Reds disappoint in Leicester..

Leicester City – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

A disappointing evening really – the highlights of which were glimpsing Aaron Ramsey in a Reds shirt (clearly unfit, but some nice touches), slipping past the security outside the turnstiles so escaping the police escort, and being threatened with a slapping on Twitter whilst despondently attempting to look on the bright side of life… so not much, really!!

With Earnie suffering from illness he made way in the starting eleven – but that wasn’t sufficient for either of the new boys to get a starting berth, instead Anderson was restored to the first team with Earnshaw on the bench along with Ramsey and Tudgay (and Wilson, Majewski, Smith and Tyson).

The starting line-up in that case looked like this – theoretically a 4-2-3-1 I think, but with the scope to go either 4-5-1 or 4-3-3..

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
Moussi    Cohen
McCleary    McGugan    Anderson
Adebola

The first half wasn’t that bad (with the luxury of knowing how bad the second half would become I suppose).  Both sides struggled to get a foothold in the game early doors – but in the opening exchanges the Reds didn’t look too bad – albeit struggling to convert possession and pressur ein to much by the way of reasonable chances.

One more than reasonable chance would fall for Dele Adebola – good work from McCleary saw the winger put a decent cross in to the back stick where the lumbering frontman was making a decent run – but could only turn it over with his favoured left foot.  He was under pressure from a Leicester defender but it has to go down as a pretty shit miss for the frontman.

At the other end Cohen scythed down King on the edge of the box, earning himself a yellow card and gifting Leicester a freekick.  They duly spannered it into our wall courtesy of Paul Gallagher so not too much damage done – but the home side were certainly in the ascendancy.  Indeed, moments later a shot from Bednar (I think) looked sure to go in but for a goal-line block from Chambers.

Moments later it had rebounded for another clear goalscoring opportunity which Camp managed to hurl himself infront of – the Reds eventually desperately getting the ball clear.  All in all, it was starting to look a bit ropey for Forest – with the home side battling harder and starting to build pressure on Forest.

Then an enforced change – not ideal.  Dele, who is limited admittedly – but a useful outlet when you’re under the kosh – had been struggling for some time with an injury.  He was eventually withdrawn for Robbie Earnshaw, slightly surprising – I was half expecting to see the not-exactly-massive-but-bigger-than-Earnie Tudgay sent on, but no, t’was the until-recently-ill Earnie we sent into the fray.

It looked to be a stroke of genius, as he was placed perfectly to pick up a wayward header to get in between the defence and Chris Weale with the ball at his feet.  He took a touch forward and went for the shot which was excellently saved by the Leicester ‘keeper.  Hard to imagine any striker looking for the pass – but Anderson was well placed for a square ball, and indeed, I quite fancied Earnie’s chances of taking the ball ’round Weale who was out very quickly.

Leicester were soon on the attack again though, and when Lee Cap had horribly misjudged a ball in it looked like Vassell had managed to do enough to notch the first goal, but as the inexplicably capped striker sat waiting expectantly to celebrate Luke Chambers was again the saviour as he strode back to hook his foot around the ball and get it clear before crossing the line.

There was more than a hint of us flying by the seat of our pants.  The half came to a close with the home side still pressing – the last chance of note falling to Gallagher who must still be quite unhappy with his effort from twelve yards which missed the target by not-quite-enough for us to feel fully comfortable.

It wasn’t going to get much better in the second half either – as suggested above.  Moments into the half the Reds were definitely second-best as Leicester worked their way through our defence and brought an excellent point-blank save from Lee Camp.  A dangerous ball in by ‘diving bastard’ Wellens nearly found Bednar in the box but for a timely interception from Lee Camp.

Just as Ramsey was being prepared to come on for the Reds the home side took the lead – good work from Vassell saw him hold on to the ball under the attentions of three Forest defenders.  His effort on goal wasn’t great, but it deflected across the six yard box off Camp and found Andy King unmarked in a great position to tap the ball into the pretty much open goal to give the home side a probably deserved lead.

