Shorey to stay..

The Reds have been able to extend the loan of the Villa fullback.  But only ’til the end of January rather than the end of the season as we’d hoped.  Still, this is good news as it’s patently obvious from looking at our squad we need a left-back, and Nicky Shorey has been absolute class since being introduced into the side.

He won’t be featuring in Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Birmingham City, and Martin O’Neill will be able to recall the player with 24 hours notice should he need to.  So we won’t be waving goodbye to him just yet, which is fantastic news – I’m hoping that the interesting timing on the loan suggests that Forest may be hoping to do permanent business depending on how January goes, but maybe I’m reading too much into that!

I’m unclear on loan rules – so whether we can ‘extend’ the loan agreement at the end of January if Villa are willing, or whether we can enter into a new third loan before the deadline ends is totally unclear for me.  So for now, I’m just grateful he’ll be on board to feature in our next few fixtures!

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2009, a Reds odyssey..

Image of the year? I think so!

The last year of the ‘noughties’ has been a fairly eventful one for the Reds, in a decade that has been – for the most part – fairly inauspicious.  We have spent the last ten years languishing in the second tier, worse still, we had a three year sabbatical in the third – we had dipped to possibly our lowest ebb in living memory yet now, we are daring to look upward to the top flight with a distinct feeling of maybe, rather than never.

It has certainly been a rollercoaster – but with a smidgin under a year in charge, Billy Davies has seized upon the foundations put in place by others and begun to deliver not only league placing, but fantastic football.  I’m going to take a quick opportunity to look back over the past twelve months – and pick out my highlights.  Obviously I’d welcome your own additions, as my memories are far from definitive!

January – after initial grizzling on my part, Billy Davies took the helm of Nottingham Forest.  A big slice of humble pie has long since been eaten and enjoyed by me, as my initial fears at his appointment have been swept aside by his construction of a team I once again look forward to watching.  A big honourable mention should also go to the Reds trip to Manchester City where we stunned our hosts with a 3-0 win!

February – It’s easy to forget that the Davies revolution took a while to be fully prepared.  He had a tricky start, and in this month we lost to Derby at the City GroundTwice.  Now whilst our respective fortunes have diverged in a favourable direction for us, make no mistake, at the time this made me absolutely and utterly gutted.  I had still clearly not warmed to the manager.

MarchBurnley. Turf Moor. Five nil. We really thought that was it – well, that was the last time we were to taste defeat on our travels in 2009.  So this game was a catalyst of sorts – indeed, those poor fans who made the trip to Burnley were ‘rewarded’ with half price tickets to Barnsley.  Forest ended the month by loaning Dexter Blackstock from QPR, and The Damned United came out at cinemas – and was excellent.

April – in April I barely wrote anything!  There were two things that stand out for me this month, the first of which was that winning goal by Dexter Blackstock against Bristol City.  I spoke earlier of catalysts – well this sure was one.  The other thing April saw was the twentieth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

May – by may we were pretty much home and dry – but a last day win against relegated Southampton at the City Ground was a nice end for us in what had been a stressful season.  We said goodbye to Ian Breckin, and clearly by May I was very much sold on Wee Billy now he had secured is second flight status.

June – what happens in June? Not much really.  Although unusually the Reds tied up some transfers quite quickly – snapping up David McGoldrick, Dele Adebola and Paul Anderson as permanent signings.

JulySven-gate aside over the river, July saw us sign Lee Camp, Joel Lynch, Paul McKenna, Chris Gunter, Dexter Blackstock and Radoslaw Majewski.  Nine signings, as well as a clutch of friendlies – the highlight of which must have been a win over Sporting Lisbon in Portugal!

August – a win over Derby, a harmless celebration turned ugly by embittered Rams players, natural order restored somewhat?  Sit back and enjoy reliving the highlights!  This was our first league win of the season – after an inauspicious start (two draws and two defeats), although we had a couple of good results in the cup.

September – didn’t springboard us into life, a couple more draws on our travels and a disappointing defeat to Blackpool at home.  I think the key moment this month was a scrappy goal by Chris Gunter giving us a victory against Plymouth, from which we’ve really started to push on from.

