Yeovil smashed for three as the run goes on..

Yeovil Town – 0
Nottingham Forest – 3

Where were you at Wembley” was one of the banners amongst the home support, before the game it was easy enough to answer – many of us where sat at home or in the pub watching Yeovil get spanked by Blackpool!  If you were anything like me, you might even have found yourself rooting for the Somerset team – since it’s hardly their fault for capitalising on us being a bit rubbish in the playoff second leg!

So revenge wasn’t exactly on the agenda for me – I just wanted to see the Reds continue the run of good results in the league, and register another good result which takes us up to eighth in the league, win the game in hand we have, and we’d be second on goal difference.  Real credit is due to both Smoulds and the players for this resurgent form that has made our faltering start to the season seem a while ago now.

It was very much the game-of-two-halves that we so often hear about, with a scrappy first half followed by a more decisive second – certainly from Forest’s point of view.  Judging by the description of the latter two goals from Junior Agogo and Kris Commons in the second half, goals-on-monday will be a real treat for Reds fans!  So in the league, it’s played three, scored nine, conceded none – you’ve got to be happy with that!

Probably the most interesting factors of the first half were that Cohen was warmly welcomed back by the Glovers fans, and that both Yeovil and Forest had won a corner inside the first two minutes!  Cohen picked up a booking for a foul, Stewart had a decent shot which Smith saved, Larrieu in the Yeovil goal came out well to deny Tyson after good work from Agogo, and that’s probably all that’s worth noting of a pretty poor first half.

The second half looked set to be more of the same, after ten minutes of drudgery though, Yeovil crafted a great chance – Scott Guyett’s goalbound header was cleared off the line by Junior Agogo of all people.  Forest scored with their first real chance – Sammy Clingan played the ball to Grant Holt in the air, who was able to direct the ball to Luke ‘goalmachine’ Chambers to head his fourth of the season.

Commons was brought on for Tyson after around an hour, and immediately looked lively – having a shot from distance.  Shortly after this Holt put Agogo through who caught it sweetly on the half-volley bringing a good save from Larrieu in the Yeovil goal.  Clearly being a goal behind Chambers in the scoring stakes was a sore point for Junior, but he would soon level the rightback’s goal tally.

Agogo got possession from a loose ball, beating the final defender – and had the presence of mind to check the position of Larrieu – who was quite far off his line – and confidently lofted a cheeky lob from around 35 yards into the gaping goal.  Not to be outdone, Kris Commons was fed by Holt, he turned and smashed a cheeky volley off the crossbar and in.

It could’ve been four too.  Junior Agogo was withdrawn for Emile Sinclair, and his first touch was a goalbound shot after more good work from Commons on the left, unfortunately it struck Grant Holt and missed the target denying the youngster a second goal as a late substitute.  Commons finished up the game with another effort from range which Larrieu needed to palm around the post for a corner.

All in all, a fantastic result from what sounded like a scrappy game.  We are starting to create and convert chances with much more regularity – and the habit of clean sheets in the league is certainly a pleasing one also.  It might not have been pretty for the majority of the game, but at this stage – who cares?  Big congratulations to Smoulds and the boys – three points off the automatic places, with a game in hand – that’s better, isn’t it?


Yeovil Town vs. Forest preview

Yeovil.  That’s a word that sticks in the craw doesn’t it?  Which is a shame, I like Yeovil as a club, they play decent football, seem to have a great team spirit, and in Russell Slade a canny manager – and frankly, we don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves for the playoff debacle against them.  But even still, their name has become synonymous with it, and whilst I think ‘going for revenge’ isn’t appropriate, I would hope the boys would be looking to vindicate a few things.

We’re on a good run in the league (let’s make like Smoulds and gloss over the Yeovil-esque capitulation to Leicester in the cup!), on the back of two wins – and a resounding one in the last game against Gillingham.  This is the kind of thing we need to be continuing – after a slow start to the league things are shaping up nicely, with Cohen shining in the middle, he has the opportunity to do so at his old club – he’s already spoken of his fondness for the Somerset team.

