Where’s Lenny?

There’s a lot of newspaper and forum inches being dedicated to the interesting disappearance of Neil Lennon.  His agent has come out to say he has ‘personal issues’ – thought to link to the distance between him and his missus and child, Smoulds says he has a back problem, and the rumour mongerers – predictably – have much more interesting theories.

So, of the options available – where’s Lenny?

1. He’s had a strop because Breckin has pinched the captain’s armband back, and despite questionable performances and the apparent return to fitness of Wes, he remains in the side.  (Forum rumour)

2. He wants to join the coaching staff at Leicester City now his mate Gerry Taggart is in charge of the Foxes following the spectacular appointment of Gary Megson at Bolton Wanderers. (Forum rumour)

3. He has a back injury, one of those mysterious injuries that only the sufferer is likely to know if it’s genuine or not.  This may rule him out for the weekend too. (Smoulds post-match comments)

4. He’s having ‘personal issues’ – which loosely translate to him being geographically far from his girlfriend and child, who are still up in Glasgow. (Lennon’s agent to the Evening Post today)

They’re all a bit flimsy for me, and I guess depending on the severity of potential ‘personal issues’ perhaps we shouldn’t expect to know exactly the truth.  However, it’s made Smoulders look a prize twat to have colluded with some kind of cover story around an injury, only for his agent to tap up the next day with vague tales of personal issues.

When oh when will this terribly shambolic club of ours ever sort itself out, eh?

Like watching paint dry…

Nottingham Forest – 0
Oldham Athletic – 0

If I’d popped down to watch Arnold Town against some other similarly levelled opponents tonight, I would have left disappointed with what I was served up with.  What on Earth happened to the Oldham side that annihilated us twice last season, I’m not sure – they were awful, and alas Forest weren’t much better either!  So it wasn’t a treat for the 16,000 or so souls who attended the game.

So that’s our game in hand gone, another chance to elevate ourselves to the automatic promotion places gone, and a change to get our run of home games off to a good start gone.  Are you getting the sense of what a drab and dull game this was to behold?  Still, at least we’re above Leeds United again – until saturday probably at this rate!

One thing that was in contrast was the fans – whilst Forest fans booed (and indeed, whilst I didn’t boo, I am griping on here), the merry band of Oldham fans, whilst few in number and difficult to hear, were pretty supportive of their side – and given the contrast in quality between them and the side I saw twice last season, they’d have every right to grumble a bit after a long trip on a tuesday night.

With rumours of a bust up doing the rounds on the forums, it was interesting to note Neil Lennon didn’t appear in the squad – reportedly with a back injury.  This made way for Lewis McGugan in midfield, who’s looking a lot more well built now, and a long-awaited place for Arron Davies on the bench.

The first half was dull, Forest didn’t really have much in them at all – but still, Chambers will be disappointed not to at least get a free header on target after Brecks got a good flick on a corner.  Oldham had a few decent efforts, and Smith did well to keep a clean sheet as the Forest defence decided the stand off to the point of ridiculousness.

The second half was a marginal improvement.  Not the fantastic transformation that the official match report implies, but we did at least get forward.  A low Chambers cross was missed by the defender but with nobody on the end of it, it was duly cleared by an Oldham clogger.  There were also – as with the first half – a lot of dubious offside decisions by incompetent linespeople.

Smith was once again not without things to do, particularly after corners when Forest did not seem to work out that every corner Oldham took was short – yet we only put one man to mark the taker and the person he was passing to.  More than once they were easily able to walk the ball up the bye-line into the area, and but for some blocks, a fair bit of luck, and some smart saves by Smith, they would surely have scored.

Arron Davies was introduced for the ineffective and blatantly unfit Grant Holt, and this did inject some much needed excitement into the game.  Within a minute he’d run at defenders, taken them on and fashioned a shooting chance which was just wide of the upright in the Trent End goal.

