Well that could’ve been worse!

table_27thfeb.jpgWhilst Scunthorpe continued their excellent form with a 1-3 victory at Gresty Road against Crewe, it was kind of predictable, despite the excitement of Crewe taking the lead (I couldn’t help but vaguely keep track of the results after all!).  They’re looking decided difficult to catch now – a full ten points ahead of us.

That said, if (and it’s a big if) we win our game in hand, then it’s seven points, and it wasn’t that long ago that we were that far clear of the chasing pack.  But the better news was that Blackpool beat Oldham at Boundary Park, and Doncaster held Yeovil to a draw – so assuming we’re capable of mounting some kind of run of form, second place is looking a lot more of a tempting prospect.  Of course, we have to watch out for Bristol City below us.

It certainly makes the forthcoming fixtures with Scunny and Bristol a little more interesting, both away from home, and our only remaining fixtures against “contenders” this season – ordinarily I’d be happy with that, but with Forests’ propensity to drop points against teams lower in the league table, it’s hardly a comfort to be facing so many of them over the coming weeks.  The rapidity of Oldham’s poor run of form offers hope that it may affect a few more of our promotion rivals, but of course, it’s a stark warning that we could go that way again after the awful run we’ve hopefully put behind us…

It’s a big day for the Reds…

… and we’re not even playing!  But our promotion rivals are, and whilst they’re all playing an ‘extra’ game, it gives Scunny a chance of amassing a ten point lead over us if they can get a win tonight; which on current form certainly doesn’t seem to be above them.  They face a trip to Crewe, who hopefully won’t approach the game in the same way that they did when we visited and annihilated them.

Yeovil can put themselves three points clear of us if they are successful on a tricky trip north to Doncaster, whilst Oldham are at home to Blackpool – and if they can turn around the appalling run they’ve found themselves on, they’d end up one point ahead of us – although if Blackpool can play with as much endeavour and effort as they did at our place recently, it will certainly prove to be a difficult game for the Latics.

If all results fare badly for us, it will leave us in fourth place – with a game in hand over all three teams above us.  Bristol City would remain just below us in fifth, with two games in hand over the top three, and a game in hand over us (and they’re only a point behind us, remember!).  If there were any starker demonstration of the importance of our results, I can’t imagine what it would look like – 2nd – 5th place is incredibly tight, there’s a seven point gap to Scunthorpe currently, and a 5 point gap from 5th to 6th placed Tranmere.

I think I might just not try to keep track of the results – whenever I do that they all seem to be going really well until some late intervention to throw a spanner in the works – so I’ll just check the results later tonight and hope that at least some of them went our way!

Doubting Chesterfield feel embittered?

Then check out some of the captions on these pictures, and these ones too, on their official website! Whilst I can understand the compulsion, the lack of professionalism is quite amusing – I’ve saved my favourite two for posterity – the first, features Barry Roche doing his best gibbon impression:

And my absolute favourite is below, it will keep me chuckling for days! Whilst it’s given me a good laugh, if you’re reading, Tina Jenner, I think you need to grow up a bit, love! :lol:

* Due to a sense of humour deficiency I’ve been asked to remove the offending pictures by Chesterfield FC’s webmaster, which I’ve done since they do own the copyright of the images.  The picture that amused me most was one of David Prutton – who was, of course, heavily bearded and long haired at the time – which had the caption “a random tramp seems to clear Seb’s shot” – alas I can no longer share it with you, and of course, the caption on the official site has since been changed.  Not that anyone is likely to look back upon this story anyway! 

Thank you very much for six points, Spireites!

Chesterfield – 1
Nottingham Forest – 2

It was serious brown-trousers time at Saltergate as Forest once again found themselves desperately defending towards the end of the game, but unlike in previous matches, they successfully defended a slender lead to register three points, and rise – probably temporarily – back into the automatic promotion places.  Chesterfield must be cursing Forest, we’ve registered an aggregate score of 6-1 against them in our two games this season, when in both games they probably deserved more than they got.

Smoulds lined up in a side pretty much in line with the one I wanted in my match preview – a flat four-four-two with Clingan and Commons returning to the side, with Jack pushed upfront to partner Agogo upfront.  Not that the early exchanges in the first half made it sound like much of an improvement.  Chesterfield set out to frustrate just as other sides have recently, not playing particularly progressively, but working hard to deny us space – and Forest, as is typical lately, didn’t really seem to have a way of dealing with that in the early exchanges.

