The City Ground
Johnson 45 mins
Bart-Williams 52 mins pen
Rogers 75 mins
Scimeca 88 mins
| Due to work commitments Bridport
Red had to miss tonights game
Report by "Pod" www.sacktheboard.com
Aaaahhhhhhhhhh. that's better. I've just seen a superb football match - at the City Ground - Forest won - five nil - could have been ten - everyone had a brilliant game - we beat a decent team - we looked really good - probably the best performance since we took 'Boro apart in the promotion season.
It was a good night to watch football at the City Ground. I am perfectly happy to watch games with few or no goals, tight tense affairs that are absorbing rather than exciting or enervating, but tonight was just action and fun and enjoyment and ecstasy and shouting and jumping and celebrating and smiling and probably a bit more besides.
I decided to take my responsibilities seriously, after being entrusted with the report for this match, and spent a little time earlier today researching Burnley and their season to date. It was a little scary. In fact it was very scary, their away form and our home form would have made them favourites to get something out of the match. They had only failed to score once in thirteen games, they had won four away from home, they were unbeaten in seven and had been on a four match winning run. Looking at their squad showed a tendency to get goals from all areas and a good blend of youth and experienced old pro's like Mitchell Thomas and experienced dirty old pro's like Kevin Ball. They had been linked with a few strikers, including Forest old boy Ian Moore, and had taken Paul Robinson on loan but didn't seem to be struggling unduly to get goals.
Stan Ternent was quoted on the official Burnley website saying; "It's easier to go flat out away from home and go for it" and this offered some comfort. Knowing that Burnley were likely to come at us and make a game of it offered the prospect of a game in which we would be able to bring our away form back to the City Ground.
Showing even more diligence, I then discovered that Forest had last played Burnley, at the City Ground, twenty four years and two days ago and had beaten them by five goals to two. Mmm, I thought, could this be a sign?
As the match approached I was still torn between apprehension and optimism; Burnley were definitely good enough to cause us problems but I had a suspicion that their confidence and genuine good form may allow us our best opportunity of getting something out of the game.
The teams came out to muttering as Forest lined up with a back three of Edwards, Bart-Williams and Vaughan, Prutton and Rogers as wing-backs Scimeca and Johnson in the centre of midfield and Gary Jones bridging the gap to Blake and Lester. It looked ok to me but there were mutters.
After Watford's victory on Saturday I corresponded with a Watford supporting friend, who watched the match from the Lower Bridgford, and we agreed that the early goal had given Watford the confidence to give such an accomplished first half display; in the same way that our early goal at Oakwell had given us the confidence to produce an excellent display.
Imagine my joy then, when with only three minutes played, Forest broke away chasing after a sliced clearance from David Prutton and Andy Johnson was brought down for a free kick just on the "D" which Chris Bart-Williams put in the corner of the net. In the small amount of play before the goal, Forest had not looked as apprehensive as they had started on Saturday but nevertheless the goal appeared to have settled whatever nerves they may, justifiably, have had.
The first half then developed into a rather excellent game of football, Burnley looked consistently dangerous and managed to both break quickly and be patient in possession around the Forest box to good effect.
After only ten or so minutes it was apparent that David Platt's formation was working well, though it probably does a great disservice to the system, and coaching, to describe it as a formation. When in attack Gary Jones was moving forward to accompany the hard-working Blake and Lester making a 3-4-3. Chris Bart-Williams, playing in the centre of the three at the back, looked like a proper sweeper adjusting his position well to react to play and the wing-backs and Ricci Scimeca were dropping back into defence in a very accomplished and seamless fashion. Forest's workrate was also worthy of commendation - every player on the pitch covered miles of ground following the play energetically and covering enthusiastically.
Both teams were playing energetically and the play was switching from box to box in what was turning out to be a genuinely thrilling game with the outfield players, on both teams, all working exceptionally hard. In the middle stages of the first half the game was pretty even, although Forest may have been playing the better football, with some exquisite breaks involving, at one time or other, most of the Forest players and practically always Robbie Blake. At one point in the first half I described Robbie Blake in my notebook as "pivotal" - and he was.
