Chances of finishing second..

A regular correspondent of mine called Michael (who I’m sure doesn’t really resemble ‘Statto’) has been very busy working out permutations for this weekend’s action.  Assuming that the odds for every outcome is equal (which of course, is questionable) then he’s even gone so far as to provide the % chance of the outcome, which – rather unsurprisingly – gives Doncaster favourable odds.  Since they are the only side with their fate entirely in their own hands, that makes sense.  The detail is below:

The first result is Doncaster, the second Forest and the third Carlisle, the team mentioned after is the lucky so and so that will finish second.  There are a whopping 27 permutations!

W-W-W Doncaster
W-W-D Doncaster
W-W-L Doncaster
W-D-W Doncaster
W-D-D Doncaster
W-D-L Doncaster
W-L-W Doncaster
W-L-D Doncaster
W-L-L Doncaster
D-W-W Forest
D-W-D Forest
D-W-L Forest
D-D-W Carlisle
D-D-D Doncaster
D-D-L Doncaster
D-L-W Carlisle
D-L-D Doncaster
D-L-L Doncaster
L-W-W Forest
L-W-D Forest
L-W-L Forest
L-D-W Carlisle
L-D-D Forest
L-D-L Forest
L-L-W Carlisle
L-L-D Doncaster
L-L-L Doncaster

Doncaster have a 15/27 or 55.6% chance
Forest have a 8/27 or 29.6% chance 
Carlisle have a 4/27 or 14.8% chance

Of course, there is a 28th permutation which we should find out more about on Thursday, which is the possibility of Leeds United having their 15 point deduction rescinded, which will catapult them into second place presumably to the chagrin of whichever other team was set to occupy the position!

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Lewis McGugan’s goal at Hartlepool..

If a picture paints a thousand words, this video clip is the equivalent of a million – huge kudos to whoever had a steady enough hand, and fortunate enough timing to capture it.  If you click the video itself it will take you to YouTube, where you can view a high quality version of it which is significantly better (I couldn’t work out a way to embed the higher quality version into this post).

What a goal, well done Lewis!

Late McGugan strike makes it game on for automatic..

Hartlepool United – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1

After the results all panned out today, it sees us just one point from that precious second spot, making the issue of automatic promotion something that will be decided next Saturday, the final day of the season.  Those of you who believe in fairy tales will appreciate our opponents that day are the side who of course crushed our promotion aspirations in quite spectacular style, whilst I’m still desperately suppressing my in-built negativity, it would be pretty sweet to win promotion by beating Yeovil Town!

So today as Forest were struggling to overcome a spirited Hartlepool side, Carlisle were thumped 3-0 away at Millwall, enabling the Reds to overtake the Cumbrians.  Doncaster, meanwhile, were registering a comfortable-looking 2-0 win over Luton Town to maintain the slender gap they have over us, so we jump up to third place, and Doncaster up to second, neatly setting up what promises to be a very tense showdown next week when we play Yeovil, and Doncaster travel to Cheltenham – who still have League One survival to play for.  Carlisle welcome Bournemouth next week, who are also playing for survival.

Before we get into the match then we should also offer congratulations to neighbours Notts County, a win over Wycombe today ensured they will remain a football league club this season.  Commiserations to Mansfield Town who are all but facing relegation to the Blue Square Premier after a defeat at Field Mill this afternoon.  I don’t profess particular fondness for either side, but I would always want Nottinghamshire to retain the three football league clubs it has had since I can remember.

A difficult surface and high winds caused difficulties for both sides, and despite a reasonably bright start chances were hard to come by.  The first fell to Perch who took advantage of a botched clearance from a Cohen corner, turning and shooting just wide of the goal.  Again a Cohen corner caused problems, heading close to being a shot on target and cleared off the line by a defender with the ‘keeper at sixes and sevens.

Around the half hour mark Perch played Tyson through who beat the defender for pace and almost beat Lee-Barrett who was just able to stop the shot with his legs.  The monkeyhangers had moments of danger too, with ‘Godfather of Soul’ James Brown causing both Luke Chambers and Kelvin Wilson significant difficulties, and the remainder of the half was really all about pressure from the home team.

At half time Kris Commons was introduced for Brett Ormerod who’d endured lengthy treatment during the first half, and it was Commons who created the first opportunity in the second half – beating two players and shooting on target and forcing a good save from the Hartlepool ‘keeper.  McCleary too was causing danger, finding Wilson with a cross who headed back toward Tyson whose header was wide.

One of those often-infuritating short corners worked out well after Commons did well to get a dangerous cross in to Tyson, who couldn’t find the target despite beating the ‘keeper.  Hartlepool had a great chance through the dangerous James Brown, but a combination of Morgan and Perch managed to block the chance almost at source to clear the danger.  It was around this time that it was apparent Carlisle were on course to lose, and it caused a certain amount of tension from the away fans who urged the Reds to attack.

