Reds draw Birmingham at home..

Not really the draw I was hoping for – for one, I was hoping for a trip away from the City Ground, and well – no disrespect to Birmingham City – but to a higher profile opponent.  As it is, this is a game that neither team probably hoped for – we will prove an awkward opponent for them, and them us.

I’d hoped for a ‘go out in a blaze of glory’ cup tie at Old Trafford or The Emirates, or maybe Anfield.  Of course, our last attempt at one of those types of cup ties at Stamford Bridge may have seen us exit stage right, but certainly there was very little glory to be had.  Indeed, the only action of merit for us were a bobbling Junior Agogo shot and the attempt by Julian Bennett to snap Andrei Shevchenko in half.

You see, a cup run is a fairly low priority for me – that said, it is a good opportunity for Billy to shuffle his pack a little and keep more players in competitive action as he finds himself with an increasingly fully fit squad – and therefore more selection headaches.  As we find ourselves daring to look comfortable with the tag of playoff contenders though, I fear the impact of cup-shaped distractions.

Indeed, casting my eye down the draw not much jumps out – a trip to Chelsea for Watford, a London derby between West Ham and Arsenal.  Manchester United vs Kettering or Leeds could be both interesting and tasty, and poor old Notts managed to draw the wrong Forest!  As is so oft the case, I wonder why we get excited by the third round draw!

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What a difference (less than) a year makes..

Lewis caps off a good day in the office from the Reds with a magnificent solo goal..

Nottingham Forest – 4
Doncaster Rovers – 1

It was an afternoon sullied by only a couple of things really, the fact that we couldn’t prevent the visiting side from scoring a consolation goal, and the dreadful ‘integration zone.’  This saw foam-hand toting fans of both Forest and Doncaster ensconced in the lower Brian Clough stand.  The foam hands cunningly double-sided bearing the emblems of both clubs.  I hate it.  It’s crass, it’s the kind of thing Derby do.

No more please, Reds.  As for the half time mascot ‘race’ with them both looking at each other throughout to make sure the result was a draw, well, it took an already shit idea and made it into a complete farce.  It might sound mean spirited of me, but for me football is about passion, about rivalry, about us versus them – it’s not about being a family fun day.

Anyway, rant over.  Having spent a pleasant time with Deepingred before the match we’d decided we were looking forward to the game, but felt uneasy at the idea of looking forward to it.  If that makes sense, you see, the vibes are pretty good at the moment – on a good run, Billy having been on the charm offensive with the fans, some favourites back from injury – and opponents who, bogey-side aside, we should be able to beat.

It would seem that confidence is still not something that sits naturally with us grizzled Forest fans, especially as we approach December – traditionally the start of our traditional deep-winter slump in form.  There were, of course, to be no real worries on that score today.  Last time Doncaster visited us they did us a favour, they beat us and got Smoulderwood sacked!  Today we lined up with:

Camp
Gunter   Morgan   Wilson   Shorey
McCleary   McKenna   Majewski   Anderson
Blackstock   Earnshaw

A very positive line-up, which pleased most of the fans around us, and yet further options on the bench.  It was looking promising, except really there wasn’t much progress made in the first ten minutes.  Forest laboured to keep the ball as Doncaster worked hard to close down everyone quickly.  The visitors showed glimpses of the passing game they’re known for, and indeed, the end-product they’re known for too (ie, not much of one!).

Earnie was looking lively and tried to create chances for Blackstock and McCleary, both of whom were dealt with ably by the Rovers defence.  However, it wasn’t long to wait.  “We never score from corners” I said, tongue in cheek to a neighbour, as Raddy hit a decent ball into the box, Gunter headed goalwards but it was cleared where Anderson kept it in at a narrow angle, he drilled the ball into the danger area which picked up a deflection into the net from Roberts.

In the first half though Forest were content to let Rovers have the ball quite a bit – they weren’t always penetrative with their possession but did cause a few hearts to flutter when Blackstock had to be on hand to block an effort, and then Gunter the follow-up from Coppinger at the expense of a corner.  At the other end Earnie dummied and span well in the area but wasn’t able to beat Sullivan at his near post from an angle.

The always dangerous but frequently offside Billy Sharp probably should have done better when Shields found him but the former-Blades striker could only drag his shot wide.  Right before half time McCleary did well down the left, I was waiting for a cross to Anderson on the far post but he cleverly picked out the onrushing Majewski whose left-footed volley went over.  Would’ve been some goal, that!