Ramsey now did come on, replacing Cohen – and immediately had a few decent touches in midfield.  Moments later Nathan Tyson replaced the increasingly quiet Lewis McGugan as the Reds went into ‘shit or bust’ mode.  Unfortunately, all it seemed to do was disrupt whatever shape that we had had earlier in the game, and Forest struggled to fend off Leicester in waves of attacks.

King tried to add a second but opted for a nigh-on impossible looking level of curl to beat Camp.  At the other end Tys burst well down the right (going outside the linesman!) and put in a decent ball into the box, but Anderson wasn’t quite able to beat his defender to the ball.  Moments later a snapshot from Tys brought an excellent save from Weale.

Leicester had withdrawn Bednar for Steve Howard, who was on the end of a cracking cross from King but Camp was equal to it with a cracking save – and to Forest’s eternal lack of credit today we struggled to prevent Leicester continuing to put pressure on almost ’til the final whistle.  A very disappointing performance – particularly in the context of recent excellence at Cardiff – against not particularly gifted opponents.

Another inept refereeing performance too – he rightly waved away two pathetic dives from Wellens in the area but opted not to book the diving bastard.  He later missed what looked a more credible shout for a penalty for the home team – and another when Earnie was cropped in the area (the referee wasn’t looking, but his assistant was).

Having had a little referee moan, it wasn’t down to him we lost – we deserved to lose on today’s showing – Leicester wanted the game more and but for excellent saves from Camp and some solid defending from Chambers we could have been looking at more than a mere 1-0 deficit.  I imagine the commemorative DVDs will follow for those Leicester fans who couldn’t make it judging by the empty seats in the ground.

A disappointing nights work indeed from the Reds – the few bright points being excellent performances from Camp and Chambers, and getting a glimpse of Ramsey who will hopefully have easier circumstances in which to contribute to the cause in the future.  As for me, let’s look forward to the visit of Bristol City at the weekend and put this ignominious performance behind us.

And on the bright side, for we must look at that – I managed to escape Leicester in record time compared to recent visits, and avoid a slapping by any over-sensitive Tweeters on my way back to Nottingham.  A scant reward, but one must be grateful for what one can get!

Leicester City vs. Forest preview..

Well, today has been all talk of incoming signings (what?!) – a huge welcome to Marcus Tudgay and Aaron Ramsey who join us in loan deals from Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal respectively.  The former isn’t all that surprising (but still a decent addition, in my view), but the latter seems to have taken the football world rather by surprise – and certainly shocked me!

But we need to think about upcoming fixtures of course.  Thank to the machinations of Sky Sports we find ourselves up next on a Monday Evening down the M1 – against a side who’ve similarly added some reinforcements to their squad – Chris Kirkland joined the Foxes today on loan, to add to the addition of Roman Bednar earlier in the loan window – so they’ll be hoping to shore up at one end whilst netting more up front.

A fairly inauspicious start to the season saw the Foxes languishing in the lower reaches of the table and eventually part company with the much-trumpeted manager Paolo Sousa.  Even the arrival of Swedish playboy and no-stranger-to-the-Nottingham-public Sven-Goran Eriksson didn’t seem to arrest their ailing form initially..

Until recently, of course – they went on a mini unbeaten run of four games (three of which were wins – including one over Derby, greeting to cheers at the City Ground that afternoon just to underline where the rivalries lie in the East Midlands).  But a slip up away at Bristol City brought them back down to earth at the weekend.

Anyone who was unfortunate enough to go to this fixture last season will remember what this fixture means to the locals – with streets lined for literally miles from the ground to, well, mostly look at the departing Forest fans on coaches.  An odd experience.  For me it’s a good opportunity for three points – albeit against a decent opponent who certainly aren’t going to make it easy.

Forest are obviously now missing Dexter Blackstock, cruelly injured in our 2-0 win over Cardiff last weekend – he joins David McGoldrick on the treatment table.  It remains to be seen whether the likes of McKenna, Tyson and Wilson will have recovered from injuries that kept them from involvement at Cardiff.

I think – given their recent first-team match time – it’s likely we’ll see both Tudgay and Ramsey on the bench at the Walkers Stadium.  Billy is unpredictable though, I must admit I’d be tempted to predict an unchanged starting eleven to that which began the game last weekend – whenever I think such a thing though a dramatic change comes through!

