Will we win away again?

"And the fat drummer hit the beat with all his heart." Lee Jobber. Leicester nutjob.

Leicester City – 3
Nottingham Forest – 0

There’s no getting away from it, a 3-0 reverse is an indictment that things didn’t go well, however, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest it’s slightly flattering to the hosts today – who turned up their performance after a lacklustre first half to bag three second half goals to consign the Reds to their fourth away defeat on the bounce.  So much for unbeaten away, eh?  Isn’t it funny how these things turn around over the course of a season?

Billy again went for ‘home mode’ in his line-up – electing not to change his personnel or shape (although Earnie found himself on the right wing occasionally) which I’m beginning to wonder whether is the right thing to do or not.  Bear in mind he first did this at Derby away, and we know what happened there!  But anyway, a by now familiar line-up looked like this:

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Perch
Cohen    McKenna    Majewski    Anderson
Earnshaw    Blackstock

The first item of interest in the first half was Camp requiring treatment after being assaulted in the box.  In a pattern that would repeat throughout the game, the referee didn’t seem to see much wrong in anything that the home players got up to whilst quick to punish Reds players.  I’ll get my referee rants out the way early doors, I think.

In the first half Earnie was booked for throwing the ball to  a Leicester player, and Raddy was booked for diving – subsequent offences of a comparable nature by home players were not similarly punished by yet another hapless referee.  It took four bookable fouls from Oakley to finally get carded too.  That said, these niggles don’t really change the game – it wasn’t until the second half that the referee would have a hand in this.

Anyway, the first chance of the game came for the home side, Waghorn missing the target after a decent run which got him past McKenna and Morgan.  Raddy struck from range for us, but it was as easy a save as Weale will ever have to make.  Ultimately both sides were poor in possession, and Leicester were closing Forest down very quickly which debilitated our usual passing style.

Our best chance came on the half hour mark, a rare Forest freekick was awarded out on the left near the touchline, Raddy struck a lovely in-swinging ball which Earnie – of all people – found himself on the end of, he headed against the bar, which ricocheted to Cohen who couldn’t get much power on a goalward header which was cleared off the line – eventually Cohen got the ball back to cross in, but an awkward looking over-head kick as a result from Earnie went wide.

It certainly livened up the Forest fans who’d been in generally good spirits – unlike the home supporters who required the motivation of a rotund topless gentleman banging a drum above them from a special drumming gantry to rouse them into occasional songs.  The rest of the half fizzled out with the Reds pressing, but never really breaking through the dogged Leicester defence.

Billy took off Anderson (who is ‘a donkey’ according to the complete fuckwit sat behind me) at half time and replaced him with Tyson.  Apparently the winger has been suffering with illness.  The second half started as the first had ended really – both sides seeking to break on the other but wasteful use of the ball meaning chances were limited.

The home side did start to look more confident though, and they returned the favour of striking the crossbar after a header from Morrison, although he was offside at the time.  After this Wils slide in with a brilliant tackle on Waghorn but was immediately in some distress – it looked serious (we thought broken arm/wrist), but then he carried  on playing.  Odd, but a relief, he’d been our best player so far.

Wilson’s injury seemed to really affect us and him though, our generous giving away of the ball nearly put Gallagher in a great position but he shot over.  Moments later they were ahead, and you could – in fairness – sese it coming.  A freekick was lofted over, headed into the area and Perchy couldn’t clear further than Wellens who lumped it back in where Berner finished well into the roof of the net.

This brought the home fans to life somewhat, but Forest – with McGoldrick on for Majewski – were on the attack.  Earnie crossed to McGoldrick who headed to Perch, Perch tried to prod it goalward where it appeared to be saved in a Nicky Shorey-like manner by Jack Hobbs on the line.  Of course, the referee didn’t see anything and certainly wasn’t going to give Forest a penalty.

That doesn’t really excuse Reds heads dropping though and Leicester getting the chance to double their lead.  It was a well-struck freekick from Gallagher – although I’m still utterly mystified as to what the kick was given for, when the ref blew I (and James Perch) assumed it was going to be a freekick to us if anything, so unobvious was the supposed offense.  No denying the finish was quality though, Gallagher was booked for over-celebrating in a rare show of discipline against a home player.