So half time came and there was that familiar feeling of cautious content amongst the Reds fans.  Certainly nobody felt the game was won, however given Billy’s words at half time often having a positive impact the second half was awaited with some degree of eagerness.  The less said about the poxy mascot race the better, frankly… or have I mentioned that already?

Forest came out the blocks faster in the second half – Gunter, my man of the match, was doing sterling work getting forward to overlap and it seemed to work better now McCleary had switched to the right wing.  He put in a dangerous ball early doors which almost gave the Reds another goal by means of own-goal as Hird sliced his attempted clearance but for a corner, fortunately for him.

It was thirteen minutes into the half which saw the Reds double their lead – a corner again, Majewski again, this time it needed no scramble – Wes Morgan rose magnificently at the far post to plant a towering header into the Trent End goal to rapturous celebrations from fans and players alike.  I don’t think anyone does ‘happy when I’ve scored’ quite like Wes in the Forest squad, it’s brilliant!

The Reds began to look comfortable now, winning the 50:50’s and passing with much more ease and style than they’d managed previously as Rovers heads were starting to drop.  However, this phase didn’t last and the visitors did rally with a quick sequence of three chances – any of which could have changed the dynamic of the game had they been converted.  Sheils dragged a shot wide, Sharp missed with a header from an Oster cross and another shot ended up wide.

As the visitors focused their energy on attacking Forest were able to hit them on the break, Majewski had the ball on the edge of the box and looked set to shape up for a left-footed shot but instead dinked a delightful throughball to Earnie, who made no mistake at all in finding the bottom corner of the net for his second goal in two games – this time the obligatory Earnie somersault happening infront of the Trent End as relief flooded the City Ground that the points were in the bag.

It was only a couple of minutes later when recently-added substitute Lewis McGugan capped off the game for Forest with a fantastic goal.  His first touch was to control the ball on the run, his second lashed it into the goal from a nigh-on impossible looking angle.  It was literally breathtaking as I found myself stood up and unable to cheer, seriously, it was a good goal!  Rovers had just taken off Sullivan presumably due to injury, so I felt a bit sorry for their sub keeper.

Dele had also been introduced for Dex, McGugan replacing Majewski, the last sub was McGoldrick for Earnie.  The blip happened from a corner, well taken but we should have been able to deal with Billy Sharp who headed in well to give the visitors a consolation – and make Lee Camp go mental.  Understandable really – it was probably the only serious on-target threat on goal he’d faced all afternoon so his frustration is understandable.

McGoldrick could’ve made it five as he tried to prod the ball past Ben Smith whilst I thought he was being fouled, he should’ve probably gone to ground – but at the end of the day we didn’t really desperately need the extra goal – but well, it’s nice to get ’em isn’t it?  Full time came, and we’re up to fourth at least until we know how Cardiff and Blackpool get on in their games in hand.

As I said above, plenty of good performances throughout but I’d give man of the match to Gunter who not only defended stoutly but provided real threat going forward too.  McCleary also had an excellent second half, and well, everyone had a good game – which is always a bonus!  Well done Billy and the boys, another great weekend’s work!

Generally games against Leicester tend to have a fairly one-sided level of excitement, but with them dropping a couple of points today it gives us the opportunity next weekend of elevating ourselves above them in the table.  Certainly whilst I struggle to see them as local rivals, I certainly see them as rivals for where we’d like to be in the league – and on that level this will be a potentially fascinating fixture.  Can’t wait.  Cautiously, of course.

Billy Davies: It’s all bullsh*t..

Unfortunately for me I was sttuck working down south and unable to make it back to the glorious midlands in time for an evening with Billy Davies at The Approach last night.  Fortunately for you, Alex from LTLF was able to make the evening and has posted a summary here.

Anyone who works with or knows a Derby fan will have heard incessantly from them that “Billy Davies, he talks bollocks doesn’t he?” – well, he didn’t quite use those words – but has basically claimed that his media comments are, by and large, bullshit.  Anyone who cares to pick through some of his comments before might have observed this.

So anyone with any residual worries over whether we should be concerned about a man at the helm who has on occasion so flagrantly ignored the facts should perhaps worry less.  It would appear that Billy is a man with a plan, and that plan is pretty much on track.

Largely through my own prejudice I was against Davies’ initial appointment, but increasingly I become sold in to his ideas and have long been converted to an ardent supporter.  It’s good to hear he’s made a similarly good impression on those fans who did attend.  Anyone who did make it, please feel free to make a note of any of your thoughts via the comments.

