Pompey fell the Reds on the road..

An Ando diving header was a mere consolation..

Portsmouth – 2
Nottingham Forest 1

A frustrating afternoon for the Reds saw their mini-run of two wins halted, and our hosts to continue their recent good form with their fourth consecutive win.  It pops us back down to 13th in the table, albeit still only three points off the playoffs – it’s still as tight as a gnat’s chuff in the middle of the Championship.

Surprisingly, given some of the players available to him, Billy opted to make no changes at all to the side that defeated Ipswich at the weekend, although with a slight tweak to the formation in a slightly more defensive look – with a bench positively bristling with attacking options…

Chambers    Morgan    Wilson    Gunter
Anderson    Cohen    Majewski     McGugan

As ever with our ‘fluid’ (or disorganised?) midfield, you can interchange almost any of the players over the course of the game as ever!

The Reds had a good start to the game – and the first chance fell to the man in form McGugan after a defence-splitting ball from Majewski.  Even after his first opportunity was blocked by Ashdown, the rebound fell again to Lewis who this time met no player-based obstacle but wasn’t able to hit the target, putting the ball into the side-netting instead.

Portsmouth looked dangerous on the break, a long throw from Halford went right across our six yard box, which could’ve been messy – Mullins also should’ve done better when shooting from inside the box but he only managed to put the ball over.  Despite the Reds having the better of the play early doors, it was the home side that took the lead.

One chance won the home side a corner, which was taken by Liam Lawrence (why on Earth we didn’t go for a player of his calibre on loan I’ll always struggle to understand) and found Ibrahima Sonko who should have been more effectively marked – his header went flying past the goalline-bound Lee Camp giving the increasingly-bearded ‘keeper no chance.

The Reds showed some good resolve though, and it wasn’t long before they had fashioned an equaliser.  Chambers brought the ball forward and found McGugan – he took the ball on and played an excellent cross into the box which found Paul Anderson, of all people, bursting into the box to connect with the ball with a full-length diving header.  An excellent finish and a well-deserved equaliser.

A further chance for Forest saw Chris Cohen square the ball to Lewis from eight yards out, but the midfielder totally mis-kicked – continuing to defy his recent form!  Despite some nice passing moves, often (how many times do I write this?) the final ball and/or finish was missing – which was precisely where Portsmouth threatened to hurt us.

The half finished with some concerted pressure and a series of corners from the home side which ultimately came to nothing.  On balance the Reds had just about edged it, but as ever succumbed to some lax defending which Portsmouth were able to punish with relative ease.  Frustrating, and not exactly a new thing this season!

Pompey started the second half in much more lively fashion – on-form David Nugent was very close to putting his side into the lead with a curling dipping effort which had Lee Camp backpedalling but fortunately for us was just over the bar.  Utaka was causing problems with his pace too, being reasonably marshalled by Wilson.

Fourteen minutes into the half Billy withdrew Majewski and put Dele Adebola on, which didn’t really alter the pressure that Portsmouth were exerting, which culiminated in efforts from Lawrence cleared by Wilson, and Camp again backpedalling from a Nugent attempt to concede a corner.  The warnings weren’t heeded though, and Sonko returned the earlier favour with a cross to Lawrence who smashed it into the net from inside the area.

Billy responded by chucking on Earnie for McGoldrick, and the Reds did start to look a little more positive – a cross from Chambers found a diving header from Cohen which ended up just wide of the goal – it was a brief respite, with Mokoena feeding the ball through to Utaka, Camp quick off his line this time to save with his legs.

Dex was our final substitute who received a fairly tense reception from the home fans due to his Southampton connections – he replaced Anderson with around thirteen minutes left on the clock.  He nearly made himself more unpopular too, a decent cross from Gunter finding him in the box, and his effort brought a reasonably routine save from Ashdown.

On the break again Nugent was denied by Lee Camp, McKenna had made a mistake to lose possession which saw the home side break very quickly culminating in Nugent’s effort saved by Camp diving low to his right.  At the other end Chambers should have equalised for the Reds with a free header from 12 yards from a Cohen freekick, but he put it wide.

At the death even Campy was joining the Forest attack when we’d been awarded a free-kick, ultimately it came to nothing which saw him legging it back as Pompey threatened to break forward, the final whistle preventing what could probably have been the killer blow.