His compadre Aaron Davies is still unlikely to feature – and our centreback-made-rightback-made-goalmachine Luke Chambers also looks an unlikely participant, with James Perch being favoured to step in at right back.  Of course, Matt Lockwood as I mentioned yesterday has rapidly reinjured himself (why do I find myself thinking of Davy Oyen?) so won’t be featuring either – so expect the robust and forthright Bennett to retain his place without challenge.

Yeovil aren’t doing too badly this season, although not particularly well at home – given our recent record at Huish Park (well, okay, last season then!), it’s been quite a profitable hunting ground if not necessarily in terms of quality performances.  It’s a real opportunity for Forest to lay a ghost to rest early in the season, so like all reds I’ll be hoping that we have the wherewithall to do just that – but Yeovil won’t make it easy for us.

Leicester move for Tyson..

Reports from unsubstantiated sources are suggesting that Leicester have again made moves to get Nathan Tyson to join them.  Unsurprising really, Megson will be more aware than anyone of the lad’s potential being the manager who brought him to us in the first place.  Given our current striking options, I’m pleased that the same unsubstantiated sources suggest that Forest have knocked back the approach.

Apparently initial enquiries were made for an initial loan leading to a permanent move involving Matty Fryatt coming in the opposite direction.  Given the impact Fryatt has had on a not-exactly-flying Championship side, I’m not so sure that – despite our interest in him before his move to Leicester – would be a particularly good piece of business from a Forest perspective.

The bid is supposedly in the region of £1.5m, which – in fairness – is probably a realistic evaluation for Tys, he’s still very much in the realm of ‘potential’ rather than proven, and has proven incredibly prone to injury.  That said, my gut reaction to reading the rumour was “Fuck off, Megson!”, so perhaps that potential is worth holding out for more cash – preferably I’d like to keep Tyson, irrespective of our diminished options up front.

I suppose if the bid is indeed true, a big factor will be the player himself, some fans have already suggested on the forums that Nathan is keen on the move, certainly he was one of the advocates of Megson in public around the lead up and time that the manager was removed from Forest, so perhaps they are simply extrapolating these comments into something more than they were – or maybe there is something in it.

Either way, without replacing him with real quality – and I’m not sure that Matty Fryatt fits the bill for this – if we were to allow Tyson to move on, it would be a very disappointing move by the Reds – particularly with Junior Agogo on international duty around Christmas time for the African Nations tournament.  I can imagine Smoulds will attempt to keep the player, simply because it would harm his already fragile popularity with the fans if he colluded with the move in public.

In other news, Matt Lockwood again aggravated his ankle in a reserve game against Walsall last night, so once again will return to the injury sidelines rather than making his awaiting return to first team consideration.  Whilst it’s obviously not good news, hopefully Julian Bennett can continue his much improved performances in a bid to ensure he retains his place in the side.

A quick lesson about Neil Lennon..

It seems Neil Lennon has been subject to harsh words from some Forest fans, certainly I heard a few comments – and indeed, have heard reports of similar from pretty much all areas of the ground on saturday.  Whilst the Gills game for me wasn’t the best I’ve seen him, he still made a good contribution to the overall performance.

This isn’t exactly without precidence – Forest fans – or rather, significant numbers of Forest fans – seem to have a real blind spot for the function of the holding midfielder type role.  And it’s not a particularly new phenomenon either – older fans might remember a certain twice-European cup winning captain receiving similar criticisms.

Now, Neil Lennon’s job in the team is to sit infront of the defence, to take the ball from them, and give it to someone else.  He is also there to break up midfield play and protect the defence – dropping in to cover should a defender break forward, as Chambers and Bennett in particular do quite often, even Wilson and Wes had a foray or two forward on saturday.

It can seem illogical that say, Wes will pass the ball six yards to Lennon, who’ll give it 10 yards to Clingan, or maybe Cohen will pass 6 yards to him only for him to play it on a few yards to say, Chambers.  But if you think how often we used to lose the ball in midfield last season, you’ll start to appreciate that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing the simple stuff right.