Also, don’t forget that next week at the same venue is an evening with Kenny Burns (with Johns McGovern and Robertson in tow).

Forest vs. Doncaster Rovers preview..

The first game of a City Ground double-header, this is the game where a mixed-supporter section is being trialled in the family area, followed of course by the visit of Leicester where I don’t think such a scheme would be entertained.  The Reds, as we well know, are on a solid run of nine games unbeaten – but that does need tempering with a dose of reality – the last four have been draws.

Rovers have had a more mixed bag of results which sees them sitting at 16th currently in the league – however, in their last run out they put two goals past a decent Queens Park Rangers side with no reply.  Certainly not a team to be taken lightly, which we know better than most given how long we’ve spent in the same division as them compared to many in the Championship.

All eyes will be on new loan signing Nicky Shorey who has claimed the always suspiciously unfilled number three shirt, of course, a shirt that holds many special memories for Forest fans.  He will slot in to his regular position of left back which is timed well as Chris Cohen’s deputising is rendered impossible since his picked up a booking that sees him suspended.

After a brief run out against Middlesbrough Dexter Blackstock will be keen to get back into the thick of it, and Robert Earnshaw’s influence in that game too will see the Welsh striker desperate to claim a starting berth – particularly after the partnership of Adebola and McGoldrick was ineffective-at-best up at the Riverside Stadium.  Of course, Majewski and McGugan will also be pressing for a place in the side – meaning Billy has a few selection posers!

Donny welcome back Martin Woods from suspension, and could call upon Lockwood and Webster who are back from injury.  The man to watch for us though is a familiar thorn in our side, Billy Sharp has proven a pain in the arse for Scunthorpe, Sheffield United and now undoubtedly Doncaster against us.  He’s notched five goals so far this season, and frankly I hate him playing against us!

Also remember that before the match you can contribute Festive Forest packages for the forces, and bring either boxed addressed packages for servicemen and women  – or perhaps if you don’t have any loved ones out in warzones you could contribute a few goodies.  Brian Clough Stand car park before the match.

Shore-d up whilst expecting to be Bale-d out?

Forest have pulled this one out of left-field, or left back at least.  Whilst the papers are full of purported £3m bids for Gareth Bale of Tottenham being prepared for the January window (which, of course, might still happen), Forest have had a word with Martin O’Neill and secured the services of Nicky Shorey on loan ’til the end of December.

Shorey shot to prominence at Reading, and moved to Villa when they were relegated from the top flight – he’s even picked up a couple of England caps along the way.  However, despite making a few appearances for the West Midlanders in both the Premiership and the League Cup, he has found his opportunities somewhat limited.  That said, he’s clearly not been completely forgotten as Villa have imposed a 24 hour recall clause on the deal.

With Cohen suspended, Lynch recovering from injury and Bennett injured this was a real headache for Saturday’s game, but Shorey should arrive with the squad on Thursday and make his debut against Doncaster.  Indeed, without the suspension and injuries this is a cracking signing in my opinion, so hats off to Billy and the acquisitions panel for going about their business and landing a player who is proven at this level.

As the Derby fan at work said to me jokingly when he was reading the Bale rumours: “That’s nothing, we’re trying to get DJ Campbell on loan!” – luckily for him, he has a well developed sense of humour, I think he’s going to need it!  As for us, welcome aboard Nicky!  It’s great to have you here.

Jeremy Clarkson in praise of Forest fans..

I already made mention of the Top Gear presenters appearing on the pitch at half time at the Riverside Stadium yesterday, but it’s perhaps worth dwelling on for a moment – the full story is on the Middlesbrough website, but my favourite bit was naturally this quote from Clarkson himself:

The noise was incredible, while being slagged off for my size by 3,000 fans was amazing, so I thank the Forest fans too for that!”

It would appear that they were filming the stunt and presumably the exhibition they held at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art – and it is due to be broadcast on 20th December 2009.  Hopefully the stadium appearance will make an appearance, and the barrage of banter from the Reds fans, be sure to tune in!

Perhaps we should send them some Forest memorabilia!

We’re Nottingham Forest, unbeaten away..

Robbie Earnshaw is a red, is a red, is a red...

This was the definition of a game of two halves from Forest, a pretty poor quality first half in which an early goal gifted to Middlesbrough caused our hosts to play a pretty calculated game throughout.  The second half belonged to the Reds and certainly on balance of chances, whilst I’m pleased with a draw I think there’s an argument for suggesting that Forest did enough to feel they could’ve claimed all three points at the Riverside.