The first half in totally generated very little in the way of chances for either side, Paul Hall shot wide after beating Breckin, and again caused us problems later in the half sending a great ball across the face of the goal, fortunately with no Chesterfield player in position to tap it into the goal.  Forest actually did get the ball in the net just before half time, Sammy Clingan played a delicious ball to Agogo, his first effort was blocked by Barry Roche, the rebound was again struck by Agogo and turned in by Perch, but the linesman’s flag was up – it wasn’t clear whether it was for offside or because the ball had gone out of play for a goalkick.

The final incident of note in the first half was Jack Lester appearing to have raised his hand and struck Phil Picken, fortunately the referee decided on leniency and merely booked the firey forward.  Shortly after this Alex Bailey collided with Bennett in a fairly innocuous looking challenge, but also picked up a yellow card – so the referee went from very forgiving to condemning in a matter of moments before half time.

The second half saw Chesterfield fly out of the blocks, Allison did well to hold the ball up and release it to Larkin who really should have hit the target, shortly after this Niven brought a good save from Smith.  Despite being put under increasing pressure it was Forest who were to go up the other end of the pitch and take the lead very much against the run of play.

Lester played a tremendous through-ball to Agogo which put him through on goal, and just as he did against Blackpool, he kept his cool and put the ball comfortably past Barry Roche into the back of the net.  Chesterfield were right back at us, and again Larkin was the guilty-party in the missing-good-chances stakes – volleying over.

Despite Chesterfield continuing to press, Forest were clearly dangerous on the counter – Commons this time found some space and played the ball to Agogo – who looked suspiciously offside – who went through before being brought down by Barry Roche.  The former-Forest keeper picked up a booking despite being the last man, and Agogo picked himself up to take the spotkick and score despite Roche picking the right way.

As we all know only too well, Forest don’t “do” making life easy for themselves, so the defence duly decided to have a snooze whilst Hall chipped a simple looking ball into the penalty area where Downes had a pretty easy job of heading in to make the scoreline 2-1 and immediately eliminate any sense of comfort Forest might have had with a two goal cushion.

The remainder of the game felt very fraught and tense, Chesterfield piling on the pressure as Forest seemingly seemed incapable of keeping hold of the ball.  Smoulds brought on Luke Chambers for Sammy Clingan (who had earlier been clattered by a bad challenge), putting Chambers in at right back and pushing Curtis up to right midfield, with Prutton tucking into central midfield.

Shortly after this Perch did well to cut inside and unleash a snapshot that struck the bar, and surprisingly we continued to create chances – Agogo returned the earlier favour by Lester and put Jack through on goal, pretty much rounded Roche, but wasn’t able to shoot without deflecting off Bailey giving us a corner.

At the other end, Larkin once again proved luckless infront of goal – this time he appeared to have done everything right, but wasn’t ready for a brave block by Julian Bennett who appeared to take it square in the midriff.  In the meantime Agogo was wirthdrawn from Dobie, and Commons for Gary Holt, which seems negative, used up a few valuable seconds – and Holt even had a decent shot just over.  To say that the full time whistle came as an extreme relief is a huge understatement!

All in all, a hugely important three points – Chesterfield will undoubtedly feel aggrieved at once again being on the wrong end of a flattering scoreline against us this season – but I don’t really care!  It goes without saying that Forest need to build on this result and also improve performances over the next couple of home games before our daunting looking trip to Scunthorpe, and later Bristol City.  But I’m in a good mood now – well done, Reds!

Chesterfield vs. Forest preview..

I’m getting fed up of saying we could really use three points in our next game – but the fact remains we could.  Of course, the phrase “must win” is bandied about, and whilst it’s not strictly true since automatic will still be attainable mathematically with a defeat, on a morale front we really should be getting all the points.  We’ve netted 16 points in 14 games, which over the course of a season is border-line relegation form – we need to turn this around with a good run of results, let’s hope that starts tomorrow!

Few of us will have forgotten tuesday night’s debacle against Blackpool – whilst we losttwo points thanks to a controversial penalty, which apparently has bitterly disappointed the squad (and fans alike), that shouldn’t detract from the fact that we were second-best through much of the game, and a big improvement from the players is necessary.  The other disappointment in that game was Grant Holt’s booking, which sees him suspended along with Tyson – taking away arguably our best striking combination.

