the Bridport Red Report
They are big boots to fill, there’s no doubt, but let me try in
my short stint as substitute reporter by saying – the glass may
be half full, but the tap is still running.
Let me start with the match details. Forest came out with a slightly
strange looking side thanks to, surprise surprise, a mini injury
crisis. No Hjelde or Doig meant that the Bartman was pressed into
emergency service as a centre half – just what you need against
a lone forward the size of Steve Anthrobus (6’4”). Flanked by Riccy
and Kevin Dawson, the midfield also boasted a start for Gareth Williams,
along with the regular faces of Johnno and David Prutton. Andy Gray
and Jim Brennan played the right and left flanks respectively, with
Stern and Marlon once again the preferred strike force.
Oxford played a slightly surprising 4-5-1, considering they were
at home, but their lack of funds dictates that forwards are hard
to come to by in their position.
.So to the game. The tone was set in the first minute with a burst
of acceleration down the left from Jim Brennan, who delivered a
slightly awkward centre which Stern could only scuff inside the
box at full stretch. The wisdom of playing Bartman at centre-half
was soon in question, though, when he was deservedly booked just
five minutes into the game after an ill-timed tackle on the right
side of Forest’s box. Indeed, with just ten minutes gone Platt pushed
Bartman up to the left side of midfield and reverted to a 4-4-2
with Williams and Johnson in the middle, and Prutton playing down
the right. The rest of the first half was much of a stalemate, with
only a handful of notable incidents. On sixteen minutes Kevin Dawson,
of all people, directed a powerful header goalwards from an Andy
Gray corner, only to see it saved by the keeper Lundin, and Johnson’s
follow-up cleared off the line. Lundin was also responsible for
a fantastic save with his legs from Stern’s snap-shot on 37 minutes;
is this man doomed to never score again?
Half time comes and goes, and Oxford come out looking to win. Forest
were still finishing their cup of tea when Oxford’s best player
on the pitch, Derek Lilley, gave Anthrobus an inch-perfect ball
which was promptly spooned over the bar. United wenty on to run
the game for the next ten minutes or so, until a Stern John cross
was just too far ahead of Johnno for a tap-in. By this time Dougie
had replaced Marlon, and there was a welcome return for Alan Rogers
in exchange for Gareth Williams.
And then, in the 71st minute, the game suddenly came alive. A bizarre
free kick was awarded by Mr D'Urso to Oxford just inside the Forest
half against Andy Johnson, because he had the temerity to stand
and watch Anthrobus crash into Whelan. It was quickly taken to Powell
on the left side, who accelerated past Andy Gray, turned Scimeca,
and let loose a superb shot which sneaked inside the post for a
belting goal. 1-0 Oxford.
Forest then came up and at Oxford, but the goal came from an unexpected
source. A cross was delivered from the left, which was headed out
of the box by an Oxford defender, but only as far as the feet of
Bartman, who unleashed a shot from 30 yards which went through the
defence, hit one post and bounced just inside the other. 1-1.
Straight from kick off, Forest won possession and a ball was delivered
by Johnno to the onrushing Dougie Freedman. One on one. It’s Dougie.
How many times have we seen this and closed our eyes? But Freedman
did everything a good striker should – he knocked the ball past
the keeper and ran through him. You either manage to stay on your
feet and score, or you get tripped and win a penalty plus a sending
off. We got the latter.
After a couple of minutes, Lundin finally left the field, and CBW
stepped up to strike the spot kick like a rocket pat the newly-arrived
Arendse. 2-1 Forest, and it’s all looking rosy with a one man advantage.
And that’s how it happened. Oxford pressed, left holes at the back,
and with two minutes to go Freedman broke away down the left. Rogers
used his pace out of defence, held the line brilliantly, and despite
Dougie’s iffy through ball Tank conspired to turn the full back,
cut inside and hit a well driven shot throguh the keeper’s legs.
3-1, and still time for Prutton to have a good shot superbly saved
by the diving Arendse, but 3-1 it finished.
Yes, they are second division, and yes, Forest left it late, and
yes, if they had had a finisher it could have been different, but
so what? We were good for long periods. Bartman ran our midfield;
he has hit a rich vein of form now that the team is finally playing
to his strengths. Scimeca was a rock. Dougie played his part very
well and, incredibly, didn’t get booed on or off the field. Williams
was steady, if unspectacular, Johnno appears to be back to his manic,
abrasive best, Prutton was once again everywhere.
But for me, Man of the Match was probably Kevin Dawson. At eighteen
years old, he contained a seasoned professional in Steve Anthrobus
has got five inches and probably three stone over him, and still
managed to win most of the balls in the air!
So to Stamford Bridge, and the first game yet this season where
we can go with no expectation and not care about losing. There’s
a dreamer in me that says we could nick a win if we catch Chelsea
on one of their off days. There’s an optimist in me that says we
could battle for a draw, and at the CG who knows? But most of all
the realist in me says that today showed that the magic of the Cup
is still there, Man U or not, so let’s go and enjoy ourselves at
Chelsea, safe in the knowledge that we are moving in the right direction.
And just imagine – what if we did win?