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.

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Wilson    Bertrand
Cohen    McKenna    Moussi    Tyson
McGugan
Blackstock

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.

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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.

Reds denied first win by Shilton reborn!

Dex: Penalty villain and equalising hero!

Nottingham Forest – 1
Millwall – 1

On a day where there was talk of protests and suchlike, it was a more tranquil scene than suggested at the City Ground.  Anyone who wandered near the Main Stand car park would’ve seen the usual fans going to their seats, checking out the club shop and a few stewards perhaps wondering why they’d been asked to be deployed there.  So sanity prevailed, which is always nice!

Forest are obviously still seeking a win, and that would have obviously lifted spirits tremendously – alas they started the game like a side that had just read in the press they weren’t good enough.  Millwall profited from some incredibly lax defending, and despite carving some opportunities the last ball and final shot for Forest was oft missing.

The second half was almost all Forest – and for a while it looked like a dogged Millwall rearguard would take the spoils back to London, but eventually we did get a well-deserved equaliser – and, as Billy noted after the game, the fans should take some real credit for their positivity and backing of the boys – a big collective slap on the back all round – it was great to hear.

On Billy, much has been said about his comments regarding signings and not being good enough – if you listened to his post-match interview you’d have heard somebody much more positive – and, if you listen to the interview from which those previous quotes were taken in full, you’d hear similar.  Much as Billy himself says, don’t always assume selective quoting from the media tells the whole story.  Have a listen to his pre-match interview in full and see what you think:

Billy Davies interview from Nottingham Journal

Billy opted for a predictable line-up really – not a criticism, he doesn’t have that many options and with Anderson nursing a slight knock it perhaps made that particular call easier for him:

Camp
Chambers    Morgan    Wilson    Bertrand
Tyson    McKenna    Majewski    Cohen
Earnshaw    Blackstock

Starting kicking towards the Trent End for a change the Reds almost got themselves ahead by accident, an intricate freekick which culminated in Earnie having a shot almost fooled Forde in the Millwall goal, but he reacted well to make a smart save to keep it out.  We’ll hear more about Forde later!  However, despite the bright start it started to go a bit tits up quite quickly.

Just four minutes were on the clock when the Reds allowed Danny Schofield far too much time on the left to pick out and excellent cross into the centre – where Steve Morison was lurking to plant an unchallenged header across Camp and into the bottom corner, which certainly sparked the large following of Millwall fans into life, many almost spilling onto the pitch.

The Reds were enjoying (perhaps not the best word) a lot of possession but were falling down with the final ball or shot – but we looked to have created an inroad when Tys burst into the box and was annihilated by Alan Dunne.  Despite Forde diving early to his left, Dex conspired to spanner the resulting penalty into the Trent End.

Millwall now had a fairly decent spell without too many assaults on the Reds goal, that said, former Forest striker Neil Harris almost scored a beauty when he spotted Camp off his line and went for the chip, the Forest ‘keeper backpedalling enough to get a hand to it and put it over for a corner to the visitors.

Again at the other end Tys, looking lively and eager as ever – but limited of first touch and finish – had burst forward but thwarted by Forde – Millwall were capable of breaking quickly too, though, and Morison had a similar effort to his goal but it went just over.  Morison was proving a real handful upfront for the Reds, and Chambers in particular was having a hard time without much midfield cover infront of him.

A hopeful punt forward almost put Earnie one on one, but his first touch wasn’t great and after it had gone out for a goalkick the striker walked tentatively back before hitting the deck.  He was taken off for Anderson, with Tys pushing up front, it turns out Earnie has a hamstring problem which thanks to the early intervention by Billy isn’t too serious – but obviously will be a concern for tuesday’s trip to Preston.

Now in a striker role I’m sure Tyson will look back on his next chance with some regret, as the ball came to him on his left at a tight angle, but he hit it into the side netting.  There really isn’t much excuse for not hitting the target from that kind of range, frankly!  At the other end Morison continued to make an absolute nuisance of himself, getting on the end of another good cross and heading just over.

