Junior spares Hallowe’en horror show..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Brentford -1

Forest progress to the regional quarter finals tonight in the dress rehearsal of the league fixture we have to look forward to on saturday.  In front of an eerily empty City Ground, Forest started the game positively, starting with Pedersen in net, youngster Vincent Fernandez as the rightmost centreback in a back three along with Captain Wes and Julian Bennett, with a midfield four of Curtis, Perch, Clingan and Southall, and an attacking trio of Grant Holt and Jack Lester just behind Junior Agogo.

For all Forests’ early possession and passing, and for all the evident haplessness of Brentford, we never really looked all that decisive in the first half.  Brentford were quite happy to allow us time and space in the centre but we didn’t seem to find a means of progressing beyond this.  However it was somewhat against the run of play that they took the lead.  Fernandez – who had impressed up to now – was utterly stitched up by a clever turn and nutmeg by Kuffour, his subsequent shot deflected off Wes Morgan and into the net – which the official site credits as an own goal.  Jack picked up a booking for a reckless lunge just before the break – it looked like he got the ball to me, but I’m not sure he was going for it!

So half time came giving the 75 plucky Brentford fans nestled in the Bridgford End something to cheer at, the predictable boos came from the remaining 1956 Forest fans in the Main Stand.  It’s been a while since I’ve ventured into D block – my god, what a bunch of whingers!  It’s more like sitting in the house of commons than at a football match, I half expected people to start shouting ‘rhubarb! rhubarb!’

The second half started much as the first did, but fortunately for us we used our possession much more usefully than prior to the break.  It only took a couple of minutes for the lively Agogo to pick up the ball on the left after dinking inside a couple of defenders, sending a delicious ball for ‘goal machine’ Southall to plant home first time much to the relief of the crowd!  Ten minutes or so later it was again Agogo the provider as he placed a ball into the box for Grant Holt to head beyond the keeper – it looked like an easy save to me, but somehow it squeezed its way in.

Agogo was looking very confident now, with a few tricks and runs – Calderwood was obviously pleased enough with his contribution to not risk him further, shortly after he teed Southall up with another chance he was substituted for Commons, to a standing ovation from the now appreciative fans.  Five minutes later and more youngsters were introduced into midfield, Robert Hughes for Sammy Clingan, and Lewis McGugan for Nicky Southall.  Ultimately that was pretty much it – the game wasn’t exciting, or particularly good – but we did a job, and hopefully it will prove helpful in overcoming the same opponents (well, ish) on saturday!

The David Platt case – live in court!

Judge: David Platt, you have been charged with the serious crime of impersonating a competent football manager – of flagrantly wasting millions of pounds on poor quality signings, and giving them over-inflated contracts which served to plunge the club into barely controllable debt, and ultimately the irreparably embarrassing and costly slide into League One. How do you plead?

Platt: Not guilty, your honour, in fact, I wish to register a claim for a £50,000 performance bonus that Eric Barnes promised me!

Judge: Let us hear the case for the prosecution.

Prosecution: David Platt took charge of Nottingham Forest in July 1999, between this date and 2001 he spent approximately £12,050,000 (source: Soccerbase) on transfer fees – the target for his tenure was to restore Nottingham Forest to the Premiership, the league above that in which they currently resided. His signings broadly proved to be unmitigated failures, which was reflected in the league placing of 14th in his first season in charge.

Season two for Platt was barely an improvement, with a finish of 11th place – this, according to the defendent, was sufficient to trigger a portion of a performance bonus promised by then-chairman Eric Barnes (the total amount up for grabs was up to £200,000). After season two, amazingly Platt was still in work at Forest, and there was no real pressure either from within the club nor from the fans to dispense with his services, however he was taken on by the FA to look after the England U21 team. The FA paid Forest compensation in order to end any outstanding obligations between David Platt and Nottingham Forest.

Circumstantially, David Platt remains a detested figure in Nottingham, whilst the patience of the supporters at this time was certainly more prominent than it is now, with hindsight it is recognised widely that the reign of David Platt was a pivotal part of the demise of the club – the news of his claim for any kind of performance related bonus has been roundly derided by Nottingham Forest supporters.

