League Two Form Guide
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Sweet Nothings: Forest Report
By: Tony Butcher
AN OLD fashioned winterâ€™s day by the Trent, with a wild, cold wind billowing around the stands. The pitch looked very soft, with the players churning up muddy patches when they did the now usual warm up routine. They churned despite a most half hearted set of jogs and dances.
Nottingham Forest 0 Grimsby Town 0
23 Feb 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The game of "spot the loan star" buzzed through the Bridgford Stand, which held around 1,000 Town supporters in the lower tier (itâ€™s the stand they always put us in, itâ€™s on the right as you see it on TV). Whoâ€™s that rugby league player with the Tin-Tin quiff? Ah, thatâ€™d be Todd. Quite short for a centre back, but very sturdy looking. Whoâ€™s that lean looking bloke with long legs and a centre parting? Surely that canâ€™t be Pringle, hasnâ€™t he got a "modern", "groovy" haircut with beads and plaits and rings and things to make it look good? Surely it was Pringle, sporting sensible hair for a sensible manager. Perhaps that was what Pringle had to "think about" over last weekend. The only condition Town placed on the deal was a haircut. Pringle may look slender, but he doesnâ€™t look weak, he has the lean, athletic physique of a professional sportsman.
The ground filled up slowly, with barely a whimper from the bored looking Forest supporters. The more boisterous Town supporters tried to create an atmosphere, but as usual they started way too soon, petering out with five minutes to go before kick off. However, when the players ran out it was the Town supporters who made more noise (on a pro-rata basis). Lester received boos and heckles (for the first time since his transfer), which seemed to surprise him, as they werenâ€™t "jolly" boos.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. A solid looking, professional back four, a snapper and a passer in the centre of midfield, some strength and speed up front. The wings didnâ€™t look very exciting though, potentially exasperating, with Campbell on the left and Butterfield on the right.
The absence of Coldicott was mourned, though not that of Willems. Mmm, the Dutch clogger wasnâ€™t even on the bench. Is he the mystery midfielder that Cardiff have stated they are signing on loan next week?
Town kicked off away from the Town support, passing the ball towards McDermott. Within five seconds the ball had been given away within 35 yards of the Town goal. A mass "urgh" from the massed Mariners, who feared another tepid, disorganised defeat with that sort of sloppy start. But nothing really came of this fluff and stuff of nonsense. And we had another 10 minutes of rather dull football, with Forest having the ball most of the time, threatening to threaten, but not actually delivering anything that caused any concern or consternation in the Town defence. The back four took a few minutes to get used to Todd, but only a few; they slotted in perfectly together, with the new number 4 looking very reliable and above all strong. He seemed perceptive, such that he was able to anticipate, rather than react. All this meant that Forest barely got inside the Town penalty area.
Pouton was back, and he was so Pouton. He snapped, he snarled, he slid, he sucked the ball away from any Forest dilettante who tried to play tricks in his own half. And from a Pouton crunch Town created the first chance of the game, after about 10 minutes. Boulding and Pringle had been a bit disjointed, with no obvious understanding. A couple of Pringle flicks had been intelligent, but Boulding had not been awake enough to get near the ball. He seemed surprised that a Town striker (a) won headers and (b) passed into dangerous areas. So Town cut out the Boulding option when Pouton disposed of a Forest midfielder about 35 yards out in the centre, as the Forest player tried to do a Burnett shimmy. Pouton just swept him, and the ball, away. Collecting the ball as he got up, Pouton surged forward a few yards then, as a defender ran across to block his route to goal, he knocked a pass to his left to the unmarked Pringle. Pringle had "come alive" when Pouton tackled, making a bee-line for space behind the centre backs. Pringle was thus free on goal, to the left and about 15 yards out. As the â€˜keeper advanced he hit a first time, left footed, drive about three yards high and a yard or so wide. What can we say about this? Well, he hit it hard. It may have hit a divot and bounced awkwardly? He should have scored. But at least he showed some awareness near goal to actually get in a position to miss. Thatâ€™s so very un-Town.
We had another 10 or so minutes of Forest possession, with nothing tangible created. I have a vague memory of a couple of crosses and a couple of attempted long shots. I canâ€™t remember any of them causing Coyne to do anything that his mother would have been proud of. It was all routine collections and watching shots hit defenders. Forest sought to use their wingers a lot, but Town defended adequately. Letâ€™s face it, McDermott is Mr Professional and no-one is going to get past him. Likewise Gallimore has transformed himself into Mr Consistent and (with the aide of Campbell and Pouton) Summerbee never got past him. There were a couple of choice Macca moments when he used his head to avert danger. Firstly, after a pass down his channel looked like releasing a winger he "accidentally" slipped into the path of the flying Forest player, and so stopped a potentially awkward attack (the linesman flagged for a foul, unfortunately). His second exposition on the art of defending was when a Coyne fly-kick ballooned upwards, caught on the breeze. The ball arced to McDermott about 25 yards out on the touchline. There were three Forest players around him and no Town back up (hello Mr Butterfield). Macca awaited a challenge then stumbled to the ground at the appropriate moment. Free kick to Town, danger over. Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest.
