Report by Bridport Red
Strange how it goes, isn't it? This was our worst performance for several
weeks - certainly we played much better against both Wimbledon and Burnley.
Yet from those games we got absolutely nothing, while today we won - in
the end we won at a canter.
To say we played badly for long periods is not meant as a criticism of
the players out there on the pitch.
With the hideously long injury list we have at the moment, especially
in midfield and at the back, sooner or later we were going to drop from
the high standards of the last three months, especially when you consider
that the injuries mostly seem to be happening to the senior pros - Rogers,
Johnson, Calderwood (on the bench today but not fully fit by any means),Hjelde,
Add to those a less than 100% Stern, a long term injury to Chris Doig
(out for about three months, according to Century tonight), Gareth Williams
and Gary Jones missing....
Even those who made it into the starting line-up are not all at their
peak - both Ben Olsen and Jack Lester started the game with slight knocks
(Ben came through superbly but Jack had to go off after less than half
an hour), and Christian Edwards and Marlon finished it with new injuries.
So in the end it is a tribute to the resilience of the squad and to the
ability of the youngsters who have been drafted in that we have moved
back into the play-off zone and could go as high as second if we were
to score a few against Huddersfield on Wednesday night - always assuming
we can find 11 fit players from somewhere
For all that, if I were a Pompey fan on the long drive back down to the
South coast at the moment, I would still be shaking my head in disbelief
at how they managed to dominate possession for such long periods without
anything to show for it.
Just a clue, I guess, lies in the statistics - yes, Pompey played well
and had much the better of long periods of both halves (especially the
first), but their finishing was woeful; Lurch didn't have a serious save
to make until the 4th minute of second half injury time.
Keeping the ball and playing neat crisp football for long periods is worth
precisely nothing unless you can put the ball in the net, and, despite
having several great chances, Pompey spectacularly failed to put the ball
anywhere near our net.
Sorry, guys - well played, but in the end you got what you deserved
As for Forest, we started the game sluggishly, but still carved out a
couple of early chances through Jack's industry and Andy Reid's movement
- Jack in particular going close with a curler to the far post which he
didn't quite manage to curl enough.
When we did take the lead, though, it was very much against the run of
play. All the same, it was a terrific goal.
Matthew Upson showed his true nature as a defender by winning the ball
crisply in midfield, Keith Foy advanced with purpose up the left wing
and then cut in to drop a delicate cross with his wrong foot straight
into Riccy's path - Riccy was able to volley it crisply into the net without
breaking his stride
Pompey then completely took over the rest of the half, gaining corner
after corner and keeping the ball for long periods
The combination of some sound defending from TV, Christian and the Bartman
(looking more and more a quality sweeper with each passing game) and,
it has to be said, some dreadful finishing somehow kept the score at 1-0
when Pompey could easily have had two or three
At half time I did wonder whether they would live to regret their profligacy
After half time we did play a little better, with Riccy, Upson and Prutts
getting more of the ball in midfield and Foy and the excellent Olsen (boy
does this man work hard!) causing more trouble out wide.
All the same, Jack had succumbed to his injury before half time and Marlon,
though running around a lot in his inimitable style, wasn't exactly giving
their defence palpitations.
Which just left the diminutive Reid to take them on alone - he continues
to look the part but clearly missed Jack's unselfish hard work alongside
However, after 25 minutes of the second period, Ben wriggled his way up
the right yet again and passed inside to Reid, who was promptly felled
about 10 yards outside the box
Up stepped the skipper to curl a beauty over the wall into the far corner,
leaving Hoult clutching at thin air - another cracking goal, taking Bartman
into double figures for the season.
When you consider that at the start of this season Bart had scored 17
goals in 161 appearances, most of them playing much further up the pitch
than he is nowadays, his current tally of 10 goals from 23 games is outstanding,
even allowing for the fact that he is our penalty taker.
Personally I think he is currently playing the best football of his Forest
career - and though he seems to have been around for ever, he is still
That second goal killed the game - Pompey were not going to score twice
and they knew it.
Just to make sure, Platty changed formation, sending on Stern for the
tiring Upson and moving to 4-3-3 (Riccy, TV, Vaughan and Foy at the back,
Bart, Prutts and Olsen in midfield and Stern, Marlon and Reid up front.
This snuffed out their attack once and for all and, with all Three forwards
willing to drop deep to get the ball and Pompey's heads visibly dropping
by the second, Forest cruised their way through the final 20 Minutes
There was still time for ex-Notts man Shaun Derry to be sent off for two
yellow cards (the first a two-footed assault on Bart which might have
merited a red on its own, the second a crude foul on Marlon), and for
Forest to come desperately close to scoring three more (which would have
taken the scoreline into the realms of travesty!).
We haven't seen much of Stern this season, but gradually he is starting
to show some form again when he comes on - early in the season he looked
lethargic and his first touch had totally deserted him, but today he was
holding the ball up and laying it off just like his old self.
He was involved in all three near things. First he played a beautifully
controlled one-two with Riccy, who fired a fierce 30-yarder against the
bar. Then Stern (who'd already had a respectable penalty claim turned
down when Edinburgh tried to swap shirts with him in the box) stepped
over a teasing Olsen cross to allow Reid to shoot - denied by a brilliant
goal-line clearance from (I think) Scot Hiley.
Finally Stern held it up yet again from an Olsen pass, and Prutts span
to shoot inches wide.
Frankly, though, a 2-0 score flattered us - any more would have been cruel.
For the umpteenth time this season we can reflect that this was a game
we would not have won last year - our self-belief, team spirit and resilience
are unrecognisable from 3 months ago.
OK, so today those qualities were pretty much all that took us to 3 points,
but all successful teams will get games like this; no-one plays well every
week. The art is to win them anyway, and it is a credit to the manager
that we did.
So we march on, gradually consolidating our push for promotion (of the
teams above us this morning WBA, Watford, Burnley and Brum all lost, and
once again we are right amongst it
The only shadow on the horizon is this injury list - lots of our players
need a rest and time to recover, but the Christmas programme is never
a time when that happens
So we might have to be patient for a week or two - the lads might have
to grind out a few results while we get a few players back.
All, to varying degrees, did well today - with Bart and Olsen outstanding.
Perhaps most important of all, they look full of it - they finally appear
believe that they are capable of winning games even when they do have
a team half full of teenagers and crocks.
And why not - they have, after all, won 7 games out of 9.
The future's bright - the future's red - white
Nottingham Forest 2000