Scunthorpe United vs. Forest preview..

It’s pretty much the ultimate ‘mean nothing game’ for both sides really – with our hosts safe from relegation, and us guaranteed a third or fourth place finish. After a seven goal thriller with Doncaster in their last game, Scunny demonstrated they both know where the goal is, but perhaps aren’t so hot on preventing their opponents finding it either – losing 4-3 in the end.

After their late mid-late March flurry of wins, the Iron have been on a less impressive one – only registering one win in the last six games, whilst succumbing to four defeats. Nigel Adkins has spoken about his disappointment at their defending, so hopefully whatever team Billy opts for will be able to find themselves some opportunities to finish the season on a high.

Scunthorpe are likely to be without David Mirfin who limped from the action against Doncaster last weekend, and the man to watch will be Gary Hooper – the in-form striker bagged two goals in his last game and has made the step up to this level admirably. That said, Atkins may choose to take the opportunity to mix things up a little too – so predicting line-ups could be tough!

Some fans have suggested that Billy might make fairly wholesale changes – indeed, even to the extent of perhaps resting player-of-the-season Lee Camp and giving Paul Smith a rare run out. Certainly any potential injury niggles are unlikely to be risked, so given Tyson limping from the pitch against Plymouth he might be rested – I would expect to see Earnie and Dex on the bench and Dele and McGoldrick starting.

I’m not sure how ticket sales have been but there is bound to be a decent following of Forest fans who make the relatively short trip to Glanford Park, and it should be a nice stress-free diversion before the nitty-gritty of the play-offs begins in earnest. That will be anything but stress-free, let’s face it!

A draw should enough for us to secure third, so I expect a fairly unadventurous line-up by Billy to try to get that, although if that happened then Cardiff go on a sheep-tourism holiday to Derby, and a win by more than four goals could see them leapfrog us on goal difference if we draw. Let’s face it, on their day Derby are capable of such a capitulation!

Elsewhere at the same time, Swansea host Doncaster needing a win to get back ahead of Blackpool, who are also at home – playing Bristol City. I can’t see them not getting something out of the game. The positive for the Reds is that – assuming we can keep third place – both possible semi-final opponents will be using full-strength teams to go for a result…

However, we shouldn’t really worry about anything other than our own game – Scunny are an interesting team, in some ways their league placing belies their ability, but is perhaps justified in other ways. A dangerous side going forward who have a bit of trouble at the back – this could be a really good opportunity for us to snaffle a very elusive away win!

Have you ever wanted to ask John Motson a question?

He’s the ‘Marmite’ of commentators, is Motty – indeed, in reading up a bit about him I discovered he was in the same year at school as Gary Newbon – who’s quite similar in that respect! (although I bet Motty wouldn’t mistake Nottingham for Birmingham if he were asked to compere the Clough Statue unveiling!).  Tell you what too, I bloody hate Marmite.

I’m quite a fan of Motty, though.  He’s been reporting on sport for the BBC since the late 1960s – and as such has been an ever-present soundtrack to my football supporting career – and, indeed, even on computer games!  It’s true that he’s become a little more erratic in his later years, but that kind of adds to the charm – doesn’t it?

As a man who has tolerated the never-ceasing irritation of having to listen to Mark Lawrenson speak, possibly more than anyone else on this Earth, I would imagine he must be quite high up on the list for getting a Sainthood too.  Either that or he’s perhaps deaf in one ear.

Why am I talking about John Motson, anyway?  Well – for those of you that didn’t immediately read the flyer above – an interesting opportunity to meet the man behind the Sheepskin is yours to grasp here in Nottingham.  Because in his last engagement before jetting off to South Africa for the World Cup, he’ll be doing ‘An Evening With…’ right here in The Approach.

If you’d like to quiz Motty about any number of his famous comments or gaffes, or just hear about his distinguished career then pencil 1st June 2010 into your diaries – and book your tickets just here.  If you don’t want to do the online booking then you can always pop into the venue to pick up some tickets.  Just £10 to get in, or £30 with a three course meal!

