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Cardiff City vs. Forest preview..

Half-forgetting to do this has given me the advantage of being able to see the other Championship results come in today.  May I be one of the many men in Red who is surely raising a glass tonight to congratulate Roy Keane on registering his first league win as Ipswich boss.  Here’s to you, Roy!  However, we have our own affairs to concentrate on now, and it’s as tough a trip as they come.

The Bluebirds are looking a tough prospect this season – and certainly potentially the sternest test our unbeaten away status has probably had to date.  As they table stands they’re fourth thanks to Leicester and West Brom winning, three points tomorrow (depending on the Newcastle result too) could put them on the top of the pile.  But whilst we look upon them with admiration of course, we are only three points behind them.

Our league is tight this year, that’s for sure – so whilst the points gap between us and City is only three points, whilst they occupy fourth we occupy tenth.  I imagine a fairly recent game at their place might have contributed a bit to their impressive goal-difference tally – +15 to our +3.  In fact, they have scored almost double the number of goals we have this season.

For us it’s not a great time to be without leading scorer Dexter Blackstock and former Bluebird Robert Earnshaw.  Whilst attacking-wise there’s plenty to fear from tomorrow’s hosts, their defence hasn’t looked impregnable by any means – I mean, even Derby managed to score one against them!  Perch will still be missing, but Moussi will undoubtedly make a return into a packed out midfield – I can’t see Billy being too adventurous here!

Cardiff have no fresh injury concerns – and it’s former Forest-loanee Michael Chopra who we’ll need to keep an eye on.  With an impressive eleven league goals so far he’s one of numerous players who could cause us issues – he cuts a very different figure to the hapless youngster on loan with us all those years ago.  Peter Whittingham is another dangerous outlet for the hosts, who will of course be marshalled by former-Bluebird Chris Gunter who will be keen to put in a good performance at his old club.

A gratuitous but inevitable shot of non-league Nigel at Cardiff earlier in the season watching his team get a 6-1 shoeing.

This is definitely a test for us – but equally, we’re a test for them too – well, perhaps not equally, but still.  One of our best assets away from home is our travelling fans, the televisedness of the game combined with the stupid kick off time might diminish this (certainly it’s ruled the trip out for me), but there should still be a good number of travelling trickies to give the lads some backing whilst the rest of us settle infront of TVs and screens.

They’ve only lost once this season at home – and that’s to hot-and-cold QPR who defy any kind of predictability, tasting defeat on their travels to Sheffield Wednesday and Doncaster.  Their unbeaten in five plays our unbeaten in six, on paper this should be a close game – but I don’t feel to positive about it, I think the slightly more established home side will have the better of us.

But I’ve been wrong in the past – hopefully I am now too!

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And the ref was called Clough..

I’ve been on a bit of a Forest book reading phase at the moment, speaking of which – congratulations to Jason who won the competition to have a signed copy of ‘150 BC: Cloughie the Inside Stories‘ courtesy of the very generous author, Dave Armitage.  I’m confident it will be a prize he’ll enjoy greatly!  Commiserations to the many of you who also entered!

At the same time I bought that book, I also picked up a copy of the intriguingly titled ‘And the ref was called Clough‘ by David McVay.  Normally when it comes to delving into Forest’s past usually I find myself reading of the late seventies and early eighties – but this book documents the achievements of a yet earlier Forest side – in 1959 the Reds lifted the FA Cup for the second time in their history – this book documents the cup run.

It could have course been a non-starter, the very first hurdle for Forest was non-league Tooting and Mitchum who almost caused an upset – indeed, should have done – Forest managed to take it to a replay thanks to a dodgy penalty awarded.  The rest, as they say, is history.  For me it was a chance to remind myself of perhaps less familiar luminaries of Forest’s past – but defintely deserving of recognition from present day Forest fans.

Forest captain Jack Burkett holds aloft his hard-earned prize - judging by the photos in the book, it was difficult to get the cup off him after the match was over!

Thanks to reading Gary Imlach’s book about his dad I had some sketchy background knowledge of that era for Forest – but this book brings it all together wonderfully – and the best bit of all is the treasure trove of fantastic pictures.  Match-action shots from every round – bearing in mind cameramen didn’t have the luxury of modern rapid-shooting cameras the quality of the photography is amazing.

