Nottingham
Forest
  24th
November
1999
Score
2-0
Venue:
City Ground

Attendance:
13,581

Referee:
Mr E.Wolstenholme

Goal 1
Stern John 6 mins
Goal 2
Beck 11 mins












 
Portsmouth
   
Crossley     Flahavan
Mannini
  Crowe
Scimeca   Moore
Hjelde   Whitbread
Brennan  
Robinson
Prutton   Panopoulos
Rogers   McLoughlin
Bart-Williams     Awford
Johnson  
Brown
Beck   Claridge
Stern John   Bradbury
Substitutes     Substitutes
Beasant     Petterson
Freedman
Phillips
Gray
  Whittingham
Doig
Pamarot
Quashie
Igoe

© Nottingham Forest 1999



Stern John Mannini
Stern John scores his first goal Mikkel Beck scores his first goal

Report by Bridport Red:
( For information 'Tank' is Alan Rogers.)

There we have been, all of us, for several months: "We need a striker, we need a striker!" I am sure I have not been alone at times in wondering whether the long wait for this mysterious man from Trinidad via Columbus Ohio was going to be worth it. Weren't we rather in danger of putting all our eggs in one basket? What if he isn't as good as he is cracked up to be? What if he takes ages to adjust to the pace of English football? How long before the boos start if he isn't up to it? So I have no doubt whatsoever that those of you who could not see Stern John's debut for Forest tonight will all be wanting to know one thing: can he play? CAN HE EVER!

By any standards this was an impressive debut. When you consider that he only arrived in Nottingham at 2 o'clock on Monday morning, has trained one-and-a-half times with the team, has had the usual merry-go-round of new signing media stuff to do, and was playing in a new league, at a new standard and in a new country.... it was nothing short of sensational. Stern scored with his third touch of the ball, in the sixth minute. The ball came out of defence, was laid off by Johnno into Tank's path, and he in turn played it to Jim Brennan, who was overlapping at speed down the left. Brennan took one touch and fired a curling low cross to the edge of the six yard box. John ghosted in front of his marker and hammered the ball into the corner. And a star was born. 6 minutes later a similar attack developed down the left. This time Tank cut inside and tried to chip a short cross into Stern's path. It was slightly overhit and I thought the chance was gone. However David Prutton refused to give up a lost cause, recovered the ball on the right wing and played a low ball into the box. Stern John controlled it and used his formidable upper body strength to hold off Darren Moore (not the smallest of defenders) before laying it off to the advancing Beck. Beck swept it into the net, Forest were 2-0 up inside a quarter of an hour, and I began to wonder whether the Webmaster and I had perhaps overdone it in the TBI beforehand. I am not quite sure what I was expecting of Stern John, actually.

I had seen no film of him and only the odd still photo - but the picture on my mind's eye was at the Emile Heskey end of the scale; a big strong bustling Kevin Campbell replacement. That's not right. He actually appears quite slight in build (an impression that Darren Moore might now dispute!) and is around 6 foot. It took a while for me to work out who it is that he reminds me of, but I shouldn't have been surprised, I suppose: he is very like Dwight Yorke. Similar pace, similar springy run, similar control (and, on tonight's evidence, similar finishing ability!). As you will have gathered by now, he left me with a very favourable impression in general, but in particular: - he took his goal beautifully - he made the second with power and excellent ability to hold the ball under pressure - he reads the game well and is very quick; at one stage he anticipated a backpass enough to get there ahead of the keeper and take it round him, only to find the angle too narrow (he laid it off to Tank who scuffed the shot!) - he is committed; at one point in the second half Beck got free at pace down the left and curled a high cross to the near post. Stern was coming in like a train and hurled himself full length into a diving header. Unfortunately he failed to connect by a few inches (it would have bust the net if he'd got his head to it). - he is not bothered by the physical stuff; the holding off of Moore was not an isolated incident, and every time he held it up he used it well - he is very skilful with either foot; the best moment of the match for me was after about an hour, when he got the ball with his back to goal, flicked it over his own and the defender's head with his right foot, spun and volleyed it with his left, producing a good save from Flanahan. In short,

I think we have got ourselves a bargain! I believe he was recommended to Platty by Dwight Yorke. If so, we all owe Yorke a beer! What of the rest of the side? For the first 25 minutes we were excellent, playing the ball around well, attacking with pace down the flanks and looking constantly dangerous. It didn't last, especially after half time - not that we fell apart or anything like that, but some of the fluency went and we started to play a bit deep in defence (until Platty did his nut on the touchline in front of me and pushed them up again). Basically we looked like a side recovering its confidence and content to play the ball around rather than go for the jugular. But even in that phase we were vastly better than for the past two games. Norm had a fairly quiet night. A couple of bits of dubious cross handling (not for the first time in his career against Pompey, if memory serves...) [sorry, Norm], but no serious saves to make. Mannini played pretty well at Tranmere, dealing with the exclusively aerial threat nicely.

Tonight, however, he had a pacy winger running at him and we saw what we already knew - he ain't no right back, especially when it comes to pace. There is only so much that nous and experience can cover for, and I hope we don't experiment with this one for long. We looked a good deal more secure at the back when Chris Doig came on and we moved to 3-5-2. Hjelde and Riccy played well. Bart and especially Johnno were much better tonight - more secure in their passing, a bigger range of passes, and much better pressing of the ball high up the pitch. Prutton worked hard, almost scored his first goal for the club when he got on the end of a low Tank cross (well saved) and continued his great start. I am not convinced he is a wide player, though. Rather see him in the middle. Down the left Tank and Brennan frightened Pompey to death. I'd have to see a race between them to be sure who is the quicker, but rest assured they are both phenomenally fast and tonight both were prepared to run at people at full power. Brennan also delivered a selection of fine high crosses, and Tank some good low ones. Now that they are learning to work together, I look forward to seeing much more of the same - and a few ponderous right backs are going to get some sleepless nights! That only leaves one player.

There seems to be a section of the crowd that are so obsessed with hating Derby that they booed Mikkel Beck from the moment he first played for us 10 days ago. Well they are entitled to their opinion, I guess, but Beck had a stormer tonight. He worked his socks off, scored his first goal for us, constantly made himself available (thus giving the defence an outlet when under pressure, which we totally lacked at Tranmere), was prepared to shoot and generally looked the part. Good on yer, Mikkel. Some competition for Mr Freedman. So. Not perfect by any means. But a decent performance (and better than that for 25 minutes) with some real promise for the way we are developing. How nice (and unusual) it was to see Forest counter-attacking with real pace. How nice to get the impression that we might actually score every time we attacked. On another day either Beck or Brennan would have been Man of the Match. But not tonight.

All together now: "Stern John, there's only one Stern John..."

 

 


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