16th Dec
Loftus Rd



Goal One
Crouch 41mins

Beasant   Miklosko
Gray     Darlington
Bart-Williams   Baraclough v
Edwards Plummer
Edds Carlisle
Prutton   Rose
Jones   Langley
Olsen Wardley
Foy Ngonge
Reid Connolly
Harewood Crouch
Substitutes     Substitutes
Roche   Harper
Cooper Warren
Calderwood Koejoe
Brennan Lisbie
John Morrow

The Bridport Red Report
Oh dear. A very difficult report to write, this one. On the face of it, since Forest have just set some sort of bizarre and unwanted record by losing twice in four days to the club who were bottom of the league, and since our season appears in severe and imminent danger of disappearing down the tubes, you might expect me to lay into the players and the management. But there seems precious little point in criticising Platty - he picked the best side available to him today from a crippled squad, and up to a limited point they did him proud. Similarly, though I will go on to have a pop at a player or two, on the whole it seems churlish and totally unreasonable to slag off a team consisting of raw teenagers and squad players for failing to keep up our recently outstanding form. Look at today's team dispassionately and reflect on how many outfield players would expect a first team place if everyone were fit. Bartman, Prutton, Olsen? Maybe Foy and Edwards? You can be bloomin' certain that Andy Gray would not be considered our first choice right back!

For all that, and for all the well documented mitigating circumstances which most of us are only too well aware of, the fact remains that we are in something of a mini crisis, and something is going to need to be done if we are not to throw away 5 months of progress and hard work.

So where do I start?

Happily, I missed Wednesday night's home debacle (midweek games are not at all compatible with my work). The usual London suspects, out in force today, were able to get to the Bushranger (last season's Away Pub of the Year, and still well up to standard) sufficiently early, however, for me to receive a full and eloquent account of how poorly we played during the week. Since we knew that Tony Vaughan was still suspended, that no-one had recovered from Wednesday's hideously long injury list, and that it had in fact been extended by the addition of Riccy, there was a distinct fear that we might be in for another painful 90 minutes.

I have to say now that this was not the case. Obviously no-one is pleased with the result, and obviously I am not in a position to compare the two performances, but I gather that we played far better today than against the Terriers. I can believe that, too - we played well enough today to be slightly unlucky not to get a point. But...

On the whole it was a pretty poor game, with Rangers (not the worst team we have played this season, not by a long chalk) doing more in midfield and having more of the possession, but with Forest doing some dangerous stuff down both flanks and looking well capable of a goal for long periods. Or at least, they would have been capable of a goal with a centre forward who could finish..... but we'll come back to that later.

For the first 25 minutes, though, we were being pressed back and I began to fear the worst, despite the fact that Lurch remained essentially untroubled. Rangers attacked a lot without really looking like scoring - the freakishly tall Peter Crouch was admirably marshalled by Christian Edwards (who must find it a shock to be towered over!) throughout the afternoon, and Bartman was by a distance the best player on the pitch. His authority as a defender and as a captain continues to grow - bearing in mind that he was playing not as a sweeper but as an out-and-out centre back today. You can really see him playing there for the rest of his career and becoming an outstanding ball-playing defender.

Gradually, though, Prutts began to get some space on the counter and both our wingers got into the game, and I began to cheer up. We even came very close to a goal when Benny found enough space on the right to fire in a dangerous cross to the near post, where Jones at full tilt (not a phrase you could often use this afternoon) flashed a header past Miklosko but narrowly beyond the far post.

It was all the more galling, then, to go in at half time a goal down. In many situations, especially as a wing back, I like Keith Foy's habit of not diving in, but with 3 minutes to go to the break he backed off his man once too often and allowed a cross which he probably ought to have prevented (I say probably because this was at the far end and we were low down, so the view was not the best). There was then one of those goals which seems to happen in slow motion - a bit of lethargic pinball in the box, a toe-poke from Crouch and the ball seemed to take an age to dribble over the line into the corner. Rangers celebrated like they'd won the League and a couple of thousand Forest fans uttered a word which rhymes with "Duck".

