21st Feb
The City Ground


Mr A. Hall

Goal One
Sibon 75 mins

Sheff Weds
Beasant   Pressman
Edwards   Walker
Bart-Williams Quinn
Benali Sibon
Olsen   Hendon
Jones Lescott
A Johnson Soltvedt
Scimeca Westwood
Brennan Ekoku
Harewood Palmer
D.Johnson Bromby
Substitutes     Substitutes
Roche   Haslam
Hjelde De Bilde
John Stringer
Reid Geary
Edds Morrison

The Bridport Red Report - not for the faint hearted
Any football fan who has followed their team for any significant length of time has their own private chamber of horrors - incidents and occasionally entire games of which even the mere memory can bring on the shudders. My own personal list would contain such lowlights as a Dave Serella own goal from the edge of our box against the might of Oxford early in the 70s,a Sammy Chapman backpass sticking in the mud, a hideous 1-1 draw against the already doomed Plymouth Argyle during Cloughie's promotion season, and in more recent times the legendarily appalling display of Marco Pascolo against Man City, plus last season's diabolical collapse away at Palace (when Bartman and Johnno epitomised all that was wrong with us at the time by crashing into one another to give the ball to the opposition).

We all have such a list - and when times are good it gives us all a benchmark to laugh at in the pub - "Were you at that City game as well? Well at least we didn't play like THAT today..."

Tonight was another one - a real horror story. I don't know how many Forest matches I have seen, but since I have been going on and off since 1968 (old git!) it must be many hundreds. But this was THE worst performance I have ever seen Forest give at home, bar none. Yes, I've seen us play easily this badly for long periods - whole halves or even more. But this was unmitigated abject rubbish for the full 90 minutes, and I really don't care if I never see a team in the Garibaldi play like that again.

Earlier in the season we played at Hillsborough. Wednesday were truly awful that night - just about held together by Des Walker and Kevin Pressman. We won that game without breaking sweat. On tonight's evidence, frankly, Wednesday haven't improved very much. Maybe they are defending a little better (and Dessie is still their best player by a country mile - he was the best player on the pitch tonight), probably a bit better organised, but coming forward they are well on the pants side of very very ordinary.

Yet they won easily tonight, and thoroughly deserved to. We were THAT bad.

The game is easily dealt with. The first half was abject from both sides - as the guy behind me accurately observed at half time, they might as well have put a big net up along the half way line, because all either side was doing was hoofing it up in the air from one end to the other.

During this period Gary Jones was injured (like, you could tell??), so at half time he went off, replaced by Gareth Edds. We went to 4-4-2 (Edds at right back, Benali left, Bart and Swanny the centre halves). Reidy came on for Brennan. Stern came on for Marlon. Forest even had one single decent move in the second half (a neat interchange on the ground between Reid and DJ, carving open the Wednesday defence, leading to an opening for Riccy which for some reason he took early with his wrong foot, thus scooping it several miles over the bar).

Bart then dwelt too long on the ball at the back and sold Johnno short. Sibon (up til then totally anonymous, apart of course from a truly comical "shot" in the first half which actually went out of play further away from the goal than it started) ran onto it, the few Forest defenders backed off, and Sibon smacked it into the bottom corner.

Forest continued to play like Derby Ladies on a bad day, and then Bart came close to stealing us a completely undeserved point in the last minute by pulling a superb low save out of Pressman with yet another in his season's line of excellent free kicks.

We thus managed one solitary shot on goal - and that from a free kick - in the entire 90 minutes. This against a side who have conceded more goals than anyone else in the division this season. Most of our players were on the very low side of mediocre. A few (Benali, Johnno) had a stinker. The ONLY player to emerge with any credit in my eyes was Gareth Edds, who did pretty well in his 45 minutes (one superb tackle on Quinn in the box was about the only time I broke into a smile all night).

That was it. I simply cannot bear to describe it in any more detail.

Right - time for a few pointed questions.

