Leeds United vs. Forest preview…

There’s no denying that this was amongst the first fixtures I looked for when they came out, and it’s proven to be a pretty cataclysmic encounter in the making.  Our hosts are without a win in five, we couldn’t win away from the City Ground if we were playing against eleven jelly babies, and the pressure is on the boss who has all but burned his bridges with the fans.

Leeds of course began the season on negative points, and early doors were spurred on by what they perceived as a misjustice to make short work of getting into the black and surging towards the top end of the table.  But since losing Poyet to Tottenham it seems Wise realised he was out of his depth, and he promptly jumped ship to help Keegan further make a mess of Newcastle.

Gary McAllister is the new man at the helm for the Yorkshiremen, and has so far lead the side to a defeat at home to Tranmere, and a draw away at Northampton – which is heartening from our point of view.  Given that Leeds haven’t won in five, and Forest haven’t won on their travels in five games – it has a draw written over it, really, doesn’t it?

We’re unlikely to be able to welcome Junior Agogo back, although there is a possibility that he’ll have returned from the African Cup of Nations in time in time.  We’re likely to have an unchanged lineup from the side that limped to victory against Millwall on saturday, whilst Leeds may be stronger with the return of Richardson and Kilkenny from injury.

I do think it’s fair to say the pressure is on Leeds more than us, since our expectations on our travels are generally pretty low!  Leeds had a much speculated about press-release this evening, which many followers thought would be an announcement about the Football League giving them some points back; it turns out they have a new kit manufacturer!

We need to watch out for dangerous striker Jermaine Beckford, of course – we know only too well from our encounter earlier in the season that he is a threat upfront for Leeds.  We also need to ensure we keep playing for the full 90 minutes, whilst it’s been a while, Leeds do specialise in late goals – that said, Wise could be credited for this to a point as he’d chuck late attacking subs on to help this process if the result wasn’t going their way.

All in all, I can’t say I’m massively looking forward to this – we owe them one for their daylight robbery at the City Ground, but how often do we claim what we’re metaphorically ‘owed’ in situations like this?  The pressure is on both sides, and perhaps the vociferous 2,800 Forest fans heading up the M1 might be able to shove Smoulderwood’s comments where the sun don’t shine and be the 12th man for the travelling Reds.

No predictions from me, it will either be a rip-roarer of a game or (more likely) a tense exchange between two sides terrified of losing.  If Forest approach this game with the right mentality (and formation) then we could profit from taking the game to them, whether our uber-cautious manager will instigate such a mentality in the side remains to be seen…

A fly on the wall for the half time team-talk?

Courtesy of Stress and Pie – this made me chuckle away a good portion of my lunch break, much to the consternation of my colleagues when I tried to explain it!  Worked wonders for lightening my mood, then making me feel annoyed again because it’s probably not all that far removed from what really happens!  Still, enjoy!

Smoulds lays into home fans..

The Mexican stand-off between Smoulderwood and the fans looks set to rumble on, after the manager decided to criticise the support levels in his post-match comments at the weekend.  Whilst I do have some sympathy with his sentiments, I do think he’s unwise to ruffle feathers any more than he need to right now, with many supporters teetering on the brink of whether they want to back his tenure or not.

“What I found surprising was the real lack of appetite and apathy of the fans when we didn’t score in the first 20 minutes, it was minimal support to the team and can’t happen.  We’re sitting with a promotion run going and they should be urging the team on.”

So whilst he’s talking a lot of sense, it’s an ill-advised move for him to be critical of fans who have never been particularly famed for generating a cauldron of noise.  Brian Clough criticised it, and he was within his right to, he was producing wonderful football and delivering silverware.  Smoulderwood is delivering neither, despite having what most fans agree is a squad capable of producing the goods at this level.

If you want vocal backing, Smoulders, then you need to send the team out to attack from the off – but you will never get the kind of vocal backing you get away from home (which is odd, as generally the performances are worse away from home!).  While you’re at it, you might want to consider lobbying the powers-that-be to move the away fans from the loudest bit of the ground – put a bit of unreserved seating down in the Lower Bridgford for supporters who want to chant – you’ll notice the difference.

So I do have some sympathy with him, it infuriates me when there is booing at half time, I often wish we could have more atmosphere at home matches, I wish that our fans came up with more imaginative chants – but the fact is, a combination of dour football, the wider contribution of all-seater stadia and ridiculously draconian stewarding and general malaise makes this unlikely.

However underpinning all that, it’s generally a bad idea for a manager to bad-mouth his fans when they turn up in their thousands at this level of football – to generally watch a standard of play that is below the capabilities of our resources and players.  If you want to do something realistic to help the fans back the team, Smoulds, then have a word with the security teams who patrol the fans – I’ve known people banned for 3 games for the heinous crime of standing up and singing a song to back the team.