Friendly round up..

Rotherham United – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1

This was the game I opted for, and to be honest, it wasn’t great!  Having seen most of the high profile new signings featuring down in Rushden I was kicking myself a bit, but the Don Valley Stadium represented a new ground for me, so I took my place to see a mixture of first teamers and youngster lining up something like this:

Fairclough Morgan Wilson (c) Diagne
Anderson Moussi Darnet Tyson
Earnshaw Adebola

The Don Valley Stadium is an odd arena, Paralympic history means there’s space for a flame and relatively low stands and running track puts the crowd far from the action – so when you’re watching unfamiliar players it’s not helpful.  The atmosphere suffers for the sparsely populated arena and the away end is tucked slightly round a corner from the home support.

Rotherham started brighter, a decent cross bringing an early save from Darlow, but then it was Forest on the attack – Earnie had an initial chance which he ambitiously tried to curl into the top corner, but was comfortably over, however, we didn’t have to wait much longer for a nice flick from Dele Adebola, a dropped shoulder from Earnie to free up enough space to slot the ball into the net off the far post – a nice goal.

It’s fair to say though, aside from occasional forays, the rest of the game largely belonged to the home side.  Darlow was well beaten by a header looping over him (not for the last time in the game!), but Paul Anderson was on hand to deal with it on the line, only for the rebound to be thunderously struck against him again making two goalline clearances in as many nanoseconds.

Moments later Taylor struck a delicious strike that had Darlow well beaten, but not the woodwork.  Pope showed great composure to strike the rebound into the net first time, however he was in an offside position so the goal was disallowed.  Shortly after Earnie charged down a clearance which ricocheted kindly for him to stroke a gentle lob over Warrington, but the referees whistle chalked this off too we think for a handball against Earnie.

Darlow – erratic in the Forest goal – was in trouble again when Sharp headed over him, he backpedalled and caught it but I’m sure it was over the line, a shove from the Rotherham striker made it an easier decision for the referee and linesman to not heed the home sides’ protests – but I’m pretty sure it was over the line before any foul play regardless.  Tys sliced a shot wide from the left after good work from Adebola and Earnie, and that was pretty much it for the half.

The half time break seemed to last an eternity, presumably with Billy not in attendance they were stodging up on pies, chips, gravy and a couple of pints – hence the delayed start to the second half, and the singular lack of real pace or urgency that was to unfold.  We had been looking forward to Forest attacking the end we were sitting, but well, there wasn’t to be much attacking in the second half!

Darlow was going walkabout again and was almost lobbed by Ellison prompting a great save from the young ‘keeper – notwithstanding him being hideously out of position in the first place.  From the resulting corner Darnet was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area giving Rotherham a penalty as a means of getting back into the game.

Tyson spent a while in the box stretching for cramp, which might’ve contributed to putting off Stephen Brogan who – just on as a substitute – spannered the penalty into the crossbar and over, much to the mock-relief of the travelling fans.  Another header beat Darlow only for Wes to literally appear from nowhere to make the clearance.  Darlow finished well with a save after a good run and shot from Brogan.

Basically, this was the jammiest clean sheet I’ve ever seen – I wasn’t at all impressed with Darlow.  The established players all played okay, particularly Tyson, Anderson, Adebola, Wes and Earnie.  The player that stood out amongst the youngsters was Jordan Fairclough – son of Chris – playing at right back, I thought he had a fine game both defensively and going forward, so he’s my man of the match.

Rushden and Diamonds 1
Nottingham Forest 1

Arguably the pick of the fixtures, with more of the new signings down here finished in a draw, the Forest goal coming from new loanee Radoslaw Majewski with his first touch of the ball!  I’m kind of guess at the team formation having not been there and not being massively familiar with all the players, but:

Gunter Chambers Mitchell Lynch
Majewski McKenna (C) McGugan Davies
McGoldrick Blackstock

So yes, one minute and thirty three seconds were on the clock when debutant Radoslaw Majewski picked up the ball on the edge of the box, turned and shot past Dale Roberts in the Rushden goal.  Dexter broke through minutes later but Roberts was alive to the danger and blocked.

The equaliser, just before half time,  saw Forest loanee James Reid make a good run down the left and put a cross in for Aaron O’Connor to bundle over the line.

In the second half Rushden came out very positively, Gunter was required to make a goal-line clearance towards the end of the game to keep it level.  Rushden made a total of eight substitutions whilst Forest only withdrew Lewis (for Rodney) and Mitchell (for Benjamin), so much like in the Rotherham game, Forest keen to get 90 minutes into players compared to our opponents.

Is Dexter home, is Dexter home..?

Every time I hear Dexter’s name it brings to mind ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ by The Avalanches as his first name features at the start.  At this rate of signings, I think I might need some frontier psychiatry as it does feel rather akin to being strangely hypnotised!  Anyway.  As if you didn’t know, it’s been confirmed by the Reds that Dexter Blackstock will be joining us by signing a four year contract.

Personal terms with the player have been agreed, an undisclosed fee has been agreed with QPR (the rumours around this were anything from £1m to £1.6m prior to the Reds confirming the signing), the official site I think is saying that a medical has been completed – so basically it all comes down to the mysterious post-medical tasks that means so many of our signings this summer have taken a day or so to ‘finalise’.

This is great news, it’s the sixth striker Billy mentioned in the close season and we’re familiar with what he can do from his loan spell.  QPR’s top scorer last season, he joins Bristol City’s top scorer and Southampton’s top scorer in our new ranks – that said, how any of them will get enough games to snag that many goals, who knows?!  Either way, it’s a signing I’m very happy indeed about!

The loan move for Majewski too is set to be confirmed – a year loan with an option of a £1.5m move for the player should it be desired.  The Evening Post seem to think this is on, and will be signing number nine for the Reds in a summer of splurging on new players. Both players as well as Lynch are likely to be involved in the two friendly games tonight.

Whilst we’re unaccustomed to doing it, a glance over the river shows that Sven has indeed agreed a deal with Notts County.  £2m a year (although very much performance-linked), for five years!  And to think they were quibbling with Chesterfield over the fee for Jack Lester – bizarre times but well, they deserve some kudos for the audacity of the move!  Hilariously, the Sun think he might involve David Platt in his plans… oh please, let that happen!

First-teamers at both friendlies tonight..

I’d planned to head up to Rotherham today, utterly convinced that I would end up – like the Reds fans at the Ilkeston friendly did – watching players I’d never heard of probably producing questionable football.  Luckily Forest have confirmed that both the game against Rotherham United and that against Rushden and Diamonds will feature members of the first team squad.

The trouble is, they don’t say which members will be at which game!  Ultra-new signings Lynch, Blackstock and Majewski are likely to feature at one or both games – but if you’re hankering after checking out a particular player, then I’m afraid it’s a case of picking and hoping – unless you happen to have a Harry Potter style time-turner so that you really can be in two places at once.

So it’s off to the Don Valley Stadium for me this evening to watch Rotherham in Sheffield – which looks like it has shallow stands and a massive athletics track in the way, should be interesting!  Even though I’m generally fairly unexcited by preseason friendlies, with all the signings we’ve made you can’t help but be a but excited by the prospect of seeing the Reds live!