Octoberthe Toon Army rolled into Nottingham in October, and had to watch their side undergo a thorough examination in a rampant first half performance from the Reds.  Dexter’s goal was enough to give Forest a deserved win, and perhaps finally start to ignite a bit of believe both in fans and pundits alike that Forest had credentials beyond simply surviving.

November – aside from the obvious pleasure in abusing Jeremy Clarkson, but perhaps the highlight of the month was a City Ground dismantling of Doncaster Rovers, our tormentors on Boxing Day 2008 (ultimately the game that lost Smoulderwood his job).

December – a good month for the Reds!  It started with annihilating promotion hopefuls Leicester City in an exhilarating encounter, with a convincing win over Preston North End on the way – and capped off with a battling victory over Coventry City to see the Reds end 2009 unbeaten in 16 games and Billy Davies surely the favourite for Manager of the Month.

There we have it – what a year!  Necessarily I’ve missed out many key moments and highlights, what a testament that there are so many of them that there are some to leave out.  Recent years have oft been bereft of too many memorable moments for us – or at least, memorable for reasons beyond fuelling nightmares!

A very Happy New Year to everyone at Nottingham Forest – keep up the great work, and of course to all you fans as well.  Strap yourselves back in after your New Year’s Eve celebrations because I have a feeling that we’ve yet to see the true heights this rollercoaster can scale – and indeed, logic dictates there will be a few dips along the way too.

Sweet sixteen as Coventry succumb..

Another stand-out performance from Kelvin Wilson!

Nottingham Forest – 2
Coventry City – 0

Apologies for the tardy report – it’s becoming a bit of a habit, isn’t it?  Unplanned drunken antics and a day full of errands now places are open have made this my first opportunity to try to put into a words a game that – in truth – probably wasn’t all that memorable (aside from the goals).  Either that or I drank a bit more than I thought last night!

Billy made a few changes for the visit of Coventry to give us a more overtly attacking look than our away formation – our visitors too, to their credit, came to try to get something out of the game too.  Forest lined up with:

Camp
Gunter   Morgan    Wilson    Shorey
Cohen   McKenna    Majewski    Tyson
Earnshaw    Blackstock

The Reds were first on the attack through Tys, but the visitors also threatened through Leon Best.  Shortly after Kelv was down with an injury which had us worried, but he was back on the pitch soon enough to continue his recent run of excellent form.  A couple of minutes later we had the ball in the net, only to be confounded by the linesman’s flag.

Shorey had played a fantastic ball to Tyson, who turned and fired beyond Westwood with a tremendous finish.  It was impossible for me to tell whether or not the flag was justified, I’m assured by better sited people that it looked like it was Earnie rather than Tys who was probably offside – so it could’ve been a bad call.  It wouldn’t be surprising, as Clattenburg and his assistants provided another hapless performance in officiating.

The Sky Blues seemed to favour counter-attacking like us – and Gunts needed to be alert to clear and prevent a goal for the visitors as the game started to get disjointed.  Raddy had a shot from range after a simple pass from McKenna but was only able to put it over the bar – it wasn’t too far away, though as Forest started to look more convincing.

Earnie picked up the ball on the edge of the box and struck a good shot goalwards to sting the hand of Westwood in the Coventry goal at the expense of a corner.  Corner’s didn’t prove to be our strong point on this day, though – and eventually it was again our visitors who were on the attack.

Best got away from Raddy far out, he struck a powerful shot from this distance, it was pretty much straight at Camp who shaped to gather it to his chest – but he must’ve misjudged it or it must’ve moved at the last minute as it seemed to ricochet off him and just wide of the far post.  Lucky escape there!

The goal finally came and it was a big relief.  A true counter-attack saw Raddy pick up the ball around half-way and burst forward, with Tyson literally burning up the pitch to his left and making a run into the box, it took the Coventry defence away from Earnie to his right.  Raddy played a delicious ball just right for Earnie to run on to and dink the ball over Westwood, with Tys lurking incase the Welshman missed the target.

Coventry responded positively, Cork did well but couldn’t beat Camp with his cross, which brought about half time with the Reds one to the good.  Forest fans are starting to get accustomed to being a decent side – gone is the stressed out wringing-of-hands, and relaxed banter takes the fore.  Pride comes before a fall, they say – we should be careful.

