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…

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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.