All in all, a disappointing result – although Portsmouth had chances to stretch the scoreline, we too missed chances.  On balance of play it’s hard to begrudge them the win (moral and financial conduct aside of course).  The response of the 2,300 Forest fans who’d made the long trip was positive, and the players seemed to appreciate it.

Portsmouth vs Forest preview..

The Reds could get three wins on the bounce tomorrow for the first time in, ooh, ages… I’m sure somebody with a better attention to detail that me! That said, we face a loooong trip to a team who’ve snagged five wins out of their last six games.  Whether Billy opts to change the side that did so well against Ipswich remains to be seen.

Pompey have well documented issues – indeed, this time last week they looked set to be liquidated briefly.  Despite this Cotterill has his side – assembled surprisingly expensively considering their lack of money – performing well, it will prove a challenging encounter for Forest who’ve struggled to translate their impressive home record to their travels.

Ryan Bertrand is almost certain to return following his suspension against Ipswich which should see Gunter return to right back.  Personally I thought our central defence looked much improved and more composed with Wilson back in the fold so would certainly hope to see him retain his place (no offence, Luke!).

The other factor to consider is what he opts for upfront, will McGoldrick retain his place leading the line, will Billy restore Blackstock to the line-up or will Robbie Earnshaw have recovered sufficiently for his injury to push for a starting place.  I was impressed with David against Ipswich, so certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him get another opportunity to impress.

Whilst our hosts have some big name players – they do have a squad similar in size to ours.  Unfortunately for us they’re reporting no injury concerns – and the fact they’ve snagged 17 goals in their last six games demonstrates well their attacking threat.  Nugent is certainly a key man to watch, and Hermann Hreidarsson may again be on the bench to add an extra potential threat after a long lay-off.

Forest haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of visiting Fratton Park since 2002/2003 – so it’s been a while.  We lost 2-0 then and Portsmouth were promoted.  It’s a long journey, it’s not a particularly nice ground and of course there’s always that gimp with the bell to contend with too – a tricky fixture on and off the pitch, that’s for sure!

A difficult one to call, Portsmouth are on a great run of games and have a cracking first eleven if not much depth.  Whether Lewis can continue his run of goals seems questionable, and whilst our defence should be playing decently, it’s hard to imagine the home side not snagging a goal – it’s hard to imagine us scoring more than once away… which suggests a draw at best.

Ha, get me – two wins on the bounce and I become a pessimist again!  Sorry the report is late, it’s been a bit hectic at nffcblog Towers!

More McGugan magic seals comfortable win..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Ipswich Town – 0

A thoroughly satisfying performance from the Reds gave them a comfortable 2-0 win over the Tractor Boys yesterday.  Usually even a two goal lead can feel pretty tense with the Reds, but  the makeshift Forest defence underwent very little in the way of scares and held strong for a deserved clean sheet.

It was good also to see the wee fella back on the touchline after his absence through illness.  Other returnees were on the bench – Nathan Tyson and Robert Earnshaw who were both thought unavailable appeared on the bench (although in Earnie’s case for ‘psychological reasons’ according to Billy!).

Forest had to change their line-up due to Bertrand’s suspension, but few would have expected to see the unforced change upfront which saw Dexter drop to the bench in favour of David McGoldrick.  So we lined up like this:

Chambers   Morgan   Wilson    Gunter
Cohen   McKenna    Majewski    Anderson

The Reds started the game looking very positive – Gunter, looking decent as a makeshift left-back, put in an early cross to chambers at the back post – he nodded it back towards Cohen rushing into the box but Fulop was quicker and got to the ball first before the midfielder could apply the killer touch to it.

At the other end it could’ve been a disastrous start for Lewis as he gifted the away side possession in midfield but fortunately Carlos Edwards was offside so unable to do us any actual damage.

We took the lead on around 12 minutes – and it was a lovely team move, a delicious throughball from Majewski set Cohen loose down the left, the midfielder put in a cracking cross right into the danger zone where David McGoldrick was lurking to sidefoot the ball into the top of the net giving Fulop no chance at all.  Lovely goal, and good to see McGoldrick get of the mark for the season.

Raddy was again the architect of another chance – the little midfielder tricked his way brilliantly past two Ipswich players to get into the box and put a cross/shot (with more emphasis on shot, I feel) just wide of the far post from a tight angle.  It was looking good, but of course with the Reds there’s always that niggling doubt that creeps in.  It nearly came to fruition..

