Blundell Park


Mr A Leake

Goal 1:
Lester 28min
Goal 2:
Ashcroft 31min
Goal 3:
Rogers 32min
Goal 4:
Lever og 47mins
Goal 5
Ashcroft pen 67 min
Goal 6:
Donovan 83 mins
Goal 7:
Rogers 90 mins

Grimsby Town
Beasant   Coyne
Hjelde   McDermott
Scimeca     Lever
Dawson   Livingstone
Rogers   Gallimore
Bart-Williams   Donovan
Gray   Groves
Prutton   Coldicott
Brennan   Black
Freedman   Lester
John   Ashcroft
Substitutes     Substitutes
Crossley   Croudson
Louis-Jean   Butterfield
Harewood     Buckley
Williams     Allen
Bonalair   Pouton

© Nottingham Forest 2000
Dougie Freedman Dougie Freedman

As I drove into Grimsby this afternoon, I saw a bus which still had an advertisement for the Christmas Pantomime on its side. "Funny", I thought; "surely they must have finished that by now". Well they have, but Mr A R Leake clearly decided to stay on in Grimsby to take in a bit of comedy refereeing until the offers start coming in for next year's Puss In Boots.

Yep. We lost away again. 4-3. And yet again the game was turned by a dreadful piece of refereeing. And for the second time this season we ended up with 9 players. Sound familiar? Well it was - all too familiar. I hate slagging off refs. On the whole I think they do a decent job in impossible circumstances, and I certainly wouldn't like to do it. But either Forest have been SPECTACULARLY unlucky with our referees this year or the whole standard of officialdom is verging on a state of crisis. I sincerely hope it is the former, because at least then we can say we are due some luck with decisions soon. But I am very much afraid that it is the latter, in which case it simply is not good enough and something has to be done. Mr Leake won't be hauled up in front of the FA for bringing the game into disrepute. But David Platt would be if he were to lose control of his tongue and say what he must really think. Dennis Booth was so incensed at the end of the match that he was last seen being led away by a calming policeman.

WBA, Barnsley (a), Blackburn, Tranmere, Sheff Utd and now Grimsby; all games where varying degrees of ineptitude on the part of the men in black have completely changed the course of the game. That's 18 points' worth. 18, for Heaven's sake - we have only got 28! With a less sensible board the manager could have lost his job because of those 18 points, but does he have any come back to the refs concerned? Not a bit. How many more times are we going to have to put up with this nonsense? You will have gathered that I am extremely frustrated tonight. So were the other couple of thousand Forest fans who made the trip up the Fosse. At least they remained in excellent voice and gave the team a standing ovation at the final whistle. But in tomorrow's paper we will see no points for Forest on their travels yet again and, no doubt, stories of how awful we are. Again.

We started the game well - Hjelde was back in after injury and Rogers replaced Johnson (who, in case you have missed it, will be out for a few weeks). Forest forced half a dozen corners in the first ten minutes and were looking ominous, especially down the left. Grimsby's pace up front on the counter-attack (to which we will return) looked dangerous, so we couldn't exactly relax, but on the whole things looked promising. The first serious chance, though, fell to Grimsby, when Lester hit the bar when he really ought to have done better after 10 mins. Then Stern went close from a curling Rogers cross and Riccy curled a shot inches wide from a neat Stern lay-off. No panic, I think to myself - we ought to be able to win this one. Then suddenly, after half an hour, the game exploded into life. First Dawson (who struggled with Lester all thorough the first half) committed a foul just outside the box and was booked. The kick was hit low but cleared, Groves managed to keep it in play and cross it again and Lester hit a fine first time shot on the turn past a helpless Lurch. 1- 0, 29 minutes.
Straight from the kick-off we worked it forward and Stern fired in a wicked half-volley that was well saved by Danny Coyne, but as Town worked their way forward from that attack suddenly we shot ourselves in the foot. Bart and Riccy combined to give it away in midfield and the ball came through to Dawson, who was last man. He tried to control it instead of banging it into touch, found Lee Ashcroft bearing down on him and was dispossessed. Round Beasant; 2-0, 31 minutes. Rather too similar to the second goal at Charlton for comfort, but I am not going to jump down Dawson's throat; he's young and inexperienced and has now learned twice that good strikers don't give you any time to control the ball. Just as long as he learns from the experience.... So from 0-0 to 2-0 in the space of 90 seconds, and from comfortable to looking in danger. We needed to get back into the game fast, but even I was unprepared for quite how fast - there cannot have been more than 20 seconds from the kick-off to Forest scoring. Indeed I will confess that I was writing down Ashcroft's name as we kicked off, and only just looked up in time to see Rogers fire an absolute thunderbolt into the top corner from just outside the box. Only a glimpse for me, then - sorry - but even on that glimpse surely an early candidate for Goal of the Season.