The Sky Blues started the second half the more positive side – Morrison bringing a decent save from Camp with a shot from the edge of the area, but he had to settle for a corner.  At the other end Raddy was trying to weave more magical passing – he found Tys who had burst down the right hand side but the striker/winger’s effort was miskicked and horribly missed the target.

In a very end-to-end period McIndoe missed the target after good work from Morrison, and Wes had to be brave to slide in and block a Gunnarsson cross shortly after.  Coventry played very physically which looked to unsettle the Reds a number of times, although Wils was alert enough to put in a tremendous block to prevent an equaliser for the visitors.

Billy used his first substitution to take off Tys, who’d just been booked for a late challenge (probably deservedly, I might add!).  He put on McCleary which put Forest very much back on a 4-4-2 kind of formation rather than the strange narrow 4-3-3 that had been developing with the previous personnel.

Earnie was withdrawn to a great response from the crowd, and big Dele was introduced to give us a bit more muscle upfront.  It was only a matter of moments he was heavily involved in the next Forest goal – Dele picked up the ball in the area from the left, he looked to have lost out to a defender before winning it back and getting the ball into a dangerous area.

Before he had a chance to think about having a pop he must’ve had an almighty shout from Dex who steamed in and blasted an unstoppable rocket into the net from a ridiculous angle.  Lovely goal!  Given that our visitors had looked eminently capable of forcing a goalscoring chance or two, it was a big relief to have opened up a bit of a gap.

McCleary burst forward down the left with a fantastic break, beating one man to get into the penalty area and eventually forcing a corner.  The visitors heads had dropped after the second goal and it seemed to take the pressure off Forest who were better able to control and keep the ball.  Billy took the opportunity to withdraw Raddy for McGugan – both of whom got an excellent response from the crowd.

A great pass from Blackstock released Dele behind the offside trap, but the big fella didn’t quite have the pace to get beyond the defenders chasing him, so his hurried shot from further out than he’d have preferred was off-target.  A pity it wasn’t the other way around as Dex has a bit of pace – certainly one of our pacier players would’ve been better placed!

Lewis was clearly desperate to keep his run of scoring from the bench going, he tried his ‘dink inside’ trick but didn’t quite pull it off, and a Coventry defender was able to clear, and shortly after did just about get a shot away, but the well-timed last ditch challenge blocked the shot and also resulting in Lewis on the deck injured.

Two fairly routine saves for Lee Camp during injury time signed off this game – by no means a classic, but it was good to see Forest cope with Coventry’s direct and physical approach.  Credit to our opponents they didn’t come to all-out defend like we’ve often seen at the City Ground this season, they certainly came for a game – and at times it was interesting to watch.

With Newcastle failing to register three points at home to Derby maybe there is a sign of the Geordies starting to falter?  Certainly I’m enjoying the sensation of being third without getting too dizzy looking beyond.  This was a solid three points though, against a decent Coventry side who performed well on the day too.  Onward and upward!

Forest vs. Coventry City preview..

So here’s the opportunity to finish 2009 on a high, on a run of sixteen games unbeaten.  Gosh.  It’s been quite a calendar year hasn’t it?  With Smoulderwood sacked on Boxing Day 2008, Billy has pretty much been in charge for a year give or take, and what a transformation the wee man has affected on Nottingham Forest.  So yes, anyway, match preview.

Coventry are coming.  They beat Doncaster 1-0 at the Ricoh Arena yesterday, so won’t be feeling too shabby – Donny had been on an excellent run.  The Reds of course ground out a tough 0-0 draw with Watford at Vicarage Road, and whilst it wasn’t a great display from the Reds they’ll be eager to get out onto a pitch that won’t cut up and play some football.

The Reds only new concern is that of Wes Morgan who has been suffering from a bout of tonsilitis.  When I were a lad they just whipped out troublesome tonsils, but that doesn’t seem to be the case these days.  If Wes is unable to play then we’ll stick with Luke Chambers at the back to partner Kelvin in central defence.

Earnie and Raddy will be eager to return to the starting eleven after both dropping to the bench at Watford, as will Dexter Blackstock.  As ever, I won’t try to second guess Billy too much, but I would expect a more attacking line-up.  I wonder whether Billy will have thought Lewis did enough to keep his place ahead of Majewski – we’ll see!