Those of you thinking “well, he captained Celtic in the Champions League – why isn’t he marauding from box to box, putting in crosses and shooting at goal!” rather miss the point.  Lennon is an enabler for others to do that.  Ask Cohen whether he’d rather play with Neil, or whether he’d prefer a player like himself – and he’ll pick Lennon every time, because the holding role gives the likes of Cohen or Clingan the freedom to do the more creative stuff.

Notwithstanding the fact he’s by and large fulfilled the holding role very well, Lennon also provides us with great leadership on the pitch – something that was definitely lacking before, epitomised by Breckin getting the captain’s armband really – whilst I’m not as scathing of Brecks as some fans, a leader he most certainly is not.  Lennon is – and his presence visibly gives confidence to our younger players.

I’m not surprised some fans don’t “get” Lennon, but am surprised at the rapidity of this lack of comprehension being vocalised in the ground.  Whilst Gary Holt was mostly terrible, he was subject to levels of criticism and abuse that far outstripped his ineptness – and whilst I feel confident Lennon is better equipped mentally to deal with it, he shouldn’t have to.

Whilst I’ve certainly not held back on critising Smoulds on occasions, it should be recognised that he’s actually spotted a fair few problems we had last season, and addressed them in his signings – not all of whom he’s had the good fortune to be able to utilise just yet:

1. We lost the ball with alarming regularity in midfield – this is where Lennon comes in, a classic holding midfielder – won’t do anything spectacular, but will break up play, help the defence, and will distribute the ball to a red shirt.  Tick.

2. We looked weak at left back – Bennett has, ironically, improved this season for me – but Smoulds brought in Lockwood to strengthen here, and he’ll now have to fight to get his place as Julian seems to be staking a claim for keeping it regularly – good for him!  Tick.

3. We lacked creativity in midfield – now Sammy being injured was a factor in this, but when playing with Holt he did have to cover defensive duties more too.  Lennon has freed Clingan up to be much more adventurous.  We have also signed Cohen, who looks frankly excellent – and Davies, who will hopefully prove as impactful.  The fact that even without Davies available Commons has found himself dropped to the bench is testimony to the options we now have in midfield.

4. We had no right-sided midfielder – now Smoulds dropped a bollock on this one anyway, by releasing Southall without a replacement.  He also should’ve known better than thrusting Moloney in to play there – but he did sign Davies, who of course then got injured.  I think Sammy does okay there, but would prefer to see backup to Davies incase of injury.  Although the new 4-3-3 formation worked very well, it will be interesting to see if it does so against more challenging opponents.

Whilst there is always room for improvement, and whilst I know from long experience that Forest fans will ALWAYS find something to moan and grumble about, this ludicrous slating of Neil Lennon is nonetheless frustrating.  This season I do get a sense of togetherness from the squad, and a willingness to make amends for past disappointments, so as fans I’d like to see us play our part in that too.

It’s all systems Agogo for the league campaign!

Nottingham Forest – 4
Gillingham – 0

Well, I said we could win in emphatic style – and boy did we do that this afternoon.  Although much of the ‘credit’ could be given to the Gills for being so absolutely atrocious, you can only play who’s put infront of you – and after a frustrating first half of uber-defensive play from Gillingham, it was good to see Forest break them down and eventually cut through them at will to record a deservedly substantial scoreline.

The game was played infront of a disappointing attendance – 16,330, with a low away following – but I suppose with the trip to Goose Fair only round the corner it was tough for the people of Gillingham to budget for two trips to the midlands in quick succession 😉  It was one of those suspicious attendance figures – I think there were fewer than that in the ground – there were plenty of empty seats in all the sections I could see.

So, the game started and wasn’t particularly thrilling.  Gillingham played in a 4-5-1 formation, which in reality was 9-1.  Forest started with a different overt 4-3-3 formation, Commons dropped for Holt giving us three strikers on the field – although as the game wore on Grant got closer and closer to the left flank.  But certainly it was an attacking statement from Smoulders.