Colback had a great chance for the visitors – he shot goalward from a crowded area and beat Lee Camp, but not Luke Chambers who stopped it brilliantly on the line.  To compound our visitors misery the rebound fell to an Ipswich player who again shot goalward, again beating Camp, but again not able to beat Chambers on the line.  Some outstanding defending there.

Just before half time Cohen was fouled by Leadbitter.  As the freekick was spotted up around 35 yards out I turned to my neighbour and said “Lewis will try to shoot here, and probably put it into the upper tier.”  I was right on one front, a powerful drive with a vicious last-minute swerve saw Lewis thunder it into the top right corner – and awesome strike that even left a few Ipswich fans applauding.

So half time came with Reds fans in high spirits – with much reminiscing about past freekicks, many fans seemingly ranking McGugans’ latest as comparable (if not better!) than freekicks by the likes of Pearce, Metgod and Van Hooijdonk that we’ve been lucky enough to have witnessed on our hallowed turf.

Having had Luke Chambers do his dirty work in the first half, Camp had his first save to make early in the second half – denying Tommy Smith’s effort.  Moments later he was clattered by a late challenge from David Norris – the referee saw fit to not punish it – I’m not sure how hurt Camp was but did endure a good few minutes of treatment to his right shoulder.

McGugan had a tricky run down the right ending in a cross which was a little too powerful for Anderson to reach.  Majewski was the first player to be withdrawn to a great reaction from the fans – Tys replaced him and went up front with McGoldrick.  Tys was immediately in the action, and was hauled down by McAuley in the area, the referee didn’t give a penalty though.  He’d been so determined to not be a ‘homer’ he had become an ‘awayer’!!

McGoldrick was the next player to make way – this way for the Moose – again to a great ovation from the Reds fans.  Ipswich were belatedly starting to get into the game, a freekick from Leadbitter necessitated a save from Camp at the expense of a corner, substitute Connor Wickham too brought another save from him after beating Gunter.  The shot actually snuck through his legs meaning an undignified scramble to stop it sneaking over the line.

Forest’s final substitution saw man-of-the-moment McGugan make way for Dele Adebola – the loudest ovation yet, for the on-fire midfielder and latest cult-hero entering the fray.  Tys was looking lively, a run down the right ended in a shot but he hesitated a little too much and his eventual effort was blocked by Gareth McAuley.

Cohen too had a late effort which was on-target but straight at Fulop, and the five or so minutes of stoppage time were consumed mostly with the Reds controlling possession until the referee eventually blew for full time amidst speculation that he’d forgotten about full time for a little time!

A thoroughly pleasing result and performance – admittedly our visitors posed a very limited threat upfront, and seemed rather short on ideas – having said that, their rare moments of danger were dealt with well – although Chambers’ heroic goal-line clearances certainly had more than hint of good fortune about them.

That puts us tenth in the league, just two points away from the play-offs though, although if Leeds can beat Cardiff tomorrow they could drop us down to eleventh.  More importantly, with Derby losing it puts us a point ahead of them again which is always a good thing!

Forest vs. Ipswich Town preview..

I quite like the Tractor Boys, I’m not sure why.  Unlike many Reds fans I have quite a bit of time for Roy Keane too, despite the manner of his departure (which, when you think about it, was understandable – and we made a tidy profit on him!).  Obviously that goes out the window on Saturday when the Reds will be looking to continue their impressive home run.

What worries me is we seem to lurch from run to run – so we were, of course, famously unbeaten away for ages last season – when that was breached it saw our challenge of the top two fade away.  This season the favoured ‘run’ was the unbeaten since first day – until of course that awful trip to Barnsley.  It worries me how quickly the Forest community have jumped on the fact we’re unbeaten in the league at home in over a year (ignoring the play-offs of course – which is the best thing to do with play-offs if you’re a Forest fan!).

Anyway, hopefully Billy will be back in the dug-out for this fixture having missed the last two games in person due to a viral infection.  He’ll have some decisions to make too – Earnshaw won’t be fit to feature, and he has a left-back headache as Bertrand is suspended following Tuesday’s farcical booking.  Lynch might be an option, or bringing Cohen back into defence or maybe shunting Gunter over to the left, Chambers at the right and Wilson back in the centre.