With ten minutes of the first half remaining Forest got another portion of the luck owing from last season, Christian Edwards pulled his man back in the Forest penalty area and as the Burnley players righteously protested, the ball appeared to be handled by a Forest player on the other side of the box. The referee fortunately either missed both incidents or perhaps he had a better perspective to be able to decide that neither incident warranted a penalty. Burnley were showing that their position in the league table was not undeserved and, like Forest, were showing the potential to score at any time as the half-time whistle approached. Forest had a very good chance with five minutes of the half left; some very good work by Lester allowed him to get turned with the ball on the goal line and he was just about to cut it back to Robbie Blake when Blake slipped and Lester had no option but to attempt a weak shot straight at the Burnley goalie.
At this stage my notes are just alternating good genuine chances at either end, with the sequence leading to Kevin Ball giving away a free kick on the corner of the box. Alan Rogers took it very well and delivered a dangerous ball to the near post six yards out which Andy Johnson deftly headed into the net. We were exultant. The remaining thirty seconds of the half were probably the only spell of the first forty five minutes without any significant action.
At half-time as I was jotting down a few impressions to reproduce later, I made a note about how I had heard David Platt, when speaking at the Playhouse last September, say that he wanted his team to be able to play flexibly and react to changes in play. To me, that was what the first half had been characterised by for Forest; a fluid formation with players reading the game and making sensible decisions about what they should be doing.
Burnley started the second half by bringing on John Mullin who had scored at the weekend, after coming from the bench, to secure the points at Loftus Road. A few decisions started to go Burnley's way and they looked every bit as threatening as they had done in the first half. Happily, Forest looked to have lost nothing over the interval and soon we were seeing more electric breaks from defence with Tony Vaughan bringing the ball out to good effect a couple of times.
On one of these occasions Lester was brought down right on top of the penalty spot when running into the box with the ball and Chris Bart-Williams scored his second of the night, this time beating the goalie from the spot after taking only a couple of strides up to the ball.
Blake and Lester continued their lively and very impressive display and created one chance after another, proper reward for the effort, persistence and skill they were showing. Their movement and willingness to drop back and receive the ball created more options for Forest when coming out of defence and practically all of the outfield players brought the ball forward impressively at one time or another.
Burnley deserved great credit for the way they kept trying to get something out of the game and they created many chances. Their fans were exceptional and the game approached the mid-point of the second half in a noisy and frantic atmosphere with chances continuing to alternate at either end.
With ten minutes left, Alan Rogers scored a truly fantastic goal from thirty yards out, outside the corner of the box. The remaining ten minutes were the only period in which Forest were not up against determined and energetic opposition. At four nil, Burnley's heads didn't quite drop but they definitely weren't as competitive as they had been throughout the match. Their fans continued to give marvellous support and they almost benefited from a Tony Vaughan header narrowly past his own post to concede a corner.
Alan Rogers was substituted with five minutes left and Ben Olsen came on to join Mathieu Louis-Jean and Gareth Williams who had earlier replaced Andy Johnson and Gary Jones. Olsen had a spectacular final five minutes and showed himself to be very tricky on the ball and capable of causing problems for defenders. I would attempt to describe the passing of Gareth Williams but I am afraid that I have fully exhausted my vocabulary of terms of effusive praise. One pass in particular found David Prutton, who had his best game of the season, perfectly in a good position 40 yards away on the far side of the penalty area and deserved a goal but Prutton shot over the bar.
Right at the death of the match, as we entered injury time, Ricci scored his first goal for Forest with an absolute cracker seemingly from the exact same spot as Alan Rogers' earlier effort.
Play restarted, Lester produced yet another good chance through persistence and hard work and the referee blew his whistle and brought to an end a truly fantastic game of football.
Rather disappointingly, some people had left early when the game was won beyond doubt and failed to stay to applaud both sets of players from the field. For Forest supporters, the particular context of our run of poor home form will produce special satisfaction, but the performance should not be under-estimated. Burnley had every right to expect something from the game tonight and were competitive for all but the dying minutes of the game and the match never really lapsed into being an exhibition with a supine beaten team allowing Forest to play.
Individually, every Forest player tonight had a truly fantastic game, it would probably be unfair to single anyone out for special praise because of the nature of the victory - a genuine team performance. The manager and his coaching staff also deserve a portion of praise for tonight's victory, Forest played a fluid and flexible system and it is a credit to the coaching at the club that the players were able to implement the managers instructions to such good effect.
My only regrets are that the hard work of Blake and Lester failed to produce a goal for either player and that my customary pre-match one pound bet predicted a five - two scoreline, at odds of one hundred to one I almost wish Burnley had managed.
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