Welcome back to the 2000-01 season finale, Warno-brothers! It’s a two-horse race for the Division 2 title between our Nottingham Forest side and Stoke City. We’ve also got our first Wembley date on the horizon. Can new-boy Freddy Leon spearhead an end-of-season run? Wish me luck….
Shortly after Freddy Leon signs, another International, Salif Diao, joins on a free after being released by Monaco. I also sign Giles Grimandi from Arsenal as left back cover [though he injures himself almost immediately]. It means I’ll change-up my formation to accommodate. It’s a risk – and certainly harsh on the magnificent George Ndah who will now be pushed out wide.
A tight 1-0 win over Torquay follows. Fred doesn’t open his account, but it’s a shut-out at the other end of the pitch. That’s okay.
A Wednesday fixture against Bradford is our game-in-hand on Stoke, and a chance to pull clear.
It’s dream start at Valley Parade as Lee Hendrie cuts in from the right to score. Just before halftime Ndah floats in from the left and its 2-0. I wish the game would stop there… Bradford fight back in the second half and we wither….. a frustrating loss. No goals for Fred.
Lee Hendrie seems to be enjoying the attacking freedom, as he scores against Southend. Freddy Leon breaks his duck as we once again secure a 2-0 halftime lead. This time we do hold on, and see the game out 2-1.
Plymouth Argyle do the domestic double over us.. Canadian Carlo Corazzin getting an early goal at Home Park and Simon Collins doubling the lead from midfield. Nigel Clough junior hauls one back at halftime. I switch to two up front for the second half , but its to no avail!
Quite remarkably, Stoke lose two of their games and despite dropping points we pull six clear.
It’s Cup Final Day!! The perfect day for Windscreen Shield organsizers are it’s First vs Second in the league race.
I decide after (not much) though, to revert to a classic formation for the final. Fred has not been firing and Ndah and Hopkin less effective in their new roles. Haworth gets the nod ahead of Hendrie in the ‘no. 7’ slot and young ‘Gareth Pallister’ the midfield berth ahead of Cambiasso.
Seventy-Seven Thousand fans at Wembley are treated to six goals! We get a dream start on 3 minutes as Clough junior puts us ahead, before Stoke miss a penalty, then equalize. Haworth scores a second and we hold on to a 2-1 halftime lead. Phew..
George Ndah settles early second half nerves and an own goal puts the game out of sight at 4-1. A late flurry of attacking intent means the lads need to hold firm at 4-2. We Do!
WINDSCREEN SHIELD WINNERS! Our first silverware, and a trophy real-life Warnock never got his hands on!
For the league come-down, I don’t mess with the formation any longer. Sticking with the narrow 4-1-1-2-2. It puts paid to Pompey, and Fred scores only his second goal in six games.
The win propels us too far ahead of the playoff-chasing pack! It’s another promotion and another tick on the spread sheet. [emulating Warnock’s success with Huddersfield in 1995].
Right.. time to wrap up the league title.
A bumper Wednesday night crowd – buoyed by recent success – sees Geroge Ndah score the winner at Brighton. It’s not pretty at the moment, but grinding our results is what’s important.
We maintain to six point gap with four games to play.
We fight Orient a few days later, and are stuck on 0-0. I thrown on Pierre Van Hooijdonk late, outting three up front and removing Big Nev from the sticks. PvH scores the winner and the visiting Forest fans go wild!
I don’t know why the AI insists on cramming so many games in at the end of the season… I try the same tactic at Swansea, but this time the game remains 0-0. Three league clean sheets in a row can been seen as positive. Main question, Where’s Fred?
We go into the next game at the City Ground knowing a win will see us home. six points clear and this our second-to-last game.
The lads – nervy – tentatively play through Colchester. It’s not until the stroke of halftime new Pally breaks the deadlock. After Fred scores on 55 minutes the lads relax, and can see the finish line. We win 2-1. The City Ground erupts!
CHAMPIONS OF DIVSION 2!!
The final game is a party, as the lads are all nursing hangovers. I mean, come on Football League… one day off…. No matter we win 3-0, with drinks flowing in place of oranges at halftime.
The full league table looks like this; A 97 point haul from Stoke to finish runners up is impressive.
These are the average ratings; Westley who was a Kidderminster signing, and loanee from Sheffield Wednesday played four games [8,7,8,8]. Central defender Luis Edison the pick of the bunch.
Geroge Ndah lead the scoring charts;
And Assist charts;
For Ndah that equaled 57 goal contributions in 57 games. Take a bow, son.
I hope you enjoyed this season with Niall Warnock and Forest. Join us next time as we are forced back to Division 3… [in keeping with Neil Warnock history]. Until next time.