So for those of you who haven’t ever taken the time to learn of these names: Chic Thomson, Bill Whare, Joe McDonald, Jeff Whitefoot, Bobby McKinlay, Jack Burkitt, Roy Dwight, Johnny Quigley, Tommy Wilson, Billy Gray, Stewart Imlach, Billy Walker and Harold Alcock, I urge you to avail yourself of a copy.  Did you know Forest were the first side to win the cup with only ten men?  It was also the first time the winning team completed a lap of honour after an FA Cup final.

It’s a great story – made completely compelling thanks to the wonderful collection of pictures and reproductions of contemporary advertising and memorabilia from the time.  One of the many historic battles that have been taken place at Wembley Stadium a little over fifty years ago now, when football was a very different game indeed.  I won’t spoil the bit that amused me most – but imagine the health and safety furore if a team celebrated their homecoming in the manner that Forest did in 1959!

150 BC Competition: Last chance to win!

The deadline for this competition is tomorrow at midnight, so that’s 28th October 2009.  To enter just drop me an email with the answer to this simple question: What was the name of Brian Clough’s faithful labrador? Please ensure you include your name and address should you be the lucky winner – who will receive a signed copy of ‘150 BC: Cloughie the Inside Stories‘ as soon as Royal Mail permits!

Thanks to those of you who have already entered.  I’ve quite a few things on this week so will probably get around to completing the draw and contacting the winner (I will try to drop a line to all of those of you who have entered too).  Although obviously I can easily check when emails were sent to make sure there aren’t any that sneak in after the deadline!

I can only reiterate what a rewarding read this book was to read through – certainly with the amount of free time I’ve had of late it’s been a veritable boon to have a book you can literally rattle through sections of in a few minutes as and when you have the time.  And that’s before we get into the subject matter which is, of course, Brian Clough and more often than not the mighty Reds!

It’s raining t-shirts in Derby..

Hallelujah it’s raining t-shirts.. tacky gimmicks like this (and the sheep masks before them) rarely ever turn out to be a good idea in my experience.  In case you weren’t in Pride Park for the downpour, there’s a few popping up on eBay!

Having been busy whilst the game was on, I might just have to fire up iPlayer and watch it again, just to watch this look gradually being wiped off a certain someone’s face:

Winning streak becomes unbeaten run at Selhurst..

McGoldrick's strike keeps Reds unbeaten run intact..

Crystal Palace – 1
Nottingham Forest – 1

A fairly laboursome game was always likely with managers like Davies and Warnock in charge of the two clubs – they’re both fairly well-versed in employing spoiling tactics to inhibit the other side, and this was pretty much the order of the day at Selhurst Park yesterday.  Residual controversy aside over whether or not Clint Hill meant to elbow Ando aside, Forest can probably consider themselves reasonably fortunate to have come away with a point.

Not that it was a bad performance – just disjointed with limited end product.  Camp was definitely the busier of the two goalkeepers, although personally I couldn’t quite see why the freekick Darren Ambrose expertly put into the net was given.  It came after a sequence of freekicks for the home side each time a member of their side hit the deck, and they did so rather easily!

Without the influential Blackstock and Moussi to call upon, Billy was forced to shuffle the pack a little with his personnel, and went with what I thought was a fairly predictable line-up (which probably makes it a sensible one!):

Camp
Gunter   Morgan   Wilson    Cohen
Anderson   McKenna   McGugan   Tyson
Adebola   McGoldrick

The Reds started positively, with Tyson proving the outlet through which our attacks were forming – whilst he gave Butterfield a hard time at fullback his final ball was rarely too much of a danger for the Palace defence to deal with.  There was a warning of what was to come from the home side too, Ambrose forcing Camp to tip a well-struck freekick over for a corner.

Shortly after Kelv had a nightmare moment as he slipped in the area – the ball ricocheted off him fortunately into the arms of Lee Camp.  At the other end McKenna fed the ball through to Tyson who unfortunately had a let-down first touch which brought the chance to nothing.  Meanwhile Wilson recovered well from his earlier wobble by denying Alan Lee a shooting opportunity.

The Reds were attempting to play the ball nicely but it wasn’t quite clicking for them and Palace worked hard closing and harrying.  They brought on Victor Moses before half time, and the youngster immediately looked like he was set to make an impact – he appeared to have gotten away from Gunter but fortunately Camp was on his toes to close down the angle quickly at the expense of a corner.

A freekick was awarded in the danger-zone for Palace after forty minutes.  Wes had breathed near a Palace player who fell over (I think it was Lee, but memory is hazy!) and the referee predictably awarded a home freekick.  That takes nothing away from the taking of the freekick, a curling effort into the top corner which left Lee Camp with bugger all chance of getting too.