The Reds were starting to get their shit together though, and whilst the final pass or shot had been lacking were starting to show signs of positivity and that was rewarded by backing for the fans.  The last opportunity fell to Cohen who hit a decent curling effort that Forde was the equal to – diving to his right to palm the ball to safety.

Half time was rife with talk of frustration – Forest had started badly, and had been wasteful with chances, but there were plenty of silver-lining things, but just not enough to force the sun through the clouds.  The Millwall fans – just shy of 1800 of them – are always quite entertaining too, their most sung ‘chant’ being a monotonous drone which reminded me of the ‘special’ kid at Primary School who ran around the playground going “DURRRRRRRRRRRRR!” at the top of his voice!

It took ten minutes for the second half to really get going – Forest had had possession similar to the first but not crafted too many opportunities – but that was going to change.  Wes must consider himself desperately unlucky not to have netted with two decent headers ten minutes into the half, one saved by Forde after a cracking cross from Bertrand, the other from a deflected shot by Dex and cleared off the line.

The Reds continued to press Millwall who – to their credit – battle and chuck themselves infront of everything.  Tys had a decent effort from the left channel which was saved by Forde, although Millwall were still looking dangerous on the break – Camp needing to punch away a cross which fell to Morison whose effort was close but just over.

Then came Forde’s moment of glory, he temporarily assumed the role of ghost-of-Shilton and pulled of an amazing triple save – so amazing numerous Reds fans, self included, stood up and applauded him.  Raddy’s was the first shot which I don’t think he saw coming, Bertrand struck the rebound which he saved and immediately rose to his feet again to deny a well-struck shot by Tyson.

Billy introduced Lewis for McKenna – the captain had put in a much improved performance and received a good reaction from the fans – and immediately sought to get involved.  Perhaps having a shot from a tight angle against Shilton-reborn was optimistic but he did spill it, and eventually he was to drop his concentration to allow the Reds to get a very well deserved equaliser.

A lofted cross from Cohen seemed to hang in the air forever – at the time I thought Forde had scooped it into his own goal but it transpires Dex rose above the hesitant keeper to plant an excellent header into the goal.  The City Ground erupted and whilst it certainly dented the noise from the away end, the away side came to life again – Carter really should’ve at least worked Camp after a quick break, luckily for us he kicked it wide.

The Reds had chances to grab a winner too, Lewis played a lovely throughball for Anderson who didn’t quite have the composure to get the ball properly under control.  At the death the two created another great opportunity, McGugan waited on the right for Anderson to make a run into the box, Ando got ahead of the ‘keeper but couldn’t quite connect with the excellent ball Lewis had played across the box.

Into stoppage time Billy withdrew Tys for Adebola.  Tys had picked up a slight knock in the first half but it was pretty much game over from this point.  A good point, but we were so unlucky not to win.  Billy said after the game he was proud of the players – and the fans – and I was too.  They worked their arses off and didn’t drop their heads when things didn’t quite work out.  And the fans backed them which was very heartening.

Forest vs. Millwall preview..

If a change is as good as a rest, then maybe a rest will make up for the lack of much opportunity to change our line-up?  Hmm, maybe not – but after a two week break there’s a welcome return to on-the-pitch things to focus on after a fortnight of discontent from some quarters.  I’m looking forward to getting back to my seat to take in some football!

Millwall visit us having made a great start to their Championship campaign having won promotion last season.  They’ve already overcome Coventry and Hull at the New Den, as well as dumping Middlesbrough out of the Carling Cup.  Away they’ve only faced Leeds so far and lost, and Wycombe in the Carling Cup where they triumphed 2-1, after extra time.

So certainly whilst making a cracking start to the campaign there’s a real home/away divide in their form (which is perhaps a little too early to read into given how soon we are into the season).  They’re only missing Shaun Batt who’s been on the long term injury list – Tony Craig is thought to be fit to return to their squad.  They should face the Reds with a strong line-up, potentially including the always-potent former-striker-who-had-a-bad-time-with-us Neil Harris.

