Sunderland claim win in disjointed friendly..

Nottingham Forest – 0
Sunderland – 1

An impressive following from Sunderland for a midweek friendly

An impressive following from Sunderland for a midweek friendly

Neither optimism nor despair were offered in this fairly pedestrian friendly; for me personally the law of Sod dictated that I chose the less exciting of the two friendlies at the City Ground this season to attend.  And so it proved; a very low-paced first half was followed by a more disjointed second, with the game decided by a well-worked goal where the lively Stokes played an excellent ball from the left cross the penalty area into the path of the onrushing Richardson who made no mistake smashing the ball in emphatically.

Forest played a mysteriously vague formation, that relied on Bennett and Chambers to push forward to give us any width at all; which is part of the negative signs – because it leaves us frightfully exposed down the flanks, which will be no surprise to anyone who watched games last season.  That said, there was promise early doors when Earnshaw did well to flick a Chambers ball down for James Reid who spannered it into the away end.  Another chance for the Welshman came from a freekick which dipped a bit too late to force Gordon into a save.

His third chance came after he somehow beat the giant Nosworthy in the air, but wasn’t able to direct his header at all.  The other thing to be pleased about was my first viewing of Guy Moussi – whose ungainly appearance belies his ability to pick out a decent pass; but also doesn’t disguise his no-nonsense approach to scrapping in midfield to win the ball.  It’s early to be making snap judgements either way, but he certainly looks promising.

A less impressive number of Reds fans in attendance as the teams take to the pitch...

A less impressive number of Reds fans in attendance as the teams take to the pitch

Smith was called into action after a very-rotund-looking Andy Reid found ex-Sheep botherer Higginbotham to head goalward; and shortly after it was only a deflection off Wilson that prevented Daryl Murphy hitting the target for the Mackems after a mistake by James Reid.  As the first half wore on Sunderland did start to ascend toward the end of the half, with Forest increasingly looking limited on ideas to convert possession in defence to meaningful attack.  

At half time McGugan and Reid were withdrawn for McCleary and the hitherto-unheard-of triallist from Borussia Dortmund; a striker/winger (apparently, according to hasty web research – although he played in McGugan’s position during this game) from Sierra Leone.  He looked comfortable on the ball, but lacked match-sharpness; again, far too early to make any judgements.  He is apparently a highly rated youngster in Germany – but then again, so was Eugen Bopp!

The second half saw Sunderland start as they’d left off, their new signing Diouf (who was roundly booed every time he got the ball) bringing another save from Smith with a powerful drive after cutting in from the right hand side; before being victim of a mass Roy Keane substitution which the hopeless tannoy announcer didn’t really make very clear at all – although ex-Reds Darren Ward and Michael Chopra were among the players arriving on the pitch, as was Anthony Stokes.

Excitement rippled around the ground when we thought we’d taken the lead, or at least our end of the Brian Clough Stand did – Moussi unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards out, and as it went past a despairing dive from Ward it ricocheted off the stantion and back across the back of the goal – giving it the appearance of striking the post and in from a certain angle (those of you in the Trent End and Main Stand could probably see clearly it was heading wide).

However, it was increasingly difficult for Forest to craft chances – Earnshaw cut a lonely figure up front with no real link play between midfield to attack (or often between defence to midfield).  Sunderland dominated further and Stokes started to find inroads down the left side, with Chambers frequently out of position through his attacking duties, and it was from here that he was able to find time and space to pick out an excellent assist to Richardson’s emphatic finish.

Shortly after when bursting through he should have laid Chopra on with a clear sight of goal from close range, but he opted for greediness on this occasion and Wilson was able to backtrack to tidy up.  A couple of late half-chances came for McCleary, who nudged the ball over an onrushing Ward but agonisingly just wide of the goal, and shortly after Sinclair was able to dispossess Ward on the goalline, but couldn’t quite fashion anything in the shape of a cross or a shot to take advantage of the prone goalkeeper.

Higginbotham was withdrawn with no replacement, presumably due to injury, leaving the visitors with only ten men – but it didn’t really make much difference as the Black Cats were content to play the game out and Forest didn’t really seem to have the guile to take advantage of the extra man – and so the game ended; it was disappointing that there wasn’t more excitement, but it was encouraging that the Reds made a decent showing against a strong – albeit not playing at full pelt – Sunderland team.

The earlier excitement at being back at the City Ground was quelled somewhat by some of the concerning features of the game; but there was plenty to be heartened by too.  I can’t wait for the season proper to begin, because at least then we’ll know what is a genuine tactical decision and what is perfectly reasonable pre-season tinkering and experimenting.