After half time, more of the same. Peter Crouch had a goal disallowed for climbing all over Lurch - even Crouch didn't protest. Forest came into the game again, with Edds, Marlon & Prutts managing shots on target which Miklosko easily dealt with, Foy hitting a screamer of a free kick from a narrow angle which Ludo did well to push over, and Jones looping a header onto the roof of the net. Then, as we pressed towards the end for the equaliser, Reidy escaped for one final time and put in a peach of a cross right onto Jones' head 6 yards out... and he missed the target by 5 yards when he looked certain to score. With that we knew the chance had gone, the final whistle went and we all trooped disconsolately back to the pub.

OK then, to a few home truths. Many of the players we have been so pleased with recently continue to impress - Benny will trouble any defence, though he faded in the second half. Andy Reid is a bag of tricks and can cross (though personally I prefer to see him play as a forward, because he looks the only man capable of finishing). Foy and Edwards were basically sound. Bart was outstanding. Andy Gray, asked to play miles out of position, was by no means perfect but can be proud of making a pretty decent fist of it as an emergency right back. Lurch produced one blinding save in the first half, and his distribution has improved markedly. Which leaves the central midfield and the striker.

I know Gary Jones is not fully fit, but he was a total passenger for lengthy periods of today's game. The game passed Gareth Edds by - he looked bewildered by the pace and generally extremely ring rusty. That meant that poor old David Prutton was trying to shore up the heart of our team on his own. Fine player though he is (and he looks rejuvenated by his move back into the middle), the poor guy didn't stand a chance. No team can prosper for very long with only one man in midfield.

I gather from the Webmaster that the radio reckoned Marlon played well today. If that is the case, I wonder whether the commentator got lost in West London and watched Louis Saha play just down the road, because I found myself getting more and more exasperated as yet another through ball found Marlon on his heels reacting too slowly to make anything of it. We all know Marlon's virtues are his pace, his unpredictable skill on the ball and his ability to make himself a pain in the neck for defenders by getting in their face. This afternoon he didn't seem to want to show us those virtues for more than about ten minutes. And regular Forest watchers ought to know instinctively by now that he couldn't score in a brothel. Yes yes, I know the fans love him for trying, but realistically how on earth can we expect to get anywhere with a non-scoring centre forward? It isn't that he doesn't score many - he seems to have forgotten how to score at all, and when all is said and done that is what he is on the pitch for. We SERIOUSLY miss Jack!

Stern came on for 5 minutes right at the end - and I gather Stern was very lethargic in midweek, so he is hardly at his peak. But with his first touch of the ball he killed it stone dead, looked up, spread it to Reidy out wide, turned and hared into the box. Hoorah - some actual real centre forward play! Shame there are only 3 minutes to go.

Enough about the players. As a team cobbled together from the barest bones of our squad they were by no means disgraced. Especially when you consider that only 8 or 9 of them actually DID anything for much of the game.

Depressing, isn't it? Our injuries are all happening to our senior, first choice players, and most of them are serious long term knocks rather than little niggles (Tank and Hjelde are out for months, Riccy, Jack, Gareth Williams and Chris Doig [remember him?] for weeks. TV will at least be back next week, and surely Johnno cannot be too far away. Frankly, we need whoever we can get back, and we need them as soon as possible, because we have done really well to claw our way up to the top, and none of wants to see it all frittered away in a few short weeks. Today's team would have been stuffed by the Baggies and Brum, and those are our next two away games.

In short, something needs to be done, and done now. Platty desperately needs to be given the means to strengthen his squad, even if only temporarily - and I would suggest that at the very top of his letter to Father Christmas should be someone who can put the little yellow round thing into the net on a regular basis. The manager has done wonders to get us this far with so many youngsters, but it is unrealistic to expect us to mount a decent push for promotion by promoting more and more of Paul Hart's team.

I don't know what the answer is - I know all about the court case, I know all about how we are running at a loss, I know all about the fact that we have no money.

But it must be as plain to everyone else as it is to me - if we have to make do with the players we have got for the rest of the season, then we will be visiting Loftus Road, rather than Stamford Bridge, for some time to come. At the moment it is nothing like too late - with so long to go there is ample time for us stay in the play-off places, and maybe even to do better than that.

But if we do nothing, mid table beckons, and beckons fast.

© Nottingham Forest 2000


Copyright © 2000 Nottingham Forest F.C.