Both teams are so bloody unpredictable it makes any trying to second-guess the result very difficult – if the Reds can put in a performance like against Cardiff then they could put the wind up any team in this league, but we’ve not seen that on the road much this season.  Throw in the uncertain-fitness-factor of the likes of Tudgay and Ramsey and, well, who knows?

On the other side of the coin, Leicester too have had a real mixed bag of performance levels… looking at all time stats though, they have one more win over us than we do over them – so it would be nice to bring a bit of balance to proceedings and get an unheard of second consecutive away win, wouldn’t it?  That’s not a prediction though, just what I’d quite like!

So, to recap – a big welcome to Marcus Tudgay who joins us with a likely permanent move following in January, and of course to Aaron Ramsey who comes for match fitness.  It’s good to have news like this to bring a few smiles and make the message boards more positive – even if they have limited involvement on Monday, their arrival and presence on the bench at least should give us a boost.

… and of course, we have a football match to play infront of Sky cameras – I imagine a few more neutrals might just be tempted to at least flick over to our game from some Spanish game of insignificance following the news of us landing Ramsey on loan.  Well done to Billy and the transfer acquisition panel, a real coup that’s got a lot of football fans talking!

Forest king-makers for another week..

Cardiff City – 0
Nottingham Forest – 2

Last week the Reds denied QPR the victory that would’ve kept them top of the league, and this week by taking all three points and giving Cardiff City nothing we’ve allowed the Londoners once again to ascend to top the table.  We’ve snuck into a play-off spot ourselves as a result, too.  I’ll admit it freely, I’m still rather surprised!

As we settled into another identikit stadium that might as well have been in Reading, Southampton, Leicester or Derby (or numerous other places!) it transpired that we’d got something of a minor injury and illness crisis going on – so not only did we have a rather altered starting eleven, the bench was looking a bit sparse too – only six people selected.

A four-four-two of sorts, with a few unfamiliar faces – certainly as members of our starting eleven, at least:

Camp
Gunter   Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
McCleary   Moussi    Cohen    McGugan
Adebola    Earnshaw

It was a reasonably positive start too – Lewis found Bertrand bursting forward and his cross-shot through the area was pretty close to finding a lurking Earnie.  That said, the Bluebirds showed some early hints of a threat too – Bellamy twice missed the target from range, and a Whittingham freekick curled a just off-target from the edge of the area too.

Probably the best chance Cardiff would manage for the whole game came early doors too – a good ball from Bellamy found an excellent run from Jay Bothroyd, who was clean through – got himself around Camp but was only able to hit the side-netting from a tight angle (we did have defenders getting back too).  It was a bad miss for the recently capped England striker.

Moments later and we’d nicked the lead – a big kick from Camp was won in the air well by Adebola, controlled and fed to Lewis McGugan – and, well, we all know what he does, don’t we?  He unleashed another lovely curling effort from range for his ninth entry into this season’s goal-of-the-season competition.  It was hard to take in for us in the away end!

Forest really had their tails up now, the Moose did well to evade Whittingham but opted to cut onto his left foot rather than right, so had to be content with a corner when his attempt ricocheted away off a defender.  Shortly after Earnie had the ball in the net with a neat finish – the offside flag was up, however – hard to tell from our angle, predictably the Football League Show would rather read emails and texts from idiots than show a decent level of highlights.

The remainder of the half was uncomfortably comfortable – if that makes sense.  With their vast array of attacking talent, we were able to get to half time without Lee Camp having a save to make.  It left us feeling nervous – surely the home side would come out and hit back in the second half?

As I tend to find in ‘new’ grounds, the atmosphere from the home fans was pretty lacking (I do, of course, acknowledge we can struggle in this regard at home sometimes).  A lot of groaning at backpasses and shouting at the referee – who invariably obliged (more on him later).  Pretty odd for a team who’ve such an exciting line-up and were at start of play topping the table.

