Tonight was my first opportunity to take in Forest’s stunted pre-season, and if nothing else it reiterated what we should already know, Sean O’Driscoll’s era as Nottingham Forest manager is still very much a work in progress. Of course, first things first, a belated welcome to Simon Gillett and Daniel Ayala who joined Forest over the last few days.
Ayala joins on a season long loan from Norwich City – I first remember him whilst on loan at Hull City from Liverpool in a game at their place. It was the first time we played them in about eight million years, we threw everything at them but couldn’t score, not least because of the classy young centre half who seemed hell bent on thwarting our chances of scoring.
Subsequently he returned to Liverpool with an injury problem – but he did score against Derby for the tigers, so that’s not so bad. He later joined the Rams that season once the injury situation was resolved and made seventeen appearances for them. Norwich signed him from Liverpool around a year ago, but had a nightmare time of it with injuries.
So hopefully he can stay fit – because I rate him. I must admit, I’d not really heard much about Simon Gillett before our interest in him. He came through at Southampton but never really made it at the Saints, being loaned out to Walsall, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Yeovil and finally Doncaster before moving permanently to Rovers in 2010.
His contract at Donny expired and left him a free agent in the summer – and the gaffer has taken the opportunity to reacquaint himself with him. He’s a small combative midfielder who plays the ‘niggly’ role that we’ve kind of missed lately. I didn’t get to see him in action this evening, so haven’t really got much else to say about him! It’s generally a role that I think is important though, and under-valued by most fans.
So anyway, as I said I got down to the City Ground for tonight’s friendly, which looked something like this in terms of line-up:
Halford Ayala Collins Harding
Moussa McGugan Reid
After a decent result against Villa and a decent half against County, tonight’s game was a bit of an anti-climax really. Forest were disjointed and a little relaxed against a West Brom side who didn’t really have to work too hard either – an early lead was acquired through a hit from range by Mulumbu, it deflected slightly but I thought Karl Darlow in the goal should’ve done better than get a hand to it on its’ way in. McGoldrick had a couple of efforts from range – they might’ve been our only shots on goal.
It was 2-0 and game over just after a quarter of an hour – Gera had an effort from range which Darlow again messed up a little – he parried it toward Shane Long who, as we know only too well, is a diving bugger – he fell over under no contact from Danny Collins but the ref pointed to the spot and Long picked himself up to send Darlow the wrong way with a well taken penalty. Really, there’s not much else to say – it wasn’t a great match!
The second half was more even – Forest looked more useful in containing their opponents and getting a bit of possession in, but there wasn’t much by the way of threat going forward. Lots of changes came ten minutes into the second half – Al-Mutawa, Guedioura, Greening, Derbyshire, Majewski and Tudgay came on for Moussa, McGugan, Moussi, Reid, McGoldrick and Blackstock, as noted – it didn’t make much difference but Forest were containing the not-exactly-busting-a-gut Baggies.
Bader Al-Mutawa’s appearance was interesting – he didn’t even have a number on his shirt, he sat infront of Halford mostly and I thought looked a bit lost most of the time, but he did have some nice touches on the ball which is promising. Lascelles came on for Collins as O’Driscoll looked to protect his defence, Moloney replaced Halford, then Taylor (a triallist) replaced Harding and Regan later replaced Ayala meaning we had a whole new eleven out by the end of the game.
Probably the best thing about the evening was the slight sense of arousal at having a number three with a blonde Psychoesque haircut. Of course, Harding is no Psycho, but if you squint a bit then you could almost sell the idea to yourself. It’s too early to judge anything or either take overly optimistic or pessimistic views from what we’ve seen so far – my friends who made it to the other friendlies reassured me they had been much better, so certainly it’s not doom and gloom.
With the season proper kicking off on Monday night at Fleetwood for the Capital One Cup and then we’re into the League season next weekend I can’t help but think we’re going to be basically having a bit of an extended preseason into the real one – it can’t really be helped given the level of rebuilding and disruption our usual preparations have undergone. I do think that given the circumstances we’re taking the right approach, but we will need a bit of patience (certainly more than the two whinging sods sat behind me!) whilst the team gels.
Other things that are work in progress is the blog – I’ve been absorbed by a summer of sport so been less active than I might otherwise have been online, as the season starts it should galvanise me to get a bit more lively in posting on here! Obviously Forest have been through a gigantic upheaval on and off the field over the last few months – but well, I wanted to stick to my ‘having some time away from it’ resolve, so stuck to it. I could do with rejigging the look of the blog though, and obviously as the season commences there’ll be more impetus to write.
I did find a bit of time to moonlight for the Guardian for a preview of our season though, which you can find here.
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