Toothless Reds fail to capitalise on game in hand..

Carlisle United – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

Forest failed to capitalise on their game in hand by falling to a single controversial goal at Carlisle tonight. The scorer, Hawley, certainly wasn’t offside as he headed home on the stroke of half time – but another player was clearly offside, but running back inside the six yard box (clattering Breckin in the process) – but deemed by the linesman and referee to not be interfering with play, so the goal was to stand.

It’s easy to use poor decisions as excuses though, and from the sound of the game a new look Forest line up had very little creative impact. With the departure of Nicky Southall, Smoulderwood opted for a midfield trio of Perch, Clingan and McGugan, with Lester “in the hole” behind Holt and Dobie. A brave move, putting Agogo and Tyson on the bench – and one, ultimately, that leaves Smoulds looking a bit naive in this writer’s opinion.

The familiar clueless refereeing of Mr Drysdale was in attendance, with numerous ridiculous bookings of Forest players without noticing Carlisle hacking down our players by hook or crook when they looked to get clear. All in all, it’s proven a bad day at the office all around – and Carlisle wanted the game more than us – the put us under more pressure, had more shots on goal, and ultimately won the three points.

Tyson and Agogo eventually made the field with a little under 15 minutes to go, but barely got a touch as Carlisle frustrated Forest by keeping the ball in our half. Ultimately, all we have to look back on in this game is a left-footed half volley wide from Jack Lester after a Dobie flick on, and Dobie taking the ball round the keeper but being unable to convert from a tight angle – and the bizarre sight of Ian Breckin operating as an emergency striker in stoppage time.

Very disappointing – the formation change was almost inevitable given the departure of Nicky Southall with no viable replacement (and even if we were to replace him, the player would be ineligible to play today anyway). Smoulders made a brave line-up choice, but ultimately it proved futile – Grant Holt, a Carlisle fan, and Scott Dobie, a former player, would have every motivation to have an impact – but failed to do so, and so our game in hand over our rivals ends with no points.

Some fans are getting on the manager’s back on the message boards, and in some ways I can see why – his selection and tactics tonight were baffling, and his reluctance to change them until 15 minutes to go, it does deserve some criticism. The brightest news of the night is that Bristol City also dropped three points against Cheltenham tonight, which is bittersweet because if we’d stepped up and won this we’d be second again. Ultimately though, poor refereeing decisions or controversial goals aside, we sounded like we were on the end of a just-deserved beating.

After what’s been a busy day, it ends on a low – fingers crossed that the rumours sweeping the message boards of a loan signing coming in tomorrow that will “blow your socks off” (oh dear, I seem to remember hearing that phrase before!) are not as rubbish as I think they probably are – we’ve missed a golden opportunity today, but we must look forward – and the game at Valley Parade on Saturday becomes all the more critical.

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Cullip the latest to go in the clear-out..

Perhaps the least surprising departure of the day, as Danny Cullip follows Thommo and Trigger out of the door to sign up for QPR in an 18 month deal.  The centre half has barely featured for the Reds since his late sending off against Oldham Athletic in a 5-0 New Years Day romp at Boundary Park – and rumours abound that it was at half time in this game that he had a nose-to-nose blazing row with Smoulderwood, since then he’s been frozen out.

Danny has been injured for much of his Forest career – but he’s had a roller-coaster time of it recently, when he came into the side earlier in the season we enjoyed our strongest form of the season – with the uncompromising defender barking orders in a back three formation alongside Breckin and Morgan.  He received much praise at the time, from myself included, for stablising the back line and providing a bit of leadership and stability – there were calls from some quarters to make him captain.

Since then, however, it’s fair to say he’s been less impactful.  Breckin and he don’t really work well together – and whilst I’ve appreciated Danny’s service, I know which I’d rather keep – whilst Brecks is a no-frills defender, he is lethal on set-pieces, whereas Cullip is rather cumbersome in an attacking capacity.  With the signing of Chambers yesterday the writing has been on the wall for Cullip for a while – although I did have a bit of a wonder when Thompson left earlier today.

There are rumours that a further incoming signing will be forthcoming; the increasingly stage-managed news releasing from Forest seems to be leaving this announcement (if indeed, there is one) until after the Carlisle United game.  If it’s happening it’s likely to be a loan signing – with Mark Yeates already moved to Leicester on loan, I’m fresh out of candidates – but as I listen to the game later I look forward to any potential updates!

Good luck Danny, and thanks for your time – but if you have indeed fallen out with the manager then the time was probably right to move on.

Trigger put to pasture in the Kent countryside..

A surprising move has seen Nicky Southall return to Gillingham today – the 35 year old was out of contract at the end of the season, but with Forest only willing to extend it by a year, he’s instead opted for a two-and-a-half year deal with the Gills, where he’s inexplicably spoken of wanting to settle down before.  This will be his third spell with the Kent club, and whilst I have some reservations about our cover in his position, it’s nice that Forest have recognised the contribution he’s made.

I very much hope that we will have an incoming player though, given that Gillingham are involved I really hope it’s Matt Jarvis.  But to return to Trigger – he’s been a solid player for us in his relatively short time, contributing vital assists and goals along the way – including a memorable hattrick!  But certainly of late he’s starting to look his age a bit, so allowing him to return to where he sees his future is probably a sensible move – so long as we have a replacement lined up!  Which is certainly not the rumoured loan move of Mark Yeates from Tottenham, who’s joined the crisp-munchers on loan for the rest of the season.

Thanks for your hard work, Trig – as with Thommo, you’re not leaving for a club I particularly like – so good luck, within reason!

Thommo becomes an almost-Scouser again..

Forest have just confirmed that Tranmere have once again captured John Thompson on loan until the end of the season.  Presumably perpetually miserable bugger Ronnie Moore will have been a bit more careful over the recall clause this time around,  after accusing Smoulderwood of deliberately confounding his plans by recalling Thompson early from his last loan there.

Thompson is actually Forests longest serving professional, despite being only 25 years old.  He’s struggled to make a regular first team impact for some time, hindered by his own versatility in many ways – although crueller fans have suggested that his versatility is governed by his lack of excelling in any particular position.  With Chambers on board to push him further down the pecking order in defence, and Prutton doing likewise in midfield, it perhaps isn’t too surprising his future apparently is elsewhere.

So it’s to the almost-Scousers that Thommo is set – his contract with us is up in the summer, so it’s likely he’ll move there, or somewhere else, permanently come the end of the season.  In some ways it’s a shame – whilst never the most gifted player he’s had some decent games for us – but given the incoming signings I think it’s a sensible move for all concerned – it’s just a shame it’s to a divisional rival with a vague chance of challenging for promotion.

Good luck, Thommo, but not too much!

Eaden back at the Imps..

Once again Nicky Eaden has been offloaded to Lincoln City on a loan deal, presumably the Imps were unable to attract the unwanted defender to a permanent move (unsurprising, given his wages), so he’s once again at Sincil Bank to prove a danger to any flight paths that happen to fly over Lincoln any time soon.

He’s there until the end of the season now, having made 17 appearances for the Imps in his two previous loan stints.  He’s been very popular in his time with Lincoln and their manager has been positively gushing with excitement of being able to acquire his services once again – at 34 years of age he brings experience to the League Two promotion chasers.

I forget when his contract is up at Forest, but hopefully it’s in the summer so that we can just part company with him for good – I have no particular gripe with him, I think circumstances were somewhat against him given the timing of his arrival.  That aside, he was never much more than dire in a Forest shirt so the sooner he moves on the better for all of us!