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
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
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