Less than two minutes were on the clock when a catalogue of errors involving our appalling marking meant that Adam Johnson was free on the left, he eventually found the equally badly marked Julio Arca on the right side.  His shot was saved by Camp – who I think should be either catching it or palming it somewhere safer – straight out to Lita who had no trouble at all finding the net.  Luckily I think that was the last save Camp had to make!

Forest were having immense difficulty holding on to the ball, and both the quality of passing and awareness of players that a bad pass could still reach them if they moved to the ball a bit was getting very frustrating.  The referee wasn’t helping, he’d booked Paul McKenna for a fairly run-of-the-mill foul and then ignored a series of other transgressions.  But referee aside Forest were mostly architects of their own downfall as Boro closed down everyone very quickly and we just didn’t cope with it.

The Moose had our first chance of the game, good work from Anderson found the midfielder with space to shoot – forcing a straightforward save from Brad Jones.  Twenty minutes of dreary football passed from both teams, before Joe Garner played McGoldrick – he turned, but the ball had run quite far.  We’ll never know whether he’d have got there because the Boro defender wrestled him to the ground.  Of course, the referee didn’t give a foul (and it was hard to see clearly from our end anyway, but naturally it was a stonewall penalty according to the angry man next to me!).

Our best chance of the half came at the end when Dele – who to be frank had an inauspicious half along with most of his teammates – won the ball well and turned into the area.  I think he should’ve shot himself, but he played a great ball in to McGoldrick putting him one-on-one, but his dithering and poor attempt at a sidestep gave Jones – and excellent goalkeeper – all the time he needed to work out his intentions and make a good save.

Despite playing mostly very badly, Forest had actually had more attempts on goal than the hosts – but with Adebola and McGoldrick not really clicking (Dele was winning plenty in the air, but Goldie was too far from him to profit from his flick ons and layoffs) it just wasn’t quite clicking.  The only pace in the side was Anderson – so I was hoping for some half time changes which were not to come.

What was entertaining was seeing Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond take to the Boro pitch in Newcastle shirts at half time.  They quickly changed into Boro shirts and announced an exhibition they’d organised at the MIMA.  Clarkson ending with “Nottingham, you can’t come!” to which the large Reds following responded with an almighty and extended bellow of “YOU FAT BASTARD”.  The curly-haired one didn’t really twig until a gleeful looking Richard Hammond pointed it out to him.  Good fun!

Forest came out the blocks fast in the second half, no changes but certainly a more determined team!  Joe Garner had a shot early in the half which he and the away end saw hit the defenders hand in the area, of course, the referee didn’t see it!  Dele had a header on target but it wasn’t difficult as it waws straight at Jones.  Garner had another effort from range which was just wide thanks to a deflection which gave us a corner.

Boro did had a break or two which didn’t culminate in any direct threat on our goal – and Forest were back on it, and we had another one-on-one with Anderson bursthing through on the left.  Ah, on the left.  He took one too many touches and again did a lot of Jones’ work for him who made the save with Anderson finally shooting from six yards.  It was starting to feel like the goal would never come!

Just thirteen minutes into the half the chants of the Forest fans were answered with Robbie Earnshaw taking the field in the place of McGoldrick, shortly after the hard-working-but-clearly-not-a-winger Joe Garner was taken off for McCleary.  Earnie was immediately buzzing around all over the place getting involved.  His chance finally came when the referee finally deigned to see a handball by a Middlesbrough defender, this time Wheater.

Unfortunately for us it was just outside the area – unfortunately for Boro, Jones set his wall up for a far-post freekick (which makes sense in a way, it was so close to dig it over the wall and under the bar would take some skill).  Fortunately Earnie has that skill – and dinked a lovely freekick over the wall and inside Jones’ near post where he couldn’t reach it.  He rushed off to the dugouts to somersault rather than the Forest end, which was interesting!

Dex replaced Dele with ten minutes left to rapturous applause from the Forest fans, and the boys picked up where they’d been playing and continued to press – Dex certainly didn’t show any signs of the injury he’s been recovering from, putting in a lot of running and defending from the front as well as seeking attacking opportunities.  Despite some pressure though, the Boro defence stayed solid aside from a deflected McCleary shot which made it into a simple catch for Jones.

Got to be happy with a point away from home at Boro, but we had enough chances to make it all three – not least by preventing the eminently preventable opening goal.  Good trip though, great to see the Red Army out in force – I wonder if we’ll get a mention on Top Gear any time soon?