Report by Bridport Red
In some of our darker moments last season (and even occasionally early
this season) as our first team struggled and Paul Hart's Academy sides
marched on to more and more impressive victories, it was not uncommon
at the City Ground to hear the cry "We should play the kids - they can't
do any worse than this lot!"
Whatever your opinion of David Platt (and surely even the most ardent
anti must be able to spot some progress by now), non-one could ever accuse
him of being afraid to throw our young players in at the deep end if he
thinks they are ready (in marked contrast to one or two of Platty's predecessors).
Today the recent injuries to Johnno and Tank, plus Robbie's return to
Bradford, meant that we saw a glimpse, perhaps, of the seriously promising
young team that looks increasingly likely to evolve over the next couple
of years; 3 19-year-olds on the pitch (Gareth Williams, Keith Foy and
David Prutton), 2 18-year-olds on the bench (Barry Roche and Andy Reid)
and a further 19-year-old (Chris Doig) out injured. And still, even without
all that talent, the Under-19s continued their astonishing all-conquering
start to the season by winning away at Boro! If we can possess our souls
of patience for just a bit longer, the future of Forest looks wonderful.
Not, I hasten to add, that the present is looking too shabby. It was important
today that we bounced back from the crushing disappointment of the Wimbledon
game by getting three points. If my reading between the lines of today's
programme is right, Platty must have given the team a right ear-bashing
for their oh-so-costly defensive / concentration lapses last weekend...
so the air in front of the main stand was probably not entirely free of
rude words when Forest conceded a goal within a minute today!
Even before that there had been time for what looked a blatant push on
Jack in the box to be turned down, and for the conditions to take a hand
as Jack steamed through onto a Williams through ball... only for the ball
to stop dead in a puddle as he rushed past. Tranmere went straight up
the other end, Riccy won a tackle but with his foot high, and a free kick
was awarded 25 yards out. Wall in place, Beas looks ready. Ooops, it has
been touched left to Clint Hill, and he appears to have hit a screamer
into the far corner. How did that happen?
I haven't mentioned the fans recently, but a mark of how much things have
improved of late is the fact that when we have gone behind against Preston,
Wimbledon and Tranmere, there has been no booing or calling for Platty's
head - instead we seem to have remembered what real fans do when their
team goes behind, namely get behind them and urge them to sort it out.
Happily, after a few minutes of stalemate and slipping and sliding in
the dreadful conditions, Forest did exactly that.
For a while we forgot we were playing Tranmere and pumped it up the middle
too much, wondering why Hill and Dave Challinor were winning the headers
with contemptuous ease, and looked generally pretty ordinary. But gradually
our midfield 3 began to take the game by the scruff of the neck, Ben Olsen
and Keith Foy began to get round the back of their full backs, and from
then on there was only one winner.
The equaliser came from a penalty. Keith Foy won the ball wide on the
left and curled a ball across the box, but Clint Hill appeared to have
it covered. I can only assume that he didn't know Jack Lester was behind
him, because he dawdled on the ball for a fraction too long, Jack just
toe-poked it away from him and Hill lumbered on through to fell Jack on
the edge of the box. I thought it was a penalty (though I have seen claims
for such fouls waved away). Frankly it was a lot less clear cut than the
push in the first minute which was not given, but whoever thought refs
If you need to ask whether Bartman scored with ease, you haven't been
listening this year - the skipper is a consumate penalty taker who simply
doesn't look like missing (oh God, now what have I gone and said...?).
A couple of minutes later we were ahead with a goal that was worth the
admission money on its own - an absolute pearler. Corner on the right
swung in by Gareth Williams, headed away by the defence, reaches Foy about
4 yards outside the area. Keith took control of it on his thigh, looked
up and, on the volley, placed an inch perfect lob over the despairing
dive of the flailing Murphy just under the crossbar into the net. A brilliant
goal - Foy's first for the club. If he keeps playing like he is he will
score a lot more, but he will have to go some to score a better one than
this. Not only did he know exactly what he was doing and have the skill
to pull it off, but he has the confidence to try it. Great stuff - a certain
candidate for goal of the season.