As for us, Gunter serves the last game of his suspension so Chambers is likely to deputise at rightback, aside from that McGoldrick is of course still unavailable (although seems to be recovering more quickly than forecast), much of the team starts to pick itself – the only areas for contention are probably around the midfield area, so it will be interesting to see if Billy tinkers.

Obviously we’ve already failed to win against the other two newly-promoted sides at the City Ground this season, and Millwall will take heart from this as well as their own decent start.  Kenny Jackett is likely to have his team well drilled so certainly we will require a decent performance – and a consistently decent one – to get the result we crave.

A first win of the season for the Reds would be a blessed relief from the undercurrent of discontent doing the rounds, and hopefully lift the mood and inject a little more positivity (or even just some realism) to the place – but certainly if we are to achieve it we’re going to have to work for it, teams coming to the City Ground don’t generally come to lie down and let us play.

Hopefully the home crowd can perhaps shake itself from its’ recent malaise and give the boys some good vocal backing; whatever people’s feelings are about the boardroom shenanigans I’m sure everyone in the ground should be able to find some common ground in spurring the team on, although past experience suggests that’s easier said than done.

The attempts to predict from me are becoming woefully repetitive, I realise – we should be looking to pick up a win, but shouldn’t be counting any chickens.  The break should have given the lads a chance to work on fitness and training, and might have put a spanner in Millwall’s momentum – but it isn’t going to be easy.  I’m going to go for a win, because the wave of grumpiness will be unbearable if we don’t…

… as for hopeful rumours of loan signings, not looking good so far, is it?

A spoonful of sugar..

I’ve been away stuck in meetings during all the excitement today, indeed, perhaps lack of excitement. Still only on the mobile now in a grotty Travelodge. The timing of Mark Arthur’s announcement on the day the loan window opens offered some a glimmer of hope, only a faint glimmer though!

So, no opening-day loan signings – a bit of a slapped wrist and veiled threat about some quarters’ offence upon Nigel Doughty, and – which is welcome – an apology for his odd outburst over the Whittingham and Pratley. Clearly he thought it would seal the deal but alas, a bold move backfired spectacularly and made us look a little foolish.

So anyway, personally I don’t have much issue with the contents of the chief executives’ announcement. Whilst I’m not a basic-enough entity to be lured into the polarities of the Doughty saviour/destroyer debate, some of the anti-comments I’ve read on forums or sites leave me flabbergasted with their venom and twisted ‘facts’ and theories.

Not really got a problem with Arthur reminding some folks that, whilst nobody is above critique, if that criticism is unreasonable it could mean future generosity is curtailed. The timing, however, is rather interesting and a little paradoxical. It would have been much easier to deliver that message along with something more positive.

Which brings me on to what I will describe as nothing more than rumour-passing at this stage, but I’ve heard from two separate little birds now that the programme printers have been asked to hold off on printing – the general assumption being this is due to an imminent loan signing.

If that’s true, it could have been the spoonful of sugar that makes Arthur’s medicine go down in a much more delightful way. Which plants doubt in my mind because surely that must have occurred to the Forest high brass, surely? Wouldn’t it? So as ever with rumours this season don’t get too excited ’til something is confirmed.

You’d think a ‘hold the front page’ edict would suggest a signing of substance, though, wouldn’t you?

But anyway, back on to reality – hopefully some communication from the club has nipped in the bud any talk of protest before Millwall – not that I ever expected a great deal to come of that. It’s difficult to gauge the extent or balance of discontent online as the negative voices tend to ‘shout’ loudest, but my gut feel suggests whilst we were all disappointed with the summer dealings, most have retained a sense of perspective.

So not all the answers, and – in my view – not the best time to release a scolding of what I think is a relatively low number of malcontents – at least not with some positive news to ease the sting. Certainly with a regular workday ahead of me tomorrow I might just be checking the news feeds a little more regularly.

And probably end up disappointed come hometime! Keep the faith folks, and let’s put the support back into supporter to spur the lads on to getting those crucial first three points.

Drawings by a much younger nffcblog editor..