Up front without the boost of either Earnshaw (or Tyson, who’s also still crocked) he might be tempted by the impact Adebola has made in recent games.  Whilst I’ve admitted my past harshness about the big fella, I still see him as an impact sub and not a starter.  Billy may decide that McGoldrick could provide a suitable foil for Blackstock – but I expect Dex to be the lone striker with Lewis and Raddy in midfield supplying additional goal-threats.

Ipswich have a few injuries too, first-choice keeper Fulop is a doubt with a back injury, so Murphy may well continue to deputise.  They are missing a couple of faces in defence too in the shape of Mark Kennedy and Darren O’Dea.  Keane has hinted in the press he might change his starting eleven to accommodate some impressive sub appearances from Connor Wickham, Ronan Murray and Carlos Edwards.

Our visitors are sitting pretty in 8th at the moment, although we’re still early in the season – they’re only two points ahead of us!  However, taking recent form into consideration they’ve lost their last two games – both 2-1, to Coventry at home and Watford away – they’ll be keen to not make it a hat-trick of defeats.  Indeed, they’ve lost three of their last six games, winning two and drawing one.

With Keane quite known for chopping and changing it might be a good opportunity for Forest to get stuck in early before the visitors have time to settle, of course, that’s optimistic – recent games have seen Forest struggle to keep out of first gear early doors.  Whilst they’ve had a few defeats, we must remember that Ipswich have already seen off the likes of Cardiff and Leeds – so they’re no slouches on their day.

Despite this, and despite generally being a bit of a grumpy sod, I fancy our chances of snatching a win come Saturday – it does rely on a good start and an early goal – if we could get a striker on the scoresheet that would be a massive boost.  Unfortunately if that came to pass I imagine a fingernail-biting time of defending after that, hopefully our reshuffled defence will be able to take the pressure…

Sweet Lewis strike sinks Boro..

Lewis nets again to get us the points...

Nottingham Forest – 1
Middlesbrough – 0

Well it certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was a most welcome three points nonetheless after the weekend disappointment at Barnsley.  With Billy still signed off with a virus Ned once again took to the technical area to deploy the wee fellas’ instructions as we faced newly managerless Middlesbrough in what the bookies would’ve had us believe was a clash of the promotion favourites.

A reshuffled pack saw Raddy and Anderson restored to a side which had a more balanced feel to it than the Barnsley debacle, and it was a customary sublime goal from in-form Lewis McGugan that was enough to give us the spoils despite occasional scares from the struggling visitors.  So the starting line-up looked something like this…

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
Anderson    McKenna    Majewski    Cohen

Although McKenna aside in the holding position, the midfield was pretty fluid as we’ve come to expect (fluid when it’s working well, shapeless when it’s not working so well!).  The Tuesday night crowd was buoyed by a student ticket offer which was well taken up, and whilst the satanic 666 Boro fans is a small number, it’s not a bad effort on a Tuesday night from so far away.

It was Lee Camp – sporting a Peter Sutcliffe-esque beard – who was the first keeper into action though.  A shot from McDonald would’ve been fairly routine but for a wicked deflection off Luke Chambers meaning ‘the Ripper’ – as a wag near me dubbed him for the game – was forced into a diving save at the expense of an early corner for the visitors.

Forest did start to build a bit of possession, but were struggling to break down a dogged Boro side who were working hard to close us once we’d hit the final third.  A cross from Bertrand opened up half chances for Blackstock and then Gunter on the rebound, but there was very little clear-cut for the Reds and the fans were starting to get characteristically impatient.

At our end Boro were fashioning chances though, Lita flashed a dangerous ball across the goal with nobody on the end of it – whilst on a break a Lewis mis-kick fell kindly for Dex who perhaps didn’t realise quite what an opportunity he had (I think he was looking for the offside flag), and stabbed the ball across the goal and wide with Steele bearing down on him.

Middlesbrough should’ve taken the lead after this – after some fairly clumsy defending from Forest the ball fell invitingly for Lita – in acres of space, no more than ten yards out with the whole goal to go for.  He put it wide.  A poor miss, and really that signalled the end of the positive play from the visitors in the first half.

The Reds almost took a magnificent lead before half time – a lovely one-two between Majewski and Bertrand saw Raddy unleash an absolute piledriver with his left foot, showing great technique, only to see his shot rebound off the underside of the bar and into play, before being scrambled out for a corner.  It would’ve been one hell of a goal.

