The City Ground
Mr Mike Riley
John 9 mins
Prutton 32 mins
© Nottingham Forest 2000
Forest 2 v 0 Port Vale 29 April 2000
Being, as I am, a fairly typical British football fan, I love statistics. I'm intrigued by the fact that Forest have only lost 4 of the last 11 home games that they have been leading 2-0 at half time when there is an attendance of more than 15,638, and the more of this rubbish that Sky can force into my brain before the match, the better. But here are some rather more simple and effective statistics for you: Forest are unbeaten in six games. Forest have taken 12 points from the last potential 18. Forest have conceded two goals in the last six games. Nice, huh?
As for the game, I can report that this was an end of season match with nothing for either side to play for, and it fully lived up to its billing. A starting line-up that included the young Gareth Edds at left back never looked in any trouble, and from the start Forest's sensible passing and composed defence had Port Vale on the back foot, with Marlon's pace and aggression always looking dangerous. So it proved in the 11th minute, when Andy Johnson's intelligent ball across the front of the box found Stern in yards of space; John coolly sidestepped the Vale centre-half before drilling the ball past Kevin Pilkington in goal. 1-0, and Forest cruising. Riccy then went close with a shot from 20 yards that Pilkington beat away from the goal, but Forest scored their second on the break, and we've not seen many better goals at the City Ground all season. It started with Marlon making one of his by now trademarked runs down the right wing, skipping past the challenges of two Vale defenders, before delivering a waist height ball towards David Prutton, who was running at right hand corner of the box. Stern was free in the middle, but Prutton had other ideas, and rarely has a debut goal at the City Ground been more richly deserved (or long-awaited!) as Prutton lashed an unstoppable left foot volley past the stranded keeper to make it 2-0.
Half time came with only the one attempt at disrupting Forest's party, the ever-dangerous Tony Rougier turning Edds out on Forest's left wing before hitting the post from 18 yards, and the Reds went in at half-time to a good reception; is it really only 4 weeks since the boo-boys were in full song? It took Forest five minutes to shake the half-time cup of tea out of their system, but when they did they started to once again cut through Port Vale's woeful midfield at will. There was very little of any note in the second half, save for a whole bunch of narrowly-missed opportunities for Forest; John's header just wide, Marlon's run into the box with a cruelly turned down penalty appeal, and a gorgeous movement involving at least fifteen passes through midfield which culminated in Prutton's left foot drive hitting the base of the post. In all honesty, the Reds didn't even break sweat, and the Trent End faithful resorted to entertaining themselves with renditions of long-forgotten songs, "We all agree….", and the seminal, "Number one was Brian Rice".
In his programme notes, Platty had said, "We intend to show our appreciation after the final whistle this afternoon by gathering on the halfway line to acknowledge your tremendous backing and would urge you not to encroach on to the playing surface. If there is a pitch invasion, the players and myself will have no alternative but to make our way back to the dressing room straight away." So what do you think happened? You guessed it, all the kids from the Lower Trent End and Main Stand decided to charge on to the pitch; the older hands watched scornfully, perhaps thinking back to an FA Cup match against QPR fifteen or so years ago! But if you're reading this as one of those who invaded the playing surface, let me tell you what I and most of the rest of the Forest faithful think of your actions; you denied the players the opportunity to thank us for our support through the season for the sake of your own childishness. I hope Daddy reconsiders buying you a season ticket next year (even if they are so cheap - thank you Mr Barnes!).
To sum up the match - Vale looked a beaten side, with Tony Rougier standing out as the only player of any quality. Indeed, he gave Gareth Edds a hard time before Edds was substituted on the hour with a knock, and I think that Edds, while looking solid for most of the game, showed his lack of experience by being caught out of position several times, and also naively getting turned a couple of times by Rougier. Still, a promising debut. The back pair of Vaughan and Terry looked impregnable (please, Luca?). Riccy was assured, if rarely tested, and he made the most of the opportunity to make several of those surging runs through the centre. Rogers, I'm afraid, picked up where he left off after the Fulham game (awful!), but in his defence he's been tireless all season and probably deserves his summer break more than most. Bartman and Johnson ran midfield completely, although there was, to be fair, little opposition, and I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that Johnson has been back to his best in the last few weeks; lots of huff and puff, closing players down, and bugger me if he hasn't been playing some good passes as well! Stern's almost back to full fitness and showing himself to be the constant threat that we saw against Portsmouth, and Marlon's continuing his fine run of form to the end of the season.
So to my Man of the Match, and two players left. The woolly, sentimental part of me wants to give it to the Grandad of the team, Dave Beasant, who today smashed a 70 year record of being the oldest player to ever play for the club, and with the way he has been playing, by the time he does retire it will be a lot harder to break. In truth, though, he had very little to do today, and so my Player of the Season doesn't get today's MOTM. That honour goes to David Prutton, with not just his excellently taken goal, but a performance that exemplified the effort, confidence, determination and raw ability that he has displayed all season. Good work fella. So to sign off, as the end of the season draws in, I look forward with confidence to next season.
We've started to look, I think, almost like a George Graham side of old; we simply do not look like conceding goals. That, as any manager will tell you, is the beginning of a successful side, and with the confidence returning by the week, it's just a shame that the season has to end.
Let me sign off by wishing Bridport Red a speedy convalescence, and wishing you all a good Summer!