28th Apr
The City Ground


Mr D.Messias

Goal One
King 78 mins

Beasant   Bartram
Gray Patterson
Hjelde Smith
Doig Ashby
Edds Southall
Prutton Nosworthy
A.Johnson   Browning
Williams King
Bart-Williams Pennock
John Onuora
D.Johnson Hope
Substitutes     Substitutes
Roche   Saunders
Rogers Rose
Harewood Lovell
Edwards Ipoua
Jones Brown

The Last Bridport Red Report of the Season

That'll be that, then. The end of another home programme. And what a damp
and dismal squib on which to finish.

To be brutally frank, this was a performance which summed up rather too much
of our season, especially at home. You are hardly idiots, so you can read a
table - you hardly need me to point out that it has been our all-too-often
abject displays at home this season which have cost us so dearly.

Last season, which few of us remember with much affection, we lost 4 games
at home. OK, so we drew another 10, which demonstrated that we probably
weren't scoring enough goals and gave us a grand total of 37 home points.
Our away record, until late on in the season when we started to get our act
together, was, of course, dire.

This year we have done much to address our away performance - our away
record is either comparable with or superior to the entire division bar the
top 3. At home, however....

In League and Cup we have played 25 games at home. We have lost to
Birmingham, Darlington (Cup), Fulham, Watford, Wimbledon, Huddersfield,
Wolves (Cup), Palace, Wednesday, Bolton & Gillingham. 11 games out of 25,
plus 3 draws (Wolves, Norwich & QPR) - a point fewer than last year. A
cursory glance at the points column tells us that if we'd won even 3 of
those 9 League defeats (thus still leaving us with a home record that'd we'd
have been disappointed by), we'd be comfortably in the play-offs and
preparing our Cardiff banners.

Instead we had the dismal sight and sound of the players being roundly and
uncompromisingly being booed off after the final game of the season. As a
means of preventing the dreaded end-of-term pitch invasion, I suppose
playing so badly is effective enough. As a means of persuading your long
suffering supporters that it really will be a good idea to shell out on a
season ticket again in 3 months' time, however, it is self-destructive PR in
the Countess of Wessex class.

Let me put it another way - of all the 92 League clubs, only 6 have lost
more games at home than we have. Man City (relegation fodder in the Prem),
Sheffield Wednesday (now safe enough but seemingly welded to the bottom of
the table for 5 months), Palace (relegation fodder in Div 1), Luton Town
(already relegated from Div 2), Oxford United (already relegated from Div 2)
and Halifax Town (hanging on to their league status on goal difference in
Div 3).

Or let me put it a little more succinctly. This is simply not good enough.

The manager has gone public recently saying that the expectations of the
fans at home are not helping, and to a point I know what he means; I too
cannot understand the mentality of the minority of fans which boos our own
players during the game, gets on the backs of teenagers still making their
way in the game and generally fails to provide much of what you'd call
"support". On the other hand, you cannot seriously suggest that it has been
the fans' fault that we have been so poor at home (and to be fair to the
Manager, that isn't what he was suggesting). There must be around 18,000
Forest home regulars who can't make it to many away games. Fair enough -
but it does mean that there are an awful lot of home fans who have only seen
the dross served up in games like today, Wednesday & Huddersfield. Is it
any surprise that they are not exactly raising the roof at home? Indeed, if
you had missed the home games against Blackburn and Burnley, you might be
the unlucky one who has not seen us play well ALL SEASON. Oh joy!

Besides, as I have said before, it isn't the support or lack of it that is
our problem at the City Ground; it is the fact that we are struggling again
and again and again to break down teams who don't come to attack us. We
lack the penetration in midfield - the ability to play that defence
splitting ball on the ground which will give Stern, DJ or whoever the chance
to get some serous shooting in. [Note I do NOT mean the hopeful loft over
the top to feed the towering heads of the giant centre halves who are
marking our Subbuteo-sized forward line.] Sure, when we play on the counter
we sometimes look great. But not many teams give you the chance to play on
the counter at home - and not many sets of fans would stand for it for very
long, either.