The second half did see the home side making more pressure and achieved their only shot on target early doors.  A cracking cross from Bellamy found Bothroyd unmarked in the area – he met the cross with a powerful header from very close range, luckily for us it was straight at Camp who I’m not sure knew a fat lot about it as the ball bounced to safety!

After the initial scare though the game resumed the previous pattern – a McGugan effort came close to finding Chambers at the back post.  Robbie Earnshaw was our first player to be withdrawn, and he received a great reception from Forest and Cardiff fans alike (unlike poor old Gunts who’d been getting abuse from the home fans all afternoon!).  Dex was the man to replace him.

Another opportunity for Bothroyd as he was put through, but before he could get a shot away Bertrand had managed to get in the way and concede a corner instead.  At the other end, Dele had done well to get the ball down and shot from the edge of the area – he didn’t catch it well, but it did seem to catch out Tom Heaton in the Cardiff goal as he struggled to make the save at two attempts.

The second goal did come, of course – Lewis this time was provider – teasing and turning into the box before cutting the ball back perfectly for Dex in the channel, who looked to have taken a heavy touch but was able to slide the ball neatly into the corner before celebrating infront of the travelling Reds fans who’d been in great voice all afternoon.

Lynch was introduced for McCleary who’d earlier picked up a booking (which looked a little soft, I thought – but as noted above, more on the referee later!).

It was joy to agony for Dexter though, an awkward turn – a leg at an angle it shouldn’t be, a despairing arm in the air to call for the paramedics with Cardiff and Forest players alike stopped and looking horrified.  He was carefully stretchered off with oxygen and a splint applied – latest reports suggest a cruciate ligament injury, which is a real pisser.

Naturally I extend my heartfelt good wishes to Dexter for as speedy recovery as possible, but the early prognosis would suggest months rather than weeks.  Not exactly what we need at the moment.  As a result of the lengthy stoppage, there were six minutes of added time – which I thought wasn’t really sufficient considering how long play had stopped, but I’m not complaining!

Nialle Rodney replaced Dexter, which at least gave us the silver lining of having a front pairing of Dele and Rodney (which has more than a whiff of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ about it).  Rodney’s first action saw him get a sturdy challenge put in on him, unsurprising the referee (who we will mention later!) didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Cardiff did press to get something from the game, Bellamy blazed one over from close range and Camp closed him down again at source at the expense of a corner (whilst not a clear ‘shot on target’ – this was definitely a very good save by Camp!).  The whistle came, and the Reds celebrated in the already more-than-half-empty stadium.

It should be noted though that a number of home fans had remained to applaud the Forest team and fans – always great to see, and very sporting.  The players and Billy all made a point of coming to the away end and received – naturally – a great reception from the travelling fans who’d been in great voice for most of the afternoon.

Now, the referee – Mr C H Webster, who is presumably brother-in-law of Dave Jones and lifelong Cardiff City fan.  Some of the decisions he was giving, oft in response to the dubious cries of the home crowd, were absolutely laughable.  Almost every time the ball went near Dele a mysterious freekick to the home side was awarded, it was almost comical in the predictability of it.

I know that I often comment on refereeing performances – and I will also freely concede that I am as biased as any accusation I could level at a match official – but there has to be some way for these performances to be audited.  When the whole away end is celebrating as if we had scored (almost) on the rare occasions that a decision went our way.

A penultimately-final word for Steve Claridge – he just said when asked about Lewis McGugan that he’d ‘only’ scored 3 or 4 fanastic goals.  I suggest you review your highlights footage again, Mr Claridge.  Mr McGugan has bagged nine goals this season so far, and they’ve all been crackers!  The final word, of course, is to wish a speedy recovery to Dexter Blackstock.

Cardiff City vs. Forest preview..

For the second game in a row Forest face the leaders of the league, hoping they can – as they did last week – contribute to them falling from that lofty perch.  After the well-publicised and not uncontroversial goings on at Cardiff this season it has become both a daunting fixture, and one that would be all the more sweet to pick up a victory at.