It’s good to be back..

I hadn’t been too fussed with the preseason games, but must confess that reports from the Everton friendly as well as a mate forcing the issue by getting me a ticket has severely whetted my appetite to be back at the City Ground on this fine evening.

Sitting on the bank of the Trent, it’s great to be back amongst Reds after a long summer, and a sizeable crowd of Mackems too who are in good humour! I could have perhaps done without the hirsuite charity collector wearing a “mankini” though!

It’s around an hour ’til kick off and despite earlier cynicism I might’ve expressed around friendlies – particularly the cost of them – had left me feeling it’s actually £12 well spent. Aye, it is most certainly good to be back!

I may review this positivity depending on the performance, of course!

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Sunny scenes on Trentside, and my thumb!

As good as a new signing?

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Paul Smith celebrates signing a new two year deal!

An announcement from Forest pleased me enormously today; goalkeeper Paul Smith has signed a new two year deal which I dearly hope signals his desire to stick around and be part of Forest’s future – which will be brighter with him between the sticks.

Along with the defence, he can take enormous credit for a whopping 25 clean sheets last season; an achievement which provided a significant foundation upon which the dramatic promotion was built.

Like most Forest ‘keepers in my lifetime, he’s had his critics on the terrace – and whilst he, like any player, isn’t perfect and has areas he can improve, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper and a real credit to the squad – so his committing furthur time to the Reds is unequivocably good news in my book.

That said, I do think it is important that we have viable backup and competition for Smudger – be it by a loan signing or a commitment to push one of the Academy goalkeepers into a permanent contender for first team action, because whilst I have absolutely no qualms with Smith having the number one jersey, I want to make sure we are covered incase of injury which currently we are certainly not. However, having Smith secured to a longer deal is definitely cause for happiness!

Bring on the Mackems!

Commons: “I never wanted to leave Forest.”

He pleas in the Evening Post.  What a crock.  You had many offers did you?  That means you could have taken one of them and gone with goodwill from us, you didn’t, you went there.  In your time as a Forest supporter impersonator, you knew what the consequences of that move were.  It’s no good making excuses now.

His version of events differs somewhat from those Smoulds described.  I know which I believe.  Commons has, despite already dwelling in the very pit of contempt for most of us, sunk even lower in my estimations after this undignified outburst – he should just keep his mouth shut and let his football do the talking now, not try to justify his defection to us.

By all accounts he had a good game for the Sheep against Conference-dwelling Mansfield; which bodes well for the season – turning a 2-1 score to the Stags into a 3-2 win for the Sheep, I believe their first win under sex-nuisance Paul Jewell, who has also been spouting nonsense in the press. I am pleased to see that Smoulders is maintaining a dignified silence as the tubthumping from Dirtyshire continues to draw attention away from their mediocre haul in the transfer market.

Thoughts on the Everton friendly..

Jason Lee in action in Forest/Everton matches of yesteryear..

Jason Lee in action in Forest/Everton matches of yesteryear..

As I mentioned yesterday, I was unable to make it down to the Everton preseason friendly in person – however picked up an email this morning from a friend who did venture down to Trentside to take in the game.  His comments seem to tally with those I’ve read around the forums and other match reports, but it’s heartening reading, and does make me a wee bit more exciting about the season which is so close to thrusting itself upon us…

… also, whilst searching for an image, I couldn’t resist using this one of Jason Lee playing against Everton for us, despite it having the most tenuous of relevance to the story!

Alright mate,

Did you go down last night?

I thought although it was a friendly and played at a slow pace we knocked the ball around well.

I was impressed with Stephen Hughes. He is a good player at Championship level and is capable of doing what we bought Lennon for except he is several years younger and more mobile.

I liked Moussi as well. I thought first half he looked a little lost and appeared clumsy but as the game went on he seemed to get more into it and he is very strong.

Earnshaw looked bright and eager but I thought Lewis was the star. He ran the show for me. He still tends to over do things on occasions but he has got talent there is no doubt about that. I just wonder how long we can keep him for.

Great news that we have signed Joe Garner. It was no coincidence that Carlisle’s better form started towards the end of the 2006/07 season when he signed then their promotion push went off the rails a bit when he got injured in the second half of last season.

From what I have seen of him he not only has pace, skill and can finish but he has that aggressive streak in him that some of our players sometimes lack. I just hope he isn’t going to be cursed with injury.

The concerns I do have is that Smoulds may feel that he has to play Andy Cole, big name player and all that, when his best days are behind him. I’m not saying that he hasn’t a role to play but at his age it should be coming off the bench and not as first choice striker.

