Report by Bridport Red
Woke up this morning in London. Grey, raining, hang-over. Groan - do
I really want to drive all the way to Barnsley? They have a 100% home
record, we'll probably lose, and then I'll have to drive all the way
home again depressed and annoyed.
Here we are, 14 hours later. Am I glad I did it? Apart from the fact
that I now have no voice left, you bet! Just like the Palace away game
last month, this match summed up exactly why we all do this travelling-round-and-shouting
malarkey; this was a superb match which had almost everything. And once
again Forest came away with the points after giving a few of their travelling
fans palpitations on the way (yet another Big Up for the away fans,
by the way - oh how I wish we could persuade our home thousands to make
that much noise).
The suspensions to TV and Prutts forced a couple of changes - Riccy
Scimeca into Prutts' right-sided midfield slot, and a welcome return
for Chris Doig after injury. Dougie and Robbie Blake swapped places
from bench to starting line-up.
Almost from the outset Forest grabbed the game by the scruff of the
neck. For two seasons now Barnsley have been scoring bags of goals,
especially at home, but also letting in far too many (last year they
finished 4th but only the 3 relegated sides let in more goals) - we
had clearly decided that we should persue the latter characteristic,
and straight from the kick-off Jack and Robbie set out to chase down
everything in the Barnsley final third, giving Miller, Chettle and Morgan
no time to settle on the ball at any stage. The two forwards were well
supported by our midfield performing a similar hustling role, and Barnsley
clearly did not relish having no space or time to do anything. As a
consequence for most of the first half they were reduced to hasty balls
high up the middle, where the two Chrises, Edwards and Doig, simply
won everything in the air. (After half time it was a different story,
but we'll come to that...)
First goal, 10 minutes gone. An excellent move involving an exchange
of sweeping wing-to-wing passes from Blake to Tank and back ended up
with Robbie advancing into the box. At this point I have to say that
I part company with the brief report put out by the Webmaster earlier;
I thought it was a clear penalty as (?)Morgan simply and deliberately
left his leg in the way when Robbie pushed the ball past him. The ref
was right on the spot and gave it without hesitation. In the interests
of balance I should point out that it was at the far end from us and
that my neighbour thought it wasn't a pen, so I guess you pays your
money and you takes your choice. [Let me put it this way, in case any
passing Tykes fans should be reading this: it was 200% more of a penalty
than the one which gave them their dodgy 1-0 win at Oakwell last year,
so maybe what goes around comes around...]
Needless to say, the home fans saw things in a slightly different light
and booed loudly. Bart took not the slightest bit of notice and calmly
sent Miller the wrong way.
Ten minutes later we scored again. Once again Robbie Blake was involved,
this time feeding the ball perfectly into Jack's path on the edge of
the box. Jack shot, Miller parried it... but straight in to the path
of Rogers, who smacked it into the net like a rocket. 2-0, playing very
well (best so far this season, in fact), half time.
For most of the first half Barnsley had been a very pale shadow of the
team I have seen on the TV and who have amassed such an impressive home
record. In fact they were poor - the boos from the home fans were getting
pretty loud even from where we were sitting. We kind of assumed that
Harry wouldn't let them play like that for both halves, and so it proved;
in the second half they were a different team.
Not, however, before they found themselves 3-0 down. The actual scoring
of our second goal was somewhat lucky; Robbie Blake's shot cannoned
into the back of Bart's leg and the ball fell invitingly into Bart's
path (he, of course, did not need asking twice and toe-poked it in).
But the cause of the goal was some really impressive play by Forest
for a good 2 minutes leading up to the moment we scored. Twice the ball
came back to Miller, twice he found a Forest forward bearing down on
him at speed and had to clear hastily. Barnsley simply couldn't get
the ball out of their own half, and sure enough eventually a pass was
misplaced, the excellent Robbie Blake snapped the ball up and a split
second later we'd scored.
Frankly, that ought to have been it. But this is Forest we are talking
about, so you don't seriously believe that we watched a gentle 35 minutes
of stalemate as we cruised to a comfy win, do you?
Suddenly Barnsley began to play properly. Anyone remember a sluggish
centre forward called Neil who managed one solitary goal for Forest
in 20 appearances? You know, the one who had the trapping ability of
a brick wall and the turning circle of a pregnant camel? Well Barnsley
must have signed his talented twin brother, because the display of centre
forward play we witnessed for the rest of the match was well beyond
the capacity of the Shipperley who wore a tree on his red shirt; for
the final 30 minutes he was excellent. (A pity for Barnsley that for
the first hour he'd been instantly recognisable as the Forest pin-the-tail-on-the-Shippo
The change came when they stopped hoofing it up the middle (and as Jack
and Robbie tired and afforded the home defence just a little more time
to work out what to do with the strange round thing at their feet -
incidentally, anyone who seriously thinks we miss Chet should have seen
him today; Platty, you were dead right!). Instead the started playing
it to feet, and suddenly Shippo began to turn Edwards and look dangerous,
and Dyer started to live off slightly more than scraps as a result.