The salt as well and truly rubbed in the wounds in not very long at all too, the Foxes had their tails up (fnar, couldn’t resist!) and were looking confident and attacking in numbers.  A tame sho from Berner was easily covered by Camp until deflecting off Andy King and wrong-footing him.  So that’s five-four on aggregate, I suppose.  I think Leicester probably did do enough to deserve the win, but still think 3-0 is flattering.  It would be interesting to see what would’ve happened if we were given a penalty at 1-0.

There was time for a late consolation attempt by McKenna, but Weale was alert enough to tip it over to make the save and keep the home side’s clean sheet intact.  Many fans left – but a gratifyingly large number stayed to applaud the side off – sure, they hadn’t been great, but let’s keep big picture here, this season – regardless of what happens from now – has seen us take tremendous strides forward.

Leicestershire’s police force seemed to abandon any idea of segregating so there were distasteful skirmishes between the fans as we made our way to the coaches, which took an age to traipse through what I can only assume are the horrible bits of Leicester, much of the streets within a mile or more of the ground lined with people loitering just to apparently look at the coaches of Forest fans.

Bizarre!  Do our fans do that to away supporters?  I tend to just head to the pub, but maybe some of the City Ground faithful do!  And so eventually our procession reached the motorway actually in reasonable spirits having had plenty of opportunity to chuckle at some of the strange characters who chose to treat us to their attentions – most of them would make good extras for episodes of Shameless.

Back at home next week – but the conversion of an unbeaten away run into a simply beaten away run is a concern, regardless of how flattering the scoreline might have been, and no matter how dreadful the referee was, as I said above, there’s plenty of work for Billy and the boys to be getting on with in sorting things out – and, dare I say, the transfer acquisitions panel too?

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Leicester City vs. Forest preview..

A trip to the Walkers Stadium presents a big test for Forest’s ailing away form – but, of course, also presents the perfect opportunity for us to get back on track with a morale-boosting win against a resurgent Leicester side.  The Foxes are unbeaten in seven games having had a bit of a wobble in January, which coincided with a glut of away games.  They’ve not lost at home since the start of December when Bristol City were their visitors.

Back in December the fervour the Leicester fans usually bring to this fixture was somewhat reciprocated as at the time we sat in third and fourth in the table, and the winner of the game (us, as it turned out) would claim that third spot for their own.  The fact that Forest were able to win so emphatically at the City Ground will provide players and fans alike with all the more reason to want to beat Forest on their own turf.

The Reds don’t have any fresh injury concerns, and Billy will undoubtedly have given much more thought than I have to how best to line up against Nigel Pearson’s side.  After a couple of disappointing results away from the City Ground I’m half expecting a cautious line-up in a 4-5-1 shape – it seems unlikely at this juncture that any loan signings might come in to freshen things up, which means Davies may be tempted to chuck in some of the fringe players to keep his squad fresh.

Leicester are without dangerous frontman Matty Fryatt, and talented manager Nigel Pearson has refused to write off automatic promotion – although diplomatically and sensibly setting their stall out to stay in the playoffs.  The Foxes are currently fifth in the league, having overcome Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium in midweek which puts them ten points behind us (with a game in hand), looking the league table gives the frightening prospect of an East Midlands/Wales playoff tournament!

On researching their last game I found more stories about the forthcoming match about us on the official Leicester City site than I did about the match just played – which tells it’s own story! Once I found it though, it suggested it was an early strike and a bit of a siege job – in tricky conditions, with Doncaster enjoying greater possession and more chances.  Mind you, we too had a tricky visit to Donny recently!

All in all, a tough one to call – there was no way on Earth I was going to call our scoreline against them earlier in the season.  At this stage of the season unpredictability really kicks in – our hosts certainly have more consistency of late with a decent unbeaten run – but then in their last three games they’ve only scored one goal.  Four games ago they smashed five past Scunthorpe.  I’m going to take the recent reslts though and predict a low-scoring result, probably a draw.

