The trouble with our away form being so abysmal is that it puts a great deal of pressure on maintaining our excellent home form. Win, lose, win, lose etc. With Peterborough comfortably nestled at the bottom of the league, and with strugglers Palace to follow (with Paul Hart in charge), these are games we would be looking to win anyway. Given our lack of points on the road, now I would say we need to win them. That puts a whole different complexion on things.
With an eight point gap to make up for any hope of automatic promotion, these games are must-win. That brings pressure, and pressure – typically – brings rubbishness from Forest, rubbishness brings grumbles from our typically very impatient home crowd, and the whole thing spirals into rubbishness. Perhaps that’s a little over-dramatic – we’ve enjoyed ten odd wins on the bounce at the City Ground, and these next two games are realistic prospects to stretch that run to twelve.
Our visitors are as far away from safety as we are from automatic promotion – so are in even more desperate need of points if they want to secure an unlikely survival. They have a few injury niggles too, striker Dickinson limped off the field when they lost to Doncaster midweek, and key man Aaron McLean has been missing lately with a knee problem. More positively for them, youngsters Frecklington and Whelpdale may return to the Posh midfield.
Joe Lewis is oft cited as their key man – and personally, from what I’ve seen, I think he may be being a tad over-trumpeted. That said, as a goalkeeper he’s very young and stoppers tend to mature later than other players – he’s certainly a cracking player, and one I expect to remain at this level or possibly beyond as an understudy, either with or without Peterborough. From casting around Posh fan sites, it would seem his earlier form in the season was questioned widely but he’s much improved lately. Just what we need!
The Posh are operating now under their third manager of the season, Jim Gannon, who has instilled some sense of fight in his strugglers – so they certainly won’t set out to make the game easy for Forest. Expect them to close down quickly and give us little time to settle, and with the industrious Mackail-Smith up front they are likely to provide a reasonable threat on the break as well. Not an easy prospect.
Forest can’t field George Boyd in this game as a condition of the loan – the winger struggled at Barnsley and Preston to get in the game, and so now has an enforced rest against his parent club. We of couse are also missing Paul McKenna from our ‘typical starters’, with fringe players Lynch and McCleary missing, and long term casualty Julian Bennett. Perch is supposedly playing through injury with the help of injections, not ideal, but with a fit squad of only 18 to choose from, a necessary risk I suppose.
After disappointing results on the road the Reds will be eager to get the points in the bag at home – I expect, with his limited options, Billy to field a team similar to at Barnsley but perhaps replacing Adebola with Blackstock, and Boyd with Tyson. Whilst a win will be most Forest fan’s bare minimum, a morale-boosting scoreline could do wonders for another tricky prospect in Crystal Palace midweek. That said, I’d be more than happy with a scrappy 1-0 with the goal coming off Morgan’s arse from a corner…
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