Anybody who saw their last home game to fierce rivals Swansea City will have seen they’re anything but unbeatable – although the Swans did play a positive game, which is something we seem to struggle to do on our travels.  The travelling Reds fans should be able to give the boys solid backing in a ground that struggles to lnch for forgotten-man Paul Smith.  Kelvin Wilson still remains a doubt with a back injury (and, of course, subject to endless transfer sive up to the atmosphere that Ninian Park could generate from the home fans.On the player front, Forest are without McGoldrick who is once again injured after a training incident.  Reserve ‘keeper Karl Darlow is also struggling which may see a return to the bepeculation – I’m sure those things aren’t related!).

Our hosts have a slight doubt over Chris Burke who picked up a knock away at Scunthorpe last weekend and subsequently missed International duty this week.  Of course, they do have newly capped England international (!!) Jay Bothroyd fighting fit, and a plethora of other dangerous attacking options – not least former Reds target Peter Whittingham, former Reds loanee Michael Chopra and of course Craig Bellamy.

The other big factor they seem to have is the diplomatic immunity from suitable discipline from referees, and of course the safety blanket of being able to appeal any serious decisions that go against them to the Welsh rather than the English FA.  Not that I’m bitter.  Actually, I am, I little bit.

Cardiff are on a decent run of form – as you’d expect, occupying the top spot – although a draw and a defeat have snuck into their last three games.  The Reds are a little behind them in form, but not by too much – although of course, we should remember that our record away from the City Ground is absolute dog shit, to put it frankly.

The Bluebirds are a bit of a bogey team for us in fact, whilst both games last season were draws – Cardiff haven’t actually tasted defeat to Forest in the last nine games they’ve met.  The last time we beat then was in 76-77 as we were promoted to the top flight under Clough and Taylor.  So really we are rather overdue a win!

Plus we all saw what a team in Red and White can do if they go to a fortress of a team that plays in Blue and plays with positivity and belief, didn’t we?  We did if we watched Match of the Day last week where Sunderland swept Chelsea aside with a magnificent performance at Stamford Bridge.

I digress, but for a reason – because the only way I can see us getting a positive result at the Cardiff City Stadium is by adopting a very positive attitude – something I’ve not seen us do since we beat West Bromwich Albion with a fantastic performance.  Whilst Cardiff bristle with attacking options, I’m not that convinced by their defence…

The slight spanner in those particular works is that I struggle to envisage us having that kind of positive approach to the game, and of course we must remember that just as I question Cardiff’s defence, ours has proven severely vulnerable against less impressive frontlines than that which the Bluebirds will pit against us.

I’m reasonably confident we’ll be able to snag a goal or two, but considerably less confident that we will be able to prevent Cardiff from doing the same.  If I were forced to predict I’d go for an optimistic 1-1, but reckon Cardiff are more likely to triumph than us… naturally I would love to be proven wrong and be celebrating come the full time whistle!

Reds hold QPR, or do QPR hold Reds?..

Nottingham Forest – 0
Queens Park Rangers – 0

Whilst they came to the City Ground as table-toppers which jangled nerves regarding our unbeaten home run, Neil Warnock had a real injury headache which means the side that took to the field at the City Ground was fairly weakened.  Having said that, they have a decent squad and plenty of proven Championship players, so always going to prove a challenge.

In the first half the Reds looked to pass crisply and quickly but often too much so, missing out on the final ball – so it was, despite the Reds probably edging on possession, Camp who was the busier keeper prior to half-time.  The second half was much more positive for Forest – and Billy made some good substitutions that threatened to tip the game in our favour.

Ultimately a stalemate that John McGovern summed up quite well post-match by saying it was ‘satisfactory if not delightful’ – that’s about right, some real good moments, but there is a niggling feeling that we could’ve nicked it against a weakend Rangers side.  That said, they had chances to nick it too – I think a draw was fair.

Billy reshuffled the pack to give midfield more bodies, giving us a side something like this:

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
Anderson    McGugan    McKenna    Majewski    Cohen
Blackstock

The opening was quite open and end-to-end, but it wasn’t until ten minutes in that an actual chance was fashioned.  A decent corner from Lewis was met by Dex in the area, but his header flashed across goal and just over.  At the other end a header from Walker saw Camp do a ‘save for the cameras’ at the expense of a corner.