65 minutes, Barnsley 0 Forest 3. 68 minutes Barnsley 2 Forest 4. You
will understand if the next bit sounds a bit breathless!
First they played a neat move through midfield and when the ball arrived
on the left wing ML-J went missing for the only time in the match. A
good cross, Shippo arriving a fraction of a second before Edwards (they
clashed heads pretty hard as a result) and the ball was in the net.
Then, a minute later, came the first of our only two errors of the day;
a long through ball on the ground, Lurch came out, the retreating defenders
and he contrived to get in each other's way and the ball found itself
at Shippo's feet beyond the stranded keeper. Shipperly still had a fair
amount to do, but did it with aplomb and suddenly it was 2-3 and we
were visibly creaking. Not sure exactly whose fault this goal was, but
it was certainly sloppy in the extreme. No, get off the fence, Brid
- it was hideous!
However, we were then treated to the sight of something we haven't seen
for months. Forest went straight up the other end and scored. Lovely
curling ball (Bart's, I think) into the wide left channel for Jack to
run onto. He took it on but the angle was extremely narrow. Jack resisted
the temptation to shoot, however, instead playing an inch perfect pass
which neatly took both the defender and keeper out of the game. Robbie
Blake arrived at speed to sweep the ball gleefully home.
3 goals in as many minutes and Forest had just about steadied a wildly
rocking ship. The moment they scored their second goal my heart sank
- I could see us tossing away a three-goal lead and even going on to
lose. But after our fourth goal, even though they did score again through
the dangerous Bruce Dyer, and even though Shipperly mounted a one-man
vendetta against our defence, going close more than once, for some strange
reason I wasn't too worried. We held out - not entirely comfortably,
it must be said.
It ought to have been comfortable, though - yet another incisive counter
attack on our part saw Jack advancing one-on-one with the keeper, but
(just as against the Baggies on the first day of the season) he curled
it agonisingly round the keeper into the side netting; our second mistake
of the day, because at 5-2 there really would have been no way back.
Jack ought to have scored, but his all-round contribution today was
so excellent that I am prepared at least partly to forgive him.
A breathless but ultimately deserved win, then; even the Barnsley fan
I talked to in the pub admitted that a draw would have been very harsh
Good points? For an hour or so this was the best we have played all
season. Crisp passing, solid at the back, terrific movement up front
which made Chettle look familiarly ordinary, high-energy pressuring
of the opposition when they had the ball, making it hard for them to
get out of their own half. No-one played badly or anything like it (this
was another good TEAM performance), but Rogers, Johnson, Bart, Foy and
especially Blake really stood out. For my money Blake was man of the
match by a mile; he was closely involved in all four of our goals, never
stopped running all afternoon (he has clearly done a lot of productive
work on his fitness), and led their defence a nasty dance wih the ball
at his feet. Excellent - if he can play like this every week, let's
sign him up sharpish now he's fit.
Bad points? Comedy second goal (which so nearly changed the complexion
of the entire game). And our now familiar ability to play really well
for an hour or so and then end up hanging on at the end. I know that
this pressing game must be very tiring, but still the manager will want
to find a way to get us a routine and comfortable away win rather than
the rather too exciting multi-goal thrillers we've seen in recent weeks!
Finally, a point which I know will get howls of disbelief in Barnsley.
I thought the ref was excellent today (the home fans, needless to say,
hated him for daring to give a penalty against them - to which I reply
with the words "Craig", "Dive" and "Hignett"). He let the game flow
whenever possible by actually applying the advantage rule (how revolutionary
in the modern game!), he made the reasons for his decisions clear for
all to see, he talked to the players and diffused one or two potentially
ugly incidents with a word in someone's ear rather than a rash of cards
(it was by no means a dirty game), and when a couple of naughty tackles
did take place (by both sides), he took note of it, waited until the
game stopped and then went back to admonish or caution the player. The
only thing I thought was petty was his booking of Jack for over-celebrating
our fourth goal, but they have been directed to do that so fair enough,
I guess. Good common sense stuff (the assessor probably hated it because
he was not enough of a Jobsworth for modern tastes, but there you go!)
[It was also nice to see Harry Bassett so sporting in defeat - he applauded
the Forest fans and made a point of congratulating Tank and Bart. Good
on you, Harry - we definitely don't want you back, but at least you
are still a decent bloke!]
Last season we managed 5 away wins, 3 of them in the final month. This
season are away record now reads P6, W4, D1, L1.
Now let's do it at home!
Nottingham Forest 2000