The biggest issue for me is our painful lack of width when going forward – and since Smoulds has some enforced changes to make, I would like to see him go further in changing his team selection.  Now I’m not one of those (plentiful) fans who believe that Gary Holt is part of the axis of evil, but I’d like to see him rested tomorrow, and I’d like to see the Reds revert to something more akin to a flat 4-4-2 formation.  For what it’s worth, the team I’d select would be:

Smith

Curtis — Morgan — Breckin — Bennett

Perch — Prutton — Clingan — Commons

Lester — Agogo

Perch and Prutts could have the license to swap positions, and hopefully it will give our midfield a much-needed attacking feel, and hopefully provide the forwards with better service than they’ve enjoyed lately.  Lester will naturally drop back into midfield during the game, which means we need Agogo to work harder than I typically have seen him do so – but then, that goes for the entire team.

Chesterfield aren’t on a great run of form – they’ve won only one in the last six – not that this in itself is enough to inspire confidence.  Brighton were on a poor run of home form when we visited them, and look what happened there!  If anything I’d rather see us face a team in red-hot form just to alleviate the embarrassment when we roll over and sit deep should we actually manage to get a lead in the game.

As I’ve mentioned, Grant is suspended, as is Tyson.  Chesterfield are missing striker Jamie Ward to a hamstring injury, which leaves them depending on the man-mountain Wayne Allison.  Certainly not a gifted striker by any stretch of the imagination, but the kind of hard working bustling player who always seems to cause our defence immeasurable problems – so I certainly wouldn’t be writing him off any time soon.

Of course, we “tonked” them 4-0 earlier in the season – but any of you at the game will remember the bafflement we had upon leaving the ground.  The game itself was pretty even, and characterised by some lethal finishing from Jack, Neil Harris (!), Grant actually managed to convert a penalty and Nicky Southall finished the very peculiar “rout”.  Interestly only one of those goalscorers is available for this game.

Chesterfield will be fired up for this – they will certainly be keen to avenge the extremely flattering reverse they suffered at the City Ground, and they of course have the enigma of Barry Roche in goal – a man who rarely shined in a Forest shirt when faced by formidible opponents like coffee cups, but certainly hasn’t looked the hapless keeper bereft of confidence since joining the Spireites.

It’s impossible to predict anything about Forest now, a win is important to lift the fans and players alike – but whether we’re capable of registering one is another matter entirely.  I’ve had my confidence in the squad shred to pieces, I know they are capable – on their day – of beating any team in this league, but they’ve not had their day for some time.  A win would be very welcome, coupled with some decent loan signings next week.  I’m not particularly confident that either will happen.

Bloody hell, and I thought our fans were fickle!

Like many Forest fans, I had a quiet smile at the Derby result last night.  You might have noticed a distinct lack of contact between me and my Derby-supporting friend who I’d been interviewing earlier in the season – this is entirely deliberate and I thank them for not hassling me when things are going well at the theatre of sheep, and not so well at ‘fortress’ (arf) City Ground.  The Championship is shaping up for an exciting climax.

As far as I’m aware, the Sheep weren’t exactly expected to run away with the league this season, in fact, a top half finish seemed to be the best many fans hoped for at the wrong end of Brian Clough way.  Billy Davies has obviously blown these expectations out the water – the molesters of mutton were 6 points clear atop the Championship – and still remain in 1st spot as I type – so it was with something akin to childish glee that I found this thread of utter whingeing via a helpful link on Vital Forest.

Now I’m always quite quick to stick the boot in on some sections of our support who are utterly unreasonable most of the time – but that link takes the biscuit entirely, and does indeed confirm the age old adage, that I’d rather be a muppet than a sheep!

Brecks apologises for abusive behaviour..

It seems there certainly was some substance to complaints fans posted on message boards after the Blackpool game, as Ian Breckin has come out and apologised for his actions via the official Forest website.  Which reports our captain retains the 100% backing of Smoulderwood.  Clearly an apology was necessary if he swore and gestured at a support – no matter how idiotic the supporter in question reportedly was, but somehow I doubt that this will be sufficient for those who seem to have seized upon this incident as an excuse to stick the boot in on Breckin.  He said:

“It was wrong and I shouldn’t have done what I did.  I was so frustrated at the manner in which Blackpool had scored and unfortunately one particular supporter bore the brunt.  I can only apologise sincerely to the individual concerned and any other supporters who were offended by my actions.”

As club captain it was rather a shoddy lack of professionalism he showed, but I’m sure all of us can think of examples where we’ve lost our cool when we shouldn’t have.  Personally I think the apology is sufficient – given some of the utter crap coming loudly from the mouths of many supporters surrounding me at that particular game, I can understand why he would feel frustrations.  Then again, I can understand why the fans were annoyed too given the quality of the performance – but that said, Breckin wasn’t particularly the worst offender in a Forest shirt – so why he was singled out is a mystery to me.

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