- HOW ON EARTH can a team who only 4 days ago were described by the Fulham fans as "the best we have played this year" play so unbelievably dreadfully tonight? The same eleven players, for heaven's sake. Wednesday fans, with considerable justification, described us as "the worst team we have played this year".

- WHY OH WHY OH WHY do we persist in hoofing the ball up the middle in the air when we have one centre forward who is 5'6" and another who is rubbish in the air? This is not the first time I have asked that particular question, but I still for the life of me cannot think of an answer. I shouldn't think David Johnson can either. Is it planned that we should continue to do so once Jack is back to play alongside DJ? If so, I can hardly wait to see us utterly waste the talents of two of our best players.

- Chris Bart-Williams is a truly superb sweeper. But as an out and out central defender he is not good. We have seen it several times already. So WHY do we move to 4-4-2 and keep him at the back? OK, so we want to change formation - fine. Put Hjelde on and move Bart into midfield. Otherwise he cannot do what he is so good at, which is make things happen from deep. He can do that from sweeper because he knows on the rare occasions when he gets it wrong there will be TWO defenders to clear up behind him - when he is one of two, if he makes a mistake Christian Edwards is left on his own. Palace? Wednesday?

- IS IT ANY WONDER that our forwards cannot score any goals when they are getting absolutely ZERO service from midfield? We know we are capable of doing it, because at times we have played some lovely passing stuff on the deck. Not recently, I'll grant you - but this season at least. Remember those heady weeks when Jack and Robbie were criss-crossing all over the place, holding the ball up, playing each other in and generally frightening the life out of opposition defenders? DJ is not an entirely dissimilar player to Robbie - only with a far better goalscoring record. The last forward to score was Andy Reid against the Terriers 12 games ago - and he is now playing on the wing, so you could argue that the last time a Forest forward scored was Jack's hat trick at the Priestfield 17 games and 3 months ago. Against Blackburn we scored from two excellent set pieces. At Fulham we almost earned a point when another free kick hit the bar. Hey! Guys! You are allowed to score goals from open play, you know. Stern & Marlon have precisely NO goals in 17 starts and 25 sub appearances between them. Pathetic. DJ has had two chances that I can recall in his 5 games so far(first minute against Palace, near the end at Huddersfield). Equally pathetic. Do we think it might change just a tad if we managed to give the poor sods the bleedin' ball? Like, uhh, on that green / brown stuff under foot?

- IS IT NOT A TERRIBLE admission - but undeniable - that David Prutton's ability to run at defences is so massively missed in a midfield which contains a player who cost 3M and another who is an experienced international?

- WHY is it that we clearly have a serious mental problem with beating teams at the bottom? This season we have twice played against teams in blue and white stripes who, at the kick off, were in terrible trouble in the bottom three. Twice, if only we could win 5-0 (a feat we managed against a side who were above us at the time a month or three ago) we would make significant progress - go into second on one occasion, return to the play-offs the next. On both occasions we have been stuffed. We have also, of course, lost to QPR (an almost unique achievement) - but at least on that day we were playing a virtual youth team through injury.

There are no doubt other questions we could all ask. For most of them we probably have our own ideas of the odd answer, too. But saddest of all after a performance like that is the one question I haven't asked yet: "Why do we bother?" (But then we all know the answer to that one, eh?!)

On Saturday I intend to take out an insurance policy against the fear that they might play like that again; I am going to watch the Under-19s play against Derby in the morning (a rare day when the Academy and First team are at home on the same day). I am really looking forward to that. Let's just hope that the grown-ups can take a little inspiration and enthuse me just as much a few hours later.

Going up? Astonishingly to anyone who saw us tonight, we are not out of it yet. Not quite sure what that says about the state of this division - because the thought of what a Premiership (ANY Premiership side) side would have done to us tonight really DOES bring on the shudders.

Which is where I came in.

Cheer up. Surely we can't play thay badly again.


© Nottingham Forest 2001



Copyright © 2000 Nottingham Forest F.C.