Lewis threatened with another spectacular effort, picking up the ball inside our half before advancing and taking the opportunity to have a dig from around 25 yards.  We know what he’s capable from that range but unfortunately on this occasion he put it over and into the QPR fans, who travelled in great numbers but made hardly any noise – the quietest away fans of that number we’ve seen for a while!

Shortly after this a penalty shout went up – hard to tell from my seat what occurred in the area – Tommy Smith hit the deck with Lewis in close attendance but I couldn’t tell whether or not there was anything untoward.  The QPR players and fans certainly thought there were – it will be interesting to check out the highlights later (obviously Warnock thinks it was a penalty and has been moaning about it, predictably).

Half an hour on the clock and Rangers came close again – Forest were giving the ball away in midfield terribly easily, Cohen and Gunts were particular culprits – and one of the last people you want to do that with is Adel Taarabt 30 yards from goal.  Fortunately Camp was equal to the decent strike he unleashed and made another decent save, again at the expense of another corner.

It’s fair to say that the visitors had the upper-hand for the remainder of the half – although didn’t fashion any direct chances.  Whilst there had been early indications of positivity from the Reds there hadn’t been a save to make for Paddy Kenny in goal for the Hoops, which is pretty shoddy when you’re at home.

At the start of the second half it should be noted that Lee Camp got a great reception from the visiting QPR fans as he jogged into position.  Always nice to see, not like the dogs abuse that Paddy Kenny got from the Reds fans throughout the game – from the residual dislike of him from his Sheffield United days.  He never looks bothered though!

QPR started the half on the up as they had finished the first.  Smith put in a dangerous cross that Smith couldn’t get to, but it went out the other end for a goalkick.  Mackie too should’ve done better after a good run down the right, beating McGugan, saw him cut inside at a tight angle and shoot into the side-netting.

At the other end Dex looked to have got himself clear with a great run but was forced to shoot from range as the defenders were catching up with him and it wasn’t really a difficult save for Kenny to make.  Just about on the hour mark Billy made a double change – Dex and Raddy were withdrawn for Dele and Earnie in quite a bold attacking move by Billy.

It was a game-changer too – both players integral to moments of excitement to follow, Dele was winning flicks and holding up the ball well (when D’Urso wasn’t randomly punishing him for the heinous crime of being clambered all over by a Rangers player!).  It certainly seemed to give us more attacking impetus and lifted the crowd into making a bit more noise.

One Adebola flick found Anderson, whose cross to McGugan saw Kenny make an excellent save, the ball fell to Earnshaw who looked to be bundled over by Faurlin.  Similarly to the first half incident my view wasn’t great, certainly the fans in the Trent End called for it as did our players – so we had a shout for a penalty too, the referee didn’t give it.  In the same article linked above Billy reckons it was a peno, but more magnanimously agrees with Warnock on the QPR one… I don’t recall a handball in the area though, I saw one just outside that D’Urso ignored.

QPR were dangerous on the break – Agyemang was doing a similar job to Dele for Rangers, and he did well to keep the ball and tuck it back to Taarabt who spotted Camp no more than two yards off his line, but still almost caught him out with a very deft lob that had our ‘keeper backpedalling to tip over well.

The Reds finished strongest, a corner looked to have been cleared off the line at one point – but ultimately the curse that’s blighted us all season continued which is that we just don’t get enough shots on goal, or the final ball just lets us down a little bit.  As added time ran out the final whistle went and the mood of the ground was generally contentment I think, probably from both sides.

As I noted at the start, we could have nicked this – but equally we could easily have lost had Camp not been on his toes.  Some signs of promise though, which will need to grow to something more if we are to get anything out of the trip to Cardiff next week, who now top the table thanks to QPR dropping two points against us…

Forest vs. Queens Park Rangers preview..

The start of a tough run of games for the Reds, well, any game can be tough – but they don’t come much tougher than as-yet unbeaten QPR under the stewardship of Neil Warnock.  Of course, he doesn’t require any introduction – whilst he’s not a popular figure amongst Reds fans, I do rate his abilities as a gaffer and he has a talented squad at his disposal with his latest club.