Shortly after this Davies did brilliantly to hook an Agogo cross-pass back into the area, but Cohen wasn’t able to come up with anything good enough to beat the Oldham keeper.  Again Davies worked well to get the ball to Cohen who miskicked when a relatively easy ball to Agogo – who’d put in a lot of mileage with little end product – was pretty much on.  Commons then spooned an effort wide from range.

The game did start to open up in the last ten minutes, with Oldham if anything looking the more likely to score.  A top tip here Reds, they released it quick from the ‘keeper and quickly attacked – Forest fans infuriatingly got on Smith’s back for our lack of doing this – but frankly, the entire team turn their back on him so it’s not like he can do much other than hoof the ball up.

Brecks, who had been – it’s fair to say – slow and cumbersome in defence did do well to get a low cross out for a corner, and after this was taken (short, again!) it was pretty much full time to a chorus of boos just as we had at half time.  Whilst it was a poor showing, I can never really see the point in it, but I suppose it’s just people letting off steam having witnessed a turgid game of football between two very poor sides on the day.

So probably the most interesting things were that Arron Davies looked very lively, I look forward to seeing more of him in the side.  And of course, has Neil Lennon really fallen out with Smoulds and gone off in a strop, or does he really have this mysterious back injury?  There needs to be a big improvement to get anything out of Tranmere or Southend over the coming week.

As Colin Fray said in summing up on the radio, you would really hope that 7 points would be achievable from these three home games – and frankly, that’s starting to sound unbelievably optimistic!  Whatever happened to the quick passing and moving for one another we have seen in spells this season, heaven only knows – but I’d quite like to see it back, please!!

The futility of being a Forest (or non top 4 football) fan..

I’m sure folks spotted this ludicrous notion in the news this week, which basically boils down to West Ham’s chairman – Eggert Magnusson – babbling on about the wonderful opportunities that could be had by staging English, yes, English Premier League matches in the United States.  Can you imagine anything more ridiculous to happen to our once beautiful game?

But that got me thinking further.  I’ve long since lost a lot of interest in the top flight, partly of course because the mighty Reds have spent so long away from it – but whenever I do tune in to catch a game or some coverage, there’s so much soap-opera style nonsense going on it’s not really very engaging.

I’m not interested in diving and playacting (not that this is the preserve of the top flight by any means), it infuriates me to see a bunch of overpaid primadonnas mithering the referee to try to influence his decision-making.  I’m not interested in a competition where you can pretty much nailed on state which four teams will make up the ‘Champions’ League places.

And it will only get worse.  Which makes you think, obviously we support our teams because we feel affinity and loyalty to them – not because they will win stuff – but of course the inherent nature of a football fan is that we want our team to win, to get promoted, to have a cup run – any sensible Forest fan, no matter how unrealistic it may seem, must surely want to see us back in to top flight at some point?

But you see, I’m not sure I do – because if we were to attain top flight status in the next five or ten years, imagine the carnage.  Do I really want to pay even more cash to see my side more than likely get spanked every week by better teams?  Sure, we bank some money to make the next season’s promotion drive a bit easier, but the imbalance is such that it’s never enough to make a serious bid at anything other than survival in the Premier League.

That level of non-competitiveness is, well, it’s not interesting is it?  Which does make me wonder really what the point of being a fan of a lower league team is!  Gone are the days that a club like Forest could rise from the second tier and go on to win the title – let alone then triumphing in Europe.  Gone even are the days where a Jack Walker style investment could deliver a league title to a provincial club like Blackburn.

Top flight football has become so obsessively cash focused, and increasingly controlled by foreign investment and televised schedules that frankly, the fans on the ground don’t really matter any more – so it is feasible for the chairmen of the richer clubs to seriously consider relocating games to another continent, in order to exploit an extra market to raise more revenue.

