14th April


Mr M.Jones

Goal One
Healy 10mins
Goal Two
Hjelde 89mins

Preston North End
Beasant   Lucas
Gray Alexander
Hjelde Edwards
Doig Murdoch
Benali McKenna
Scimeca Anderson
A.Johnson   Gregan
Bart-Williams Healy
Prutton Murdock
D.Johnson Macken
John Kidd
Substitutes     Substitutes
Roche   Lonergan
Harewood Morgan
Edds Cartwright
Jones Gunnlaugsson
Edwards Cresswell

Report by Beckey Gamester

Deepdale has always been a ground I wanted to visit, neither for the football team, nor the renowned atmosphere of the place and definitely not for the weather. OK, so it was just to see how impressive THAT face on the Bill Shankly Kop was, (the one they use on the Football Trust adverts in the Forest matchday programmes) imprinted by the tasteful brown and flesh coloured seats - but I didn't think at the beginning of the season that I would visit the stadium for probably the most important game of this campaign. It is also one of those more traditional grounds that are slowly going out of fashion in the world of British football. There were the atmospheric terraces that the away fans get 'lumbered' with in the shed, typical of the classic football ground, a Kop-style end full of carnival atmosphere for the big game, an average stand along the side and, er, a non-existent building site. At least the builders were kept busy by taking ball-boy roles… Deepdale also boasts the tallest floodlights in the country, which were much needed for the dull and rainy Lancashire weather.

However, whilst the Forest faithful froze on the terraces, the temperatures gradually rose on the pitch in a brilliant match all round; a match in which Platt was later full of praise for the players who battled hard against a side who showed great composure and a solid passing style. The success of Preston this season has definitely been one of the surprises this season and it was never going to be an easy game.

Forest, unsurprisingly, kept the side that outclassed Portsmouth last week with the fresh Doig and Hjelde in central defence. Incidentally they also donned the classic red shirts and red shorts today, which I personally prefer to the white alternative. However it was Preston who impressed the most in the first half as each side came to terms with the slippery conditions. Rankine saw a decent chance go amiss as he headed over the bar and the impressive Jon Macken also put his first of many shots on target. Preston were just about on top, although a goal would've been harsh at this early stage. Needless to say, it came - in less-than-spectacular style. Benali's foul cost us a free kick on the edge of the area for Healy to see his shot deflect off the wall and in over Beasant, who had dived the way it was initially going. Although Lurch had little chance of saving it, he certainly wasn't at fault as some early reports have suggested.

For Forest, it was a simple case of passing the ball around for promising direct, attacking moves but the final ball was letting them down. David Johnson saw a shot go over the bar and Bartman had two long-range shots miss the target (although the sure-fire player of the season could never be accused of being selfish considering his form). Our best chance would've come from the penalty spot when Stern John, again having a decent game, was brought down in the box but the referee waved play on and then again for a just-as-blatant handball. I had taken an instant dislike to the referee with one or two dubious decisions, but then if you recall that 'gem' of a ref in the reverse game at the City Ground, you'd think yourself lucky with this one, to put it politely.

Unsurprisingly, the teams went off to angry Forest chants of '1-0 to the referee', but temperatures were to rise on the pitch for the second half as both sides went for that crucial second goal of the game. The first five minutes of the second period was more than a taster for the exciting football that was to come in the last 45 minutes. A super strike from Macken bounced back into play off the crossbar over the stranded Beasant, before another shot from the former M*n Un*t*d (asterisks placed due to events elsewhere this afternoon) player was well saved for a corner. However then Andy Johnson, who was to have the most heart-stopping half of his Forest career, was found in the box, only for his good strike to be brilliantly saved by Lucas. Macken saw a 6-yard header go over - their last brilliant chance of the half - before we went up a gear for superb attacking play from the reds. Stern John saw a shot saved, Prutton had a dangerous fizzing cross grabbed by Lucas and Hjelde had a header cleared off the line. But several Forest supporters forgot to breathe on various occasions thanks to Andy Johnson, who was most definitely my man of the match.

Two shots cleared off the line, one deflected over for a corner and one found the side netting - he simply wasn't going to score, and it didn't look like Forest would either in a match that seemed like 'one of those games'. However about a minute after the stoppage time board had gone up, when a few poor Forest fans had already left, the deserved goal came when a bullet header from perhaps our only main aerial threat - Jon Olav Hjelde. From around 6-yards, he went up with the defender to head the ball swiftly home.

The fans went wild. I went wild. Century 106 went wild. The Forest fans in the home stands proudly came out from the shadows in a great end to a great game.

Whilst I don't mean to end on a negative note, a draw at Preston is by no means an incredible result in terms of qualifying for the play-offs, but it just about keeps us in there with a realistic chance after both Sheffield United and Watford lost today. North End are still very much in the driving seat, but we couldn't really have asked for a better run-in with Stockport, Wimbledon, Gillingham and Tranmere left to play - Wimbledon and Tranmere being the more difficult for different reasons. But after a morale-boosting performance tonight, it could just be that lift that could bring us the 12 points. If you were there today, you will know what I mean.

© Nottingham Forest 2001


Copyright © 2000 Nottingham Forest F.C.