Hartlepool continued to press, and a shot from Foley had Smith scrambling – eventually keeping hold of the ball after two attempts.  Smoulds then made a double substitution with 20 minutes left on the clock, McGugan replacing Perch, and Davies replacing Lockwood, obviously we know they turned out effective – or at least one of them did – so well done to Colin for changing when he did!

Tyson did well to create a chance for Commons, but the driven pass made it difficult for him to control, so t’was to be another chance to miss the target.  The home side came agonisingly close to a late winner with Mackay just unable to connect with a cross to the back stick.

The lead came for the travelling Reds with just four minutes remaining, Wes Morgan playing the ball to Garath McCleary who laid it off perfectly for Lewis McGugan who unleashed a left-footed curling shot from the edge of the area into the ‘net, much to the delirium of Forest fans, players and coaching team alike.  The icing on the cake was almost in place when Commons shot from the edge of the area, but had to be content with seeing his shot rebound from the bar.

The end of the game was predictably tense – six minutes or so of stoppage time was never going to help that – and Hartlepool did finish with attacking possession, but of course we were to hold out and register a hard-earned win, if not prettily earned.  A huge well done to the boys and the coaching team, we’ve set ourselves up for a very tense afternoon next week, but it’s incredibly exciting to suddenly have a very real prospect of automatic promotion again!

So our job is to fill the City Ground and get right behind the boys next week, of course, if Doncaster win then no result will be enough – but whatever is to happen, we need to play our part (as well as sending as much positive karma as humanly possible to Bournemouth and – particularly – Cheltenham.  There’s going to be some inflated ‘phone bills due to that day as we’ll be constantly checking the scores elsewhere!

Can fairy tales really come true?  Well no, probably not – the fact we’re playing Yeovil again is probably just a coincidence or a not-so-amusing joke by whoever puts together the Football League fixtures – either way, I’m prepared to try to believe just for a week! YOU REDS!

Who do you Trust?

And so the initial meeting to discuss a Trust for Forest supporters came to pass this evening, it was a disappointing turnout given the exposure the meeting has received from both online and local media sources – even allowing for the 100 or so people who apparently expressed their support but were unavailable, add that to the 40 or so people who came to The Village and it makes up a small proportion of the Forest fanbase.

However, with speakers representing Supporters Direct, a government-backed organisation, and the chairman of the Sheffield Wednesday supporters trust (Wednesdayite), it made for an interesting evening along with spots by two of the chaps (I neglected to take any means of making notes, so I’m being crap and forgetting names – my humble apologies to the gentlemen in question) who were involved in trying to get a Trust for Forest off the ground.

It was particularly interesting to hear from the Wednesday fan – they are a club of a similar stature and not a million miles away in terms of situation as us.  Their Trust has evolved from a fairly militant organisation (which is what I feared a Forest equivalent might resemble) into an organisation some 1,200 strong keen to forge symbiotic links with the Yorkshire club.  The board of the club, however, are not interested in this – and even have gone as far as returning cheques to them ripped up!

Some of the negative/concerning elements of the meeting were exactly as I feared being familiar with Forest fans and some of the factions they can form – a lot of the questions/answers session I felt was overtaken by divisive arguments between adherents of the Trust and members of the Supporters club who were present (I’m taking no sides here, I think some of both parties kind of missed the point of the debate.  Having said that, I must admit that I have some difficulty in understanding why the folks wanting to set up the Trust couldn’t simply join and get involved in the Supporter’s club.

My impression of the Supporters Club, I must admit, was that it was basically a mechanism for acquisition of tickets and arranging travel to games – which shows my ignorance as much as anything – it transpires they do regularly meeting with the powers-that-be at Forest, which is a mechanism for them to raise issues and concerns that their members (membership is attained by paying a nominal fee per year, much like the proposed Trust would be) may have.  The Committee and Chairperson roles are decided democratically by the members, again, much like a Trust would be.

However, it is clear that whether it be through an ineffective organisation (I don’t believe this to be true), or a club unprepared to listen to them, or by a lack of publicity or awareness of the role of a Supporters Club amongst the Forest fans, those concerns are either not being aired or are not being acted upon by the club.  Certainly I feel pretty low about Forest, and I don’t just mean from an on-the-pitch perspective, and judging by the fellow fans I speak to or those of you who comment upon here, so do many of us.