It makes me sick to the core, but it also makes me realise that there is at least a significant part of me that wouldn’t like to see Forest in this kind of arena.  Certainly I still long for promotion from this league, but I’m not sure I’d want to go beyond the Championship given the state of play in the top flight – which does rather bring into question the purpose of continuing to be a Forest supporter!

Of course, life is never black and white – and the lot of the football fan is certainly rarely subject to logic or clear thinking, so obviously this pasttime that has made up such a significant chunk of my childhood and adult life will not just be set aside for the sake of mere principles – but it does seem a fairly futile sport to follow when you start to realise that even the vaguest of fantasies you may harbour of glory days returning are not only insanely unrealistic, they’re actually impossible.

Below-par Forest left mad as Hatters..

Luton Town – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

It’s been about eight ice ages since we played Luton Town due to a bit of ‘ships passing in the night’ around promotions and relegations.  And this trip to Kenilworth Road was to prove pretty unproductive for a lacklustre looking Forest side – slumping to only their second defeat of the season – but if you’re looking for contrasts, today’s the day that Leeds United overtake us despite their hefty point deduction.  A sobering thought.

So whether it was an offday, or the onset of Forest’s traditional winter slump remains to be seen – from reports I’ve heard and read it does sounds like Forest really were underpar, but with two strikers with dubious fitness starting, perhaps that’s not surprising.  The good news is Wes Morgan featured as a late substitute – whilst I wouldn’t class myself like some of our ‘fans’ who seem to love abusing Breckin at any moment, I will concede he’s not my first choice centreback for us!

But let’s not write them off just yet – Luton have a quality record at home, and this is only the first time we’ve been defeated on our travels.  It would be a pretty lame endeavour to start panicing based on snippets from the radio and website match reports – so I’m not going to, although obviously I’d welcome the views of one of the 1,800 Forest fans who made the trip today.

The first half was dominated by the home side – although Forest defended stoutly.  Forest had a couple of efforts via Commons and Clingan, but found it difficult to get into the Luton half for long periods of the game.  On 25 minutes we did have some semblance of a chance, but Grant couldn’t get the ball across the line to Agogo leaving us with nothing.

Coyne headed goalward from six yards shortly after this, forcing a smart save from Paul Smith.  Towards half time Commons was brought down just outside the box, which Clingan struck well – forcing a decent save from the Luton keeper.  At the other end Bennett prevented a goal at the other end – and has drawn plaudits from several sources for his performance today.

The second half started much like this first, with Luton attacking, with Smith having to come out early to claim a cross.  It only took five minutes for them to get a deserved first goal – Chambers allowed the cross to come in from the left, which evaded Smith before finding Perry who headed home from a mere two yards from the goal.

Forest responded with a spell of possession which culminated in a long range effort from Commons, which was just off-target.  At this point Lennon was withdrawn from Lewis McGugan – with Forest visibly lacking any kind of impetus.  A chance did come for Agogo after good work from Holt and Commons, but the keeper was equal to it, tipping it around the post for a corner.

The game entered an end-to-end spell, and shortly into this Wes Morgan was introduced for Sammy Clingan – but fear not, this was not a Smoulders negative substitution, Wes was chucked on as a striker!  Must have irked Emile Sinclair somewhat, who is a striker, as he sat on the bench wondering what he needs to do to get another chance in the first team!

Chambers crossed to Bennett who headed over from six yards out, but alas Luton were to score another – Bell firing into the corner from the edge of the box to put the game pretty much beyond doubt, and give Luton another three home points.  Forest did get a consolation though, Wes Morgan had a header cleared off the line, which fell to Julian Bennett who sidestepped a defender before firing home from around 16 yards out.

Luton almost had a third when Spring shot from 30 yards, but Smith was able to save it before the time ran out and Forest were consigned to their second defeat of the season.  So, all in all, a disappointing one – and a result that drops us out of the playoff places at the expense of Leeds United – although, of course, we still have that game in hand – for three days at least!

