04/05/2003 Rotherham United
2 - 2

The play-offs are only a week away and after Forest confirmed their place in the top six last week, it came as no surprise that Paul Hart was resting several key players for this relatively meaningless game.

There was no sign at all of Michael Dawson, Jim Brennan, Marlon Harewood or Andy Reid, while Darren Ward and David Johnson started on the bench (and stayed there all game).

Barry Roche made only his second start in goal for Forest, while Jon Hjelde, Chris Doig, Craig Westcarr and Jack Lester all found themselves starting.

As a reward for their work in the Academy and reserve teams, Matt Bodkin, Wes Morgan and Brian Cash joined Ward and Johnson on the bench.

With a play-off place confirmed and so many changes to the side it came as no surprise that the game was a little slow to start.

In fact, apart from a very good save from Roche, the first half was an entirely forgettable affair.

Most people spent the half time break believing this was going to be one of the goalless bore-draws. Well, a draw it was, but the second half was anything but boring.

Both teams started the second half much as they had finished the first - uninspired. Nevertheless, the breakthrough finally arrived on 53 minutes as Rotherham upped the pace. Mark Robins had a good chance to shoot, but instead, he chose to cross to Alan Lee, who made no mistake as he put the Millers 1-0 up.

The goal woke both the teams and the fans up and the atmosphere changed to that of a football match rather than a friendly.

Forest went up a gear as they chased the equalizer, which duly arrived on 64 minutes, when they were awarded a free kick just outside the area. As the Rotherham players moaned endlessly at the referee, Riccy Scimeca placed the ball and slipped it through to Jack Lester and while all the Rotherham players stood and watched, he fired in.

The Millers’ bench was furious, but the goal stood and less than two minutes later Forest had taken the lead as Craig Westcarr scored his first senior goal.

Scimeca slid the ball through to Lester and Ian Gray in the Rotherham goal committed himself. The ball fell to Craig Westcarr who coolly chipped the ‘keeper.

Rotherham, having seen their 1-0 lead replaced by a 2-1 deficit, went on the attack again and within three minutes, they were back on level terms.

Mark Robins found himself with his back to the goal on the edge of the six-yard box. Yet, somehow, he managed to shrug off a challenge, turn and crash the ball into the net.

Less than a minute later it looked as if Rotherham had taken the lead again as Lee blasted in. The Rotherham fans cheers turned to jeers as they realised the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.

Both sides continued to search for the winner, but it never arrived. The final few minutes of the game turned into something of a farce as the players edged closer to the tunnel looking for a quick escape as the Rotherham fans lined up on the edge of the pitch waiting for the whistle.

Considering the number of first-teamers missing, the Forest performance had been good overall. It would have been nice to take all three points but very few Forest fans can have come away from Millmoor too disappointed.

After the game Paul Hart did appear disappointed with the draw, saying: "We wanted to win this one, to put us in the right frame of mind for the play-offs.

"Obviously we made a few changes which were precautionary, the last thing we wanted to do was lose key men to injury, but I picked a side that I thought would win the game."
Forest Man-of-the-Match:


[Click on Player Name to view Player Profile and Statistics]

No. Player Scored Cards
12  ROCHE       
14  DOIG       
15  THOMPSON  Substituted    
22  JESS       
16  BOPP       
10  LESTER    1  
19  WESTCARR    1  
18  CASH  Substitute (On for 15 )    


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