The upshot of the meeting is a motion was passed to create the Trust – and this was a motion I semi-reluctantly put my vote to.  I was concerned to hear some people speaking about the Trust being a “pressure group” before any such mandate has been determined by it’s members – you see, the aim of the Trust is to be democratic, to act on the vote of its members, but I guess people get carried away when they feel passionate.  One of the reasons I am semi-supportive of the idea is to ensure that should the Trust get off the ground then I would like to make sure I’m able to express my views through it.

As I started with though, it was a disappointing turn out – and even accepting the 100 absentee interested parties, less than 150 people will not be enough to make a success, and perhaps an alternative idea would be to seek to grow the 2,500 members of the Supporters Club and seek involvement to perhaps address where people feel their remit is ineffective or lacking in meeting the needs of the fans.

Ultimately I would encourage all Forest fans to find out more about the Trust as it develops and get involved, because that way there is a real chance that an organisation that can be truly representative of the supporters needs can evolve and hopefully work to benefit the football team we all love so dearly.  I remain somewhat sceptical, but still open-minded enough to see how things develop because despite fears of the divisive nature of some of the people who spoke out, ultimately we all do have the most important thing in common – the best for Nottingham Forest FC.  Any selection of such people will always have differences in opinion as to how the best is to be achieved, and it is important that as many of those opinions as possible have the opportunity to be heard.

Look out for a more comprehensive summary of the meeting on the Supporters Trust website tomorrow afternoon, and seek to find out more.  Supporters Trusts (and there are 150 of them in England) come in all shapes, sizes, and with all manner of purposes on their agenda – which are determined by their members – so it really is something that could address what you want it to address, but only if you take the time to get involved to some degree.

Now the dust has settled..

After digesting yesterday’s surprising turn of events, and the fact that we suddenly appear to have a much more tangible chance at automatic promotion than we thought, I’ve tried to take stock of it.  I think the bottom line is that not only do we really need to win our two remaining games, we also need to depend upon both Doncaster and Carlisle to drop sufficient points for us to catch up with them.  Whilst not beyond the realms of possibility, it still feels like a tall order.

If we take a look at the fixtures left, Carlisle dropping points isn’t beyond the realms of possibility – they’re on a self-destruct run of form that will be only too familiar to Forest fans, and with games against Millwall and Bournemouth to come, still scrapping for points, they are not home and dry.  Bournemouth in particular have started to seriously fight after their point deduction, and this is the game that is more likely to provide the upset.  From our point of view, Carlisle will remain above us if they can win and draw their last games regardless of our results.  Two draws would be okay though!

Doncaster Rovers have arguably the easiest run in, and will be getting excited at the prospect of grabbing second place themselves – a home game against our recent opponents Luton Town, who are already relegated and – on yesterday’s showing – aren’t very good, and then a final day trip to Cheltenham which, with all due respect to ’em, isn’t exactly a challenging fixture on paper.  We only have one point to make up over Donny, so any slip up by the South Yorkshire side will be enough for us to be able to catch them.

However, probably the most challenging ask in this is Forest’s remaining fixtures, a trip to Hartlepool – a scene of a last gap failure to qualify for the playoffs not that long ago, is a tough trip, and we all know what Yeovil Town are capable of achieving at the City Ground.  Forest need to take positivity into these games and get maximum points.  Even that might not be enough depending on what goes on elsewhere, but if we can go to Hartlepool United next week and win, we are guaranteed to take it to the last day of the season.

Of course, the sod’s law factor in this is that we’ll somehow haul ourselves into that improbably second spot, only for Leeds to be awarded their 15 point deduction back, consigning us back down to third!  The other potential factor in the mix is AFC Bournemouth’s financial struggles, which seem to have quietened down in the media – which I’m pleased about, as whilst we would have benefitted from this, I wouldn’t want to see an honest and decent club like Bournemouth going out of business.

So, in summary it’s certainly achievable for us – but it does put a certain amount of pressure back on to the side, pressure they probably weren’t feeling for the Luton Town game – and that wasn’t exactly an exemplary display of football.  Should we get to the final day with it still in the balance it will prove to be a tense day of checking results on mobile phones constantly, so we could all be in for a huge WAP bill!

As for us fans, it’s surely time to quell the negativity on matchdays – put an end to the half time boos, no more banners against the manager, as long as there’s even the slightest possibility of us nicking that second spot, no matter how tiny, then our role should be to get behind the team and try to spur them on to victory.  Stranger things have certainly happened, it seems silly to be formulating protests whilst a successful season is still possible.

Scrappy win puts “the A word” back on the agenda…

Nottingham Forest – 1
Luton Town – 0

Unusually Smoulds summed up the game this afternoon quite succinctly.  He said we didn’t create much of not in the first half, played well in short spells in the second half, and that ultimately the result was much more important than the performance.  Pretty good summary, really, it was a frustrating afternoon which was decided by the hardworking Nathan Tyson, who worked hard whilst receiving the kind of service that NTL customers are more accustomed to.

