Lewis McGugan: Just like a new signing?

Lewis: Hard to find pictures of him in current kit - hopefully we'll see many more!

Preston North End – 1
Nottingham Forest – 2

Apologies for the title, couldn’t resist it (I suspect I might’ve lifted the idea from the LTLF forum where the phrase “… like a new signing” often seems to crop up in jest.

Lewis was probably the main talking point pre-match, elevated from the bench to a starting berth after an impressive appearance as a sub at the weekend, and he’s certainly that after the game too in a game that started to follow that frustrating pattern we’ve seen so often this season – but culminating in a a long awaited win, a first for this season, and a first on our travels since January and a first at Preston since the 1960s!

With Earnie nursing a hamstring injury (which should see him available for the weekend), and Billy’s typical tendency to be a little more defensively minded on our travels a 4-5-1 arrangement was eminently predictable, if not necessarily the personnel he’d squeeze into that shape.  The Moose was added to the mix for some physical strength, and perhaps the surprise was Raddy’s omission for McGugan.

Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Bertrand
Cohen    McKenna    Moussi    Tyson

Obviously as with any Forest midfield, the specific positions are pretty fluid – but you get the general idea! A crowd of less than 10,000 came to witness the game, with around 1,500 from Nottingham according to Radio Nottingham – not a bad following at all on a Tuesday night, and I’m sure they’ll consider seeing us get our first three points of the season ample reward for their efforts!

It was the home side who made the earliest running, with less than two minutes gone Jon Parkin had a shooting chance which he put wide – but the Reds were soon on the offensive, McGugan already in the thick of the action playing a neat one-two with McKenna before unleashing a decent enough shot, which was saved well by Lonergan.

Moments later the words Nathan Tyson and Glorious Chance were inevitably paired up with ‘missed’, having initially done well to get the ball to Dex down the right he tore into the box to get on the end of the resulting cross, only to find himself not quite making decent contact from a mere four yards and seeing the chance go begging.

The Reds were building though and looking dangerous – Moose and Tys worked well together finding Lewis on the edge of the box, but he was only able to shoot over.  Gunts had our next chance, profiting from a poor Preston pass around half-way and burst forward, but his shot was straight at Lonergan giving the home side a big let off.

Lewis again was threatening with a shot across the goal and just wide after a neat short corner from Cohen and Tyson, but as ever as Forest craft chances without scoring some degree of nervousness kicks in – and not for the first time this season we found ourselves behind despite having by far the best of the half.

Preston were starting to get a bit of a foothold in the game, but as ever cheap errors cost us – Dex lost possession in midfield, gifting the ball to Coutts who burst forward to play the ball through to Parkin.  Gunter slipped, Wes couldn’t make a challenge count and somehow the enormously fat striker found himself one-on-one with Camp and made no mistake with a decent finish.

What a shit way to end the half.  Not being there tonight I avoided the radio (largely down to superstitions which I don’t normally have!), but did sneak on the internet a few times to keep abreast of proceedings – my gosh, what a negative bunch we have when things go a little awry – having had a chat with a couple of fans who watched, we did really play well and were behind – it’s not a conspiracy!

The second half started with Preston understandably with their tails up, an imaginary foul by Tyson on St. Ledger resulted in a freekick that was struck well and low by Treacy – Camp needed to be alert to make the save.  In the other direction an Anderson cross (on for Moussi) was heading Dex-ward but Lonergan was able to intervene and make the catch.

There were calls for a home penalty when the ball looked to have struck Morgan’s hand, the referee opting to give a foul on Morgan by fatty Parkin.  Some luck at last, the freekick was taken quickly – ending up with Tyson playing the ball to Lewis who moved it on ten yards or so with a run before unleashing a powerful low strike from 25 yards, the ‘keeper got a hand on it, but not enough to prevent the goal.

Preston hadn’t given up though – Paul Parry struck a great freekick which Camp, well, parried. Huh. I suppose it would’ve been rude not to!  From the resulting corner St Ledger was very close with a header – just off target which would’ve called for something superhuman to have kept out if it was on target.

The Reds were still going for it too, though – Tys crossed well from the left wing but Dex could only head over – and Lewis maybe should’ve sewn up his brace a little earlier after being sent clean through by Anderson but unable to beat the quick reactions of Andy Lonergan in the Preston goal.

Of course, we know we did finally get that winning away goal though  – and it was on the 80 minute mark, starting with Cohen out on the left, who crossed into the box, Dex touched it on to Lewis who belted into the roof of the next from well inside the area to give the Reds the lead – and, ultimately, the points.

Anderson should’ve sealed it after fellow sub Dele Adebola played him clear but he blazed wide of the target, and just as well for him Camp was alert enough to dive full length to deny Darel Russell an injury time equaliser which would’ve been harsh as well as a real pisser.  Elsewhere in the country Derby lost at Hull which puts them in the relegation zone!

A cracking result which should lift spirits of management, players and fans alike – it was becoming a bit fraught before.  An excellent result for Lewis who came in with a lot to prove, and well, two second half goals on top of an impressive first half performance speaks volumes, hopefully he seizes this opportunity and strives to consistently put in these kind of performances we know he’s capable of.

It’s great to hear how cheerful Billy was post-match too, whilst I pointed out before the press have a tendency to pick out the negatives and ignore or gloss over other things he says, it has been a difficult time – it’s great to hear undisguised glee from the wee fella at the Reds picking up a cracking result.

Preston North End vs. Forest preview..

Whilst we’re unbeaten in four, I imagine we’re getting bored of 1-1 draws at the moment!  Having said that, if we can (and I freely acknowledge it’s a big if) continue the levels of performance in the second half against Millwall we should be able to give Preston a good run for their money.  Having said that, Preston will be keen to make amends for their weekend activities.

They were 3-1 up at Burnley with six minutes to go and ended up losing 4-3!  That’s the kind of epic collapse you generally only expect to see from Forest in a play-off match!  That said, the catalyst for the turnaround was a rather contentious sending off of Billy Jones, so perhaps we shouldn’t judge too harshly.

The only new injury concern is a fairly serious one – Robbie Earnshaw came off early against Millwall with a hamstring twinge – whilst it’s not thought to be serious there’s some investigation underway to make sure there’s not something underlying the problem with it being a recurring injury.  The good news is Gunter is back in contention having served his ridiculous suspension.

Our hosts have a few issues, with King and James both picking up ankle injuries against Burnley, and Billy Jones will begin his suspension so not be available for selection.  With two defeats in their last two games (both away) they’ll be keen to keep their home form going – which is limited, since they’ve only played there once – beating Pompey.

The Reds obviously have yet to register a win this season, and well into last season if we start looking at when we last won away.  So chicken-counting is something we should certainly steer clear of, particularly as Preston do seem to have a pretty good record over us through the years.  Hopefully Billy and McKenna will spur on the lads to get one over their old club.

I never like to be too optimistic but have a good feeling about this one, I’m afraid I’m radio-bound for this one, so those of you that make the trip up to Lancashire I’ll be particularly keen to hear from (but of course it’s lovely to hear from all of you).  With a bit of luck my absence will prove to be some kind of omen, although I hope not as I have tickets for Hull!…

A decent win would do my nerves some good, and hopefully start to focus fans further on supporting the team rather than peddling silly rumours.