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15/01 Forest 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 4 Nottm Forest 3
15 Jan 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
Forest made one change at half time. I didn't pay too much attention to it. All I remember is that they replaced a relatively tall defender with a small one. I think they took off their right back, who had been roasted, skinned and cooked for breakfast by Ashcroft and Donovan [Rob - yes, Louis-Jean for Dawson].
After a minute or so of midfield meandering Forest attacked down the Town right centre. They attempted a one-two on the edge of the box, but Gallimore and Livvo closed off the Forest player. Gallimore was pushed over and the Forest player ran and crossed from the bye-line (from about 10 yards to the left of the goal). LEVER trundled towards the cross and, with no Forest player anywhere near him, calmly slid the ball in, from about 6 yards out near the left post. The crowd visibly shrank into their seats and no-one in the crowd said anything. Just deflation. A third "Lever moment" in the match and Town had squandered a lead. Several Town players remonstrated with the referee for not awarding us a free kick, but he wasn't interested. It was a blatant push and the goal should not have been allowed. I'm sure Lever will agree.
The game went a little flat too for 15 minutes, with Forest getting on top and Town's play becoming a little ragged. Whereas in the first half Town had "passed and moved", in this period a lot of balls were merely hit to the forwards' head. Never works for Town, does it. Forest only had one chance, when after build up down the Town left a midfielder was allowed to cross, where another midfielder was left unmarked 8 yards out at the near post. His flick header looped into Coyne's midriff. Oh yes, Coyne came out and caught another corner.
After 53 minutes Lever was replaced by Pouton, with Groves going back to centre half. Town defended much better after this. And during this period the referee and particularly the linesman running the Town defence end started to give decisions to Forest. Little things like not giving Town free kicks when Lester and Ashcroft were upended from behind; booking Ashcroft for a strong tackle where he got he ball; not booking Freedman when he dived (the referee told him off only); and giving free kicks when Freedman dived.
After about 20 minutes of the second half the game went bonkers. In the words of a West Ham fan I know - "like Julian Dicks' hair, it all went pear shaped" (for Forest). Another nothing ball over the top of the Forest defence was chased by Ashcroft and Hjelde (who is awful, he makes Lever look good). Hjelde allowed it to bounce and Ashcroft managed to bundle the ball forward towards the edge of the penalty area. Hjelde hauled Ashcroft down with a rugby tackle. Result - penalty and sending off. Forest were probably better off without him, as I think he was responsible for Town's second goal too. Forest made a substitution of some kind and Hjelde walked off the pitch very, very slowly. ASHCROFT, with his right foot, firmly struck his penalty into Beasant's right hand side netting. Beasant dived the right way and nearly got it, but it was struck very firmly.
Five minutes later yet another nothing ball over the top of their defence saw Lester and a central defender running towards Beasant, who had come out of his area. About 25 yards out Lester attempted to lift the ball over Beasant, who promptly raised his hands and saved it. Result - free kick and sending off. Beasant had been very "bold" in his dalliances outside his area, some would say foolhardy. He had, in the first half, attempted to dribble past Ashcroft and nearly lost out in a tackle; and twice slightly miss-kicked when clearing. He was a calamity waiting to happen. The whole of the Town support rose to salute his return to Blundell Park by singing an appreciative round of "There's only one Dave Beasant" as he waddled off to the dressing room. Forest made a further substitution - I can't remember who came off to be replaced by a 'keeper and don't care [Rob - Crossley for Louis-Jean].
Kingsley Black curled the resulting free kick just over the bar, but then he always does. A couple of minutes later he was replaced by Allen and Town went to a 4-3-3, sometimes 3-4-3 formation. It is difficult to say there was a set formation as Forest pulled everyone back into midfield and Town spent the next 15 minutes passing it around looking for space. When the game restarted after Black's free kick, every outfield player was standing in the centre circle.
Ashcroft should have completed his hat trick in the next 10 minutes. Town played very patient keep ball, passing to free men and (hey just like the big boys) only passing wide when they had pulled a Forest player out of position. Twice Town played a 50 yard cross field ball after retaining possession, on both occasion Ashcroft was alone on the edge of the box. The first time he was on the Town right and, with a huge space in front and around him, decided to go for a spectacular drive into the far corner. He missed by a yard. The second time he was released on the left, advancing to about 10 yards out near the edge of the 6 yard box. He dragged a right foot shot a couple of yards wide of the 'keeper's right hand post.
With 7 or 8 minutes left Town again played keep ball and the ball (much to the crowd's displeasure) went back to Coyne then through the defence on the left, and then out to Coldicott (I think) on the right. The ball was then swung over to the unmarked Allen on the left edge of the penalty area, who knocked a first time ball back to the centre, to Lester. Lester half controlled the ball and it rolled to Donovan, about 20 yards out. From a slightly right of centre position 20 or so yards out DONOVAN hit a low right foot shot inside the 'keeper's left hand post.
The remaining minutes were the same as the previous 10 - Town playing keep ball and trying to pull Forest out of position. The only shot I recall is when Pouton managed to hit the roof of the Osmond Stand with a trademark wild sliced shot from the edge of the area, again after a sustained period of Town passing down both flanks.
In the 2nd minute of injury time Forest got a corner, which they played short. Town were very lazy in dealing with it and allowed the players to pass around and work it to an unmarked player about 15 yards out on the left edge of the Town box. ROGERS clipped in a slow curling cross towards Stern John at the near post. The ball went over John and Livingstone, whereupon Danny Coyne decided he would entertain the crowd with his impression of Harry Worth. Coyne leapt vertically, spreading his arms and legs wide as the ball floated past his right ear and into the right hand side of the goal. Coyne had been very good for 92 minutes, but in this moment he was inept, pathetically inept. Town nearly scored again when Donovan drove in a cross shot from 20 yards which the 'keeper parried away low to his right. And that was that.
This was an extremely entertaining and exciting game. Town had a slightly better defence and much better attack than Forest and fully deserved the victory, even taking into account the ever decreasing numbers they had to play against. Town showed more passion and desire. Between the penalty areas Forest were much more skilful than Town, but showed less interest in the penalty box - where it hurts. A right bunch of Premiership ponces - they didn't want to get hurt or dirty. When things started to go against them they started to foul and moan to the referee. After the first sending off their response was to kick Town players even harder. Ashcroft was launched towards the top tier of the Findus/Stones twice and Lester was dumped a few times. But they did have the best player on the pitch (Rogers) and the most skilful (Bart-Williams). Didn't do them any good though, it is a team game.
The plusses for Town - well the points, the goals, the performance of Ashcroft (which was outstanding), the whole team's attacking intent and performance. We have had far too many matches where we have dwelt on the negatives. We know what they are, and who they are. Today was one of the good days when we should just sit back and wallow in the reflected glory. Hey - 4 goals scored, in Division 1. Admit it they've made you smile for once. Don't be misled by the closeness of the scoreline - it wasn't that close a contest and Town deserved the victory.
I haven't mentioned everything, as too much happened. The Crowd got behind the team and the team responded. This is why we watch football. This game had everything (except dancing girls, of course)
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