Click the flyer, or just here, for full details.

Forest vs Plymouth photos..

Big thanks to regular commenter EgorTheRed, who took these photos and encouraged me to share them with you all, so here you go.  Mostly photos of the post-match shenanigans – I particularly like the one of Wes and mini-Wes!

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Forest stroll past the Pilgrims to assure 3rd or 4th..

Raddy: Starting to show his genius again - this time as provider rather than goalscorer...

Nottingham Forest – 3
Plymouth Argyle – 0

This mostly had the feel of a friendly or testimonial game, as consigned-to-fate Plymouth eventually succumbed to a fairly pedestrian-but-competent looking Forest side.  One point would’ve been enough to secure third or fourth place, so we are now assured an away tie for the first leg of the play-offs, and with Blackpool usurping Swansea in sixth place this weekend, it could be another trip to the seaside!

So we still don’t know exactly our fate in the play-offs, except that we won’t be playing Cardiff in the semi-finals (barring a heavy victory for Leicester and heavy defeat for the Bluebirds next weekend).  Back on to yesterday, Billy put out a pretty strong line-up for the visit of Argyle, although as noted before, clearly the brief was to not risk any injuries in a very niggle-free game aside from one over-zealous challenge by a Plymouth fullback.

Perch    Morgan     Wilson    Gunter
Cohen    Moussi    Majewski     Tyson
Blackstock    Earnshaw

With the crowd basking in the sunshine, and with little at stake for us – and with an understandably small following from the South West, the atmosphere was a bit flat I thought.  Although it picked up when the Reds started brightly, Moussi found Tys with a cross but he was only able to lob just over the crossbar with a fairly audacious attempt.

Moments later Earnie came very close, a delicious through-ball from Raddy Majewski put him through, and his lofted shot looked goalbound but for the intervention of a swift hand by Stockdale in the Plymouth goal to deflect the shot off target.  At the other end Camp was on hand to deny Alan Judge following the fast-becoming-ubiquitous long throw-in.

Just shy of twenty minutes on the clock and we were able to break the deadlock, another fantastic defence-splitting through-ball from Raddy again found Earnie, who calmly slotted the ball beyond the advancing Stockdale and into the goal before commencing his well-practised celebration routine in-front of the A Block.  A nice goal, and a very typical Earnie finish!

Despite the goal the game continued to plod along, Tys stuck Stockdale’s hands with a long-range effort, the referee seemingly took pity on our relegated visitors when he refused to give a penalty for a hand-ball by Eckersley in the box to prevent a Majewski pass reaching its’ intended destination.

Plymouth had their best chance of the game after this, a decent strike from Judge brought a diving save from Camp – unable to hold the ball – but fortunately the Moose was on hand to clean up and get the ball clear.  The Reds doubled their lead moments later, the Moose put in a great cross which appeared to ricochet between Stockdale, N’Gala and Dex – the latter claiming the goal, but I suspect it came off the defender.

Forest actually started to press somewhat as the half drew to a close, good work from Tys was let down by a poor square ball which would’ve had Earnie clear – as it was, N’Gala was able to intercept.  Another effort from Tys was blocked by Judge to win a corner, from which Blackstock just put the ball over which pretty much signalled half time.

As the second half got underway the loathsome Mexican Waving started in earnest – indeed, it was quite well taken up (I still hate them though!), but it’s great to see the crowd in such high spirits.  The Reds picked up where they left off in the first half, with some nice passing moves – one of which culminated in a header just over from Dex.

Our visitors weren’t done just yet though, Wes needed to keep his concentration to deal with blocking an effort from Bradley Wright-Phillips from close range.  This heralded the Pilgrims having a bit of ‘a spell’ – albeit without really creating many direct chances.  With a little over twenty minutes left Cohen was withdrawn – to great applause – for Anderson, and moments later Dex was replaced with McGoldrick, Blackstock receiving a similar ovation.

