Well, this is the big one. Whilst I’ve spoken before about not exactly banking on succession to the Premier League, of course, the opportunity presented to Forest should they manage to overcome Blackpool and then either Leicester or Cardiff is massive. In terms of potential rewards we’ve not had an opportunity like this since, well, since the last time we appeared in an play-off semi final in the Championship. It’s been a while!
Whilst Blackpool have the boast of being the team that’ve done the double over us, there have been mitigating circumstances in both our encounters so far this season. Early in the season at the City Ground even Ian Holloway admitted he’d ‘got away with robbery’. Forest struggled to convert chances whilst the Tangerines nicked one on the break. The more recent game at Bloomfield Road saw Forest quite weakened – and again, when pressing for an equaliser having fallen 2-0 down, Blackpool again broke and punished. They probably deserved to win just about though.
What does that mean? Well, who knows really! We know that Blackpool’s pitch isn’t the in quite as good nick as we’d prefer – indeed, if our corner taking in the sandpit-of-a-corner-arc is to go by at Scunthorpe, there’s some need for the Reds to perhaps have a bit of a practice! Whilst Olly has been in the press pointing out that Blackpool are under no pressure given their relatively late surge into the top six, I’d argue just as strongly that Forest aren’t really either. How many of you really expected promotion to be a possibility this season? I didn’t!
In terms of personnel, the Reds are in decent shape. Rumours persist about whether or not Chris Cohen has picked up an illness and whether or not that might affect his availability. To counter that, it’s strongly thought that captain Paul McKenna might be fit and ready. Long term absentees Julian Bennett and Brendan Moloney will remain unavailable. So basically, it’s as you were with a slight question mark over Cohen. I expect Billy to be cagey with his line-up in the away leg.
Blackpool are in good shape too – despite not having the luxury of resting players they’ve come through their final games unscathed. All eyes are on their midfield dangerman Charlie Adam – although eye-catching in talent, he’s also a hothead – he’s been racking up the bookings, had he picked one up in the last game he’d have been suspended. Do bookings carry over into the play-offs? If so, expect some niggling of the Tangerine key man. If that doesn’t work then he’ll need to be alert to try to stop both his creating and scoring of goals.
Billy has, as Billy does, been talking down our achievements to a degree – he’s been writing off the play-offs as a ‘lottery’, which I suspect rather downplays the preparation the wee fella will have been putting in to this game. Holloway is very much playing up to the idea of being the underdog, which is a sensible way to take pressure of your players. I really rate him as a manager and he will have a trick or two up his sleeve to try to give his side the edge.
As I noted above, I expect a relatively cagey approach from Forest. If McKenna is available I could well see Billy opting for five in midfield with Dex leading the line, whether Cohen is available or not too could be a factor here too – more bodies might be needed to mitigate for the mileage he puts in. In an ideal world I think he’d prefer to save Raddy either as a sub, or for the home leg. Of course, I might be completely wrong and he might go attacking!
I’d consider this like more high-fallutin’ clubs consider European two-legged ties – particularly if you’re away first – and that would be to be rather content with a draw. Of course, that’s a dangerous attitude but some kind of strategic/tactical balance will be in the mind of the management team. I certainly won’t feel too grumpy on the bus back from Blackpool if we’re still level – and delighted if we can come back with a lead.
All that remains is to remind those of us travelling up to try to do our part as much as we can to get behind the boys. I’m not sure whereabouts we’ll be in the ground, but certainly if in the open Golf Stand it can be difficult to get much of an atmosphere going there, so we’re gonna have to sing all the louder – the Blackpool fans showed in our recent trip up there they’re capable of making a noise, so let’s give them some competition off the pitch as well as on it.
COME ON YOU REDS!
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