Will he make it?

A nice surprise today was to discover that injured-presumed-gone Will Hoskins has returned to training with the Reds, which is tremendous news, particularly given the fact that we still seem to be stuck with the imposter who returned from the African Cup of Nations up front at the moment, it would be good to have some decent competition for him.

Coupled with Tyson’s proclivity to get injured, some added depth upfront is going to prove a pretty vital ingredient to our run-in, and probable appearance in the cursed playoffs.  Hoskins has appeared twice so far for the Reds, and whilst he didn’t score he has looked skillful and a very useful addition to the team, so I’m thrilled we might actually see him in action again this season.

In other news, the Forest Reserves go on from strength to strength – smashing Oldham 6-1 today – even scoring the goal against us in the form of an own goal by Hamza Bencherif, the first goal being scored in a mere 90 seconds.  This is made all the more miraculous when it transpires that Oldham had Jesus on their team!

Back on to Hoskins, let’s hope Junior will give him his garish orange boots back!

Improved Forest end Carlisle United’s home run..

Carlisle United – 0
Nottingham Forest – 2

On the face of it, this is a bloody excellent result.  Indeed, it is an excellent result, and credit is due to Smoulds and the boys for pulling it out the bag, ending Carlisles fantastic run of 14 wins on the bounce at Brunton Park and easing fears of falling from the playoffs.  This author at least is grateful for something to cheer about after a long trip to Cumbria also, as are I’m sure the other 601 Forest fans who gamely made the trip.

Having trained it up there, a friend was kind enough to offer a lift back – I manfully took on the mantle of keeping him entertained on the journey back, and promptly fell asleep – so apologies are due there as he grumpily sat driving back to the Midlands without my scintillating conversation and just a few CDs for company!  Ah well!

The result aside though, this shouldn’t gloss over some of the repeated inadequate factors in our recent performances, many of which were on show again tonight and but for a number of interventions from Smithy, some profligate wasting of chances and an element of luck, we wouldn’t have pulled the result out the bag tonight – however, we did – so we should be happy!

The match was contested in a swirling wind, although it mostly seemed to be blowing in our favour in the first half – meaning Smithy could kick much further, but his not always-accurate aiming was even further askew than usual.  Forest did have the first attack, Chambers coming close to connecting to a corner from close range but missing, ending up with Lewis shooting over.

After this the first half was largely Carlisles – they constantly broke down the left, and the frequently exposed Luke Chambers had a pretty haphazard time dealing with the pressure from the home sides attacks.  We had the bizarre situation of a referee change (there was a general panic in the away end that the game was being called off yet again!).

Agogo had a shot from range which was wide, and Graham had one at the other end.  The hard working Tyson, feeding from scraps in the first half, made a great break down the left and centred the ball but was unable to find the lacklustre looking Agogo, nor Ormerod – to compound this the striker rose with the characteristic feel to the hamstring we’ve become all too accustomed to.

Smithy made a great save after a cross was met from close range, and eventually the half drew to a close – the general mood in the away end was that it was a bit like Doncaster, but more incisive (which wouldn’t be difficult!), but it was a lot of hoofing it desperately from Forest.  Carlisle for their part passed and moved excellently, but didn’t quite have an end product for many of their moves.

Tyson had indeed picked up a knock, and was withdrawn at half time and replaced by Garath McCleary – and would you Adam’n’Eve it, we only looked a bit like a 4-4-2 formation for a while, and, guess what?  We looked better!  McCleary did pop up on the left once, but generally he stayed wide right, and Cohen – who I hadn’t mentioned but was excellent in the first half – started to cover the left more.

Agogo deigned to actually make a bit of an effort soon into the half, combining with the substitute to tee up McGugan whose shot was narrowly wide, after which Morgan was withdrawn having been taken ill for Ian Breckin.  This unsettled the back and we looked in real danger as Carlisle heaped pressure on to us, some heroics from Bennett prevented the increasingly-dangerous Cleveland Taylor from posing a threat to us.

Graham had an excellent shot from range which Smith did well to punch clear, with Bennett on hand to complete the clearance to safety.  McCleary started to look like an exciting prospect – attacking and creating a threat at one end of the pitch only to appear at the other making a decent tackle too, I was impressed with the new lad in his first really significant run in the team.

The lead came from a freekick – we’d had a couple of decent corners in the first half, but by and large our setpiece delivery was characteristically bad until McGugan (according to the official site – I thought it was Cohen at the time!) played an excellent ball into the box which Chambers was able to rise to unchallenged to powerfully head the ball into the back of the net.  Very unexpected, and a very welcome warmer-upper for the increasingly chilly fans in the away end.

It started to look worrying like Forest would adopt the classic Smoulderwood siege mentality having picked up the lead, and the home side certainly didn’t look like they wanted to give up their home record without a fight so were attacking hard.  Chambers and Breckin seemed to casually allow Graham to get on the end of a cross to head goalward, luckily for us straight at Smith leaving us to speculate whether maybe one of the defenders maybe headed it back to their ‘keeper after all.

McCleary again stood out when he won the ball and gave Agogo a great chance, the striker opted for ‘the glory strike’ which was on target, but he perhaps had more time to get closer and make sure of the finish – although, given his general workrate and level of interest in the game we should perhaps be grateful he hadn’t fallen asleep whilst ambling around the pitch!

Carlisle returned on the attack and a Marc Bridge-Wilkinson cross was headed by Danny Livesey against the bar, rebounding to Carlton who headed over – although it looked like an offside flag was up anyway, which has been glossed over elsewhere – I suppose the assistant referee could have been signalling for a goalkick with it being headed over by a Carlisle man – either way, a lucky escape!

As the home side were committing men forward Forest were able to capitalise and double their lead in stoppage time – Cohen did excellently well, squared the ball to Emile Sinclair (a late substitution for the disappointing Agogo) who shot, bringing a save from the ‘keeper, which fell fortuitously for McCleary who made not mistake from close range to score a well-deserved first goal for Forest – well done Garath!

All in all, I’m chuffed as hell as – as you may have noticed from previous comments – this wasn’t a game I was expecting anything from, so it makes it all the sweeter – and should hopefully be a real boost to the team’s confidence going into our next home game against Cheltenham.  However, in the first half we looked almost as shapeless and idealess as against Doncaster – I hope Smoulds has realised what a massive benefit some width in the side gives us.

Other scaries are Kelvin Wilson looked shaky at the back – particularly in the first half, and Chambers – aside from an excellent taken goal – is looking less and less capable of dealing with the right back role.  Having said that, both of our fullbacks have a hard time generally thanks to the complete absence of wingers in Smoulderwood’s typical gameplan.

I would like very much to see us using McCleary more on the right wing, assuming his match fitness is up to scratch, and encouraging Cohen to cover the left side too as we looked so much more effective when this was happening – and it also helped to nullify the threat that Carlisle had posted out on the flanks.  It really is a simple game that can be over-complicated by fools!

Still, I won’t end on a negative – a huge well done to the lads and the gaffer for a result none of us were expecting, also a big well done to the Reds fans who made the trip and were in great voice for most of the game.  It was nice to see the home fans applaud their team off despite a disappointing result, although I suppose having a home record like theirs it would be a bit harsh to do anything other than that!  I’m off to bed now in a much happier mood than I thought I would be!

I’m not going to start thinking about our chances of automatic promotion, frankly, we’ve left that too late barring a miracle in my opinion – however with Leeds beating Doncaster the three points are more than welcome to offer some security to our place within the playoffs.  Six points behind Doncaster with a game in hand, nine points off Carlisle after equal games – it feels like too much ground to make up in six games.  Go on Reds, prove me wrong again!