Chances in the first half were limited to a decent Commons curling shot which gave us a corner courtesy of Luton ‘keeper Dean Brill, an off-the-line clearance from Breckin after a corner.  Then after around a half hour pause of turgid and laboured football again Commons shot but weakly, before another corner brought a half chance that Cohen volleyed wide.  Hutchinson played a cunning game with Tyson, holding on to him just enough to get away with.

The talk of using wingers was obviously a media smokescreen by Smoulds, because we didn’t in the first half – however with Brett Ormerod being withdrawn due to illness for Garath McCleary, there promised to be more creativitiy in the second half – immediately hugging the right touchline and putting a decent cross in which evaded Tyson, waking up the crowd somewhat who were quiet, and not particularly numerous, despite a decent following from already-relegated Luton.

Other highlights of the second half largely featured Bennett, who made an excellent Cruyff turn and then a stepover (the latter for no apparent reason) when surging forward, before being poleaxed and losing the ball, Benno also put in an absolutely heroic block when former-Reds target Matthew Spring looked an absolute dead cert to score after the ball broke to him in the box after some rather shoddy defending on the part of the Reds.

We finally took the lead after excellent work by Commons took him past two Town defenders before crossing towards McCleary.  Reports I’ve read suggested he headed across goal aiming for Tyson, but I suspect it was just a poor intended goalbound header, either way, after several attempts the tenacious Tyson was eventually able to spanner the ball into the net much to the relief of the crowd – a well deserved goal for him after a tireless performance.

Luton wilted, playing merely for pride they basically stopped trying for a spell – Sammy Clingan had a good effort from range from a corner which was just wide, however, Forest too were starting to play lazily and letting the visitors back in it.  Spring unleashed a powerful shot which wasn’t hard for Smith to stop, but he couldn’t gather it, the ball ended up with Emanuel who also brought a save from the Reds ‘keeper.  At the other end Cohen had a shot deflected wide.

Commons was withdrawn with about five minutes left for Lewis McGugan, and immediately from a corner Wes Morgan was unlucky when Brill was able to tip his header over the bar.  He again had to make the save from Tyson after McCleary had done really well to find him with another cross, after which Tyson was withdrawn for a deserved ovation (tinged with celebrations in some pockets of the ground who’d discovered Southend had scored) for Thornhill, and that was pretty much it.

Of course, elsewhere Carlisle were busy losing and Doncaster were busy drawing – which puts us within just three points of automatic promotion with two games left.  Personally I think it’s too late to be thinking about that, but if you let yourself for a minute it is a tantalising prospect!  Certainly it will make checking results compulsory during next weekend’s trip to Hartlepool assuming of course that we can do the business in our own games.

I noticed early into the game a ‘Calderwood Out’ banner in Capital One corner – which seems a stupid thing to be unfurling in the run-up to a likely playoff campaign.  Clearly many fellow fans felt the same as it was roundly criticised by the fans around there until it was withdrawn.  That said, a fair number of those fans who rightly pointed out we should be backing the team no matter what at this stage of the season presumably were also the ones who booed the team off at half time.  Silly people.

All in all, an uninspiring performance but an invaluable three points potentially – to be honest, the only players who really stood out today were Bennett (not always for good things, but that’s just who he is!), Tyson who worked his arse off, McCleary offered us a different outlet and James Perch looked more comfortable than he has in a long time in the holding midfield role – so hats off to them, the rest of ’em, must try harder in subsequent games!  You Reds!

Reminder – Supporter’s Trust meeting on monday..

Just a reminder for those of you whose interest may have been piqued by the meeting to discuss the proposed Nottingham Forest Supporter’s Trust – the meeting is this coming Monday evening (21st April) at 7:30pm at The Village Hotel in Chilwell – on the way to Long Eaton from Nottingham.  It promises to be an interesting evening, and given that there are so many uncertainties about exactly what a Trust is supposed to do for Forest, it makes it an interesting meeting in prospect!

There’s more information on a website setup by the folks who’ve called the meeting – my understanding is they’ve invited people from the existing supporters club, as well as club officials as well – so any overlaps etc should also be addressed.  Certainly I often have a moan that Forest don’t act in the fans interests at times, and whilst I have reservations about how capable a collective of Forest fans are of representing their own interests, it’s is nice to see people taking positive action.

So, if you’re interested in testing out and debating whether or not we can have a tenable organisation to try to open meaningful dialogue with the club – who, let’s face it, currently see us as little more than a cash cow.  Whether or not continued underachievement will enable them to continue this attitude remains to be seen, given that the season is still to conclude and Forest are still in with a shout of promotion, but we shall see.  I certainly intend to make the effort to attend.