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23/02 Forest 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
FOREST took off Hjelde and brought on Scimeca. Town didnâ€™t make any changes, and, again, kept the opposition waiting by emerging from the tunnel and minute or so after them. Forest didnâ€™t doing anything remotely threatening until the last 10 minutes.
Nottingham Forest 0 Grimsby Town 0
23 Feb 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Or at least it didnâ€™t appear that way from the other end of the pitch. No doubt there were a few crosses that were "oh-so near" moments, but there really was nothing going on up there. The Town defence was very comfortable, a unit full of old heads who knew exactly what to do. Sure there were a few scrambles, but these things happen in any game, against any opposition at corners and free kicks. I cannot recall Coyne making a save until the 83rd minute. This doesnâ€™t mean Town controlled the game, merely that the controlled their own half with ease, occasionally contemptuous ease. Todd, and the rest of the back four, had what appeared to be a flawless second half.
Pouton and Burnett formed an effective wedge in the middle too, enabling Town to have numerous breakaways that threatened. Most of the best chances in the second half fell to Town, all on breaks, mostly through Pringleâ€™s persistence and Bouldingâ€™s pace. The infuriating Boulding, the frustrating Boulding, the increasingly knackered Pringle. There were at least five occasions when Town failed to take advantage of marvellous positions, created through the front twoâ€™s running. The occasions are almost identical, and so difficult to differentiate. They all started through the Town midfield smuggling the ball away from Forest inside the Town half and either passing to Pringleâ€™s feet, or setting Boulding free down the "channels".
Item number one. Boulding ran from the centre of the pitch, near the centre spot, down the left, into the area and cut inside to his right foot. As three Town players gesticulated wildly, Boulding hit a shot straight into the goalkeeperâ€™s chest. Pouton exclaimed loudly and waved his arms at Boulding. So did the Town fans behind the goal.
Item number two. Pringle won possession in the centre of the pitch, near the centre spot, turned and ran down the middle towards the penalty area. He passed to Boulding on the left, then received a return pass.
As four Forest defenders crowded around him he checked left, then right, before miss-hitting a low, slow dribbler safely to the goalkeeper. The Town fans behind the goal exclaimed loudly and waved their arms at Pringle. So did Boulding and Burnett.
Item number three. Boulding was sent down the left wing, outpaced the centre back, got to near the bye-line and crossed into the crowd as Pringle and A N Other were unmarked in the middle of the goalmouth
Item number four. Pringle muscled and bustled his way from the half way line to about 25 yards out, right in the centre of the pitch. He waited as the Forest defence "organised", twisted to his left, then hit a superbly weighted pass to his right, between the centre backs and the left back, for Boulding to run on to. Boulding was unmarked about 8 or 9 yards from the bye-line and perhaps 10 yards wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand post. Boulding decided to slide forward and hit a right foot rocket into the top right hand corner. It went 3 yards wide and 1 yard high. A terrible decision, as no Forest player was within 5 yards of him, and Butterfield was just behind him, again totally unmarked.
Item number 5. Pringle was sent free with a fine chipped pass down the centre (I canâ€™t remember who did it). Pringle didnâ€™t so much sprint as lope forward, and two Forest Defenders raced across to try and hunt down the elk. Pringle managed to get to the edge of the area, right in the middle, and his shot was blocked by a sliding challenge from Scimeca.
Five marvellous opportunities on the break, all squandered through Bouldingâ€™s inability to lookup, or Pringleâ€™s lack of fitness. Pringle looked "shot" after 60 minutes, following another abortive chase down the centre. But credit where credit is due, he kept on going and trying, creating opportunities for Boulding with his perception, and problems for the Forest defence with his intelligent movement and strength. Heâ€™s a cut above Taylor, who was a cut above anything Town have had for Mendoncaâ€™s years. Pringle was finally taken off after 88 minutes, with Allen coming on and falling over twice.
I think Pringle had a foreheadâ€™s involvement in the other town chance. A cross from the Town right (by Butterfield, I think) grazed off Pringleâ€™s shorn locks and fell near Todd, 6 or 7 yards beyond the far post. Todd stretched forwards and managed to half volley the ball way over the bar.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the Town "moments of danger" on breakaways, just the ones where a shot went vaguely near goal. Most were wasted with Boulding (especially Boulding) running round in circles, or straight into a defender. It all meant that most of the excitement was down at the end where the Town supporters were congregated and becoming increasingly vocal and confident. The Forest supporters remained silent, as miserable as can be when watching highly paid athletes shrug their shoulders, which they did after 65 minutes. You could see the exact moment when the red shirted flappers stopped going for it even half pelt. Sure, they tried when the ball was near them, but there was no collective will, no fire in the Forest. It was certainly a game where one goal would win it, and, to a neutral observer, Town were the most likely. The word "most" doesnâ€™t carry too much weight, as we are talking about Town here, the team with the second worst strike force in the football league.