I included a possibly foolish throwaway insight into my past in the Steve Hodge autobiography review, that as a child I’d draw pictures of the Forest squad and send them to him to get signed.  I’ve just had a rummage in the loft to see if I could find them, but alas was only able to unearth some more recent sketches, unsigned, from 1995.

The next stage of the search will be to see if the parents might have kept hold of this veritable treasure-trove of future embarrassments.  I have no idea how likely that is, although they do seem to have a worryingly large cache of my old school books stored away somewhere so there’s always the possibility.  So, for those of you that asked, here are some (slightly better I think) drawings from my youth.

That should help set your expectation levels for the even less technically gifted versions!  I’ll keep trying to get hold of the really shit ones!  Apologies for the dubious quality of the scan (which is really, rather blatantly, fairly hastily taken pictures with my phone’s camera!).

Sorry about the self-indulgence, but some of you did ask.

Won’t the real Nigel Doughty please stand up?

Opinions relating to the board, and specifically Nigel Doughty, really seem to be the vogue at the moment.  They also seem to be very polarised – at least on the internet forums.  He’s either cast as a saviour or as some kind of malignant entity personally responsible for our demise almost as though he’s inflicting it upon us on purpose.

In fact, in the latter circles the cat-in-the-bin lady and the eastern-European-throwing-puppies-in-the-river are thought to have been operating under his direction.  Perhaps that might be a slight exaggeration, but it’s only a slight one!

Of course, last season’s investment and – indeed – last season’s third place finish – seem to get brushed under carpets as people focus on this summer (which was upsetting, admittedly) or go back in time and cherry-pick other instances of poor decision-making or limited financial backing.

The people who want a regime change also don’t seem to have identified a prospective replacement – simply leaving it to the old adage of “Ah well, someone will invest – they always do!”.  Yeah, that’s how Peter Ridsdale, Milan Mandaric et al get their hooks into a club, that’s how Munto Finance turned Notts County into a laughing stock.

As for me, I don’t think there’s enough information available to make your mind up about Nigel Doughty – which is why he, or his Mini-Me, should probably be gauging the amount of unrest amongst online Forest fans and offer some degree of reassurance.  Every conspiracy theory I’ve heard could potentially be true – but not due to any special inside knowledge.

It’s because there’s a dearth of information coming from the City Ground – and when the silence is that deafening people will fill in the blanks with, frankly, made up stuff.  Some of that made up stuff might well be a lucky guess – but the continued lack of comment from the board at Forest after a disappointing transfer haul fuels this fire to inferno stakes.

So whether Doughty has run out of money, fallen out with Billy, is awaiting a takeover, really is diverting his funds to some kind of diabolical scheme involving sharks and lasers, is actually a Derby fan in disguise or – just maybe – has the club’s best interests at heart but is running a strict financial policy that struggled to get players in over the summer.  Who knows?

Whilst I respect everybody has a right to an opinion, and to express it (I’d be a bloody fool if I didn’t writing a blog like this!), there’s an awful lot of assertion with very little fact to back it up, and unfortunately football fans do have a lemming-like nature that sees them taking the strength of assertion as some kind of validation.

So, saviour or destroyer?  Perhaps predictably I can’t quite polarise myself so dramatically – certainly Nigel Doughy is answerable for some shockingly bad decisions during his tenure, but of course, to view any period in football lasting a decade or more with hindsight I think you could probably say the same of most chairmen and indeed managers.  His cash definitely makes up for our shortfalls, and yes it’s in the form of loans, but there’s tax reasons for that.

Ultimately by biggest bone of contention with the current regime at Forest is their appalling record of communication with the supporters.  I’d just like to hear from the powers-that-be at Forest, and give myself more information with which to develop an informed view rather than peddling heresay and mysterious and unnameable ‘sources’.  I’m not holding my breath…

On another note – I can’t wait for the bloody matches to start again, this weekend has been like torture!  Whilst I was seeking something to do I’ve actually managed to get the blog listed on the Amazon Kindle market place – so if that’s of use to you, you can subscribe here and have new posts automatically pushed to your devices when they’re published and enable you to read them even when you’re offline.