So personally I don’t think it’s panic stations just yet – indeed, it’s fairly far from that – but we do need to see a marked improvement on our creation of chances after the last couple of games.  We do seem a bit toothless up front, whether you can blame that on our strikers or the service they’re receiving, I’m not too sure.

A cold hard reason to get promoted..

The dreaded financials came out today – and it transpires that despite improving things on the balance book front, languishing in the third tier is still hitting Forest – or more accurately Nigel Doughty – pretty hard in the back pocket.  Hit for £4.2m for the year ending May 2007 to be precise.

This is actually an improvement on last year – when a comparable period saw £8m losses.  It is estimated that each season outside the Championship is costing the club £4-5m – which would imply that should we attain promotion and the costs remained similar, we should be just about breaking even – which is certainly a more healthy position than we’ve been used to.

Our turnover was £9.2m, the majority of which was swallowed up by staff costs rather unsurprisingly – despite a reduction of £1.2m in these.  All in all, it just goes to show what a ludicrous amount of money we spend really!  Gate receipts were up year on year, boosted by lucrative cup games against Charlton and Chelsea – as was commercial income from TV coverage of said games.

The reduction in staff costs was driven by players such as Paul Gerrard, Gareth Taylor, David Johnson, Neil Harris and Alan Rogers leaving – it’s hard to believe any of those perhaps with the exception of Gerrard and Johnson were on big money!  But apparently players acquired since these have been on more sustainable wages, with rewards built in for achievements – which I wholly approve of.

However, 90% of our turnover being taken up by staff costs is a rather ludicrous business model in anyone’s language – the ‘benchmark’ for clubs at our level is 75%.  This is where Nigel Doughty acting as sugar daddy comes in – as he’s able to absorb this rather unsustainable way of operating, which is why – whatever your stance on him – we’re certainly tied together for the forseeable.

The club acknowledge they are in excess of other clubs in the division, with operations such as the Academy which costs £1m a year, with only £130k funded by the Premier League and the FA.  This level of – in effect – overspending for our level underlines why nothing less than promotion this season is undoubtedly going to be considered a failure.

Given our spending in the summer, it would seem likely that a similar pattern will happen next season too – with a few significant purchases occuring preseason, not to mention a reduction in season ticket prices and so far, a slightly lower attendance number – and only one more chance at a cup run given our exits from the Carling Cup and JPT.

The cash put in by Nigel Doughty has been in the form of loans rather than gifts, whether this is due to some kind of convoluted business reasoning, or because he expects these loans to be repaid at some point remain to be seen – certainly it would take a real cynic to suggest he is investing his cash with an intent to turn a profit out of us, given our recent form.

A not-so-bore draw between the Reds and the Rovers..

Nottingham Forest – 0
Doncaster Rovers – 0

It was to be an afternoon of slight frustration for Forest, who just couldn’t quite get the final ball right against a decent Doncaster side.  Listening to the radio on the way home, Messrs Fray and McGovern were suggesting that Rovers had come to the City Ground to defend in numbers, which we’ve seen so often, I think that does our visitors a disservice.

The first half was very much a battle of the midfield and their ability to hold up play – and it was the holding up of play that won the day, resulting in little breaking at either end for either side.  Forest probably had the edge on possession, but it’s fair to say they didn’t do all that much with it on occasions – with plenty of sloppy passing and farting around with the ball when it should have been released earlier.

Probably the closest we came was when Nathan Tyson put in a great ball from the left, but rather than come infront of the defender, Agogo had gambled behind him – obviously the defender managed to sneak a leg out to concede the corner instead.  It was a good move though, and sparked a bit of promise into the performance.

The Donny fans took an age to realise they hadn’t actually scored when Hayter put the ball in the net – he and Coppinger had spent much of the half giving the linesman flagging practice, and once again on this occasion the forward was offside before slotting the ball home.  The away fans below us were still gesturing 1-0 for a good 2 minutes after the event!

