I wasn’t going to do a preview, with the games coming so close – but well, I changed my mind. I said the last game was huge, and now with a one goal deficit to overcome at the City Ground, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Forest put their nineteen game unbeaten league run at the City Ground on the line for a shot at the big time (or, I suppose, a shot at a shot at the big time).
A capacity crowd will be there to hopefully provide plenty of backing to Billy and the boys as they seek to address the 2-1 scoreline that Blackpool earned at Bloomfield Road. Away goals count for nothing here, so Forest would need to amass a two goal lead or more to progress whilst avoiding extra time, a one goal lead of course activates that. We’ve not got a good record in extra time during past play-off encounters!
On Saturday neither side exactly played to their potential – a strong first half for Forest was still only sufficient to go in level at half time, and was followed by a less composed second half. Blackpool were more consistent over both halves and demonstrated their dangerous finishing – taking their fewer chances to earn lead at half time in the two legged tie.
The good news is that the Reds didn’t pick up any further injury problems – both Paul McKenna and Chris Cohen came through the game with no concerns which is good news. We are further boosted by the news that Guy Moussi is available after missing out on the trip to the seaside with a groin injury.
Blackpool too picked up no injuries so will be in a similarly strong position – Holloway has been pretty consistent in his team selections of late so we can perhaps expect the same line-up again, whilst Billy I expect to do something different. Given our need for goals, I’d expect Earnie to be starting alongside Dexter in a more attack-minded formation.
I think the visitors too will be in attack-mode too, though. Having seen them a few times now it’s certainly where their strength lies, and Holloway will be hoping to exploit any gaps at the back we might leave in pursuit of a goal by hitting us on the break. It will be an interesting encounter, for sure – which is why Billy’s plea for the fans to generate some noise is a good shout.
As for us – we need to make better use of our chances (and indeed, hope for referees who can spot something like a hand-ball in the area!!) – we created enough at Bloomfield Road but didn’t take advantage. This is a real big lesson we can learn from the Lancashire men in Tangerine – their ‘goal’s scored’ column in the league table is the envy of pretty much everyone bar Newcastle and West Brom.
Whilst it’s a bit of a cliché, with the tie still close as it is then I can’t help but think the side that notches first will be the side in ascendency. Forest don’t fail to score at home very often, and indeed, we’re not adverse to keeping clean sheets – but with Blackpool’s chance-taking credentials that will be a bigger challenge than many games we’ve played lately at the City Ground.
It’s going to be an intense evening, and certainly I’m already feeling the nerves starting to kick in as I contemplate it. The prize awaiting the winner is the chance to go on to Wembley and face either Cardiff or Leicester (Cardiff are 1-0 up and have home advantage for the next leg on Wednesday). I shall refrain from predictions – but can certainly state that I hope the team that triumphs at the City Ground tomorrow goes on to win at Wembley.
As for us, we must heed Billy’s call and get behind the team as much as possible. We all desperately want an early goal to settle the nerves, but frankly, if that isn’t forthcoming then certain fans need to quell that urge they have to start griping and moaning. Positivity is the name of the game and we can play our part which – even if it has a moderate impact on our players – it’s worth it!