The first half was a lot about possession for us.  There was a lot of patient building from the back, and none-too-much penetrative football as we struggled to find an inroad against a packed defence.  The first chance of note was after around a quarter of an hour, and was really no more than a speculative shot by Kelvin Wilson.  Ten minutes later a Chambers cross brought a header from Tyson saved by ‘keeper Stillie.

A couple of minutes later Neil Lennon passed to Grant, he shot but it came back to Tyson who jinked inside a defender on the D and unleashed a shot which looked to be heading well-wide from my seat, but it curled in and crashed off the post with the keeper well beaten.  At this point we started to look a little more threatening rather than just passing the ball around defence and midfield.

The goal game shortly before half time.  Lennon took a freekick very quickly to Holt out wide on the left hand side, he hesitated before crossing with his left foot, but it turned out to be great ball in – with Agogo positioned well to head home powerfully.  The resulting celebration was quite amusing – a forward roll, followed by the ‘sniper’ routine, was rounded off with Chambers leapfrogging the goalscorer and copying the routine.  Very strange!

The Gills only chance of the first half came shortly after – Wes allowed Delroy Facey past him but fortunately his partner Wilson was on hand to put in a crucial block on a shot which did look goalbound.  So hardly a mesmerising first half, but Forest were in spells attacking well, and passing fluidly.  Certainly the half time break passed more easily than recent ones have done!

Gillingham did start more brightly in the second half, without really creating much – and Forest soon took control once more and piled pressure onto the away side.  The first chance came five minutes in, a Sammy Clingan corner was headed well by Chambers, but was cleared off the line by a Gills defender.  Shortly after Tyson – who worked his arse off today – laid on a tap-in for Chambers, but former Red Nicky Southall was on hand to put in another block.

Shortly after this a Cohen corner was again met by Chambers, this time he keeper was on hand to pull off a fine save to deny him.  Cohen crossed again and this time Morgan met it, yet again to be denied by a diving save from the Gillingham ‘keeper.  Tyson was to be confounded by the woodwork again – shooting well from 18 yards but meeting the inside of the post – the ball fell kindly to Agogo who managed to spoon it over from 3 yards out.

There was a rare break from the Gills, though.  I think it was Facey – since he seemed the only person often in our half – who latched onto a long ball and lobbed Smith to score – only to be flagged offside by Amy Rayner.  He didn’t look offside from where I was sitting, and whilst it would’ve been horrendously against the run of play, I think the visitors had a decent shout for an equaliser there.

However, we were to start scoring again.  Agogo passed the ball out right to Clingan, who pushed it further wide before knocking a cross/shot into the box, which Agogo managed to get onto the end of to head his second goal of the game.  Shortly after this he’d completed his first hattrick for Forest after great work by Tyson – he beat Sodje – who was wearing a bandana thing that made him look like a badger – hit the bye-line and smashed a firm ball across the face of goal, giving Agogo a tap-in to secure the hattrick.

Agogo was taken off and replaced by rookie Emile Sinclair to a standing ovation, understandably, with about eight minutes on the clock.  His first action was to lose the ball on the right hand side, however his second action in the game was to prove more decisive!  Clingan fed the ball to Chambers who crossed low to the near post, and after a bit of pinball in the box Sinclair was able to stab the ball home.

A great result and a well-deserved one – we could’ve had more goals, but anyone unhappy with a 4-0 scoreline would be a bit silly!  It was good to see the ‘togetherness’ exercise from the squad and management staff at fulltime, and frankly, it’s a huge relief to leave the City Ground with a smile on my face.  So well done lads!  Of course, the icing on the cake was hearing that Derby had been tonked at Arsenal!

Forest vs. Gillingham preview..

I’m going to preview this one, because I feel the urge to post some positivity.  As many readers rightly pointed out, there were plenty of very pleasing things about the recent cup game with Leicester, which I think I did do justice to, but perhaps allowed my malaise to overwhelm in my misery-induced tirade.  So let’s look forward to the visit of Gillingham, a team we’ve come to know better than most since we seem to occupy the same division rather a lot.

