10th Mar
Bramall Lane



Goal One
Edwards 2 min
Goal Two
A.Johnson 65min
Goal Three
Murphy 73min
Goal Four
D.Johnson 87min

Sheff Utd
Beasant Tracey
Scimeca Kozluk
Vaughan Uhlenbeek
Benali Ullathorne
Jones Devlin
Prutton Brown
A.Johnson Santos
Bart-Williams Ford
D.Johnson Kelly
John Asaba
Substitutes     Substitutes
Roche   Montgomery
Gray Suffo
Freeman D'Jaffo
Harewood Woodward

The Bridport Red Report

I ought to have known better.

Here am I, a mere fan who like thousands of others chases around the country after Forest, sustained by the memory of epic performances like Oakwell and Selhurst Park, hoping against hope that this week I'll see another afternoon of Mr Hyde Forest as opposed to Jekyll Forest. For weeks - MONTHS - I stick by the team and our young manager, defending them against the short-termist and short-sighted attacks which seem to start about 30 seconds after each and every mistake or poor performance. "Keep the faith", I find myself having to say after rather too many reports for comfort.

But then, eventually, tired after yet another long drive and tired of seeing Forest underperform, I see one Jekyll performance too many and I crack. "We're not good enough", I drone. "If we can't play well against the likes of Wednesday we haven't a cat in Hell's chance of making the play offs; I've been defending them when all along the attacks were right. We're not going up and the future ain't as bright as we've been kidding ourselves". Exits left, stomping crossly off into the sunset. Then, to compound matters, I go to Molineux (a ground where, I am reliably informed, we have our worst away record of all) and watch Johnno and Marlon earn themselves crass red cards, and my moans become even louder.

It is the cry of a million footie fans all over the world - "Oh, God - why do I bother to do this? We're rubbish and I'm never coming again".

And we all know it's a mistake. This is Forest, for heaven's sake - they have never made a habit of doing things easily, so why should I be acting all surprised that they aren't now? The moment you finally despair and give up for the season... is the moment when they pull off an outrageously good performance and 3 points at Bramall Lane, where we hadn't (until today) won since 1967.

So I'll shut up on the apocalyptic stuff - clearly today's result tells you all you need to know about why David Platt is doing the job he is and I'm doing mine. And besides, I had completely failed to take into account the fact that the other teams around us (the critical ones being Preston, the Baggies and Watford - with Bolton on such a poor run that even they are not out of sight yet) are every bit as capable of making a total and utter Horlicks out of their season as we are.

"Keep the faith" is back!

And that's as much Humble Pie as you're getting.

Actually, the reason I've gone a bit quiet recently is not that I had succumbed to the "Never again!" panacea. I know myself too well for that - I'd go to watch Forest play in the Conference if it really came down to it (and it won't!). No, it is simply that I am stupidly busy at work at the moment, so thought as I walked out of Molineux last week that there would be no way I'd get to see the Reds again until the Bolton game - midweek games are almost always a non starter, and I always knew I was going to be stuck in London for the Blunts game.

As it happened, however, I found myself on the M1 between Newcastle and London rather earlier than I anticipated on Wednesday evening, so I did manage to get to see us beat Barnsley.

It is now 4 days later and everyone has a) seen the proper reports in the papers and b) is far more excited by today's events at Bramall Lane, so I won't go into too much detail about Wednesday night. Suffice it to say that, if I had had the time to write about it at the time, the report would not have said anything to disagree wildly with the gloomy ones that had preceded it.

We went in front from our first attack, when Stern (in full Weebles Fall Down mode for the first 15 minutes) was flattened just outside the box and Bart stepped up to smack in yet another outstanding free kick. Quite apart from the fact that the Captain is, in my opinion, playing the best football of his career this season (and if he is not Player of the Year by a huge majority I will be amazed and asking to check the ballot papers), this ability to score with free kick after free kick is a side to his game that I didn't know existed before this season. It is now reaching the stage when I expect him to score every time he steps up to take one - the same feeling of anticipation that I have got over the years watching the Metgods, Pearces and van Hooijdonks of this world run up to dead ball. Unlike those 3, however, Bart rarely hits the ball with colossal power - but his placement of the ball and the curve and viscious dip he imparts to it are more than enough to beat the keeper anyway. Wednesday's was a case in point. Kevin Miller appeared to know exactly where it was going, yet when the ball eventually dipped over the top of his wall he was still helpless to prevent a goal despite getting a hand to it.

