The City Ground


Mr P.Dowd
Goal 1:
7 mins
Goal 2:
Taylor 31 mins
Goal 3:
Goater 35 mins
Goal 4
Goater 80 mins

Manchester City
Beasant     Weaver
Louis-Jean     Edgehill
Scimeca   Wiekens
Doig   Horlock
Brennan   Bishop
Gray     Goater
Bart-Williams   Whitley
Quashie   Jobson
Rogers     Kennedy
Freedman   Tiatto
Lester   Taylor
Substitutes     Substitutes
Crossley   Dickov
Harewood   Wright
Dawson Pollock
Merino   Grant
Petrachi   Granville

© Nottingham Forest 2000
Jim Brennan Jack Lester
Jim Brennan  

Well if anybody had any doubts about the relegation battle ahead, we are right amongst it now. We lost, Pompey won again, Walsall drew, so though we go nowhere in the table in terms of places, there are now three teams just one point above the relegation places, of which we happen to have narrowly the best goal difference.
The fun starts here - those upcoming games against our rivals (like Walsall next week) are now genuine 6-pointers which we simply have to win.

Today? A tale of centre halves, really - at least for us. Jon Olav Hjelde must have failed a late fitness test, so Doig and Riccy remained in the centre of defence. Neither of them lasted the full match because of their own injuries and we were forced to play much of the second half with an alarmingly makeshift emergency central defensive pairing of Daws and Bart who, unsurprisingly perhaps, were unable to prevent Goater scoring with a bullet header from a late free kick to wrap the game up. But realistically the game was gone before that.

And it all started so well. Both sides came out of the starting gun at full tilt and both had reasonable chances to score even before Forest did in the 7th minute. Quashie forced a corner on the right and Rogers played it long to the far post. As the ball dropped and Jobson appeared to have it covered I thought we had wasted the set piece (not for the first and certainly not the last time today). But Jobson made a relatively short defensive header and Dougie had anticipated it well and dropped off beyond the far post to pick the ball up. Dougie laid it off to Bart, who was thus just outside the left hand corner of the penalty box with almost every player of both sides between him and the goal. Not the clearest of chances, you could say... so imagine the roar when Bart produced the most fantastic curling dipping shot to the far top corner which screamed over the flailing Weaver's despairing dive into the net. An absolutely brilliant goal - probably the best piece of individual finishing skill by a Forest player since that Dutch bloke's pearler against Huddersfield about two years ago.

Great start, and the ground jumping with noise for the first time in months. For the next 20 minutes we continued to play pretty well. We were not managing to carve much out in the middle of the park (but neither at that stage were City - neither midfield gave the other any space at all), but both wingers were getting some joy and things were looking fine. It wasn't that City, a more than decent side and full of confidence, were sitting back and letting us run at them - far from it - but we were more than holding our own. However, just as the thought occurred that we were certainly going to need another and might even get one, the wheels fell off.
As I have said, we bypassed the hotly-disputed midfield by going round the sides. City, rather to my surprise, were persisting with the long ball over the top for Goater and Taylor to run on to. One of these finally reached Taylor on the edge of the box, and he produced an excellent piece of skill (which frankly I had no idea he possessed), first dummying Chris Doig to give himself half a yard and then producing a deft finish over Beasant from a narrow angle

. Frustrating, but it has to be acknowledged as a fabulous finish. Two minutes later came the disaster which in my view decided the match. Another long high ball, this time with Goater the man running onto it. Riccy let it bounce (mistake number 1) and then missed it completely (mistake number 2), so that the ball ended up on the rather startled-looking Goater's foot. He made absolutely no mistake in gently lobbing it over Lurch. Sorry, Riccy - I know this is the first real howler you have made for us (which ain't bad in the entire season so far), but I am sure you don't need me to tell you that this was a horrible, hideous, disastrous piece of defending - essentially us handing a goal to one of the Division's better teams on a plate. You could fair see the confidence drain from the men in red, all the noise was now coming from the outstanding City travelling support, and we finished the half hanging on.

When Riccy didn't reappear for the second half (I assume injured rather than simply embarrassed), I felt we might be up against it for the whole 45 minutes. But Dawson made his presence felt early by winning a couple of headers against Goater (I don't know how he does this - Kevin is not the biggest of men but he has an outstanding spring and/or is a great timer of his jumps, because he regularly wins balls in the air against strikers who are miles taller than he is). And to Forest's credit they went for the throat. Tank and Brennan did their you can't catch me act down the left a couple of times (one in particular producing a chance for Dougie at the near post), Andy Gray actually beat his man on the outside a couple of times, we forced several corners and free kicks. We wasted almost all of these set pieces - hitting the first defender FAR too often - but we were at least pushing them back. [Incidentally, Jack Lester looks quick, hard working, skillful (and small)... he might be too similar to Dougie in style for them to frighten too many defences (they certainly won't win much in the air between them), but Jack looks a decent player and a bargain at the price.]

Platty recognised early that we needed to shake them up more, so replaced Quashie with Marlon and went to 4-3-3. Then things got a good deal worse when Chris Doig pulled up clutching his leg. No defenders left on the bench, so it is on with Carlos Merino and Bart into the back four... thus leaving us with a thin, jury-rigged defence and three wingers in midfield. Even after that we pulled a couple of fine saves out of the excellent Weaver, one from a header (exactly whose was obscured by those lovely Main Stand pillars) and one from a curling Merino drive after an exquisite dummy which put Jobson in the taxi queue. BUT. Don't get the wrong impression from all this. Forest's intentions were excellent and when you consider the wreckage of their options caused by injuries to the three defenders (Hjelde, Riccy and Doig) in the space of one day they were doing a pretty good job of forcing City back, inducing several professional fouls and some pretty dodgy time wasting tactics.

But it was definitely not one way traffic - Goater's, Taylor's and later Dickov's eyes must have lit up when they saw who was defending against them, and Kennedy was coming more into the game as they looked more and more ominous on the counter attack. It was, frankly, only a matter of time before they caught us out. Beas produced two wonderful saves from headers at corners, thus priming the alarm bells for what was to come. Then Tank, frustrated at Whitley taking about 45 seconds to take a throw, needlessly extracted revenge by clattering him out wide. Free kick, good cross, Goater thundering in like a train. Result ball hitting back of net at about Mach 2, Bart left on his behind wondering what had just piled through him... and game over. We lost our shape, heads finally dropped and City cruised the last few minutes. Don't blame Bart - by ending up in the centre of defence today he has now completed the set, having this season played at full back, central defender, winger, central midfielder and up front. Please, Platty, don't try him in goal! He played pretty well in midfield today (probably our best player for the fourth or fifth game running) and he was not disgraced at the back. But we all know he is no central defender, and when he was forced to go there not only did things look thin at the back but we lost the midfield as well. This wasn't the worst we have played by a long chalk.

But I cannot deny that the right team won (if maybe the margin slightly flattered them). When you are at the bottom these things do go against you, and certainly we have had absolutely no luck for weeks. But equally we let them back into the game when we needed to hang on til half time, and then shot ourselves in the foot with a horrible mistake to give ourselves a serious mountain to climb. Yes, we attacked them, yes we pushed them back, yes they had to resort to time wasting etc for a few minutes. But it took a fantastic goal to beat Weaver once and after that we never seriously looked like beating him again. We must certainly hope that we can get two fit central defenders pretty sharpish, or the entire season could disappear in a puff of smoke in the next few games.


Copyright © 2001 Nottingham Forest F.C.