The other thing worth mentioning was the referee who was, as ever it seems, abysmal.  He failed to punish the repeated fouls on Tyson, Cohen was also getting a regular shoeing from the canny Rovers players – they’d clearly identified our danger men, as Commons always had three men on him immediately upon getting the ball.

The next chance of note came from great work by Agogo, he was free down the left and Tyson was making up ground in the centre.  Unfortunately Agogo took an age to notice this, and released a terrible pass far too late, which saw Tyson – frustrated – go for regardless, overstretch himself as well as getting a clattering from a defender – which saw him down for some time for treatment.

The final chance of the half – if you could call these chances (you’ll note Sullivan as yet has had very little to do!) when Commons played a corner short to Cohen – at which point I was cursing the evil of short corners – Cohen managed a weak shot from the edge of the box, and it looked as though Tyson just clipped it – but only enough to, if anything, make it easier for the keeper to make the save.

Early in the second half it looked to me like we really should’ve scored.  A Bennett cross ended up running right across the face of goal with no Forest player close enough to capitalise.  Forest picked up though, and put some real pressure on – Chambers crossed to Agogo, who for me should’ve shot, but he unselfishly played the ball to Commons running in, but alas his effort went straight at the ‘keeper – that again should have been a goal.

The referee came into his own shortly after this – Tyson was felled by an obstruction but eventually managed to get free of the defender, only for the clown of a referee to amazingly give a freekick to Doncaster.  Shortly after this he ignored a fairly blatant handball by a Rovers midfielder, then gave them another freekick after Lennon did well to nip the ball away from Wellens.

Kelvin Wilson bizarrely took the ball forward, one-two-ing it with Junior Agogo and showing a fair lick of pace to get into the box, but the left-footed shot was high, wide and not particularly handsome.  At this point though the visitors came back into the game – Wellens had a decent shot saved by Smith, and he had more work to do in gathering a cross.

Grant was brought on for the frustrated Tyson, however shortly after this Doncaster hit th ebar with a cracking effort from Mark Wilson.  The rebound fell to Hayter who’s headed response was pretty tame, fortunately for us, so Wilson and Bennett were able to clear up and get the ball away to safety.

Straight up at the other end Commons put in a cross to the far post where Grant Holt won a terrific header that was bound for the top corner before Neil Sullivan stuck an arm out to concede a corner – this was probably Sullivan’s only difficult job of the day.  The corner came in and Chambers was right to have his head in his hands, because he should easily have scored from practically a yard off the goal line.

The final chance fell to Agogo – who had been on the deck earlier with cramp – as a Cohen corner was pumped to the back post, but he couldn’t get his header on target so instead it went into the lower Trent End, which near enough heralded the end of a game that was frustrating, but entertaining in spells.

I definitely think that Doncaster have been the best side to visit the City Ground this season – whilst they defended doggedly and took full advantage of the inept referee, they attacked brightly and cleverly with the ball on the deck.  Forest weren’t canny enough to spot the opportunities their policy of double and triple marking some of our players was opening up elsewhere on the park.

I’m not too unhappy with the performance, and on balance I think a draw was a fair result.  It’s true that either side could’ve nicked a win, and had we been that side we’d be sitting proudly atop the table now rather than dropping down to fourth, but sometimes you just have to consider your glass as being half full instead of half empty!

With Grant Holt due an operation next week, it’s good news that Arron Davies is back in training and due a couple of reserve games this week, it’s also not too far away before we find out the destiny of this game in hand we’ve been sitting on for a while.  But first up is a tricky trip to Luton next week – not to mention Leeds getting another win, they’re only 3 points behind us now!

The only other thing of note for today is I thought it was a poor showing from Neil Lennon today.  Having jumped to defend him a while back it’s only fair to acknowledge when things don’t go so well – he’s a sod for playing a poor pass then remonstrating with the poor bugger he’s sold short, and I was a bit bamboozled when he was on the deck as if seriously injured whilst play went on, only to trot to the dugout then back to action minutes later.