A goal up in the second minute, Forest proceeded to settle down and play some promising football for 25 minutes. Shock horror - we were playing with patience, keeping the ball and passing it on the ground. True, we were not carving out many chances, but we were clearly the better side.

Not only that, but we appeared to have signed a new player. Or perhaps re-signed him would be more accurate. Stern John has been such an unfit dissappointment for over a year now that it is hard to find anyone who had not given up on him. Yes, a man who clearly has bags of talent, but who is simply never ever ever fit. An incandescent start to his Forest career, but not ready for the week in week out rough and tumble of the English game.

Or.... Hang on, wait a minute. Stern was a revelation on Wednesday. He ran about, giving a reasonably convincing impersonation of a professional athlete. He worked hard - I am certain I saw him make several tackles close to his own box. He won things in the air, flicking on to DJ like a good centre forward should. He was prepared to shoot from anywhere on a half chance, which was one of the things that marked him out as good player when he arrived. He showed awareness of what was going on around him, more than once playing DJ in on goal with an incisive pass. And his own movement, for so long nothing more than a distant memory, gradually reappeared. In short, he played by far his best game in a red shirt since December 1999.

Yes, he is still clearly short of match fitness - he was taken off to a deserved ovation after an hour, having clearly run himself into the ground. Equally, he and DJ will take a while to get used to one another - mixed in with the good examples of playing well off one another there was more than one occasion when they both went for the same ball. All the same, if that performance proves to be the restart of the real Stern John, it would be like signing a new high quality centre forward and could make a serious difference to us; not only has he the capacity to be a good player in his own right, but DJ would surely prosper as a result.

Yeah yeah, I know - one swallow does not make a summer. But Stern played very well again today in Sheffield, by the sound of it. There is a great picture on Teamtalk of him beaming all over his face as Platty hugs him when he was replaced by Andy Gray; he looks like a cheerful man who has just enjoyed his afternoon's work, rather than the increasingly withdrawn and isolated man wearing a million layers to keep out the cold on the bench that we have become used to seeing.

My fingers are well and truly crossed that we are witnessing the final arrival of the dangerous striker we saw for half a dozen games on his arrival. Go on Stern - keep it up, and let's see you rattle one in against Crewe or Bolton. Welcome back!

Back to Wednesday. Unfortunately, having started well, for some reason or other we played worse as the game went on. In the final ten minutes before half time Barnsley came back into it, with Bruce Dyer missing the ball when free in the 6 yard box and Shippo happily continuing his outstanding form at the City Ground and peppering various bits of the Trent End advertising hoarding. Oh, how we miss you, Neil. Not.

If anything, the second half was even worse - the confidence seemed to have drained out of us, and we ended up hanging on against a very ordinary Barnsley side. At the end, in fact, we almost achieved a remarkable feat, namely being booed off after a home win. (I was glad, incidentally, that Chet got a good reception from the Forest fans today. Shippo will have to live with it, I guess!)

Still, 3 points is 3 points, eh, and we could get right back amongst it at the weekend. Glass half full. Yeah, right - the Blades have an outstanding home record and we are not playing well even when we win; that's why I was so pessimistic in the first place. Glass half empty.

Four days later. It is Saturday morning, and the Webmaster and I have our habitual conversation about the team news. I nearly choke into my morning tea when I hear that we are going 4-3-3, with Riccy at right back, Jonah in midfield and Bartman up front alongside Stern and DJ. "What the **** is he playing at? We'll get murdered! I was disappointed not to be going, but now... The only formation we've been any good at this year is 3-5-2, TV will get himself sent off, what's wrong with Foy...." blah blah blah blah blah.

What do I know about it, eh?

I can't tell you about the game - I wasn't there. Read the papers and the report from Mrs Webmaster which is already up on Latest News.

