© Nottingham Forest 1999
Today's game was preceded by a minute's silence in remembrance of both Sir Alf Ramsey and also the particularly tragic death of former Forest youth player John Macari. The game attracted a disappointing and indeed worrying crowd, if indicative of the level of support to be expected next year. Only 20,480 elected to watch this game, which implies that only around 2-3,000 non-season ticket holding Forest fans actually bought tickets. The afternoon was sporadically sunny and was fairly hot and humid, by my standards anyway. It was no surprise to see Des Walker receive such a warm reception and he seemed to be as appreciative as these partisan affairs allow. The team announced significantly omitted Van Hooijdonk and saw Porfirio make his first start and the return of Palmer from suspension. Porfirio started off very brightly and after 3 minutes sent Harewood through on goal with a precisely threaded pass into a crowded Wednesday penalty area. Harewood shot wide with only Srnicek to beat from fairly close range. Wednesday then had a spell when they looked quite dangerous with much of their play revolving around Carbone who ranged all over the pitch and was, by some distance, the only Sheffield player of obvious quality. Porfirio mirrored Carbone in his play as well as his stature and during this spell of the game was very influential, he seemed to fulfil the Andy Johnson role of popping up everywhere, snapping at heels and pressurising Wednesday, when they were in possession. Porfirio was creating much of the openings available to Forest and was often let down by the lack of anticipation and inability to control the ball of his teammates. After 16 minutes Rudi, who was an outstanding player in the match at Hillsborough, misjudged a pass close to his own area and Porfirio pounced on the loose ball and went on to beat Srnicek. We were happy! 2 or 3 minutes later saw a cross from Harewood deflected onto the bar and just turned over by Srnicek. From the resulting corner Palmer looked to have a clear header at goal, completely missed the ball and in the ensuing confusion, Rogers drove the ball into the net by way of a deflection off Walker. We were happy again! During the next 10 minutes or so, Forest looked very good and much of this was down to the performance of Porfirio and Palmer in midfield. That we were dominant in midfield was shown by Wednesday's reliance on pumping long balls forward and the subsequent squandering of the creative talents of Carbone. We could have made much more of our dominance during this period, that we didn't probably speaks eloquently of a lack of quality within the side. Wednesday had a chance to peg us back, but Crossley made a fine save with his feet as he dived the wrong way to deal with a shot from Rudi. Soon after this, on 34 minutes, Rudi and Thome were taken off to be replaced by Cobian and McKeever; Chettle was also taken off and replaced by Edwards. Towards the end of this first half Bart-Williams had a brief period of looking motivated, which was as welcome as it has been unusual. We played out the end of the first half with Freedman, who had a poorer game than we have seen from him for a while, missing or failing to capitalise on some openings in the box, when his one on one fear manifested itself. So, half time, 2 goals up, our thoughts turned to victory? No, our thoughts turned to Derby, Aston Villa, Blackburn and Bradford. The second half kicked off as the sun disappeared and we, as fans, sat back and waited for it to happen. The team seemed to be sharing our thoughts and did not look good at the start of the second half; the confidence and composure we had seen when in possession in the first half had gone. This was true to such an extent that Bart-Williams made a thunderous tackle on Edwards at one point. Immediately after this Sonner dived over, I think, Bonalair's legs and an entirely unjustified penalty was awarded to Wednesday. It struck me around this time that, one of the last times I saw a dodgy penalty decision in front of the Trent End, it was also Jeff Winter, during his abysmal performance for the Newcastle match. However. Crossley+penalty= SAVE + HAPPINESS. This was actually a very good save from, what looked to be a well struck penalty from Carbone. We were happy! This seemed to be the spark which we all, fans and players, needed and both A-Block and the Trent End were in very good voice. We started to look dangerous when in possession again and this can, unfortunately, be gauged by the number of chances and openings spurned. During this period, Wednesday did nothing of significance, or if they did I have lost that page of notes. If he was not injured, then bizarrely, Porfirio was substituted for Van Hooijdonk and this was received badly by most in the ground. Van Hooijdonk made no real contribution after coming on and the loss of Porfirio was obvious by the re-emergence of the Wednesday midfield. On 70 minutes, Wednesday substituted Alexandersson for the mystery #21. Wednesday now got back into the game for a while, and unsurprisingly it was Carbone who figured prominently in all their play. With 15 minutes left he had a fine effort when he took the ball from a long pass over his shoulder and volleyed from the edge of the box straight at Crossley. When in possession Forest sensibly looked to hang on to the ball, resulting in "ole-ing," indicative of the end of term atmosphere and the recent difficulties in stringing one pass together. Wednesday looked like they may get a goal back and it was mainly Gough who frustrated them in the nervous closing minutes. Unbelievably, with a couple of minutes left people were actually leaving early! And then it finished; we had won, at home. It was curiously unexuberant and our long awaited victory was marked not with a bang but a whimper. We were slightly confused and we were happy.