Blues lined up with an unusually experienced team featuring Vaesen, Tebily, Guitar Man Taylor and Clemence. Forest’s line up included the diminutive David Johnson (a player with a fine future behind him), Kris Commons, Alan Rogers and a firm of Worksop solicitors going by the name of Malarky, Hurry, Dog and Bop (Mullarkey, Hurren, Doig and Bopp actually but that spoils the gag don’t it?).
I got there late and missed the kick off, having become engrossed in Midlands Today and misplaced my car keys. I don’t think I missed much judging by the torpor I found once I entered the sparsely populated stadium with about five minutes played. I didn’t lower myself to ask anyone the score, so I assume it was 0-0. If there had been a few goals scored, then this report shall be completely wrong, but hey! Who cares?
The first half was pretty drab. Blues had adapted to the fact that key midfielders Carter and Kilkenny are away on loan by resorting to the old standby tactic of completely bypassing the midfield and having the back four lump it 90yds upfield, 3-wood-style, to the tiny Peter Till and the ponderous Andy Barrowman. Not pretty. Sam Oji had to go off with a knock after only 19 minutes, which meant a reshuffle with Sam Alsop dropping from midfield to left back, Marcos Painter (who had a very fine game) moving inside to centre back and Asa Hall coming on as a sub in midfield. Once they all got sorted out in their new positions they did OK.
The night was cold and the pitch began to freeze up, with the grass going all white and frosty. Quite a festive sight, but not conducive to helping players stay on their feet. Both teams, I think, changed their studs at half time after which the sliding around and falling over became less prevalent. Forest were relying on an offside trap at the back, which generally worked well, marshalled by the large and gobby Doig, whilst their attacks relied heavily on the impressive pace of Sam Mullarkey who looks about 12 and is strikingly reminiscent of my older brother during his tenure at Handsworth Grammar. Blues lacked ideas, to the extent that free kicks were being left to that maestro of the art, Stephen Clemence. I can’t remember one finding a Blue shirt.
Half time came as a blessed relief, the ref’s whistle going off to a background of clanking noises coming from inside the Land Rover paint shop alongside the pitch and the revving of a plane’s jet engines on the runway at Birmingham Airport about half a mile away. Ah! The glamour of professional football...
Second half came after I’d partaken of a very decent Bovril and a quick pee in the portakabin that doubles a latrine block at Solihull. No belly buster burger this evening (this part is for Bluetitch – she frets about my diet). Ms. Freely had cooked a Sunday lunch this week and so I’d had a hefty portion of left over chicken, mash and sprouts whilst watching the delightful Mr Nick Ross and Midlands Today (see above). That’s about as close as I ever get to domestic bliss at Freely Mansions.
The second half was much better than the first, a lot more open and faster paced. Guitar Man was well inside his comfort zone coping with David Johnson, Tebily was operating in cruise control and young Marcos Painter was letting nothing pass and setting play up well from the back. Asa Hall was getting stuck in in midfield but the real star of the show was right winger Mathew ‘Bugsy’ Birley who looked dangerous every time he got the ball (which wasn’t often enough). He was mixing it up well, varying from going down the flank to get a cross in, or cutting inside and getting quite a few shots away with his unfavoured left foot. After recent first team performances, it was good to see a positive attacking performance from a Blues right winger. I didn’t see Brucie tonight, having arrived late, but I hope he was there to watch Bugsy, almost as much as I wish Jasper Gronker had been there to watch!
Blues scored the only goal of the game after 55 minutes. Birley (inevitably) won a corner on the right and Motteram went across to take it. Six foot four of Guitar Man loped up, with five foot five of David Johnson dutifully tracking him back to cover. What a hilarious spectacle they made – if the game David were to take a run up and use a trampette, he’d stand a fighting chance of getting as high as the Guitar Man’s navel. Anyhow, Motteram whipped in a vicious swerving driven corner to the near post, Taylor rose above Johnson (without bothering to jump) and headed the ball firmly down and into the net.
The goal opened the game up well. Forest looked a little demoralized and began to squabble amongst themselves, most notably right back James Biggins, who almost broke down in tears every time he came to take a throw in, only to find (and I quote) “as usual, no fecker wants it, do they?” David Johnson kept trying hard, to his great credit, but the service was pretty much non-existent, young Malarky tired and was subbed late on, after which Forest pretty much disappeared as an attacking threat.
The game petered out with Blues well on top and trying hard to score a second. The closest they got was in the last minute when Barrowman miscontrolled a cross but still found himself being given the time and space to backtrack, recover the ball, turn and face goal, look up and chip the goalie with a delightful effort that just shaved the post. It would have been a great goal if it’d gone in, as they say.
Final score 1-0
Blues: Vaesen, Tebily, Painter, Oji, Martin Taylor, Alsop, Birley, Clemence, Till, Barrowman, Motteram. Subs: Doyle, Parratt, Asa Hall, Howland, Hamilton.
Forest: Roche, Biggins, Hurren, Doig, Rogers, James, Gardner, Bopp, Commons, Johnson, Mullarkey. Subs: Fernandez, Gamble, Beaumont, Glass, Wilmet.