Nottingham Forest 2000
At last! The first of our real six-pointers - a game we simply
HAD to win. OK, I'll put you out of your misery - we won. I
won't say it was completely comfortable for the whole time (far
from it for a period early in the second half), but it was deserved
in the end.
Last week's injuries to Riccy Scimeca and Chris Doig plus the
absence of Jim Brennan on international duty with Canada meant
a totally revamped defence, with Tank slipping back to his old
left back position and Hjelde partnering the new boy Vaughan
in the middle. Then in midfield Platty picked his most experienced
available line up, with Prutton and Quashie playing either side
of Bart and the welcome Johnno. The final surprise was the relegation
of Dougie to the bench, with Marlon up front with Jack Lester.
We made a good start, forcing a number of corners and two decent
saves from Marshall - one a header from Vaughan and the other
a blast from Marlon. The game plan seemed to be based on denying
the Saddlers space in midfield, with Johnson, Quashie and Prutton
hunting in packs and Jack Lester tackling back like a demon.
On the whole it worked, but the downside of the formation and
tactics was the fact that we were unable to create as much as
normal down the flanks - Prutton occasionally beat his man on
the outside, but Quashie (who started well but faded badly)
ain't no winger!
Gradually the first half settled into something of a midfield
battle with Forest playing the better football but neither side
really testing the keeper enough. Walsall did hit the post on
a rare attack at this stage, but mostly the game was being played
at the far end from us (i.e. in the opposition half). Then with
only a minute or two to go to half time, we scored. ML-J was
brought down on the right edge of the box, everyone bar Prutton
and ML-J piled forward into the box, and Rogers swung the ball
in at pace to the far post. We were a long way away and low
down, so it is hard to say exactly what happened. Riccy Scimeca,
however, was sitting just in front of me (good to see an injured
player come with the fans to support the lads) and I will take
his word for it - he reckoned that everyone missed the ball
and it went in at the far post (the BBC later agreed). Tank's
Their keeper had a right set to with Johnno after the goal -
presumably he must have thought he had been fouled. After half
time we again started well making three decent break-away chances,
all dragged badly wide by Marlon (twice) and Quashie, but gradually
they started to come into the game, grabbing more of the ball
in midfield and pushing us back. They forced a number of corners
in a row and Lurch saved us two or three times, notably a superb
one low down at his right hand post. The Forest fans began to
stir uneasily as we had visions of making heavy weather of it...
all the more so when they grazed the top of the bar with a long-range
But then, with about 20 minutes to go, Forest seemed to make
a decision that they were simply not going to let this one slip.
Andy Gray came on to replace the increasingly ineffective Quashie
and then Dougie replaced Marlon, presumably on the grounds that
he can hold the ball up better. We began to play much better,
keeping the ball, moving it about with some patience and letting
the excellent Lester run it into the corners. Then in injury
time we scored a great goal to wrap the whole thing up. Prutton
robbed Keates in midfield and moved it swiftly on to Lester
- Jack drew one defender and passed to Dougie on the edge of
the box. Dougie still had a hell of a lot to do, with three
defenders and the keeper between him and the goal, but he nutmegged
one man, dummied two more and rammed it into the net.
Opinions will doubtless remain divided about Dougie's qualities,
but surely few can deny that this was a truly classy piece of
finishing - in my opinion the best goal he has scored for Forest.
So. Lots to be happy about.
1. A solid debut from Tony Vaughan - nothing too fancy, sophisticated
or complicated, but he reads the game well, wins his fair share
in the air and tackles. Best of all he doesn't faff about; when
the ball needs getting rid of he simply does it. Just the sort
of uncomplicated player we need
. 2. A clean sheet.
3. Jack Lester. The rumours about him appear to be true - he
will probably not score bags of goals, but he will make lots
for others, he works his nads off, can hold the ball up and
make space for others. I look forward to seeing him play alongside
Stern in due course. In the mean time he might be too similar
to Dougie for them to be too effective together - of the two
I would say that Jack is the better player but Dougie will probably
score more goals.
4. Other results! Pompey, Crewe Alex, Vale and (obviously) Walsall
all lost while we won. Good effort today, boys; many good performances,
with Bart, Lurch, ML-J, Johnno & Lester all excellent. We weren't
perfect, but we will all settle for imperfect performances which
bring us three points! Now lets break the habit of out entire
season by winning two games in a row - we must beat Palace.