When you’re struggling to get a result away from home, which we have been lately, then probably the last place you want to go is St James’ Park to play Newcastle. The Magpies haven’t lost at home in the league yet this season, and are looking all but promoted after an impressive season under Chris Hughton. Some of their fans views are a little misguided though, if articles like this are to be used as a bellweather (which perhaps they shouldn’t be).
Despite the meddling of Sky Sports moving the game to a very inconvenient Monday evening the Reds have managed to shift their ticket allocation, up in the upper echelons of the massive stand in their Tyneside ground. So it could be a full house to witness Forest’s improbable attempt to claim a double over to the league leaders, because of course we’ve beaten ’em once already this season at the City Ground in October.
The fact I didn’t even bother to keep track of transfer news yesterday underlines my near certainty we wouldn’t sign any loan reinforcements! Apparently we tried to get Bouma from Villa, well, we didn’t – however, apparently Perchy – a January target for Newcastle – might be available to play through pain-killing injections. Lynch, McKenna and Bennett remain unavailable for us.
As for predicting line-ups, anything other than a cautious line-up would seem folly at this of all grounds – but well, maybe that’s why Newcastle are unbeaten? I can’t see us going for two up front, with Dex likely to lead the line. The Gunter-to-left-back and Chambers-at-right-back switch seemed to work – but of course, Newcastle have a rather more terrifying prospect on their left wing than Palace, so who knows what Billy will decide?
The Toon Army expect to be able to call upon Williamson, Lovenkrands and Ameobi – with Alan Smith a possibility too. Steven Taylor is out (principally with a knee injury, but of course also injuries sustained elsewhere thanks to Andy Carroll!). Despite his misdemeanours he’s still featuring in their team, and the big striker netted his sixteenth of the season on Tuesday at Doncaster. They’re pretty stingy in defence too, in fact, nobody has let in fewer.
Back in October a scintillating first half and a Dexter Blackstock strike was enough to secure a win for the Reds against Monday’s hosts. Lee Camp was on sparkling form in the second half to deny Newcastle an equaliser, as well as an offside flag to deny Nolan (correctly), and sub striker Nile Ranger being – well – a bit pap and missing a sitter.
I’m really looking forward to the trip, it’s been some time since I visited St James’ Park, and with an overnight stay planned there should be ample opportunity for a few cheeky beers as well. As for the game, it’s hard to ignore the respective home and away form of the two teams – it’s difficult to realistically predict anything other than a fairly routine win for Newcastle.
Having said that… unbeaten home record for the season, lost seven on the bounce on our travels, surely there’s a poetic ending in there somewhere that would give Forest an unexpected win? No? You’re probably right. Certainly I think we’ll compete probably better than we have against some – with respect – more ‘dogged’ opponents on our travels of late, but I’m not sure we have quite enough in the tank.
The key for me is how we deal with Gutierrez, Newcastle’s most dangerous creative attacking outlet. Which worries me if we opt to have Chambers at rightback, because – whilst I’ve been impressed with Chambo’s recent showings – a pacy and tricky player against him could prove a step too far. We need either him to have an off-day or keep him quiet. And that’s quite the challenge.
Of course, with an expectant and full crowd, as well as being clear favourites, the pressure is very much on the home side – so hopefully Forest take heart from that and realise they’re under minimal pressure from expectation. It would be great to see us get our foot on the ball and play again, we did so in glimpses against Palace and I’m convinced it’s just a matter of confidence.
Despite everything in my head screaming for a home win, I am actually tempted to have a heart-led cheeky bet on us to cause a bit of an upset. Not a big bet though. Obviously with the over-night stay in Newcastle don’t expect a match-report ’til some time on Tuesday!
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