Interspersed with all this excitement Gary Jones had tweaked his hamstring
and been replaced by Marlon, Lurch had produced a stunning low save to
keep out a Wayne Allison header, and Dave Challinor had been carried off
on a stretcher in obvious agony. He'd gone for a 50:50 ball out wide with
Jack and the conditions meant that each of them slid into the other at
high speed after the ball had gone. It was clear immediately that Challinor
was badly hurt (I have no information since the game, but it looked suspiciously
like a broken leg to me, though obviously we hope not).
After half time the game continued in much the same vein - Tranmere their
usual uncomplicated but reasonably effective selves (that's polite speak
for physical, though they do seem to be relying a lot less on the long
hoof up the middle than this time last year), but being kept at bay by
an imperious display by Christian Edwards, some of whose blocks were outstanding
today, and TV, who handled the ever-awkward Allison pretty well (though
yet again he got himself booked - need to sort that one, Tony).
Going forward our midfield were enjoying themselves. Bart was the instigator
from his sweeper position (chastened by last week's howler, he kept the
defensive stuff simple today!), Riccy and Prutts the driving force up
the centre (Prutts, finally playing in the central position he actually
wants to play in, had his best game for weeks and weeks), and Ben Olsen
his usual bag of tricks up the right. I have to say that when Ben first
arrived I thought he looked very skillful but too slight to survive against
English defenders, but I was totally wrong; he is a wiry, feisty little
character as well as being a good footballer, and there is no doubt that
he gives us far more menace in attack. Frankly, if it came down to a choice
between him and Robbie, I know which one I'd buy (which is pretty academic
since Olsen is not for sale and we can't afford so much as a new kettle
for the tea-lady at the moment anyway!)
The stars of the show for me, though, were Gareth Williams and especially
Keith Foy. I look forward to seeing today's midfield play on a dry pitch
- Williams has the quick feet, vision and range of passing to become a
serious problem for opposition defences when the underfoot conditions
are a bit better and the ball will run - and, like Olsen, he too can look
after himself; he's a big lad!
Foy today was a delight to watch - Man of the Match. I can think of one
poor cross he put behind the goal early in the second half, but otherwise
he did absolutely nothing wrong all afternoon. It was his cross which
led to the penalty, his superb second goal, and finally his corner which
Riccy headed into the far corner from 15 yards out for the third and clinching
goal mid-way through the second half. He looks strong and quick, his defensive
positioning is good, he is good in the air, he can pass and he can go
past people. In short if I were Alan Rogers (get well soon, Tank) I would
be looking forward to a serious fight to get my place back by the time
I returned at the end of the season.
After the third goal Marlon and Prutts went very close, Williams a good
deal less so, and Lurch made another excellent save right at the death,
but mostly it was a quiet game which both sides knew was long since won
and lost, so it gradually petered out and the loudest cheers were reserved
for the scoreflashes from Shame Park as the Sh*ggers were thrashed again
(one of only two days in the year when I actually want Man United to win!)
So all in all a good performance - they didn't panic when they went one
down so early, they defended well against an awkward attack, the revamped
midfield looked exceedingly promising, and above all the youngsters showed
that David Prutton was no one-off. I suppose the biggest compliment you
could pay Prutts, Williams and Foy is the fact that if you didn't know
which of our players were the teenagers you would never have been able
to guess from just watching them play - straight away they look part of
the team and in there on merit.
Since we clearly have absolutely no money whatsover at the moment, it
can only be a good thing for our promotion push to learn that our squad
is not as thin as some people might think. In fact some of our senior
pros had better look to their laurels - and we all know how good it is
for any club to have some competition for places.
Nottingham Forest 2000