Monday, August 27, 2007
Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 2
You’d never go short of a quote if you were a journalist in Leeds, not with the likes of Ken Bates and Dennis Wise on your patch: “99.9 per cent of fans support us. Saddam Hussain never got those ratings and he was was fiddling the figures”, is another classic from Bates.
I have poked fun at Leeds in my blog (who hasn’t?) the alleged match-fixing, the high profile Bowyer-Woodgate saga and Peter Risdale’s ill-feted reign, but you have to take your hats off to Wise and Poyet and the way their paper-thin squad have begun the season.
Leeds is in West Yorkshire and has a population of over half a million and is located on the River Aire. Famous people from Leeds include: pseudo fan Chris Moyles, proper disc jockey Jimmy Saville and cult indie group The Wedding Present.
I whisked Mrs P away up there for a weekend break twelve months ago (I know how to treat a girl). It has an excellent shopping centre. I had to drag the good lady out of Harvey Nicholls and out of Henry’s Bar on Greek Street after she had demolished a 8% bottle of Scrumpy. I nipped in the LUFC club shop; there wasn’t a soul in there.
'The Skipper' is at cub camp this weekend and fails to make the trip. It’s just Sticky Junior and me. I’ve got tickets for the Main Stand, Block “B”. We’re four rows from the front, and it’s our favourite vista.
We’re on our way to the game; a Leeds coach has took a wrong turning and is heading up the narrow lane that leads to Wheatcrofts Garden Centre.
We’re fleeced for £4 at County Hall to park the car and a further £3 for a programme. I refuse to buy food or drink at professional football grounds as the prices are obscene, so I’ve smuggled a couple of cans into a small rucksack.
A Polish security man is patrolling outside the Main Stand turnstile, he insists on searching the bag; we have to down our cans in one.
There’s something special about watching a football ground fill up. We are always in the ground 45 minutes before kick-off, so the lads can get autographs, Wise and Poyet oblige and sign his programme, I’m impressed.
The music has improved, gone are Westlife, replaced with the football anthems of Oasis and The Fratellis; both sets of fans trade insults.
Forest boss Colin Calderwood has had to prune his squad. They only have 24 to choose from. Out of today’s line-up and subs, nine are either Nottingham born or out of the Academy.
There’s still no sign of summer signings from Yeovil Davies and Cohen. Leeds rely on the experience of David Prutton and Alan Thompson.
The atmosphere is fever-pitch and Forest begin the game brightly. Leeds squeeze the midfield and are happy to allow Forest full-back Luke Chambers plenty of space down the right flank. He whips in three dangerous crosses but there is no-one on the end of them. James Perch goes close for the Reds in the early stages.
Leeds begin to get a grip on the game and take the lead on 17 minutes, with former Barnet and Darlington striker Tresor Kandol smashing one in off the post following terrific play from strike partner Jermaine Beckford.
Forest go into their shell, they are frightened again like they were towards to the back-end of last season.
Leeds take the initiative, Kandol goes close again with a snap shot, Reds’ keeper Paul Smith makes a point-blank save from a Prutton header and Beckford wastes another chance.
Forest are relieved to hear the half-time whistle, former non-league strikers Beckford and Kandol have plenty in the locker; Wilson and Morgan are being dragged all over the park. Leeds pinpoint the Forest left flank.
I see a friend at the break, he’s proper Forest and proper upset: “You’d have thought it’s Forest on Death Row not Leeds” he says.
Forest up the tempo, Clingan begins to have more of an effect on the game, they’re pouring forward but I’m not impressed with the front pairing. Agogo is just plain lazy whilst Holt is not up to the mark, and it’s easy to see why Calderwood was so keen to offload him to Bristol City last season.
Dennis Wise is getting some serious stick from the Forest faithful but takes it in his stride. He responds to ”you’re only four foot tall” with a trademark Clough thumbs-up to “A” Block, I’m beginning to warm to this guy.
A heavy spell of Forest pressure bears fruit in the 50th minute when a Commons free-kick goes through a ruck of players, taking a deflection en-route to goal.
Forest are inspired and pour forward, Leeds on-loan left-back Jamie Clapham is on overtime. Perch stabs one wide, Holt hits the side-netting and Commons goes close again. Forest fans taunt their rivals with “let’s all have a whip-round”.
Wise makes a bold move bringing on Tore-Andre Flo and going three up top, (can you imagine Calderwood doing that away from home?). Still Forest create chances.
Nathan Tyson enters the fray to rapturous applause from “A” Block: “bloody hell it’s Tyson not Collymore” shouts a wag, he like me is not convinced. Tyson creates a gift-wrapped chance for young German winger Felix Bastians, who blazes wide of the post.
French midfielder Sebastian Carole on the counterattack wriggles his way through the Forest defence unchallenged and threads a ball through to Beckford on the far post, who makes no mistake.
The away fans are delirious, Wise and co go mental, you’d have thought they’d won the European Cup Final. Calderwood looks forlorn; it can’t help that ex Leeds manager David O’Leary is sat in the stands for the second consecutive match.
Forest are unlucky but pay for a shocking first half performance. Leeds on the other hand are a tight-knit unit who give their all for their manager. The away support today are a twelfth man. They all have a huddle in the centre-circle at the final whistle.
I’ve been disappointed with ex-Pie Kelvin Wilson today. He’s hardly won a header and looks off the pace. Wes Morgan has his critics but he’s won his headers and cleared his lines. What he lacks in intelligence he makes up with endeavour.
Forest have been outwitted by a couple of strikers who a few years ago were plying their trade at Thurrock and Wealdstone respectively. Perhaps the Reds should employ a scout to scour the non-leagues because there are plenty more out there like them.
Nottm Forest 1 Commons Leeds Utd 2 Kandol and Beckford
Attendance : 25,237
Man of the Match: Jermaine Beckford