Forest continued to pressure without too many clear cut chances as time was running out in the first half.  We didn’t really want the whistle to come, but it did and gave Boro an increasingly desperately needed lifeline to regroup in the dressing room.  The combination of their early chances and our late ones probably meant half time all square wasn’t all that unfair.

The second half began with Forest still in the ascendancy.  A decent knock over the top by Blackstock found Cohen who must still be rueing the tame shot he managed straight at the keeper.  The Reds fans didn’t have long to wait for something to warm them on the winterish night though, and it was that man Lewis McGugan again delivering the goods.

Lewis had picked up the ball and was fouled down the left hand side.  The freekick was a few yards outside the box and wide, my neighbour said “I bet Lewis will fancy a crack from here”, and he was right – the in form midfielder smacked an absolute peach of a shot through the crowded area, past Steele and inside the far post the give the Reds the lead.

The game became scrappy now – Forest looked shaky at the back, often opting to try to play their way out of danger when a hoof would suffice.  Neither Wes nor Luke were anywhere near the front of the queue when God was handing out ‘hap’, so they should both definitely opt for safety-first when they’re being harried by opposing strikers.  There were a few hair-raising moments for sure.

The referee was a bit rubbish too, but in a generally harmless way – until he decided to book Bertrand for timewasting.  The leftback was waiting to take a throw-in as Dele was ready to come on for Blackstock, the jobsworth booked the defender before then gesturing for the substitution to take place.  Hapless bastard.  That’s four bookings for Bertie now, so one more and a suspension looms.

Dele was immediately involved in his inimitable hustle-and-bustle style – although the header he managed from Cohen’s cross was an easy save for the Boro keeper.  Lewis was next to be withdrawn for The Moose – the midfielder naturally receiving a standing ovation from the appreciative Forest fans for his contribution in the game.

The Reds have this worrying habit of making substitutions when defending a setpiece – this was one of those occasions and it’s always nerve-wracking.  A header from Wheater almost caused a bit of trouble before Camp was able to gather it.  Forest weren’t just sitting back though, and Dele again was on the end of a chance which he made too easy for the keeper to collect.

McGoldrick was our last substitute for Majewski, who’d had a decent game in midfield, however Middlesbrough were starting to press forward, and there was a frankly terrifying moment of ball-pinging-around-a-crowded-area syndrome before we were mercifully able to get it clear after Chambers had done well to close down Boyd.

With four minutes of stoppage time there were a few futile attempts at keep-ball by the Reds in the corner, in the end the final moments petered out into a series of scrappy exchanges from both sides – with the clock running down McGoldrick really should have either hit the target or played the ball across to his waiting colleagues when he was put through but wide – but still.  The whistle came eventually, and it was a big relief!

It wasn’t pretty – but it wasn’t likely to be.  At times the Reds tried to ping the ball around nicely – and there were moments of genuinely good football, but too often passes were played behind or into the feet of players rather than ahead of them, so we couldn’t always profit from some nice work from many of the lads.

Plenty of positives to take though – as well as warning signs, a clean sheet is more than welcome but we do look shaky at the back.  McKenna deserves a lot of credit for filling in some gaps at the back particularly when dealing with pacy wingers threatening to exploit our wandering fullbacks.  If Boro had more confidence in themselves they would have proved a much sterner test I feel.

However, we should feel positive – despite their awful record on the road I don’t think Boro are as bad a side as their position suggests, and obviously a change in management can throw up surprises.  After recent frustrations it was good to see Forest tweak their tactics and almost start to break through a team doggedly defending.

That said, we were still wasteful with some of the chances that came our way – which is why the return of Robbie Earnshaw can’t come soon enough for me.  Whilst the contribution of Lewis has been invaluable we can’t keep relying on him for goals – and our only other reliable source of finishing comes from our little Welsh wizard.

Forest vs. Middlesbrough preview..

At the start of the season bookmakers would have had you believe Tuesday’s City Ground showdown was a top of the table clash between two title favourites.  Just goes to show they’re not always on top of their game doesn’t it?  Or maybe they know more than we thought and wanted us to waste our cash on the the Reds either of Nottingham or Teesside.

We can’t even go for the silver lining of an unbeaten run now, that went at the weekend thanks to Barnsley, whereas our visitors Middlesbrough have had an even less impressive start.  They tasted defeat 6 times in the league already – including at the weekend against Leeds at home.  Indeed, they haven’t won for five games at all, and have only managed 3 points on three occasions (although let’s not be too harsh, we’ve only done it twice!).