It would be a massive three points if we could get the win though, as West Brom are likely to get a win over Derby at The Hawthorns.  Of course, it would also be a massive three points for our hosts too as they bid to cement their place in the playoff places and potentially push toward the top two as they did earlier in the season.  There’s a lot at stake, which is why I predict a rubbish match!

Doughty to abandon Agent Clough in the field?..

Worrying times for Nigel Doughty, as his lead agent Nigel ‘non-League’ Clough appears to be getting a little too into his role as the would-be manager of Derby County. His mission is to replace Derby’s squad with over-rated lower league and non-league playing staff whilst delivering a disappointing league finish.

There had been concerns that the agent-lead initiative to drive a series of off-the-field infractions to damage Derby County’s standing with the Football League was welcomed initially by the Forest chairman.  But the latest charge met by the band of thugs that Clough has assembled leaves Doughty concerned that the mission might well be compromised – as his agent’s efforts become more and more transparent to the onlooker.

His options are to leave his field agent to operate ‘rogue’ without further support or guidance, or to recall him from the front line.  Advisors are thought to have suggested that he sever all contact with Agent Clough who appears to have become so engrossed in his role as Derby County’s manager that he can no longer separate his mission from reality.

Record breakers!

Dedication's what you need...

Nottingham Forest – 1
Middlesbrough – 0

Nine straight wins in the league at the City Ground, and huge congratulations to Billy and the boys for delivering it – a new club record.  Towards the end of our unbeaten run the fixation was on our going so long without defeat on our travels, in the meantime we were already building a fairly formidible home run.  Probably temporarily we find ourselves elevated to second in the league again – hoping for Bristol City to do us a favour this afternoon.

Yesterday’s game was pretty even, if truth be told.  That said, the best chances were created by Forest – and in the second half Chris Cohen was on hand to put one of them away after a slick-passing counter-attack.  Another poor refereeing display saw Forest finish the game on three bookings, only one of which was warranted, with the much more physical visitors only picking up one despite the game being littered with fouls.

Forest started with an unchanged line-up to the side that overcame Sheffield United in midweek, which is probably the side I’m starting to consider our best starting eleven – certainly in home games:

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Perch
Cohen    McKenna    Majewski    Anderson
Blackstock    Earnshaw

The game started at quick pace – and it was quite end-to-end, without any real clear chances.  Flood threatened for Boro but was tackled well by Wils, and a long range effort from the very up-for-it looking Majewski was just wide.  Shortly after David ‘Cheater’ Wheater fouled Earnie, giving us a freekick from 25 yards or so which Raddy struck well – just hitting the crossbar and out for a goalkick.  At the time I thought Coyne had it covered, watching the highlights suggests he may not have done.

Boro had a spell of pressure and won a series of corners up at the Trent End, but despite the plethora of giants in their side rarely threatened the Forest goal aside from one tame effort by McDonald straight at Lee Camp.  The Reds were very much geared up for counter-attacking, and the pacey Paul Anderson was usually our outlet.  He broke well but being outside on the left the enforced left-footedness of the cross made it not the best, it just evaded Earnie in the box.

The wee striker had a better chance moments later too – an imaginative though-ball by Cohen saw the striker get in between two defenders and on goal, the ball was dropping from an awkward angle and with a defender closing in Earnshaw took on the shot a bit too early and put it over.  It wasn’t an easy chance, but I bet he’s kicking himself for not at least getting it on target.

Both sides were pretty wasteful in possession in midfield, and as half time arrived the general consensus was it had been okay if not amazing.  Odd, considering what was to come, referee Phil Crossley had been okay in the first half – pretty lenient in keeping the game flow, the only booking being for Raddy which was deserved as he dived into a challenge with studs showing – it wasn’t as bad as it looked, but it was pretty reckless.

The second half started very slow, I don’t know if the prevailing wind was in an unusual direction but the Trent End were really audible in getting behind the team and the rest of the ground followed suit, and it seemed to kickstart the game into life.  Cohen had a pop from a freekick which struck the wall, he followed it up himself and struck it off target.  Then we thought we’d got a goal.  Raddy had an effort from deflected in the box finding Wils with a tap in – unfortunately he was offside – at least according to the linesman.