Clough family condemn defamatory Brian Clough book..

It’s odd timing, really – since the book in question has been out for a while – but the local media picked up this morning that the great man’s widow, Barbara Clough, has recently discovered the David Peace fictional work “The Damned United” – a book charting BC’s tumultous 44 days in charge of Leeds United.

The books is one that’s been ‘on my list’ for a while to read – but since picking up Duncan Hamilton’s ‘Provided you don’t kiss me’ I’ve resisted – and I think given this feedback from somebody who knew him better than anybody else, I will give it a miss in the end.  I’ll be in good company, Brian’s two sons Nigel and Simon have both vowed to ignore the work completely.

I suppose this media outburst (and indeed, my collusion in reporting it) gives further publicity to the book, and indeed the proposed film that the BBC of all people want to make of it.  The main crux of the criticism is that it portrays Clough as little more than a potty-mouthed trouble causer – which is perhaps not surprising when you consider Peace is a staunch Yorkshireman (that said, Brian would describe himself also as this).

Whilst I doubt that many people would deny Clough was capable of the occasional swearword, he was fundamentally a witty and intelligent exponent of wordplay – have a look around YouTube for a few interviews if you have any doubts on this front, so it’s understandable why Peace’s dark and very one-dimensional portrayal of him has offended those who knew him best.

Hat-trick hero gives Forest another three points..

Cheltenham Town – 0
Nottingham Forest – 3

Kris Commons continued his sparkling run of form today with three goals, one from the right foot, one the left and one a header – so a perfect hat-trick which we’ve not seen since Tyson netted three against Crewe last season.  As with our other game this season featuring a player with three goals, whilst their performance of course must be praised, it was work elsewhere on the pitch that also caught the eye.

Forest started strongly, with Cohen whipping in a dangerous ball as early as six minutes, which yielded a corner for the Reds.  This too was put in by Cohen, which after a few flick-ons was eventually cleared off the line by a Cheltenham defender.  The goal would soon follow though, Cohen found Bennett on the left, who crossed for an unmarked Commons to glance a header into the net from the edge of the six yard box.

The goal sparked the home side into life, with Craig Reid forced a save from Smith – who was only able to parry the ball as far as Sinclair who netted it.  Fortunately for us the assitant referee had his flag up to rule out the effort for offside.  Whilst Forest looked good going forward, defensively we were looking far from comfortable.

Former Reds loanee Alan Wright forced a save out of Smith from a freekick – Chambers eventually clearing the ball.  Commons had another chance to score with his head, but this time was just unable to find the target, with his effort going just over.  Shortly after this Clingan put a cross in which Grant was very close to converting – but headed inches wide.

We were to get a second before the half time whistle though, Cohen played Commons through down the right had side – Commons passed Duff before turning to get the ball onto his left foot and burying the ball into the waiting goal, giving Forest a cushion going into the half time break, and into second place in the league (as other results stood at that time).

The second half started with both sides creating chances.  Myrie-Williams had the first chance for the home side, but was unable to convert, shortly after this a combination of Commons and Cohen released Junior Agogo into a one-on-one situation, but after rounding the keeper he found himself in a wide position and couldn’t find the target.

A Commons cross caused bedlam in the Cheltenham penalty area, both Clingan and Agogo had numerous opportunities to force the ball over the line but were thwarted by the keeper and defensive blocks – Cohen in particular was really standing out with not only his quality but his incredible workrate, and a dangerous cross from him towards Commons forced Duff to head over his own keeper and goal for a corner.

Whilst Forest were looking tremendous going forward, when Cheltenham replied with attacks of their own they made us look very uncomfortable at the back, however, there wasn’t long to worry about putting the game to bed.  The Cheltenham keeper came out to make a clearance which struck Grant Holt before ricocheting to Commons who was able to stroke the ball into the empty net from around 35 yards to complete his hat-trick.