All their wins have come at the Riverside Stadium – in fact, the best they’ve managed on their travels is a solitary point at similarly-struggling Leicester City back in August – so they really don’t travel well.  On the back of that, the distance and the timing of a Tuesday night I wouldn’t expect many Boro fans to be making the trip to the City Ground either.

On the injury front we’ll be hoping that Billy Davies is ready for action again following a viral infection.  Kelly suggested after the Barnsley defeat that it was likely.  The other two notable potential injuries that could change things are the thigh injury to Robert Earnshaw and the knee ‘knock’ to Nathan Tyson.

Certainly given our wastefulness upfront both players would be welcome options to introduce at this stage.  Gordon Strachan must be feeling the pressure by now, he’s had time and resource to assemble his choice of players at Boro and it isn’t translating into results on the pitch, and is now coming under pressure from his own supporters.

You would think that it’s a good time to be playing them – midweek with a small away following, manager under pressure, players lacking confidence and cohesion.  But this is Forest isn’t it?  We’re not exactly tearing up any trees at the moment either, and that makes me a bit nervous that many might think this is a home banker.

Indeed, reading around the Boro forums is very much like some of ours at the moment – lots of finger pointing and factions and divisions amongst the fans, which is never a healthy place to be.  Look at the post-match comments on this site, comments are down in general (whilst hits aren’t), those that are posted are generally fairly negative.  It’s understandable, as a positive person it’s sad, though.

So just as we might be seeing this as yet another opportunity to give our season a much needed kick-start (and it’s not the first time that we’ve said that, is it?), I can imagine that Gordon Strachan might well see this is as a similar opportunity for his own ailing fortunes – he’ll know that by spoiling and hitting on the break he might well get our fans grumbling…

I’m almost reaching that point where I’m not looking forward to games like I ought to be, which is never a nice thing to have to report – but there you have it.  Currently I’m contemplating another weekend seemingly prematurely coming to an end and going back to the weekday drudgery with a ‘bonus’ Forest match thrown in to the mix.

I don’t like being a grump 😦

Wingless blunders come up short..

Lewis is still finding the goal, but his team-mates need to replicate!

Barnsley – 3
Nottingham Forest – 1

With Billy off sick but supposedly in charge of team selection it was maybe surprising to see something verging on the experimental in the Reds’ line-up – a 4-4-2 formation is perhaps not that revolutionary in aspect, but to make up the midfield of four central midfielders probably is.  Cohen on the right wing, McGugan on the left.

They’re not wingers, are they?  Just as we have spent many months with an obvious deficiency at left back aside from loan intervenees, it’s starting to worry me we are risking the same problem with proper wingers.  Tys is a converted striker, Anderson seems to lack confidence, and McCleary is deemed not ready – as for left wingers, we don’t have any!

So the line-up looked like this, with Big Dele introduced on the strength of some promising appearances as a substitute as well as a recent reserve-outing against Sheffield Wednesday in which he notched a hat-trick.

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
Cohen    McKenna    Moussi    McGugan
Blackstock    Adebola

A bold move, maybe – with Earnshaw’s injury still causing a problem and Tyson succumbing to a knee injury we are with few options.  Perhaps now our lack of options when stretched a little are starting to show themselves as a problem for progression.  As noted in the preview, our unbeaten run was a flimsy boast at best – and now it’s over.

Another afternoon of possession and chances to score, the familiar story of Forest this season continued as we were unable to convert these to chances whilst our hosts gave us a lesson in how this can be achieved.  A brief flicker of hope from Lewis McGugan netting was extinguished as the home side scored again when Wes was deployed as an emergency striker.

It was just four minutes on the clock when Barnsley first scored – all in all, not a great start.  Trippier was given too much space on the wing and was able to pick out Hammill in the box, his effort didn’t convert but – as we seem to struggle with of late – the rebound fell for Doyle who was able to put the ball in from close range to give the the Tykes the lead.

Twelve minutes were on the clock by the time the Reds created a meaningful chance – Cohen did well to get into a crossing position from the right hand side and put a ball in towards Adebola who couldn’t quite beat Steele to the ball.  The Reds began to dominate possession without creating much – a McGugan cross forced a corner, Barnsley came close from a freekick by Hammill just off target.

