(3-5-2): Beasant: Dawson, Hjelde, Scimeca (c): Brennan, Johnson
(Williams 84), Bart-Williams, Prutton, Gray: Harewood (Freedman
78), John. Subs not used: Crossley, Cooper, Merino.
Anyone who wasn't there today could easily be forgiven for looking
in the paper tomorrow morning, seeing the fact that we lost 3-0
and had 5 players booked to Charlton's none and assuming that this
was a right drubbing with Forest resorting to more and more fouls
in order to keep them out. Not a bit of it. Believe it or not we
played pretty well. A 1-1 draw would by no means have been an unjust
result - certainly a three-goal margin flatters Charlton considerably.
But there is something about Forest at the Valley - on my last three
visits there I have seen us lose 4-1, 5-2 and 3-0. We stuck with
the side who have shown us so much improvement in the past few games,
with the only change Riccy returning from flu and Chris Doig succumbing
to it. After a cagey start in the pouring rain on a swampy pitch,
after a mere 7 minutes we went behind. A corner from the right was
headed clear by Bart and landed at the feet of Greg Shields 30 yards
out. He swung his foot and let fly - it was one of those efforts
which either ends up going over the stand or flying into the top
corner.... and unfortunately on this occasion it flew past Beasant
like a rocket. Bad start.
For the rest of the half we played OK but no more, with the midfield
holding its own but not being able to stamp its authority and the
two up front living off scraps. The defence, however, with Dawson
outstanding, held off Chalrton's quick and dangerous attack without
too much trouble, and on the one occasion when they did punch a
hole in our backline Lurch produced a stunning save at the near
post. After half time, however, we seemed to up the tempo in midfield
and suddenly we were first to the 50-50 balls, our passing was beginning
to work and we exerted some real pressure.
For 25 minutes, in fact, we pushed arguably the best side in the
division back and forced them to resort to kicking it anywhere.
Marlon (another good game) went close twice, Bart had a rasping
shot pushed over the top and Stern induced regular palpitations
(and routine but mysteriously unpunished fouls from behind) in Richard
Rufus. For all our pressure, however, we were not making enough
chances, principally because Jim Brennan finally met someone who
is as quick as he is and Andy Gray was closely marked, with the
result that we made very little down either wing. None the less,
we were outplaying them and playing the better football, with the
travelling support roaring them on towards an equaliser.
Almost inevitably, of course, what happened instead was that they
caught us on the break. Johnno was dispossessed on the edge of their
box (actually I thought he was fouled on the edge of their box,
but there you go) and they set off on a counter-attack at pace.
We still had a chance to clear it, but Dawson showed one fatal example
of the tendency to play football when a hoof would do better that
I mentioned last week, suddenly found Andy Hunt bearing down on
him, lost the ball and watched in horror as they ran on and gave
Beasant no chance. After that, though we continued to play the better
football for long periods and to press, we looked increasingly susceptible
to the counter-attack - Lurch produced another storming save from
one and then from the next Hunt produced an excellent finish to
make it 3-0. Marlon was taken off (to stop him from getting sent
off, in my view - he was booked after 5 minutes and began to sail
a bit close to the wind as frustration mounted), then Gareth Williams
was given another 10 minutes' experience, during which he again
showed his good balance and excellent first touch.
So. Charlton are a good side and, frankly, I went there today not
expecting to get anything. But 3-0 was a gross distortion of a game
in which we outplayed them for long periods. The Charlton fans I
talked to on the train afterwards agreed: "Blimey, mate - if you've
been playing like that what the bleedin' 'ell are you doin' dahn
the bottom?". Don't be downcast. The improvement continues, and
if we can sustain this level of performance we WILL climb the table.
We should, incidentally, thank our lucky stars that we won't see
Mr Kenny Lynch again for a while. We have already had him as ref
once this season and I seem to recall that he was rubbish then,
too - today he came perilously close to losing control of the game
after half time and showed some breathtaking inconsistency. Prutton
and Hjelde, for instance, were booked for pretty minor offences.
Rufus' constant tendency to lead with his elbow (Kevin Dawson will
be seeing stars for some time after one brutal challenge) and insistence
on hanging onto any red shirt with both hands at every opportunity,
however, somehow seemd to pass Mr Lynch by altogether.
Sigh. How many more of these awful refs are we going to have to
put up with?