Our opponents have no fresh concerns – former Red midfielder Sammy Clingan may feature, returning to the bench on Boxing Day after a length spell out.  Periodically he’s been banging in all manner of long range freekicks which he never seemed to do when he was with us!  We’ll need to keep an eye on Freddie Eastwood too, who had a glut of goals before Christmas after a barren spell.

Coventry can be a decent side on their day but are wildly inconsistent – which goes some way to explaining their lower-mid-table league placing currently (indeed, they finished lower-mid-table last season too, just a couple of places above us).  This for me is not a game to sit back and defend to hit on the counter, it’s a game for us to take by the scruff of the neck and attack.

Then again, I think all games should be like that in my little blinkered world!  Hopefully you can all lever yourselves out of your chairs and dragged your turkey-leadened selves to the City Ground and witness a decent match!  As ever this season, I’m really looking forward to it whilst simultaneously finding it strange to be looking forward to watching Forest again…

Shorey hands a point to the Reds..

Shorey had another excellent game, but will be remembered for the last minute 'helping hand'

Watford – 0
Nottingham Forest – 0

This wasn’t a classic by any means.  Forest struggled to adapt to the awful cut-up pitch (which looked okay ’til they started playing on it) and never really ‘clicked’ – the home side I thought shaded the game by a decisive margin and will certainly feel aggreived not to have taken three points.  Particularly with the moments of controversy at the end.

Illness meant that big Wes didn’t travel with the Reds and he was replaced by Luke Chambers in defence.   In midfield Lewis came in for Raddy and up front McGoldrick was handed a start, so the Reds looked something like this:

Camp
Gunter    Chambers    Wilson    Shorey
Cohen     McKenna     McGugan    Anderson
McGoldrick    Adebola

The Reds actually started very well – dominating possession and putting pressure on the home side, one from a freekick outside the box and another chance could have come from a decent cross from Lewis, but a defender was on hand to concede the corner.  Anderson tried a shot from a tight angle, and calamity-looking defending gifting the Reds a corner shortly after.

But Watford had ideas of their own, a poor clearance by Camp went straight to Mariappa whose shot was over the now out-of-position ‘keeper, but fortunately Gunter was on the line to clear to safety.  Gunter was being roundly booed by the Watford fans at each touch, bizarrely, because he was scythed down by Helgusson who was booked for the foul.

A feature of Watford’s game is their eagerness to get the ball in play quickly and use multi-balls, and a few times in the first half this caught us out.  They had spotted Chambers way out of position and taken a throw quickly which found Helgusson who wasn’t able to hit the target, and nor were any of his team mates gambling on the back post.  At the other end a nod down from Dele gave Anderson a shooting chance – but it was straight at Loach.

A decent effort from Lansbury from around 25 yards had CAmp diving spectacularly to his right to concede our first corner to defend of the game.  A hint of ‘for the TV cameras’ I thought, but a good save nonetheless!  The rest of the half was all Watford, Helgusson was making a nuisance of himself in the box and Camp reacted well under pressure to save from Hodson.  Shortly after Graham miskicked when in a great position to break the deadlock.

Half time came with the fans a bit on edge – it was clear the cut up Vicarage Road pitch was hindering the Reds passing, and we didn’t really adapt to the home sides style of pumping the ball over the defence in a kind of ‘hit and hope’ style.  Which generally I’m quite glad about, but given our lack of joy from our usual game it was apparent we needed to do something a little differently.

Billy obviously said something impactful because as in the first half, the Reds started well.  A corner was forced and from it Kelv was desperately unlucky with a well-angled looping header which ended up on top of the net rather than dipping in under the bar.  Having said that, because the pace of the ball wasn’t that fast I suspect Loach would have had it covered.

Again Camp was thankful to his defenders as a header from Helgusson had him beaten, but not Wilson who was behind him and able to head it out for a corner.  The influential Cleverley (if rumours linking us to him are right as his loan expires soon, then we should – he’s excellent) came very close after beating Gunter, his curling shot just wide.

Just as I was commenting on the need for a bit of pace in attack, Billy took off Anderson.  But he did bring on Tyson!  At the time Forest were defending and I don’t think Tys got a touch for a good ten minutes!  Danny Graham again fluffed his lines with a good chance after some shambolic Reds defending – missing the target and sending the ball wide.