Just before the break Forest came agonisingly close to equalising, with Dexter Blackstock heading against the crossbar with the ‘keeper beaten.  A long range effort from Wes perhaps flattered to deceive the travelling Reds fans, a late scramble from Steele aside it was always likely to be off-target meaning Forest went in at the break behind.

Barnsley started the second half strong – a quick break from ex-Derby thug Jay McEveley found Trippier whose effort really should’ve been on target – luckily for us it wasn’t.  At the other end Lewis beat his man and smashed the ball across the face of goal but – as ever – we had nobody gambling on the far post so the chance went begging and gave Barnsley a goal kick.

The home side got their cushion after Blackstock had brought down Lovre in the box, former Forest striker Gray made no mistake from the spot – his kick easily evading Lee Camp’s dive to put the home side 2-0 up – perhaps a shade flattering, but you can’t really fault their ability to take their chances.

To give us more pace/threat Adebola and Moussi were withdrawn for McGoldrick and Anderson.  McGoldrick almost got off to the perfect start but saw his shot hit the post, he then laid on the opportunity for McGugan to score – a decent cross from him finding our main goal threat who beat a couple of players before smashing the ball into the corner of the goal.

Camp was very alert to prevent an immediate peg-back from Barnsley – having to tackle to prevent a shooting chance before clearing to Wes, who played through toward McGoldrick whose volley was just wide.  As Forest continued to pressure the home side, our last throw of the dice was to throw on Majewski for McKenna for the last eight minutes or so.

Bertrand wasted a good opportunity after McGugan had played him through but the fullback could only find the stand, eventually the desperation stakes saw us push Wes up front as an emergency striker in a 4-3-3 line-up – which enabled Barnsley to hit us on the break with a good ball from Hammill finding Butterfield who was able to slide the ball under Camp from an angle.

In stoppage time Dex brought a good save from Steele, but ultimately with a two-goal deficit to make up it was really all rather academic unfortunately.  A disappointing trip to Barnsley, which seems to be becoming something of a habit – could Oakwell be a new bogey-ground?  Possibly!

Certainly the game served really to remind us that without Earnie we really do lack a player who can finish off chances (McGugan mitigates a little for this – but doesn’t get that many chances – could he play as a striker?), and we lack the final ball – largely, I’m still convinced, because we lack proper wingers – or when we do play them insist on putting them on the wrong side.

Ho hum, a quick chance to make amends with Middlesbrough visiting on Tuesday.  We’re down to 15th in the league, hopefully Leeds can give Strachan’s Celtic B Team a tough run around this evening in preparation for their visit to the City Ground in midweek.

Barnsley vs. Forest preview..

It seems sooo long since we’ve played – and the reward for our patience is a trip to Oakwell on Saturday to face the challenge of the Tykes.  The Reds are unbeaten in nine, but there’s been an awful lot of draws in there, our hosts have a decent home record – although their last game was at Oakwell and was a defeat at the hands of Cardiff.

Earnie is unlikely to return to the squad – still nursing his thigh injury, but there’s been no reported problems for our international trio of Bertrand, Gunter and Majewski – Raddy coming back a bit later than the others, so will require a check upon his return from a transatlantic adventure with Poland.

As for our hosts, they have internationals returning too – Trippier is back from action with Romania with no problem, Chris Wood is a late arrival like Raddy.  Their only injury doubt is the spectacularly named striker Jeronimo Neumann.  Trippier and Jeronimo – we can’t compete with player names like that!

Anyone who made a March trip to Oakwell last season will recall a fairly uninspiring game which the Tykes won thanks to two Bogdanovic strikes (and the hapless Kevin Friend for disallowing a late Earnie equaliser!).  Bogdanovic of course has moved on, but former Reds forward Andy Gray may well feature so there’s someone to look out for.

Ultimately Barnsley are a decent team – but not on a great run, their last four games haven’t brought a win.  Forest are a decent team on a mediocre run which we can tart up as unbeaten – but there’s too many draws in there.  It will be fascinating to see how the two week break impacts on both these runs.. you’d like to think that Forest could get the points, but I think that most weeks!

A couple of non-preview bits worthy of mention too – commiserations to the family and friends of Eddie Baily, a former Forest player who passed away yesterday in London at the age of 85.  An inside forward who won the league with Spurs in the early 50s before moving on to Forest via Port Vale.  Rest in peace, fella.