No sooner had the visiting fans finishing taunting our premature celebrations, we were able to return the favour with interest as the Reds did take the lead.

Wilson won the ball in an altercation with Leeroy Lita (which, if I’m honest, looked like a foul on the Boro striker to me).  Lita didn’t play to the whistle though, and Kelv was able to pass to Dex, who chested it to Raddy – Raddy then fed it back to Blackstock who found Cohen in acres of space in the right channel.  The midfielder almost had ‘too much time’, but he gave Coyne the eyes to the back-post, and duly put the ball in the near post.

The visitors are always going to still be in a game at 1-0, though, and Lita in particular looked eager to get himself on the scoresheet.  He had a shot from range which Perchy deflected out for a corner.  Shortly after the Moose conceded a freekick for a challenge on Robson, which resulted in a freekick that was deflected for another corner.

Another quick break from the Reds saw Anderson burst into the box and get rather cynically brought down – in the second half the referee was very much in idiot mode though and gave nothing.  There’s an argument Ando had lost control of the ball, but that doesn’t really excuse bringing him down – he may well have got to it.  The rest of the game was a bit of a siege with Boro launching the ball forward in search of an equaliser.

With four to five minutes of stoppage time played, we even saw Coyne up for a corner (yet oddly a defender on the half-way line), but once the ball was cleared the whistle went and the celebrations could begin in earnest.  In between the scrappiness at times a football match threatened to break out, and ultimately – like Billy – we’ll all be focusing on the result, and another clean sheet which is a welcome habit to hopefully be starting again.

I am quietly hoping we might start to look at affecting some transfer business this week (I’m not starting rumours – I have no idea whether we will or not!), but any emergency loans now could theoretically be active right through until the play-off final, which is obviously a consideration that Billy will have when deciding on whether or not he wants to add some new faces (and I suspect he does!).

Elsewhere once again our dearest neighbours demonstrated the complete lack of discipline and professionalism in their ranks with another shameful lack of control of their players.  Hopefully the authorities take notice of this when considering the case we and they have to answer and spot the common denominators – generally everything appears to centre around the thug Jay McEveley, although a special mention should go to Gorka Pintado for his awesome tackle on Robbie Savage!

As the ‘Billy Davies fan page‘ on Facebook stated, Steve Claridge was wrong when he suggested that it was the kind of challenge that could end Robbie Savage’s career – as he went in on his legs, and not his gob!  It might be a doubly-good thing for us as this will presumably mean that Pintado is suspended for our game at the City Ground against Swansea.  Whilst we’re on the Facebook subject, you can become a fan of this blog by clicking here, should you want to!

Billy: Let’s reclaim the Lower Bridgford end!

It has gladdened my heart today to read Billy Davies’ comments in the Evening Post regarding the City Ground, and how Forest don’t do themselves any favours in terms of away ticket allocation and placement.  I suspect my bugbear on this subject may predate my guise as the blogger to the extent that I’d long since given up complaining about it, since the powers-that-be at the club have always seemed so non-plussed and are motivated by an over-draconian safety officer and, of course, the opportunity to make a few quid.

In a nutshell, Billy wants the Lower Bridgford end back for Forest fans, and he’s damn right too.  Putting a concentrated away following of up to 4,600 odd supporters in the loudest bit of the ground is a barmy notion.  Particularly, as the wee fella also points out, when we are happy to give up all of those tickets to teams that give us paltry allocations (see Derby, Newcastle etc for example).  Whilst it might have a negligible impact on results, surely even that negligible amount should be used to our advantage?

Reducing away allocations enables more thought to be given to relocation – and given that T block in the Brian Clough stand is generally kept empty aside from in-demand games, that would seem the sensible option.  I’m not sure whether that will be sufficient for the minimum amount of away tickets we need to issue – so maybe the block next to, or above it, would be suitable.  This keeps the away fans in the right vicinity outside the ground near where their buses go.  The only turnstiles for home fans near there are the Upper and Lower Bridgford, much like now.