Nicky Southall’s an obviously interesting factor.  I still firmly believe that allowing him to leave when we did last season was a significant blow to our promotion campaign, since our bids to replace him were to end with nowt.  For us, Trigger was a (very) poor man’s Beckham on the right – bear with me here, but he rarely beat his man, but his delivery into the box as well as the odd freekick here brought us goals – and when we lost that our side lost all sense of balance.

The fact we still desperately await the return to fitness of Aaron Davies to give us a proper right sided player bears testament to the huge gap he left when he returned to Gillingham back in January.  I’ve no idea whether he’s fit or not, or how he’s been doing for the Gills, but I remember his time with us fondly – he was certainly a not particularly thrilling signing when unveiled, but he proved invaluable in his short time with us – so if I do see him take the pitch he’ll get my applause at least.

Saturday is a day where we need both a performance and a result – so far we’ve won one game, which Stress and Pie amusingly described as a ‘shit sandwich’ – and performed well in a number of other matches where the win wasn’t forthcoming.  I’d like to see an unchanged line up for the visit of the Gills (although if he’s fully fit, open to Lockwood coming in for Bennett), and I’d like to see the same positive approach to the game – particularly from Messrs Tyson, Agogo, Commons and Cohen.

Between them, these four looked capable of causing havoc on the right day – and certainly the struggling Gills feel like an easier target than a Leicester side keen to impress a new manager backed by thousands of travelling fans.  They’re currently without a manager, with Iffy Onuora and Mick Docherty in temporary charge – and they’re on the back of a rare win against Brighton last week.

There’s a bit of former Forest interest too – they’ve got Craig Armstrong, once touted as the ‘next Psycho’, he fell somewhat short of that mantel though.  They’ve also just acquired Adam ‘Sicknote’ Nowland – although I imagine he’ll pull a hamstring boarding the team caravan and not feature in the squad on saturday.  Nicky Southall of course makes up the remainder of the former Forest players in the Gills ranks.

So I’m suggesting Forest should go for this – if we approach the game and play like we did on tuesday, for ninety minutes this time, then I think we can get the league campaign up and running in emphatic style.  So this is a call for positivity – which I realise is rather rich coming from Mr Grumpy here, but it’s not too late to make amends, is it?  Let’s get behind the lads and get our league campaign firing on all cylinders!

Three years on, in memory of Brian Clough..

It was kind of ironic to wake to news of Jose Mourinho parting company with Chelsea this morning, because 20th September marks the anniversary of the death of Brian Clough back in 2004.  Whilst personally the comparisons between the two men were tenuous at best, there were similar mannerisms and a characteristic arrogance that did make me slightly warm to the Blues boss more than much of the country seem to have.

It certainly doesn’t seem to have been three years since that sad news broke around the country, and I’m sure much like me, most Forest fans – and hopefully football fans in general – will take a moment to reflect on the memories and achievements the great man provided throughout his career – be it as a player in the North East, or as a manager – most prominently right here in the midlands with ourselves and Derby County of course.

The blog wasn’t in existence at the time, but when he passed away it felt akin to the ravens leaving the tower of London, and the fading edifices of the City Ground, and the bleak position we find ourselves in the hierarchy of football bear testiment to the wonderful things he achieved for us – because frankly, without him we wouldn’t have looked or felt quite so out of place where we find ourselves these days.

Regular readers will know that when I think fond memories of Cloughie, there’s a man frequently-forgotten who deserves a pedestal of equal magnitude – both amongst Forest and Derby supporters, so as well as taking a few moments today to think about Brian Clough, I’ll also be thinking about Peter Taylor, for it was the magnificent partnership these two formed that was the alchemy for the true heights we scaled – so do take a moment, and think of these two great ambassadors for Nottingham Forest, and for football as a whole.

Rest in peace, both – hopefully you’re both reconciled in the next world, I imagine in three years you will have already assembled a pretty formidible team!