Pause for breath after 3 goals in 2 minutes. Forest then played the better football until half time, but looked vulnerable down the flanks on the break. Much the same as for the first twenty minutes, in fact, but there was no more scoring until half time. And the fun was only just beginning..... At half time we brought on ML-J for the harrassed Dawson (don't panic, Kevin - we already know you can play; just hoof it into touch somtimes when you see someone bearing down on you) and reverted to 4-4-2 and suddenly looked a much better side. Gray (quiet for the first 45) came into the game much more on the right and throughout the midfield we were running the show with close passing, good movement and some neat flicks and lay-offs from the front two. We equalised only two minutes into the second half when some slick interpassing between Louis-Jean, Prutton and Gray on the right gave the ball to Dougie on the edge of the box. He span his man beautifully (in fact I might as well say now that I thought Dougie had his best game for weeks today) and fired the ball hard across the 6-yard box.... where Mark Lever turned it neatly into his own net.

So.... 2-2 after 48 minutes, and Forest starting to play really well - we completely bossed the midfield for the next 10 minutes, Stern and Dougie both went close, the away fans sounded in good humour ("We went to Grimsby, we had fish & chips"), the home fans sounded worried and, frankly, I was confidently expecting us to go on and win. Yes, we had made a cock of some defending early on, but had shown character and skill to fight back to level terms and looked the better side by some distance at that stage. But if you thought that 3 minute period in the first half was dramatic, then just wait. After 65 minutes came our best chance yet, when Rogers (who had a superb match) was freed down the left and missed the far post by inches with Coyne beaten.

No sooner had I thought to myself that we might live to regret that miss than we did. Lee Ashcroft managed to get behind the defence some 35 yards from goal and was tracked into the box by Jon Olav Hjelde. Aha!! Time for that Pantomime ref, boys and girls. Hjelde won the ball, Ashcroft went down a la Duff-Hignett Assassination Victims Inc., the ref was twenty-five yards away..... Yes, of course. Penalty. Red card. Mayhem. I was in the press box today, so the Forest fans were much closer than I was to this incident. Their reaction, the reaction of the Grimsby players, the way the Forest players surrounded the ref and the reaction of both benches said to me that there was NO WAY this was a penalty (let alone a sending off). After the game I asked a sample of 20 Grimsby fans what they thought. 19 said it was not a pen, and the 20th said "it must have been a penalty because the referee gave it" which amounts to one of the more tenuous justifications for a penalty that I have heard of late! So, Gray off, Bonalair on, move to 3-4-2. Oh, but first pick the ball out of the net and go 3-2 down. Two minutes later it got even worse. A similar through ball set Lester free in pursuit and Beasant steaming out of the box. Lester tries to lift the ball over him, Beasant is adjudged to have handled outside the box. Off. Forest down to 9 men and the game almost certainly gone.

Again the Forest fans go bananas at the decision. I am less sure about this one. Certainly Lurch was well outside the box. Personally I think he was actually trying to get his hands out of the way of the ball and it struck him just by his shoulder - in other words that he did not actually handle it - but I might be wrong and I can see why the ref did what he did. Either way in the space of 3 minutes we had gone from 2-2 and looking by some way the better side to 3-2 down and a 2-man deficit. To Forest's credit they kept on playing football and going for an equaliser. ML-J went off, Norm came on and we played 3-3-2: Riccy, Bonalair and Brennan across the back, Rogers, Bart and Prutton in midfield and the normal two up front. Even with that patched-up side we were better than the Mariners for a lot of the time (cue lots of "Ole!" shouting from the Forest faithful, along with choruses of "We've only got 9 men" and "You've only got 12 men"), but inevitably there were gaps to be exploited on the break, and ten minutes later Grimsby got a fourth.

Even this one was not exactly uncontroversial, as Lester gave every appearance of using not one but BOTH of his hands to control the ball before laying it off for Donovan to bend in a neat finish from the edge of the box. Still we kept going, still we played some good football. And in the final minute Tank curled in a beauty for his second goal of the game to make it 4-3. But too late. Sceptical readers of this who were not there today will probably be doubting much of what I have said. I am supposed to be the terminally one-eyed man who blames the ref when we lose and says we play well even when we are rubbish (or so one email said to me last week). But believe me this result was a complete travesty.

We DID play well, especially in the second half - Forest fans have not been renowned for standing ovations to losing teams this year, but they got one today so obviously at least a couple of thousand people agreed with me. The ref WAS hopeless for that crucial short period in the second half when we lost two players (though for much of the rest of the match he actually did rather well). And that crucial period DID turn the game on its head. Sorry for sounding like a broken record. But I can only report what I see. The art of Pantomime is alive and well and reffing in Grimsby.


Copyright © 2001 Nottingham Forest F.C.