9th Dec
City Ground


Mr M J Jones

Goal One
Scimeca 12 mins
Goal 2
Bart-Williams 65mins

Beasant   Hoult
Edwards     Hiley
Bart-Williams   Thogersen v
Vaughan Panopoulos
Scimeca Derry
Prutton   Quashie
Upson   Crowe
Olsen Edinburgh
Foy Hughes
Reid Claridge
Lester Nightingale
Substitutes     Substitutes
Roche   Flahaven
Calderwood Miglioranzi
John Harper
Brennan Moore
Harewood Bradbury

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, Matrecano

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 him.

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 only 26

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


Copyright © 2000 Nottingham Forest F.C.