Match Report by Russ Parr
Ahh, the days. Forest v Norwich, one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures
in the football calendar…… or at least, a few scant years ago, it was.
These days, we're talking about two provincial town clubs scrapping it
out in the First Division with hope of not much more than mid-table mediocrity,
a tilt at the play-offs being about the best either can expect.
So I'm pleased to be able to report that today was about as good as a
0-0 draw can be; attractive, flowing football, plenty of shots on goal,
and lots of one touch football. Shame most of it was from Norwich.
Both teams went for the favoured English formation of 4-4-2, David Platt
opening with the team that finished the game so strongly against West
Brom. The first real opportunity fell to Iwan Roberts in the 11th minute
when he buried Giallanza's through ball convincingly in the bottom corner
of Dave Beasant's net, only to see the linesman flag for offside. The
next ten minutes saw continued Norwich pressure, with Beasant saving well
from a Craig Fleming shot and Darel Russell firing narrowly over from
22 yards, punctuated only by Alan Rogers' free kick over the bar. Dave
Beasant was again called spectacularly into action in the 22nd minute
to make a full length ground level save from Lee Marshall's 18 yard shot,
with Forest's opportunities being severely limited by Jack Lester's propensity
for wandering a yard offside.
Hjelde was replaced a mere 24 minutes into the game after a predictable
injury - let's be honest, he's played a match and a quarter and is therefore
well overdue an injury! To be fair, he and Doig had kept Roberts and Giallanza
relatively quiet, but he was replaced by Tony Vaughan as he no doubt will
be against Birmingham next week, David Platt admitting after the match
that Hjelde was unlikely to be fit from his calf injury
. A scant seven minutes later a more concerning injury occurred to Riccy
Scimeca, with a hamstring pull likely to keep him out for 3 or 4 weeks.
His replacement was the much revered and yet much unproven Stern John,
with Jones dropping back to midfield alongside Bart. Forest continued
to hold out, and even created their first opportunity on goal through
Prutton's searing volley from Alan Rogers' cross, which Marshall did very
well to turn over the bar for a corner.
Forest came out with fire in their bellies for the second half, and Lester
and John both had good opportunities that they spurned in the face of
goal. In the 63rd minute Prutton was the unlucky recipient of Forest's
first booking of the season when a 50/50 ball left him needing the magic
sponge, and Derveld the stretcher. Three minutes later a first - Roberts
disputed the referee's decision to give Forest a free-kick just inside
the Norwich half, resulting in a booking for Roberts and a ten yard advance
to give Rogers an opportunity to strike the ball from about 25 yards.
Predictably enough, it was wasted.
Rogers had a shot deflected just wide of the post several minutes later,
but most of the work was falling to Matthieu Louis-Jean at right back,
who made a superb job of controlling the rolling advances of Llewellyn
and De Waard (who had replaced Derveld) - unfortunately, his distribution
was woefully short of the quality of his tackling. Beasant once again
made a fantastic flying save from Fleming's header. The game then once
again settled into a stalemate, both sides failing as they had all game
to deliver the final ball for their forwards.
Unfortunately, the only other events worth reporting were two stupid bookings,
but stupid for different reasons. Firstly, in the 85th minute Gary Jones,
who had played a decidedly average game, chose to stick his leg out a
yard in front of a Norwich free kick in the middle of the centre circle,
the result being a predictable booking and another Forest first, the first
ten yard advance being given against them. Lurch was then was then harshly
booked for protesting against a corner decision that was impossible for
me to call - and I was a good ten yards above the linesman on the same
side of the field!
So, how did we do? There was good and there was bad, and player by player:
Dave Beasant: Kept us in the game and almost singlehandedly responsible
for us getting a point. Man of the Match by a country mile.
Jim Brennan: Good in the tackle and dependable, but poor going
forwards. Alan Rogers: Very poor, not interested in the game and
delivered maybe two meaningful balls all game. If he wants to play as
a winger he's got to put in the effort, hugely disappointing overall.
Riccy Scimeca: Reasonable, no more, but unfortunately picked a
worrying injury half an hour in.
Jon Olav Hjelde: Proved once again how he relishes playing against
big, physical centre-forwards by marking Iwan Roberts out of the game
until he was injured (surprise, surprise).
David Prutton: He's not a winger! Delivered a couple of gorgeous
balls in from the right, but once again, wants to drift into his natural
position in the middle. A reasonable performance, considering he's out
of position (are you listening, Platty?).
Chris Bart-Williams: Like a fine wine, this man gets better as
he gets older. Clearly relishing his new role as team captain, he orders
the team about like he was born for the role. Due to be a huge influence
Jack Lester: Ineffectual and out-muscled until substituted. To
be fair to him, no-one played the balls over the top that he relishes
when playing up front.
Gary Jones: a fairly anonymous game, won a couple of headers but
created no danger, and showed his Aldridge tutelage with that ridiculous
Matthieu Louis-Jean: An excellent game defensively, but distribution
was poor. Still improving and an integral part of Forest's rock-solid
Chris Doig: Better with every game he plays. Didn't miss a header
all game against a fairly imposing front line and great to see Platt give
him a place in the starting line-up. A real prospect.
Stern John: On for Riccy in the first half and looks a distance
short of fitness. Continually half a yard short of pace, but wasn't given
any service so hard to judge. First touch was very poor.
Tony Vaughan: On for Hjelde in the first half to predictable abuse
from the Norwich fans, played a solid and unspectacular game. Did everything
asked of him.
Andy Gray: On for Lester on the hour, played a very defensive right
wing role to assist Louis-Jean. An astute decision by Platt, recognising
that the threat came from Norwich's left flank, or just good calling from
Gray? I'll go for the former.
In summary, both sides played well in the first two thirds of the field
but failed to deliver the final ball. I think we would have seen Marlon
but for the two first half injuries, and he could have added a new dimension
to the Forest attack, but all in all, let's take stock. We're unbeaten
in nine league fixtures (19 points from the last 27), we've not conceded
a goal in the league this season, and we've still got Stern to come back
to form. Norwich do not look a bad side (admittedly, they don't look like
winning the division either), and we look like conceding very few goals.
All in all - 4 points from 6 is acceptable. Bring on the Blues.