I really hope the board take Billy more seriously on this matter than they have their own supporters in the past, I have heard it raised more than once at fan’s forums and suchlike only to be summarily dismissed due to flimsy-at-best safety considerations.  Considerations which, of course are laudable, but not insurmountable – and seem considerably more excessively restrictive compared to the majority of grounds I’ve visited around the country – and I’ve visited the majority of them (in league terms at least).

This is just another example of Billy’s no stone unturned approach – any advantage, any angle – he takes it – it’s brilliant, and he has my full backing.  Imagine if we opened up the Lower Bridgford end for Reds fans and packed it with our most vocal fans – we could actually make the City Ground a pretty intimidating place to come and nullify the impact the away supporters can have, which is massive at the moment (and given our recent run of results at home, could make us even stronger!).  Bravo, Billy – keep fighting the good fight!

On another note – I’m on the beers before and after the game today so the Middlesbrough match report might not make it ’til Sunday (or be full of even more spelling mistakes than usual!).

Forest vs. Middlesbrough preview..

Bit late off the mark with this, been a busy week!  We welcome Middlesbrough to Nottingham for the second time this season, of course – having already had them visit for the Carling Cup back in August.  We triumphed 2-1 that day, and coupled with a November draw in the league at the Riverside Stadium, the midland Reds have the edge on results so far this season.

The appointment of Gordon Strachan took Boro from automatic promotion contenders to mid-table stragglers, having signed seemingly half the Celtic reserve side he finally seems to be getting some semblance of performance out of his new charges – and has them eyeing a play-off spot currently.  The Reds, of course, have had a very different trajectory in the same time-frame.

Forest have nine straight City Ground wins in their sights following the win against Sheffield United on Tuesday, whereas Middlesbrough prepared by losing to 2-0 Blackpool (who had been reduced to ten men), although a missed penalty in that game could’ve produced a better result for Boro.  Their last few away games have been a real mixed bag, they beat Doncaster but have lost to Newcastle, Barnsley, Sheffield United and Blackpool – with a draw against Ipswich.

Strachan is apparently quietly confident ahead of the visit, and will be hoping O’Neill is available for his selection to add to the positive news of Pogatetz and Killen recovering from injury.  The Reds have no fresh injury worries, so McCleary’s suspension and Joel Lynch’s ‘injury’ are the only things hampering Billy’s selections, as well of course as the long-term injury to Julian Bennett.

Barry Robson could be a player of interest – Forest tried hard to sign him from Dundee United when he eventually ended up with Celtic under Smoulderwood.  He’s one of five players from Celtic that Strachan has signed for Boro, and has been quite vocal about the need for improvement to elevate the north-easterners to a better league placing than their current ninth.

Another positive atmosphere from the crowd will be hugely helpful to get the Reds off to a good start tomorrow, much like I’m sure it helped on Tuesday.  Whilst Boro have been on a bad run they are starting to show signs of recovery to get back on the promotion trail – having said that, whether feeling ‘quietly confident’ or otherwise, the City Ground wouldn’t be their first choice of places to be visiting.

A win for the Reds could see them make up more ground on Newcastle – and overtake West Brom at least for a day, as they face an unpredictable trip to Bristol City on Sunday.  Newcastle have a home game with Preston which, frankly, following their mauling at the hands of Derby, I can’t see them struggling with too much.  I think it unlikely we’ll be anything other than third still come the end of the weekend.

Blades boss chucks his toys out the pram..

As well as missing Billy’s post-match comments thanks to the lengthy wander to my car, I also missed Kevin Blackwell’s extraordinary outburst on the radio after the match.  For those of you who also didn’t catch this audio treat, then it’s available by clicking on this link here. (as well as hearing Billy’s post-match thoughts).

Never has a man been so enraged by a left winger having the audacity to be in a defensive position, why, Kevin, somebody elbow that man in the face!  What a buffoon!  He is certainly demonstrating his credentials as Neil Warnock’s heir here with a frankly baffling outburst after a game where I thought if anything the referee was lenient to the dirty Blades…