Sometime during the middle of the half Forest replaced Harewood and Bopp came on. It made no difference, as the first thing the Boppboy did was pass the ball out of play for a Town corner. Town had what felt like dozens of corners (but was probably only 7 or 8) most of which were chipped into the â€˜keeperâ€™s hands by Butterfield. After a while Pouton took over and kicked them slightly higherâ€¦into the â€™keeperâ€™s hands. About a dozen Town supporters had sought to taunt the home fans with "we hate Forest". Bizarrely, as the game wore on, the number decreased such that only 3 "hated Forest" by the end of the game, somehow 9 had warmed to their hosts during the match. Perhaps it was the stadium. Did they appreciate the way the architects had blended the new with the old, so that essential quality "character" had remained, despite three new concrete stands? Did they applaud the no-frills approach - no mascot visible or half time "entertainment"? Or had they got bored?
All of which diverts from the real reason for turning up in an enclosed field by the Trent - football. It wasnâ€™t until the 83rd minute that Forest created anything to be described as worrying, let alone dangerous. They attacked down the Town right, seemingly having an extra player, outnumbering McDermott and the floundering, fumbling Butterfield. Prutton (I think) jiggled and juggled to create some space in the Town area, near the right hand corner. He then whipped in a short sharp shot, fortunately straight at Coyne, who punched the ball away to the edge of the area. Five or six minutes later Forest caused another fluttersome moment. A deep cross from their left was sent curling and a-swirling over Gallimore to Lester (I think) about 10 yards wide of goal and a few yards out. He opened up his body and stroked a left foot half volley low across the face of the goal. The ball trundled slowly through the six yard box and away for a goal kick. A minute or so later one of their forwards tried an overhead kick from the centre of the penalty area. The ball ballooned up and didnâ€™t even go out of play, with McDermott scuttling across to ooze calmness and authority. Safety. One minute of added time. Nothing to report
And that is virtually everything that happened on the pitch. A couple of late Lester challenges: you have seen them, he slides across as someone clears the ball upfield, just managing to crack their ankles. He wasnâ€™t booked, and I donâ€™t recall anyone being booked. Which is only right as it was a very clean game, with only a couple of late tackles (by Forest). There was one minor moment of distress in the first half when Coyne rolled the ball out to Groves, who wasnâ€™t looking, turned round and was most surprised to see the ball rolling past him straight to a Forest player 20 yards out. Danger snuffled at source by a combination of Groves, Todd and McDermott. These three are most adept at defending without tackling.
A thoroughly deserved point, and really an opportunity for three frittered and wasted in an offhand way by the strikers. Town were, overall, the most comfortable side, with the better defence and more threatening attack. It seems Groves has restored Town to their usual position - mid table muddlers who donâ€™t score, or concede, many.
The big problem for Town is, as has been the case for a couple of years, the wide midfielders. Butterfield was dreadful for most of the match, barely even jogging, not looking around, not backing up McDermott as much as he should. As a member of the crowd shouted very early on "Butterfield....". Yes, but Butterfield what?. If you donâ€™t tell him what to do he wonâ€™t do anything. And he didnâ€™t. Campbell was again largely anonymous. Stu-ey, Stu-ey, Stu, where are you? Should we offer Stu-snacks to solve the mystery of the disappearing Campbell? Town wonâ€™t get away with it if you continue to haunt the left wing. He looked tired from the start, having no "fizz". I can only remember him touching the ball twice. Once he won a free kick by turning and falling under pressure, the second time he crossed into the stand.
The rest all contributed something. Coyne had little to do, but looked extremely confident and impassable. Likewise the whole of the back four. Groves has eradicated those dark autumn days when the concession of three goals was expected, almost as of right for the opposition. Rest easy in that respect, the defence is sound. Likewise the centre of midfield. The Burnett-o-phobes were silenced by another performance where his boot made contact with the opposition as well as the ball. Pouton was, well, Pouton. Up front Boulding again terrorised the opposition but produced nothing. Pringle looks good, and will be excellent when fit. The crowd will love him for his movement, perception and all action style. Goals are a different matter.
So, there we are. Town are back to the future. Defensively sound, offensively weak. Stand by for loads of 1-0 games. Maybe next year all this will stand us in good stead. Those fingertips are still clinging to the lifeboat. Just. At least they are fighting now.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
So many decent performances and a couple of outstanding ones. Gallimore and Groves were very competent indeed, with McDermott his usual faultless self. Todd looked a bit too cocky and lax at times in the first half, but was magnificent on the second. So who is Nick0â€™s MOM? POUTON. No higher praise than this - we didnâ€™t miss Coldicottâ€™s destructive powers and omnipresence in midfield. Pouton was awesome in his command of the centre of the pitch.
Mr Webb. Barely noticed him. Not many "big decisions" to make and no complaints. Probably should have booked two Forest players (including, inevitably, Lester) but didnâ€™t. Wouldnâ€™t mind him refereeing Town again. 8.02 out of 10.
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