Those of us who get to see the team almost every week just don't know how lucky we are. We might not agree with one another about what it is we are seeing (a gradual rebirth of the team or a slow inexorable descent into poverty stricken mediocrity), but at least we can all form our own opinions at first hand.

So I would like to pay tribute to two sets of people.

First, you only have to spend a few minutes trawling around the web to realise just how well-served Forest fans are and how far ahead we are of most teams. So step forward Rob and the Forest Fire gang, Karl and The Eye lot (are we allowed to mention him again now the Court Case is over?), Geoff and the official site, and the Century commentary team; take a bow. I'm probably preaching to the converted here, but only today did I realise the revolution in following Forest from afar that these people have given us. I can remember agonising as a boy over games as important as Cologne away in the European Cup semi final, when it was by no means guaranteed that you'd get more than second half commentary on the radio. A mere league game outside the top division? No chance - you'd be lucky if there was even a report in the following morning's paper.

Even now, without the web I'd have struggled to learn much about today's game - I live in London, and the press here are only fleetingly acquainted with any facts that don't concern Londoners (and even then the relationship with reality is a tad tenuous). As far as they are concerned, the Premiership is pretty much all that matters, and if you really insist on wanting to know about lesser mortals, all you need to know is that Fulham are running away with it, Watford are dead certs to join them (oh yeah?) and Wimbledon still have a chance (it could happen!). As recently as a couple of weeks ago, still basking in the transient "glory" of having lead Liverpool half way through a League Cup tie, lots of people down here would tell you that Palace are mounting a serious charge towards the play-offs. Presumably they will be helped to the play-off final by that squadron of flying pigs you so regularly see over Selhurst Park.

Nowadays, though, you can log on, listen to the (excellent) local radio commentary for the whole match, talk to fellow fans who aren't there, agonise about how it's really going when you can't see... almost like being there.

But there are bigger heroes than those people.

It was bad enough today with Forest's text messages beeping on my mobile, Fletch commentating on the internet, the chat pages, Sky and Radio 5 all simultaneously keeping me reasonably up to date. But spare a thought for those hundreds of Forest fans who are exiled to the far corners of the earth. [I have been there myself, so I know what it is like. You are talking about a man who tried to follow the 91 Cup Final whilst flying a Lynx around the Falkland Islands, desperately hoping that the illicit radio fit (kindly and illegally 'modified' into the aircraft by an engineer who appreciated my agony at not being there) would actually work. It didn't. I took off just after Norm saved Lineker's pen when we were 1-0 up. The refusal of any of the guys on the flight deck to look me in the eye when I landed 2 hours later told me all I needed to know.]

Even with the technology as it is, these long range fans deserve our applause. There are all sorts of time delays built into the net - even in London I read on the chat pages that we had scored 30 seconds before Fletch's voice went up an octave as the Johnsons scored their goals. In some parts of the world there is clearly a 3 or 4 minute time lag, but only on the audio. People on chat pages tend to write really informative messages like "Oooooohhh that was close" and "Yesssssssssss!!!!!", so you can almost taste the desperation of the message from some poor bloke in Ulan Batur asking what on earth is going on.

Half of my family think I am crazy to drive thousands of miles each season to follow the Garibaldi. But if you compare my season with that of some geezer in Vancouver, Sydney, New Zealand or some God-forsaken rock in the middle of the Southern ocean, getting up at 4 in the morning to swear at an intermittent internet connection and getting tantalising hints from the chat pages about what will appear over the radio in 3 minutes' time....

We don't know we're born!

So, long range internet exiled posse, I salute you. And, poor innocent unsuspecting old man quietly walking his dog by the Thames yesterday afternoon, I apologise for making you nearly jump out of your skin by my loud antics as DJ scored with 2 minutes to go.

As for the team, today was a win and a performance which could have changed our entire season. Against all my expectations, we now have our fate back in our own hands with ten games to go.

So no more abject submissions at Crewe or at home to Stockport, please - no more Jekyll Forest. Let's start as we mean to continue by winning on Tuesday at Gresty Road to go 5th. Unfortunatley I cannot be there - but after that I can't see why you shouldn't have to read my drivel after all of our remaining games.

It's back on.

Keep the faith!

© Nottingham Forest 2001



Copyright © 2000 Nottingham Forest F.C.