Nottingham Forest v Manchester City 2001/02

notts forest away 2001 to 02 prog


Nationwide League Division 1

28th October 2001

Attendance 28,226

City Goater(8)
Notts Forest Bart-Williams(7)

City Weaver, Mettomo, Pearce, Howey, Dunne, Etuhu, Benarbia, Horlock, Wiekens, Goater, Huckerby – subs Wright-Phillips(unused), Dickov(unused), Colosimo(unused), Nash(unused), Granville(55)

Notts Forest Ward, Louis-Jean, Hjeide, Scimeca, Brennan, Prutton, Jenas, Williams, Bart-Williams, John, Johnson – sub Reid(80), Westcarr(80), Edwards(unused), Bopp(unused), Roche(unused)


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IT is not often that the word mundane has been used in relation to a game involving, Manchester City this season, but this was one instance when it was surprisingly apt. Two goals in the first ten minutes, both down to defensive errors, were about the punters’ lot in a humdrum, uninventive and ultimately wearisome affair in front of a sell-out Sunday crowd at the City Ground. Of course, Stuart Pearce’s farewell playing appearance, FA Cup draw not withstanding, at his former home of 12 years brought the odd tear to the odd eye amongst the paying customers, but in the end the real crying shame was that neither side had the will to break the deadlock.
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City always carried the greater individual threat but it was Forest who, for long spells, looked the tighter and better organised unit. There remains the nagging feeling that a. Blues side boasting nine internationals and only one player, Dickson Etuhu, who has never played at the highest level in one European country or another should struggle so markedly to overcome a club that seemingly cannot even find a shoestring on which to run its affairs. Forest are, however, a proud outfit and work ethic, spirit and application can go a long way to bringing success in a far from vintage First Division as City discovered in their own magical promotion run of two years ago.
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In Chris Bart-Williams and David Prutton, Nottingham possess two players who can cause any side problems. That is especially so when the opposition’s forward movement lacks a bit of thought and variety as it did last night. Despite Kevin Keegan’s protestations that Ali Benarbia has played most of his best games in a distinguished career on the right side of a midfield four the Algerian seemed anxious to move inside at every opportunity Despite his willingness, he does not have the pace to help defend from that position. Lack of the ball and options when he did have it also meant his guile and cunning went largely to waste.
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City found it well nigh impossible to get midfielders in front of the ball, which made them all the more predictable as they relied on the pace of Darren Huckerby and the foraging of Shaun Goater to try to inflict ’some damage. Unfortunately so isolated was the Goat that at times it appeared the master marksman had become the subject of one of those three-mile Government exclusion zones. Not that it prevented him from taking his goal tally for the season to 16. His latest effort will go down as one of the easiest of the campaign as he simply had to walk the ball into the empty net after keeper Darren Ward had communication difficulties with Riccardo Scimeca and then slipped as he went to clear That came in the ninth minute, just 100 seconds after Forest had exposed a worrying lack of pace down the City right.
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Jim Brennan was the main beneficiary of the Blues’ lethargy and when his cross was scooped out by Nick Weaver to the feet of Bart-Williams, the Forest skipper picked his spot from ten yards. There followed a lot of huff and puff but precious few scoring chances until the last minute of the half when Benarbia’s corner was pulled back expertly for Kevin Horlock to unleash a howitzer of a drive that had Ward at full stretch. City had dominated large chunks of the action and with Steve Howey returning to his immaculate best at the heart of a back four — no coincidence there one feels the Maine Road men were seemingly set fair to push on in the second half. Not for the first time this season. however they promised more than they delivered in a stop—start 45 minutes notable mainly for some classy goalkeeping at both ends. Ward, anxious to make up for his first—half howler did well to grab efforts from Etuhu and Goater while Weaver performed wonders to fist away Williams’s drive which flew through a crowd of bodies of the edge of the Blues’ box. Huckerby’s endeavour and Dunne’s forward persistence were the other plus points for Keegan. The Republic man’s powerful gallop for the by-line and skilful low cross almost produced a goal for the stretching Goater. On the other hand, the most discouraging sight was the replacement of the injured Gerard Wiekens with Danny Granville. Not because the left-back is not worthy of a place, but rather that Shaun Wright-Phillips was stripped and all set to come before the manager changed his mind.
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It would have been nice to see the teenager given the opportunity to go and change the game with Benarbia pushed inside. Instead, City appeared to settle for what looked suspiciously like the safer option. In the midst of a run of games in which the Blues have taken only six points from a possible 18, it may have been worth the risk. In the end both teams ran themselves to a standstill and all that was left was the sight of a bare-chested Pearce saying his emotional goodbyes. It was a pity the rest of us will not have any such special memories from a- night of honest toil but precious little excitement.       FROM MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS BY CHRIS BAILEY AND PAUL HINCE

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