Forest vs. Barnsley preview..

Somebody’s run is going to have to end on Tuesday.  Barnsley are resurgent under new boss Mark Robins, who of course already played a pivotal role in history at the City Ground by scoring the goal that supposedly saved Sir Alex Ferguson’s career.  Now, as manager of the Tykes he’s engineered a run of three consecutive league wins – with Forest of course on a run of four having despatched Newcastle on Saturday.

Disappointingly we’re unlikely to see the same kind of attendance that the visit of the Toon Army helped draw to the City Ground, but hopefully the fans will have noted how helpful the positive atmosphere around the place is to the on-field performance.

Forest – as we well know – are now sitting in the strange position of seveth place, on equal points with fifth and sixth.  Barnsley are currently in a lowly nineteenth after a shaky start to the season – although given the way the first twelve games have panned out a win for the Tykes at the City Ground could put them up to twelfth in the table and just a couple of points off the playoff places.

On the injury front we are missing long term injuries Perch and Bennett, whilst Earnshaw too is out for a few weeks with a calf injury.  The Newcastle game doesn’t appear to have cost us any other personnel despite both McKenna and Anderson being substituted after picking up slight niggles.  Billy might choose to rotate a few players though after a tough workout against the Geordies.

Our visitors too find themselves in fine fettle after beating Yorkshire rivals Doncaster at the weekend.  Former Mansfield defender Bobby Hassell is their only missing player, cultured midfielder Da Silva has recently recovered from injury and may feature in a starting place having been given a run out from the bench against Donny on Saturday.

I would say that Dex is our man to watch – which I realise is starting to sound repetitive – although I would also note that he was looking decidedly jaded in the second half at the weekend, and probably would have been substituted had it not been for McKenna’s niggle.  For our opponents they’ve spread their goals around a few players this season so far – Hammill, Macken and Gray all have three, Bogdanovic, Hume and Da Silva all have a couple.

At the back Barnsley have shipped a few goals though – so I am expecting them to arrive equipped to frustrate and try to hit us on the break.  If Billy gets his tactics right then this game is eminently winnable – however, Barnsley are no slouches and the Reds need to take this seriously, and I have no reason to think they won’t do so.

So fingers crossed it isn’t a case of ‘after the lord mayors show’ for Forest – a smaller and realistically less vocal crowd will be there, so it might feel like somewhat of an anti-climax for the players compared to the full house and buzzing atmosphere at the weekend.  With a bit of luck more fans will be lured to the ground, and to get behind the Reds.

Reds run goes on as Toon Army succumb..

Nolan shows his frustration after missing a chance

Nolan shows his frustration after missing a chance

Nottingham Forest – 1
Newcastle United – 0

Billy Davies called for the fans to back the team, the fans backed the team, the team repaid the fans.  A definite game of two halves, the first of which was the best performance I’ve seen from Forest under Billy.  Davies opted to pack the midfield with Raddy and the the wingers pushing forward to support the lone striker up front in Dex.  And it worked a treat.

McGoldrick and Chambers made way for Moussi and Wilson, as Forest lined up like this:

Gunter   Morgan   Wilson   Cohen
Anderson   McKenna   Majewski   Moussi   Tyson

With the Sky cameras looking on and the largest crowd so far of the season, the Reds did a convincing job of looking befitting of the kind of stage on which they found themselves.  Their confidence on the pitch transmitted well to the stands enabling the home support to provide a fairly consistent soundtrack that, despite their impressive numbers, the travelling Toon Army weren’t able to match.

The Reds started positively, and the referee stamped his authority on the game immediately by booking Alan Smith for kicking the ball away after Newcastle conceded a freekick. It was only three minutes gone when the Newcastle keeper had his first save to make.  Wes Morgan lofted a good ball in which Dexter Blackstock met with his head – it was well-directed and lacked power, so the goalie was able to keep it out with a smart diving save.

Majewski had the next attempt, but his looping left footed strike from around twenty yards out was as good as straight at Harper who made the catch.  There was little Harper could do a few minutes later though, just as I commented to the fan adjacent to me that we were rubbish at corners, a good delivery from Raddy was met by a thumping header from Blackstock.  Harper was rooted to his line but the ball struck the post.

Naturally being a Forest fan I was starting to fear a West Brom type game, where early dominance and chances not taken would ultimately cost us – and before the half hour mark the visitors did start to show signs of stirring.  A freekick from far out was whipped in by Ryan Taylor, Harewood – who’d been firmly wedged in Wes’s pocket so far, really should’ve tapped it in but it went through everyone to strike the far post.

On the break Anderson performed a minor miracle to keep the ball in down the left side after a pass from Tyson, and ended his run with a shot from range that was quite straight forward for Harper to deal with.  More good work from Anderson ultimately ended up with Tys striking a powerful volley on the turn – unfortunately he hadn’t quite got his bearings right and struck it wide of the goal.

The goal came at that ‘perfect’ time before half time – winning the ball in defence there was some nice passing (which at the time looked risky in our defensive third!), culminating in the ball coming to Majewski who saw Dexter’s run and played the ball in to him perfectly.  Harper closed the angle but Dex either showed great cool or miskicked slightly to roll the ball into the bottom corner to give the Reds a deserved lead.

Dexter scores the only goal of the game

Dexter scores the only goal of the game

Clearly the orange-faced duo of Hughton and Smoulderwood must have had some stirring words for Newcastle, as the side that came roaring out the blocks for the second half were a much different proposition.  Whilst the Reds’ passing and ability to control a game was on show in the first half, their ability to defend and deal with pressure would be tested in the second.

The Magpies passed the ball around well and threatened, Harewood looked eager to impress on his old ground and made a few dubious choices when perhaps a pass was better than a shot.  Where the Reds had been composed in the first, Newcastle now hassled and harried and forced errors.  Possession wasn’t coming easy to the Reds now unlike in the first half.

Billy replaced Majewski with McGoldrick in midfield to try to add a bit of strength and composure to proceedings.  Newcastle still pressed and Carroll came close but for a Morgan block, rebounding to Nolan who shot wide from a narrow angle.  Then came the moment of controversy for Newcastle fans, as Nolan netting only to be ruled offside – although it took the travelling fans a LONG time to realise.

At the time I wasn’t shouting offside, I must admit.  Looking at the replay on The Football League show, Nolan was fractionally ahead of the last defender when Alan Smith flicked the ball on to him – so a good call by the linesman, but a sure warning sign of the intentions of our visitors who were continuing to pile on the pressure.

The Reds defended stoutly and sought to counter-attack where possible, after a good tackle from Smith, Anderson was left prone on the deck requiring treatment.  He played on briefly and was eventually replaced by Lewis McGugan, receiving a great ovation from the Forest fans who’d appreciated his efforts over the course of the game.

Newcastle had removed Harewood from the pitch and replaced him with Ranger – whose first action was to win a free header but put it over.  McKenna was the final player for the reds to be withdrawn from the action, replaced by Joe ‘the booking’ Garner who got a cheap yellow card almost immediately.  In the four minutes of stoppage time the Reds had the closest chance, Tyson crossing to McGoldrick who had his shot blocked.

Gutierrez, who had come on as a substitute after an hour, forced a late save from Camp – but it wasn’t anything too threatening and eventually the whistle sounded to signal the end of the game to no small relief from the home fans.  Billy has been at pains to reiterate Forest’s status as a work-in-progress – and I agree with him completely, however, the progression in his work is certainly significant.

Men of the match, tough call – as nobody had a bad game, but Blackstock, Morgan and Wilson all stood out in their performances I thought.