I can’t think of a polite way to say it, so it’s fair to say the game had become a bit dull – Plymouth had to some degree managed to look a little less vulnerable by closing some of the gaps they had been leaving, and the Reds were perhaps comfortable with a two goal cushion.  Tyson picked up a knock and was replaced by Lewis.

Almost immediately on getting on he grabbed the ball for a freekick and predictably spanked it straight at the wall, shortly after that he took a similarly disappointing corner.  Oh Lewis, if only you realised how well we all want you to do and applied yourself to that end!  Anyway, I digress, we did of course manage a third goal!

The Moose played a nice ball in to McGugan in the area, and the midfielder did well to touch the ball across to Anderson to present his fellow substitute pretty much with an open goal to secure the third – a well-worked and executed goal.  It was pretty much the last meaningful action in the game, which just left the fans to remain for the lap of – well – almost-honour? Most remained and the players and staff got a great reception.

It was also nice to see the Forest fans in the Upper Bridgford stand applauding the Plymouth fans as they vacated the away end to start their long journey back to Devon.  The biggest cheer of all came for the wee man though, after rumours of departure in recent days, Forest fans were eager to register their support for Billy Davies – who certainly seemed to appreciate it!

Before the game Lee Camp was awarded player of the year – so huge congratulations to him, Wes was runner up with Paul McKenna third.  I’m reliably informed the ‘keeper won lots of the supporters club player of the year awards at their awards dinner last night!  As I noted when pondering player of the year, it’s amazing to have so many contenders but it seems that Campy is fairly unanimously the people’s choice!

Elsewhere in the league I already mentioned Blackpool have ominously sneaked into the play-offs, continuing their excellent recent run and profiting from Swansea’s dropped points.  Things are looking bleak for Sheffield Wednesday after defeat to Cardiff – and this means that next week’s hosts Scunthorpe are now safe from the risk of relegation – making our trip to Glanford Park truly meaningless!

Player of the year..

In a transparent attempt to get away from the leaders’ ‘debate’ (for debate, read ‘childish bickering’), and a prompting from a comment on another piece – it’s about time we had a ponder about the player of the season award, isn’t it?  We’ve had a season which has certainly far exceeded my expectations, and that brings with it a certain dilemma.

You see, we have a fair few candidates this season for player of the year, don’t we?  I’m sure in my ponderings-without-preparation will result in me missing out some deserving candidates, which you are welcome to add in via comments.  The best way I can think about it is by going through who I consider the viable candidates.

Lee Camp – despite not being one of the fans that singled out Paul Smith, it’s undeniable that our defence has looked to be on a much surer footing with Camp behind them, and when they have faltered he’s invariably there as our final defence, and vice-Captain to boot.

Chris Gunter – I think I’m right in saying that until Blackpool away he was our only ever-present, he’s slotted in to his right back (and occasional left-back cameos) with a maturity that belies his years.  As well as his defensive duties he provides an outlet going forward.

Wes Morgan – every season he seems to get written off by sections of fans, but he’s been an absolute rock this season putting himself bodily on the line again and again to try to keep our miserly goals-conceded column where it is.  He scored an absolute pile-driver against Palace too!

Kelvin Wilson – I was convinced we needed a new centreback to partner Wes this season, and Kelv has shoved that view right down my proverbial.  He’s been a revelation this season along with Wes in the centre of defence, cutting out that ‘laziness’ we’ve seen before and proving he’s capable at this level.

Paul McKenna – things just slotted together with the skipper in midfield, and I’m not surprised – away at least – things have started to slide without him.  Arguably they did so before his injury, as he looked jaded.  Ball winner, experienced head and captain.  He’s been a real loss through injury.`

Radoslaw Majewski – Raddy has shown glimpses of absolute genius, but has also showed he’s inexperienced and can sometimes ‘go missing’ during games.  But when he’s there, by gosh we can see it – Derby at home, West Brom away – you won’t see many better goals than those this season!