Around the 20 minute mark the game started to open up a little bit, with both teams starting to surge down the centre. And which Town player started the surge? Pouton, of course. He again won a raking, swooshing tackle in the centre of the pitch on the half way line, collected the loose ball and simply ran forward in a straight line. He veered to his left when near the edge of the area, did a false step over (where he looked as though he was about to do one, but simply carried on), then clipped a shot, with very little back lift, that surprised the goalkeeper. The shot was straight at the â€˜keeper, but almost went over his head. Like the man himself, the shot was harder than the â€˜keeper thought it was.
This, and another couple of Town attacks prompted by Poutonâ€™s tenacious tackling in midfield, made Forest wake up a bit. Forest did look dangerous when they dribbled through the centre to the edge of the penalty area, but then they attempted to play one-twos, to set up Harewood and Lester. Now this may be copper-kettle-black calling (take the word may out of that sentence), but those two do not look like they will ever score. And do we Town fans know how to spot non-scoring strikers. Harewood dribbled past two tackles on the right edge of the Town area before sliding forward and poking a right foot shot three yards wide. It was soft, it was low, it was never, ever, going to cause Coyne difficulties. After about 25 minute Lester wasted a chance, bringing back a thousand monochrome memories. On the right edge of the Town area Todd challenged Lester. The ball went between Toddâ€™s legs (a bit of inattentive football from Todd, he looked a bit too confident in his own superiority at this moment) and Lester was free, inside the penalty area, about a dozen yards wide of Coyneâ€™s goal, and the same distance from the bye-line. Lester steadied himself, picked his spot and gently curled a back pass into Coyneâ€™s midriff. A few minutes later McDermott almost scored his obligatory season own goal when Forest had a quick break down the Town left, crossed into the middle of the goalmouth, and the ball careered off his knees a few inches past Coyneâ€™s left hand post, as Coyne headed in the other direction, towards the city centre.
The rest of the half was mostly about Town breaks, with a few "almost" moments, such as when Pouton robbed a player in midfield, Burnett dinked a first time pass over the defence and Pringle was free on goal. Unfortunately he was just offside. Or the time when Pouton (again, yet again) surged forward down the middle, causing panic in the streets of Nottingham, Dundee and possibly Humberside, only being stopped by a foul, about 25 yards out. So who would take the free kick. Who would hit it into the wall this time. Gallimore, the mild mannered janitor, or Pouton, the number one superguy? Yep, Poutonâ€™s turn to kick it into the wall. Poutonâ€™s wayward shooting meant that the ball didnâ€™t cannon off the shins of the player third from the left, but his "upper groin".
But the best chance of the half fell to Forest, and what a pleasant miss it was. With about five minutes left Pouton surged forward in an inside left position, deep inside the Forest half. He was forcefully tackled from behind/side. He fell forward, expecting a free kick. Play on, waived the referee. Forest turned round, ran forward and attacked down the Town right. McDermott edged across to block the path down the centre right, and to mark a player. However the Forest left back sprinted forward unattended by man or beast or Butterfield, and a pass was played between Todd and McDermott. Brennan was alone, deep inside the Town penalty area, perhaps 9 or 10 yards to the right of the goal and 7 yards from the bye-line. Brennan waited for Coyne to come across and passed the ball through the 6 yard box towards the far post. The ball drifted slowly across the goal, bumbling and bobbling across the muddy turf. It looked like it was drifting inside the post; it drifted a couple of inches past the post. But Harewood was virtually standing next to the same post. The ball appeared to bounce up as it neared Harewood and our Forest friend successfully avoided making contact with the ball and, thus, accidentally scoring. One got the feeling that Harewood only scores by accident (so when are we buying him then?).
Half time: Nottingham Forest 0 Grimsby Town 0
And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, was the first half. Nothing to report except how tedious most of it was. And that is good. The Forest crowd were not roused from their collective torpor, so their players werenâ€™t either. The new players were beginning to look most interesting temporary acquisitions, Todd looked very trustworthy and Pringle played some excellent passes. But most of all he looked like he was "alive" when Town had the ball, he didnâ€™t receive the ball standing still, he was always half turned, or moving, always looking to keep the ball moving, an attack flowing. And he harries and hassles well too.
Town had easily matched and negated a bog standard first division team. So what delights would the second half bring? A goal? Would the two new players last 90 minutes?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Remind me again. Who is playing on the Town left?".
The report continues in the second half.
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