birmingham players.
With about twenty minutes gone I watched as the ball seemingly headed for the Forest goal just inside the post and with my head was in my hands and my eyes closed I realised that my despair was as misplaced as the celebrations of the Birmingham fans; somehow the ball had managed to hit the post.
As the game entered its latter stages despite three substitutions from Trevor Francis Birmingham started to wilt and, not for the first time this season, Forest's fitness and stamina, which the manager attributes to the pre-season work, paid dividends.
Soon after Birmingham had hit the post Forest broke down the left and Gary Jones was taken down, by Darren Purse - last year's young player of the season, as he ran into the box. Neither in the box or outside the box but as he ran into the box. It was once again right in front of me and it was right on the line - a tough one to call for the referee. Cue much meaningful pointing at various tufts of grass and stud marks. John McEnroe may have referred to "chalkdust". Whatever, a penalty was given.
Chris Bart-Williams, who had had a superb game already, proceeded to cap his performance with an assured shot to the keeper's left and we erupted like a crowd of unexpectedly exultant fools. Which we were. A man sitting close by punched the air and shouted. Others clapped. Some swore as their decorum momentarily deserted them.
Birmingham reacted badly to this setback, already tired and having been frustrated by Forest's defence for most of the game their self-belief appeared to desert them. Forest started to exert some pressure of the Birmingham goal and looked significantly fresher than their hosts. With 5 minutes remaining a good long pass from Andy Reid on the left wing saw David Prutton on the edge of the six yard box with only Bennett to beat. He calmly did so. We erupted like a crowd of unexpectedly exultant fools. Which we were. A man sitting close by punched the air and shouted. Others clapped. Some swore as their decorum momentarily deserted them. David Prutton looked ecstatic and was warmly received by the Forest fans behind the goal as his momentum carried him over the hoardings into the crowd.
Five minutes to go. Two nil up in an emptying St Andrews. "Whoopsadaisy - what a to-do" indeed. Birmingham surprisingly seemed to be galvanised by conceding this second goal and once again started to pressurise Dave Beasant and came close to scoring. But… they didn't.
We got a fantastic result today and the team should be commended for their effort and resilience, especially having played a, potentially dispiriting, match two days ago. The balance of possession meant that we saw little of the ball in attacking positions for most of the match and to be honest Marlon and Andy Reid were a little anonymous at times. Elsewhere on the pitch, where most of the game was played they all did well. Chris Bart-Williams had another towering game and the club must soon turn their attention to attempting to secure Chris's services for the long term. Christian Edwards had another alert and perceptive game and often managed to get himself in the right place early enough to avert disaster. Gary Jones's performance was also of that category, that is, alert and perceptive.
David Prutton put in effort on a monumental scale and richly deserved his goal. His appreciation of the Forest away contingent as the players left the pitch after their warm up, at the end of the match and of course when his momentum carried him into the crowd after his goal, appeared to be genuine and sincere and suggested that he cares. Just like us.
It was a fine day out and if you weren't there you missed a good one.
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