Wes Morgan looked to have done himself a mischief when mopping up a mistake by Julian Bennett – Wes was treated but had to withdraw from the action, with captain Ian Breckin making his first appearance as a substitute to replace him.  Cheltenham still probed forward and a long range effort from their rightback forced a save from Smith in the Forest goal.

Commons was withdrawn at this point to applause from both sets of supporters, and was replaced by Nathan Tyson with around ten minutes left on the clock.  Shortly before full time Tyson broke at pace and crossed agonisingly close to Agogo, but it wasn’t quite close enough so 3-0 was the final score infront of a little over 5,000 supporters – with 1,400 of them travelling from Nottingham.

As the game finished it put us to second in the league, although as I type, Orient are beating Leeds at Elland Road, this would put them (Orient) back on top of the league, and us down to third – still with that game in hand against Oldham later this month.  So massive credit is owed to the players and management team for such a tremendous run of form.  Long may it continue!

Lady luck smiles on Forest as they march into the playoff places..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Hartlepool United – 1

It wasn’t quite daylight robbery, as such, but it was a close approximation of it, after a late Junior Agogo goal saw Forest take all three points and elevate themselves to fifth in the league, still with that game in hand – which, if won (big if, I know), would put us top of the pile.  Quite a turnaround, I’m sure you’d agree.

Kris Commons was restored to the side, and he seemed to alternate between an orthodox winger in a 4-4-2, or a third striker on the right a 4-3-3 formation.  The opening exchanges were scrappy from both sides, with Pools not giving us much chance to settle, and well, I suppose it looked like a game of football in the third tier, for that’s what it was.

The lead was taken when Julian Bennett pumped a cross from deep into the area, Junior got his head onto it around the penalty spot to try to find Tyson, it just eluded him but fortunately Commons was gambling on the back post to blast the ball into the roof of the net to give us the lead after only 11 minutes had passed.

Despite a few other half-chances like an Agogo shot from range, freekicks into walls, crosses punched clear but not won back, it was evident that the monkey hangers were starting to look more and more threatening.  After 38 minutes the equaliser came courtesy of ex-Stag Richie Barker, who slipped away from Wes Morgan to head home a cross from the right from around the six yard line.

Forest almost rallied straight away, Agogo forcing a decent save from Budtz, although it was to finish very much end-to-end stuff, Jnior misplaced a pass which allowed Hartlepool to break and force a save from Smith, only for the ball to come back up to the other end and Agogo only manage to direct his header straight at the goalkeeper – pretty much as the half time whistle went.

Where the first half had been reasonably evenly contested, the second half was all about Hartlepool to start with, Forest seemed unable to control, pass or move with any level of competence – but fortunately for us Hartlepool’s possession wasn’t exactly the most penetrating of football in the world, and as the half went on they looked more like a side settling for a draw.

Whilst the on-the-pitch activities was a little dull, plenty of entertainment was to be had watching two fat idiots get arrested in the away end – the first of whom was wrestled to the floor by about three to four police and stewards, with his tracksuit bottoms practically round his ankles, but he still had the presence of mind to keep punching one of the stewards in the nuts.  His mate then waded in too, only to similarly get arrested.  Daft bastards.

Tyson had taken a bit of a shoeing throughout the game, and finally around the hour mark had some lengthy treatment before being taken off to be replaced by Grant Holt.  Shortly after this former-Red Ian Moore hit a shot from the right channel that Smith did well to get a solid palm onto to give Hartlepool a corner.

Chambers nearly scored a very flukey goal that was really a cross, the Pools keeper did well to track back and palm it over.  This started a more resurgent performance from the Reds, and the crowd responded in kind with more backing, as they’d been fairly quiet during the second half.  Agogo headed wide from around 6 yards out from a Chambers cross.