The goal awoke the home fans for a while – with the help of the announcer who proudly shouted: “Scorer for the Eagles, Darren Ambrose… DARREN…”, and received a lusty and slightly embarrassing “AMBROSE!” back from the crowd.  Oh dear!

Then the moment of controversy.  Anderson, who had looked lively in the first half, was set to beat Clint Hill again only to be halted rather starkly by the defender’s elbow – right infront of the technical area.  Worth saying now that the view from the away end doesn’t lend itself to judging – and predictably this particular passage of play wasn’t replayed on the big screen at the crowd.

Davies was incensed – oddly the tannoy-man then started piping the biased views of presumably a local radio nobody to the fans.  They’ve squabbled in the press about it – let’s face it – Warnock’s teams aren’t unknown to be fond of using their elbows.  Anderson was taken off as a precaution, Hill was booked for an altercation with Gunter afterwards rather than the incident itself (which even Warnock admitted warranted a booking).  So McCleary prepared to come on just as half-time arrived.

Gaz was out warming up properly during half-time – and as the second half kicked off the Reds  came out of the blocks quickly to get the equaliser we really needed.  McKenna found McGugan who drilled a form cross-cum-shot across the box which McGoldrick was well positioned to direct into the goal from around the six yard line.  Shortly after McGugan again was the architect finding Dele who missed the target whilst off-balance.

The Eagles were still threatening though, Derry did well but Moses – under pressure from the Reds defence – blasted over from close range.  At the other end McGoldrick crossed and nearly got a flukey shot on target – although Speroni didn’t look too troubled.  As the game became end-to-end, Camp did really well to deny Darren Ambrose (Darren!..) from doubling his tally with a smart save.

As the half wore on the home side were starting to pile on the pressure – Neil Danns seemed to dance past around four Reds defenders, finding Moses who took it around a few more before Wilson got in the way.  The ball kept coming back though.  Billy’s solution was unconventional, putting Chambers on for McGugan – and playing the centreback in midfield (I was expecting a shuffle resulting in Cohen taking the midfield spot).

It didn’t immediately solve the problem, with waves of Palace pressure continuing – and Wes had to look lively to deal with a cross from Ambrose.  Slowly but surely though we started to press forward a bit ourselves – Cohen delivered a great ball to Tyson who shot agonisingly just wide.  Predictably the ball came back at us with former-Red Stern John striking a Wes clearance just wide from 30 yards.

Billy introduced Joe ‘yellow card’ Garner in place of Tyson, shuffling McGoldrick into Tyson’s spot and Joe up front, but frankly there was little involvement for him as Forest struggled to keep possession or get the ball forward.  The final minutes were all Palace, and it was Stern John who came closest from an angle, but his shot was never likely to get past desperate blocks from Camp and Morgan – with Camp making the save.

All in all, pleased with a point.  Controversy aside (and I couldn’t see enough to know anything, although have a natural predisposition to disbelieve anything Warnock says!), I think given the classic “away performance” type ideology we were reasonably good value for a draw – although we certainly had to defend more dangerous situations than we created, so should acknowledge we were a bit fortunate too.

Cardiff away is up next – and they really are the team to beat at their own patch, so it will take some performance to get anything out of them at all.  It will really test the credentials we’re starting to develop with an impressive unbeaten run still intact – and indeed, an even lengthier unbeaten run in the league away from home.  So long as we can avoid a Derby-style Cardiff embarrassment, or indeed, a Derby-style BBC embarrassment, then that will be something!

I just watched Derby spunk a two goal lead away…

… and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!

Palace quickie..

It wasn’t a classic by any stretch, but a 1-1 is a result I’m quite content to leave Selhurst Park with. And let’s face it, leaving that place is always a highlight!

Whilst the Reds probably enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, chances were limited so it was no small relief to see David McGoldrick get on the end of a drilled Lewis McGugan cross to equalise early in the second half.

It was third time lucky fir Darren Ambrose as he lined up his third attempt from a freekick (which should never have been given by yet another horseshit referee). He took it very well though, Camp having no chance.

There was controversy too to end the first half, Anderson was felled infront of the technical area. Hard to see from the away end, but I thought I saw an elbow. Billy certainly saw something, as he went mental.

All in all, a good point. Camp was the busier of the two keepers and it was a hard graft. Well done lads.