Mr P Walton
Wright 16 mins
© Nottingham Forest 1999
Forest: (4-4-2) Crossley: Louis-Jean, Hjelde, Scimeca, Doig: Bonalair, Bart-Williams, Quashie (Prutton 70), Rogers: Freedman, Wright. Subs not used: Beasant, Mannini, Woan, Merino.
Funny game, this one. Not our greatest performance of the season - in fact probably our worst at home. But not catastrophic either - we could easily have lost without complaining, but equally Dougie missed a sitter right at the end which would have made today an exact replica of the same game two years ago (when we played poorly but escaped with a dodgy 2-1 win). Platty kept the same side from Wednesday with the exception of Jon Olav Hjelde in for the unfortunate Toto Metrecano [in case any of you have missed it, he injured his cruciate ligaments at Port Vale and will be out for the rest of the season. Get well soon Toto!].
Stockport started strongly and should have scored in the second minute, when Byrne put a free header over the top from 6 yards. In fact, they looked a pretty decent side all the way through - certainly the best we have yet seen at the City Ground, and not flattered by their lofty league position; I thought Mike Flynn, the centre back, and the centre forward D'Jaffo had excellent games. We gradually came into it, but it was not a huge surprise when they scored first. Long ball up the middle from the back, D'Jaffo timed his run well to get behind the centre backs, Norm came for it and didn't get there - header over him into the net. Not a good start. But within about 30 seconds we were level - Dougie did some good ferreting on the right edge of the box, battled his way past the full back and chipped it over the defenders to Wrighty at the far post. He never looked like missing and duly planted his header past Nash.
At this stage I thought we could up a gear and go on to win, but it never quite happened - County were outpowering us in midfield (where Nigel Q had his least effective game for some while and Bart was getting pushed deeper and deeper) and we were confined to counter-attacks down the flanks. Wrighty came close with a lob over the keeper just before half time, but it drifted agonisingly wide. After half time the trend continued. They were playing pretty well, and we seemed unable to take the game by the scruff of the neck - indeed gradually we started to give the ball away rather too often for comfort (with even the normally immaculate Riccy Scimeca succumbing to this disease a couple of times).
For all that, neither side carved out many clear chances. Stockport hit the post twice, both with snap shots by Cooper from longish range; the first hit the right hand post and crept along the line, the second hit the angle of post and bar and bounced clear. At the other end, Bart hit a free kick narrowly over, Tank showed us why we generally regard his right foot as merely for standing on with a shot dragged well wide, and David Prutton set off on a storming aggressive run from deep into the box, only to drag his shot weakly wide.
So, though they were undoubtedly playing better than us, especially in midfield, neither side really seemed able to finish off the other.... and the crowd were getting restless. And then, with two minutes to go, Norm (whose kicking had been eccentric for the second game running) banged a long clearance wide on the left to Dougie. he did the hard bit beautifully, killing the ball dead, leaving the County right back on his backside and running purposefully into the box with only Nash to beat.... and then smacked a woeful shot way over the bar. It wasn't even close - but I'm sure Dougie didn't really need the loud booing to tell him that he should have scored.
Frustrating in the end. There have been games this season where no-one has played especially badly and we have lost - today was a game where no-one played especially well but we drew. As the Americans say, "Go figure!" Many will doubtless slate Freedman, but he did some very good things as well as the glaring miss. Quashie was more anonymous than awful. Hjelde was probably our best player.
It (the result, that is) could have been worse. If we win on Wednesday (we will need to play better to do so) we will have got 7 points from 9, which is fine. But, taken purely in isolation, this was not a good performance.