And on a lighter note – those of you heading to The Approach in November to see Crossley, Robertson and Sheridan can start your night with an absolute bargain – present your ticket to the evening at The Cross Keys and you can claim two main meals or gourmet burgers for the price of one.  So eat in style then watch two of the most popular ‘Evening With’ guests (and the bonus of John Sheridan!).

Bennett, Bennett, knock him out!

I’ve had itchy keyboard fingers (so to speak) for ages now – with no football that interests me thanks to the international break I’ve been resisting the urge to write about nothing for the sake of occupying my mind.  So typical, that just when the end is within sight and we resume action at the weekend an absolute gem (although undoubtedly blown out of all proportion) of a story has popped up in The Sun today.

It involves Julian Bennett – currently on loan gaining match fitness at Crystal Palace – and Dutch legend Edgar Davids.  Apparently in a training game Benno had a snipe at the midfielder for giving the ball away, which prompted an epic hissy fit from the veteran culminating in him grabbing hold of the Reds defender and shouting “I’m the boss around here!”

Anyone who has played football at any vague level of competitiveness will know that it’s perfectly normal – nay – expected for teammates to spur one another on, be it by praise for a good performance or a grumble for something below par.  That goes for on the training ground or on the pitch – indeed, you would think after costing Palace a goal with a wayward pass the other week Davids would be keen to stay sharp on this (that said, the ‘incident’ supposedly happened a couple of weeks ago, so perhaps Benno was more prophetic than building on criticism for that game).

That said, it’s probably not the scandal the Sun make it out to be – Bennett criticised him, he reacted – I imagine on training grounds up and down the country these things happen without comment, perhaps the fact it was such a high profile player that makes the story deemed worthy of publishing.  Certainly it shows that Benno still retains his fierce desire to win, even in training.  Whether or not Davids would really utter the words “I’m the boss around here” when he’s on a pay-as-you-play I leave open to speculation!

Speaking of Julian, I’ve half-heartedly kept tabs on his time at Palace and he seems to be making a good impression on the whole.  His opportunities in the side are limited largely due to his lack of fitness/match practice but he is getting run outs and doing okay, which is great to hear.  Hopefully as his match fitness builds he’ll be able to get more regular and consistent appearances in for the Eagles.

Best of luck to him regardless, be it on the training ground or on the pitch – it’s good to see him back in action after such a horrendous injury.  I’ve got a lot of time for Jules and still hope to see him back in a Forest shirt when he’s fully fit (check out his website to see what he’s been up to whilst out of action – and not least to relive that bloody awesome goal he scored against Yeovil on the day we secured promotion back to the Championship).

An evening with Big Norm, Robbo and… Sheridan?!

The Approach is back with an evening of entertainment in November – two of the most highly rated speakers are on show in Mark Crossley and John Robertson (presumably entertaining himself whilst out of work!), and for a bonus the fleeting Reds player John Sheridan is also on the bill to make it a trio of guests for Darren Fletcher to compere on Thursday 4th November.

Big Norm has done a couple of nights before and has always been an absolute smash hit with Reds fans, I’ve always seemed to miss out on him so I’m really looking forward to this.  He is working on an autobiography due out next year which promises to be a no-holds barred account of his career – warts and all.

Robbo is also known to be a bit of a show-stealer on these occasions, and of course he is an undisputed complete-and-utter Forest legend.  It will be interesting to see who can win the battle of the entertainer between him and Norm, although I can confidently guess which will have the bigger queue of misty-eyed middle-aged men following them around for autographs (or indeed, who will go for the most cigarette breaks!).

As for Sheridan, his time with the Reds may have been brief – but of course, any insight into time under Brian Clough is always readily hoovered up by Reds fans, but perhaps the most story-rich period of his career will be his time playing for the Republic of Ireland under Jack Charlton, not forgetting he is currently manager of Chesterfield.

It should be a fun night!

You can book tickets online by clicking here, or pop into The Approach and pick yourself up a ticket for just £13.  Or for £35 you also get a three course meal with full waitress service.  Click the small flyer for a full sized version with all the details you should need!

Additional: If you fancy a bargain meal before you head over to The Approach, if you present your ticket to the event at The Cross Keys you can get two Main Meals or Gourmet Burgers for the price of one.  It’s decent locally-sourced nosh cooked freshly, so grab yourselves a bargain!