The winning goal came in the 83rd minute, Commons did all he hard work in jinking and tricking his way into the box – but when one-on-one with Budtz he didn’t seem to have it in him to miss the keeper and score, but fortunately the block fell kindly for Junior who was able to prod it home from an impossible-looking angle, much to the glee of the home support and players alike.

Agogo and Commons again combined – Agogo being forced out of space for a shot, so he passed to Kris who was again unable to beat the keeper.  The finish, as ever, was tense – with Forest struggling to keep possession, particularly when Pools pressed and won a corner – fortunately Smith was impeded and once he took the resulting freekick the final whistle brought the game to an end.

So three points earned, with no small amount of luck – but in spells the Reds did well, and can now enjoy sitting in the top six for the first time this season.  We have played a lot better than this and not won, but ultimately it’s a results business so I’ll take an off-day and three points thankyouverymuch!

NB. Sorry for the late post, I pressed the ‘Save’ instead of the ‘Publish’ button, only just noticed! – duh!

Super-sub Kris earns Reds a point at Huddersfield..

Huddersfield Town – 1
Nottingham Forest – 1

It was dullsville at the Galpharm Stadium until the game erupted in the second half, with Huddersfield taking the lead courtesy of Danny Cadamarteri after 67 minutes, after which he was promptly red carded after picking up a second booking for over-celebrating – which is either silly on his part, or over-zealous on the part of the referee – probably depending on which team you support!

The first half was a scrappy affair, with few chances for either side – Forest knocked some nice moves together, but were unable to find the final ball or cross to create any real chances to test the goalkeeper, and Huddersfield were suffering from very much the same problem – so half time came having been fairly evenly contested by both sides.

The second half looked set to continue in the same vein until Smoulds made a double-substitution – don’t worry, I’m not blaming him this time – I can only assume Bennett was injured as Perch came on to replace him, and Commons came on for Nathan Tyson as we reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.  However, there seemed to be some confusion as Cohen slotted in to left back, with Perch settling in midfield.

Clearly the impact of the substitutions was some confusion, and it seemed the Forest defence had a little snooze as Danny Cadamarteri took the ball forward and tucked the ball beyond Paul Smith to give the home side the lead.  He’d been booked as early as six minutes for a foul on Luke Chambers, so perhaps he should’ve been mindful of this before celebrating – as he was promptly in receipt of a second yellow card and sent packing by the referee.

It was only eight minutes later that Kris Commons once again fulfilled his super-sub routine, scoring another pearler – this time with his right foot to convert a superb equaliser.  He legged it to celebrate with the Forest bench, and was booked for his trouble – so I suppose the referee did at least show some consistency on the over-celebrating front if nothing else.

Despite a final 15 minutes of almost unabated pressure, Forest weren’t able to force a late winner – Cohen came closest with a piledriver from the edge of the box that was well-saved by the home keeper, Clingan and Commons similarly had long range efforts but ultimately Huddersfield rallied and restricted our chances to those few long range efforts.

So on some fronts I suppose it’s disappointing not to have snuck a winner, but a point at Huddersfield is a good result – and makes our unbeaten run stretch four games which is a good run to build on, and whilst I’ve no problem with snatching an undeserved three points, it sounds very much like a draw was a fair result on the night – of course, the Cadamarteri decision will probably make Huddersfield fans feel hard done by.

Depending on whether you’re a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full type of person, results elsewhere either represent a missed opportunity – the teams above us pretty much all dropped points, so we could’ve caught up on league places – but equally, we haven’t lost any ground on them either – we remain three points off second with a game in hand, and just a point off the playoffs.

So after a slow start, our run from nine games isn’t looking half bad – so the manager and players deserve credit for turning it round, and they need to deal with the pressure of carrying on this run and continuing our rise up the league table.  Whether we persist with the 4-3-3 formation, or decide to start with the 4-4-2 system that seems to have been delivering impact in the second half remains to be seen, but well, it’s not been a bad evening’s work from the lads – well done!