If you are wondering when I am going to stop droning on and start talking
about the game, you will have to forgive me - I am trying for as long as
possible to avoid thinking about it. Still, I suppose we can deal with it
quickly enough.

In one word, if you insist - dreadful.

There were few moments which can really be said to have lifted the gloom.

Two wonderful crosses from the welcome return of Tank (injured, ironically,
against the Gills over 5 months ago) - one on the ground from which DJ
forced a corner, and one curler onto Stern's head at the near post which
fizzed just over. Tank understandably looks rusty and a bit tentative when
given the chance to run at pace at defenders, but the good news is that his
knee appears to be completely healed, so he can be at his best again come

Andy Gray (routinely dismissed as "rubbish" by many fans) gave another in
his increasingly long list of accomplished displays at right back; that's 9
in a row now and, though he is obviously far from being the finished
article, I would say he's worth hanging onto and trying to develop, rather
than getting rid asap like he was 6 weeks ago. Still lacks pace coming
forward, but was one of our better players yesterday.

Chris Doig played well for 80 minutes (though was exposed for the goal).

Hjelde did OK at the back - it is not his fault that too often it was his
silky dribbling skills which were seen bringing the ball out of defence.

Stern and DJ worked hard, with Stern the more effective of the two (which
explains the bemused boos when, bizarrely, he was the one taken off).

Johnno did what he does - and at least extracted a couple of good saves from
Vince Bartram with a couple of vicious volleys.

But as a team in general over the full 90 minutes? Pretty blooming dire,
frankly. Bartram essentially untroubled apart from those two Johnno
volleys. Honours even in the first half (if honours is exactly the word I
am looking for!) as two mediocre sides snoozed through an end-of-season job.
After half time, though, we continued to doze while the Gills started to
play some decent football. More than anything else they play as a TEAM -
whereas we looked disjointed, too narrow, not enough movement off the ball,
not enough reading of the game, not enough crisp passing when it mattered.

The tactics didn't help (and I am aware of what Cloughie said about
tactics!). Having started at 4-4-2, we moved to 3-5-2. Fair enough; we
have done it often enough this season with good effect. But by the time we
moved to 3 in midfield, Williams and Prutton, the 2 midfield players with
the wit to do something creative in the middle, had both gone off. Did we
put on another defender and move Bart into midfield? Did we hell! Bart
went to his sweeper role, leaving us with a midfield of Jones, Johnno and
Edds. Workmanlike, I'll grant you. But likely to lay on a chance for the
forwards? I think not!

The goal? Marlon King had already missed a glaring opportunity with a free
header at the far post in the first half. Onuora had also smacked a
screamer against the angle of post and bar from a narrow angle. So it
wasn't as if we'd had no warning. Then, with 15 minutes to go and 0-0
looking the best result we were likely to see, the Gills did what we
deserved - the ball was drifted over Doig's head into the channel, no other
left sided defender was to be seen within 20 yards (Edds having been moved
into midfield), King's first touch appeared to have let us off the hook as
he was forced to run wide, but then he hammered an excellent finish across
Lurch into the far corner.

Respect, incidentally, to the Gills - whose players were pointedly given a
standing ovation by the Trent End after we'd booed off our own lot.
Pennock, too, deserved the good reception he got from the Trent End when he
tried his hardest to talk the ref out of a soft booking for Stern. All
they wanted to do this season was to stay up, which they have achieved with
comfort and some style. Their away support was the best we have seen this
season (if not always the loudest), and they came across as a decent,
unpretentious and friendly club out to enjoy themselves for the day. Good
luck to them. We could learn a lot from that.

Interesting summer coming up, I reckon. But that can wait for the end of
term report.

Report for yesterday? 2/10 - see me after class.

© Nottingham Forest 2001


Copyright © 2000 Nottingham Forest F.C.