David Platt lost 42% of his games as boss of Nottingham Forest, despite having a larger transfer budget than any subsequent manager. Paul Hart was sacked, he lost 34% of games, Joe Kinnear was sacked, he lost 32% of games, Gary Megson was sacked, he lost 41% of games – David Platt has a worse record than any subsequent manager, with the possible exception of Megson with who he is comparable, all of these managers were sacked because their performance was unacceptable. The expectations on David Platt were higher – therefore it is impossible to consider his tenure at the club as anything other than an utter failure.

That is the case for the prosecution, your honour.

Judge: Thank you, prosecutor – a very compelling case, and how we will hear the case for the defence!

Defence: Erm, I’m afraid, having heard the case for the prosecution, the defence wishes to withdraw any form of comment – it is clear the defendant is horrendously guilty and is clearly utterly unworthy of any kind of performance related bonus.

Judge: Thank you for your candid evaluation, it would seem that David Platt is clearly guilty of impersonating a competent football manager – and is clearly undeserving of any form of performance related payment. He was clearly compensated for any loss of earnings by his taking of a new post within the Football Association, without considering that he didn’t actually earn any kind of bonus relating to a good performance!

Platt: Boo hoo!

Judge: You are sentence to be drowned in a bath by Charlie Stubbs from Coronation Street!

Platt: What? That’s the wrong David Platt!

Judge: Silence! I have spoken!

Platt: *Glug* *Glug* *Glug*

Football League recognition for Wes

Wes Morgan this time is afforded the honour of being included in the League One team of the week – which is a good reward for the young defender, who’s had a new lease of life in the role since Danny Cullip returned to first team action, in my opinion.  He’s been solid and dependable with no signs of the unconfident player we’ve seen at times earlier in the season – so well done Wes, and keep up the great work!

I remember before that Julian Bennett was included in the team of the week after a not-especially amazing performance, so it’s similarly baffling that Nicky Southall – who has netted four goals in three league games, winning us all nine points available in these games, hasn’t been included – that level of goalscoring from midfield is good value in any league, so it seems strange he’s been omitted, although I doubt he’ll be losing any sleep over it!

Not surprising to see a few Rotherham United players in there after they annihilated Crewe at the weekend, and we know only too well the kind of threat that Scunthorpe’s Billy Sharp can be – at that point I must confess to a certain level of ignorance about the rest of the players, but well, I’m sure some of the fans of these clubs will be just as bamboozled as we’ve been with past selections of Forest players!

Can we clone Danny Cullip?

Before now I had quite serious reservations about the moral implication of cloning human beings, after all, it’s playing God – it’s unnatural, all those things – it’s not a comfortable subject with me.  However, the impact a certain Mr Daniel Cullip has on the Nottingham Forest defence has convinced me of the virtues of bending this rule a little, in fact, I’m prepared to completely disregard it and just go for it.

Now you may think I’m being greedy, but it’s not that I want to fill our team with Danny Cullips – that would be silly, the chances are they’d all want to dominate and start fighting with each other whilst we were overran by our opponents.  No, such greed I will not fall foul of – the reason I would like to clone Danny Cullip is simply so that we can always field one of him in defence – because the poor chap seems so injury prone that I live in almost constant fear of when he will next be unavailable for selection.

You see, he’s played in 10 games so far this season – and we’ve won 9 of them, a drawn the other – that’s a pretty damned impressive record in anyone’s money.  And it’s not just his own play that is the reason for this – he seems to emanate an air of competence, confidence and efficiency that spreads to the rest of our defence to make them a cohesive unit, stingy with goals and unforgiving to opponents.  Wes Morgan in particular looks a different player when he’s alongside Cullip.
That is why the secret laboratory underneath the mainstand should even now be perfecting this technology to guard against another injury to the talismanic centreback, to make sure we never have to be without him again – the extra Danny Cullips would probably make good stewards whilst they await their next chance of playing, I imagine they’d have more success at getting the away fans to sit down than the current crop of knuckle-draggers!

