25th Nov
The City Ground


Mr M.Cowburn

Goal One
Hill 3 mins
Goal Two
36 mins

Goal Three
Foy 41 mins
Goal Four
Scimeca 63 mins

Beasant   Murphy
Edwards Yates
Bart-Williams Allison
Vaughan Challinor
Scimeca Parkinson
Prutton Taylor
Williams   Roberts
Foy Hill
Olsen Flynn
Jones Koumas
Lester Hinds
Substitutes     Substitutes
Roche   Achterberg
John Rideout
Harewood Henry
Reid Allen
Calderwood Hume

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 were consistent?

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


Copyright © 2000 Nottingham Forest F.C.