Billy brought on Dex for Adebola, both of whom got a good ovation from the Reds fans as they were leaving and joining the game respectively, but it didn’t change the balance of play.  Graham again guilty of losing control in the box, this time allowing Gunter to nip in and clear the ball.  Cowie shot from range and hit the post before Forest were able to clear.  The unbeaten records were seriously under threat.

On a rare foray forward the ball broke for Tyson who looked to have overcooked his cross, but Blackstock was able to leap and arch himself to try to head the ball over the keeper and in.  He had almost done it too, but for a superb save by the Watford ‘keeper, thrusting his right arm up to put the ball out for a corner.

With only nine minutes (including stoppage time) on the clock Billy threw Earnie on for McGoldrick.  Unfortunately for us it wasn’t our strikers that were the problem, it was providing them – and whilst Earnie strove to get involved and won the ball well out on the right, he didn’t get much of a sniff of a chance on goal which is what we all desperately wanted to see.

At the other end Cleverley was still proving a thorn in the side, an excellent ball across our goal didn’t quite find a Watford player and Gunter was able to clear.  Then came the controversy – it clearly seemed that Shorey used his arm to block a shot on the line before Camp grabbed it.  Now, I don’t really hold with that – however, the almost-violent reaction of the Watford players toward the referee was equally shameful.

Camp was keen to take advantage of the by now out-of-position Watford players who were surrounding and shoving Andy D’Urso, but the Reds players weren’t quite on his wavelength and eventually the game petered out into full time to loud boos from the Watford fans directed at D’Urso and team.  For us, it was a fortunate point.  Controversy aside Watford created the better opportunities.  But we had one or two as well.

Our return to a playable pitch tomorrow should hopefully give us a more entertaining match against Coventry at the City Ground.  The Reds are stressing that barring any freak weather conditions the game will be on, presumably after Notts County were unable to fulfil their Boxing Day fixture.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Watford vs. Forest preview..

A Boxing Day trip to Vicarage Road is the time and the place where Forest will offer up their unbeaten credentials to be tested by troubled Watford. Our hosts have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons with boardroom wrangles that has possibly started to affect matters on the pitch for them, losing four of their last five games – including against the Sheep!

So the team we visit is certainly a different proposition to the side that stung us 4-2 at the City Ground earlier this season – gosh, a bleak day that was!  A nice reminder at how quickly fortunes can change, if nothing else!  But whilst Watford have recently undergone the ignomity of losing to Derby and Peterborough, they have also turned over QPR by 3-1, so not a team to be underestimated.

The Reds are still just without the mysteriously-still-injured Guy Moussi and long-term casualty Julian Bennett, which will leave Billy with the usual poser on who to select for the game.  He was also boosted (in my opinion) by the news that Paul Smith has signed a two  year extension to his contract with the club, whilst Lee Camp has been in sparkling form of late – it’s great to both have cover, and keep the pressure on the number one!

Watford’s key man is midfielder Tom Cleverley – he’s on loan from Manchester United and unfortunately for us will still be at Watford.  Whether their financial predicament will allow them to extend the loan which expires in January is unclear – but as well as scoring against us at the City Ground he’s struck six more goals for the Horns and just from watching The Football League show it’s clear he’s had a big impact.

Forest have sold their allocation of tickets to people presumably to escape the turkey sandwiches and familial overload on Boxing Day, so the M1 will be awash with Reds eager to make good time to Watford for a 12:00 noon kick off.  By all accounts the home tickets are selling very well too, so it bodes to be a decent crowd at Vicarage Road which should make for a good post-Christmas trip!

I’ve all but given up on making predictions – as ever though, our opponents are not to be underestimated – and they certainly won’t be underestimating us.  Billy is likely to start with a more cautious eleven as seems to be his modus operandi away from the City Ground – or maybe he’ll surprise me.  I half expect to see a bit of 4-5-1 converting to 4-3-3 on the break – with a substitute’s bench bristling with attacking options.

So all that really remains for me is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, given the kick off time a Watford report should be forthcoming at some point on the evening of Boxing Day.  I think I’ll wait ’til after the Coventry game before entertaining the idea of some kind of self-indulgent reflections on the year just gone kind of piffle.  Or maybe I won’t!  See you in Watford!