Yeading between the lines…

A couple of FA Cup related bits of news popped up today – firstly, and thankfully, we have NOT been picked to be televised for this fixture (probably a good job, as the ever-optimistic Forest powers-that-be have opted to not open the Brian Clough stand for the game – so it would look amusing on TV with no fans visible from most camera angles!).  The BBC have decided to show Weymouth vs Bury, and Sky have opted for Macclesfield vs Walsall – odd choices, but I’m not grumbling so long as they’re far far far away from the City Ground, filming some other team undergoing some kind of abject humiliation.

The other news is the ticket prices – £12 for adults, with no concessions for 16-21 year olds or students, although pensioners get in for half price, and under 16’s for a bargainous £2 – so if you’re 16 you could always pretend to be a year younger!  Whilst I would’ve preferred to see tickets cheaper, it’s worth remembering that Forest don’t have the final say on this, and have to agree a fee with Yeading who take 50% of the gate money – given the likely low attendance it’s not surprising the prices are as they are.

Tickets will only be available in the Main Stand and Trent End for Forest supporters, with the usual away seats available for the Yeading supporters – with it being a weekend game and a vaguely ‘big club’ they may bring a few fairweather fans up with them, particularly since they were vaguely close to causing an upset against Newcastle United not all that long ago.  It’s hard to get excited about it, but well, it is the FA Cup, which makes it at least partially sacred!

Trigger-happy Nicky to keep on scoring…

Evergreen Nicky Southall has spoken today of wanting to continue his recent goalscoring exploits, which has seen him net 4 goals in our last three games, gaining us 9 points into the bargain, keeping us in our lofty eyrie atop League One.  He believes this to be the most prolific spell in his career, and certainly a chance to continue against ailing Brentford on saturday in the league will be a tempting prospect – even if he doesn’t feature against them in the cup tomorrow.  He said:

‘I don’t think I have done that before in my career, it may be some sort of record for me. Hopefully it will continue,’ he said. ‘I don’t want the run to stop, it is vital that we score goals and I have been fortunate enough to get them in the last few weeks.

‘If mine dry up somebody else will come along and get them. It doesn’t matter who is scoring them, as long as somebody does.’

Nicky has been working tremendously hard this season, and his performances mask the fact he’s actually getting on a bit – some of our younger players would do well to try to emulate his work rate.  It’s true he isn’t a pacey tricky winger who’ll beat his man – but he does give us excellent delivery into the box, as well as a knack of arriving unmarked at the back stick to stick the ball in the onion bag.

Keep up the good work, Nicky!

Forest vs. Brentford preview (JPTR2)

This game will be played infront of the fewest number of fans seen at the City Ground for some time, but those of us canny enough to realise it will save us from an evening of being terrorised by trick or treaters can at least hope for an interesting diversion this Hallowe’en.  With only the Main Stand open for home supporters, Forest are clearly fearing the worst in terms of how many people will show up – and who can blame them, with an exhorbitant £15 price tag on tickets! 

Our visitors from Griffin Park are on a rather poor run, in their last twelve competitive games only limping past Northampton on penalties has registered as a victory for Brentford FC, a run of appalling form that sees them hover just above the relegation zone in 19th place in League One.  The Bee’s are not having a great time of it, it has to be said, and of course, not only do they face the 140ish mile journey from Griffin Park to the City Ground tomorrow night, they face the same thing in the league on saturday!

Of course, all bad runs must come to an end, and it may be paranoia on my part, but I always fear they’re more likely to do so against us!  The empty edifices of the City Ground for our Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie tomorrow should not prove too daunting for the southerners, used to playing infront of an average crowd of less than 6,000, this will certainly be the case tomorrow – with only two stands open to enable us to witness the fixture.

Whilst I’m warming to the idea of a day out in Cardiff to a cup final, the league fixture between the two of us remains critical – whilst we’ve had a very good run of results after the Scunthorpe debacle, we still have Yeovil and Bristol biting at our heels (well, okay, biting somewhat short of our heels, but biting nonetheless) – but this cup fixture again brings Colin limited opportunity to test some fringe players and new ideas, as well as getting a very good look at the weekends opponents at close quarters.

We have to be expecting a home win here, given Brentford’s appalling form of late – but on All Hallows Eve I suppose we should be conditioned to expect the unexpected?

It’s gonna be on telly and we’ll lose..