My other worry is that Smoulds still sees Chambers as a right back when his best position is centre half despite his early season form last year. I think he would get found out at Championship level. Last night when he came on for Brecks, he went to right back and Perch who is probably the more natural fullback went into the middle. Now it may have been to give Perchy a bit of a breather as he had been up and down the wing all night as there was no winger in front of him due to the 4-3-3 system but we’ll have to wait and see.

I must say it was great to be back at Fortress City Ground and I can’t wait for the season to start properly now!!

Heartening stuff; it certainly echoes the sentiments I’ve heard from lots of Forest fans that Stephen Hughes has demonstrated he’s worth offering a contract to – as well as general levels of impressedness about the new signings and players from last season alike…. tick, tock, tick, tock… not long left, I wonder whether there will be any more signings out of left field?  Rumours around Ben Watson are fairly unsubstantiated as yet – Hughes of course is a probably addition… I just want the season to start!

Forest finally secure striker signing..

It’s taken a while, but Forest have finally prized young striker Joe Garner away from Carlisle United; after the disclosure from the Cumbrians that there was a release clause in his contract, it’s unsurprising that things have progressed – with Forest keen to secure the services of the player before facing significant competition for his services once he’s fully fit.  Whilst he’s currently injured, he’s ahead of schedule with his recuperation.

Smoulds sounds really chuffed to have secured his services, and the official site describes him as ‘a long-time admirer’ of Garner.  He said “Joe’s had a really thorough medical, he is making excellent progress and we are more than happy that he will return to full fitness fairly soon.  When we knew there was a chance of getting him I wanted to push ahead and complete the deal because we would have faced a lot of competition from a lot of clubs for a fully fit Joe Garner.

On the risk of signing an injured player, he added “We don’t consider it a risk in any way.  The boy is way ahead of schedule in his rehab and it’s great for us to get the deal done and help him reach full fitness.”  On the lads’ potential he said “His record shows that he has an eye for goal but he’s a very strong and brave boy.  he can hold the ball up very well and even at this tender age he has shown that he is a proven finisher.  I’ve been aware of him for several years and we showed an interest in him at this time last year before Carlisle signed him permanently.

It’s another example of Smoulders identifying targets he wants very early but biding his time until the right time is here to get them on board, which I approve of.  He said “… we could not offer him a regular place at that time and he’s been able to gather great experience with Carlisle last season.  Our supporters will have to be a little bit patient until he regains fitness but I think they will be very pleased when they see what he has to offer.

I’m certainly pleased; I know a few Carlisle fans and when our interest in Garner surfaced they were gutted – particularly when it became apparently the lad himself was keen on the move.  In order to secure the move, Forest have triggered the £1.14m release clause in his contract, meaning that Blackburn will receive a chunk of cash, although Carlisle will still make a healthy profit on their initial signing of him.  The move looked more likely once they acquired the services of Bridges on loan, presumably to replace the outgoing Garner.

So welcome on board, Joe – I look forward to seeing him get fit and start to push for a place in the side.  On another note, Forest will now be anticipating their friendly game with Everton at the City Ground, indeed, on the way past the Trent Bridge area earlier I already saw Reds fans starting to gather – sadly I can’t make the game this evening owing to commitments elsewhere, but it will certainly be interesting to catch up on reports on the performance and the selection Smoulderwood plumps for.

What to do with an old Commons Forest shirt?

A few days ago Sean emailed with this great suggestion; I don’t tend to buy Replica Kits so the idea had never occurred to me.  However, spending a good number of hours amongst Forest fans over the last few seasons I’ve noticed a fair few fans sporting a kit with the name of Kris Commons on it, which is of course a rather unfortunate turn of events given his defection to the evil place (and predictable subsequent injury!!).

Now, given the timings I imagine a fair number of those shirts will have suffered an unfortunate fate, or at the very least a good piggling to enable further wearing; well, there’s an alternative way to deal with the difficulties on having the name of a shirt-kissing Judas on your back, for a small investment and hopefully an understanding member of the Forest souvenir shop staff.

With Commons sporting the number eight shirt, there’s a helpful pun you can go for – you’d have seen plenty of folks with the ‘I 8 DERBY‘ combination, well if you do have a Forest shirt with his details on, then why not ask the kind folks at the Forest souvenir shop to simply add ‘ALL THE PIES‘ underneath the number 8, giving the appropriate message of ‘COMMONS 8 ALL THE PIES‘?  Better still, if you are a fan of replica kits, given the churn in players we have these days, you’re probably better off not honouring any of them by getting their name on it!