Chris Cohen – Chris is our engine, he’s put his tireless enthusiasm into playing out of position for much of the season with good nature and a hard-working ethic.  I still want to see more end product sometimes, but his graft is undeniable, and his commitment to the Reds.

Dexter Blackstock – I like Dex because he works his arse off, he takes a battering from centrebacks often with no protection from the referee – and he chases lost causes.  He’s netted a fair few goals too, which is always a good thing for a striker.  It’s easy to forget how young he is, too. More to come from Dex!

Just missing the cut, but with massively honourable mentions, are the likes of Robert Earnshaw and Paul Anderson.  Indeed, players like Luke Chambers and James Perch who’ve had to be patient to get back in and have performed admirably are deserving of huge credit too – as I started by saying, that it’s been such a fantastic season makes decisions regarding ‘who’s the best’ almost as difficult as I suppose it is fairly facile.

It is a team game after all, and it is our prowess – on our day – in playing for one another as a team, which is one of the reasons I struggle with picking a single one.  But for what it’s worth, the player of the season for 2009/2010 is – and it wasn’t an easy call – Wes Morgan.  I’ve been so impressed with Wes’s consistency and commitment this season, so big congratulations to Wes, and indeed, the whole squad.

What about you?  Have I missed anybody out?  Who would you choose for your player of the year?  You can either make use of the comment facility or vote in the attached poll.

Forest vs. Plymouth Argyle preview..

Ah, last home game of the season – hopefully the feel of close-season can be quelled to drive three points to finish an excellent season of results at the City Ground.  Our visitors come in the knowledge they’re already down, sadly failing their fight against the drop last weekend – so in many ways it will be pressure off them, and all eyes on the Reds to get the point they need to secure a third or fourth placed finish.

An unfamiliar line-up was selected to face Blackpool in our last outing, with Billy keen to give a bit of match-day experience to some of the fringe players.  Whether he opts for a similar stance or whether he decides to redeploy the likes of Gunter, Blackstock, Earnshaw and Majewski remains to be seen – whilst I wouldn’t like to risk injury to anyone, I’d hope for a more ‘established’ starting eleven.

On the injury front it’s just the skipper and Bennett we’re missing, so we do have a full choice from our squad.  Given his promising game at Blackpool it might be tempting for the gaffer to stick with Lynch at left back regardless of whether he wants a more ‘first team’ line up or not.  Aside from that Billy will have a better view of who is jaded and may need a rest or who may be nursing a slight or potential injury.

As for the visitors, no injury worries – but they might well opt for an unfamiliar team selection just to freshen things up now there’s nothing to lose.  Two former-Reds (albeit as loanees) could be involved in the shape of Carl Fletcher and Damien Johnson.  Regardless of their inevitable fate this season, they’ll be keen to finish their travels on a high and get a result against us.  Plymouth have also confirmed they’re parting company with former-manager Paul Sturrock today.

All in all, the Reds should have enough in the tank to get a win I would’ve thought – but can’t take Plymouth for granted.  The usual plea for no pitch invasions has been issued by the manager which – combined with the mighty red-and-white tape – is likely to not be heeded, and then we’ll end up getting the ‘walk around’ anyway once the fans have been cleared.  It’s irrelevant to me as an Upper Tier dweller regardless!

The only other thing that remains is not Forest related at all (although does involve one of our fans quite extensively!) and that’s to wish Carl Froch all the very best in his Boxing match against Mikkel Kessler.  Having overcome the lack of ability to fly in Europe, ‘The Cobra’ managed to get over to Denmark, and will face the Dane on Saturday night.  I for one will be cheering him on!

A quick reminder for Celtic…

Billy Davies is a Rangers fan!

So go and nick Mick McCarthy from Wolves instead!