The news of us drawing Yeading at home has sent a shockwave amongst Forest fans, well okay, a tedium tremor? Okay, an increasing sense of boring inevitability?  A few folks might remember Yeading played Newcastle in the FA Cup the season before last, and managed to not concede a goal for 51 minutes – in the end, obviously, they did – and lost 2-0 thanks to goals from Shola Ameobi and Lee Bowyer, but you get the general drift – this is, as a pundit would say, the potential banana skin.

Now if I was the chap who had to pick the game to put on telly, and I saw Yeading – almost nemesis of Newcastle, up against Nottingham Forest, League One leaders, I might also have phrases like “Sleeping giant”, “Once great” or “Huge club down on it’s luck” running through my mind – one thing that I would certainly be thinking about is the phrase “Twice former European champions humbled by part timers from some place near the smoke”.  It’s inevitable.

And we know what happens when we play on TV – don’t we?  Accrington Stanley?  Who’re they? And the least said about the Scunthorpe game the better!  As with the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, I don’t really see the FA Cup as top priority this year – but it is a magical competition and one that deserves to be taken seriously, and certainly I would infinitely prefer it if Forest were not the subject to one of those embarrassing defeats by a team that nobody had heard of before the result is plastered everywhere by the media!

For those of you ignorant of all things Yeading, as I was until I had a little scout around the internet – you can find more out here, including the rather spectacular piece of trivia that their nickname is, apparently, “The Ding” – well that’ll ding dang do for me!  They’re currently 9th in the Conference South, winning six of the first thirteen games of the season – so they’re hardly ripping up any daisies at their own level, making it almost certain they’ll beat us, surely? 😦

Cheltenham and fluster!

Cheltenham Town – 0
Nottingham Forest – 2

Nicky Southall was again the match winner with his third and fourth goals in three league games – within three minutes of one another. In a game where Cheltenham, on an appalling run of form in the league, will feel somewhat aggrieved to have come away with nothing. Forest named an unchanged side from that which faced Bristol City last week, with the except of John Thompson who of course left on loan to Tranmere earlier in the week.

The first goal came just after the half hour mark, Junior Agogo’s pass calmly slotted into the net by the evergreen Southall. The second, just three minutes later, while the Forest fans were still celebrating, was bundled in by Southall after good work by Neil Harris down the left having been released by James Perch. An incisive move indeed, and one which appeared to knock the stuffing from Cheltenham for the remainder of the half.

In the second half, Forest didn’t seem too interested in stretching their lead further, and so somewhat invited Cheltenham onto them – which is always a tad nerve wracking to say the least – fortunately the defence held up to it and the scoreline remained 2-0 to the mighty Reds, and fortunate indeed since it leaves us still five points clear at the top, with Yeovil picking up a draw, and Bristol a win. Good stuff!

Oh yes, and we’ve drawn someone called Yeading in the first round of the FA Cup at home.. who are they, then?

Kevin James becomes a Mariner..

Perpetually overlooked Kevin James has been offloaded to Grimsby Town on a three month loan deal today – which is probably good news for all concerned.  The pacey winger has never really shown any inclination or ability to force his way into first team reckoning, so really this could be a beneficial move all round – for us, we get rid of him for a bit, Kevin gets some first team football, and the League Two strugglers hopefully get someone capable of performing at that level.

Kevin James was one of the mystery signings by Joe Kinnear – nobody was quite sure why, but hoped vaguely he may prove a useful acquisition, but alas, the few times he has made first team appearances he’s been wholly disappointing.  He was not only overlooked by the manager who signed him, but also by Mick Harford, Gary Megson, Charlie and Frank and finally Calderwood (who has had him as a substitute, and gave him a good run preseason).

I’m not sure when his contract runs out, but I really hope it’s quite soon – makes me very wary of signing players from Gillingham, because it seems for every Nicky Southall (ie, model professional, hardworking and talented) there’s a Marlon King (egotistical bastard who couldn’t be arsed to try) and a Kevin James (nobody really knows how good he is, but judging by his lack of games I think it’s fair to say not very!).  Oddness.  Still, Grimsby couldn’t even beat Notts the other weekend, so they must be desperate!