After a decent-in-parts performance against Coventry, Billy will have a selection poser with Paul McKenna apparently ready for a return to the starting eleven – most likely at the expense of Guy Moussi I would have thought.  The only injury issue is Kelvin with his back problem, he’s unlikely to be fielded I would’ve thought – any other changes will be down to the gaffer’s preference.

Our visitors are missing a few players though (although they do have a considerably bigger squad than us!), Ramage, Cook, Hall and Buzsaky are unavailable through injury, Orr and Connolly are suspended it does mean that the Hoops will be fielding a different looking defence.  Certainly the level of shuffling required will cause ol’ Colin to at least scratch his head a bit…

QPR have put in an emergency request to recall Mikele Leigertwood from international duty with Antigua whilst they might also be tempted to bring back Heidar Helguson who’s been suffering with a shoulder injury.  It will be interesting to see how they line-up – hopefully not with Rob Hulse, who has profited greatly from us in recent seasons and is the perpetual scorer-of-goals-we-seem-suspectible-to-concede-at-the-moment.

Shit, hope Warnock doesn’t read this!

However, we have things to feel positive about – we are unbeaten at home and after an initial run of draws our form at home this season is plotting upwardly – we’ve notched three wins in our last three outings at the City Ground.  QPR have a pretty poor record at the City Ground, but will of course be looking to remedy this in a season they’ve started remarkably well.

Highest scorers, lowest conceders – it’s not difficult to see why they occupy the top spot, eleven points ahead of us.  Their defensive shortages will hopefully give us opportunities on the offensive but our own defensive frailties – particularly with the potential aerial threat of Rob Hulse – and the potent attacking threat our visitors pose, it’s difficult to envisage this as a low scoring game.

As for who will come out on top, it’s tough to say – both sides are capable of overcoming the other on their day (jesus, talk about stating the bloody obvious, nffc!) – both sides are putting an unbeaten run on the line, albeit ours only being at our own ground.  I am concerned about the Rangers front-line and midfield, though.

I’m gonna call it a draw!  Both runs intact.  I’d love a win though.  Preferably featuring some more goal of the season contenders from our midfield… on a complete side note I much prefer QPR’s old badge to their new one… I wonder what made them change it?

The Reds come from behind to beat Coventry..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Coventry City – 1

A really good positive start from the Reds was brought to juddering halt when Wes conceded a clumsy freekick (his second in a few minutes) by fouling Jutkiewicz which was swung in by Sammy Clingan only for Chambers to misjudge a clearance header and divert the ball into the top corner of his own net.  Oops.

Still, smiles were restored with a spectacular equaliser from Raddy, and then the smiles were fixed as Chris Cohen’s freekick somehow ended up in the net without interference from the massed players in the box in the second half.  Forest deserved the win, but left nerves jangling by not converting more of their chances as Coventry pressed at the death.

A forced change in line-up owing to Paul McKenna’s unavailability (although he was on the bench, so presumably either he’s missed some training or wasn’t quite mentally ready to start) saw vice-Captain Camp take the armband in a shuffled starting eleven that looked something like this.. with the usual ambiguity of where the midfielders were located..

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
Cohen    Moussi    Majewski    McGugan
Earnshaw    Tyson

Early doors the Reds looked really up for it – McGugan was looking lively, and less than a minute was on the clock when he drilled a cross in low towards Earnshaw who was denied by a ‘keeper Westwood.  A minute later Majewski played a fantastic throughball setting Tys free in the area, but as we often see he lacked composure and blazed over and wide with his left foot.

Coventry were offering very little at this stage, content to sit deep and invite Forest on to them – presumably with the aim of hitting on the break, there was no early indication of them managing this.  Eventually another Reds move culminated in Moussi finding Majewski with room to shoot, but the midfielder put his shot wide of the post from the edge of the area.

McGugan performed some lovely trickery to get past two slovenly Coventry defenders and into the box, but blasted into the side-netting (although I think we got a corner from it so Westwood might well have made the save).  A ball in to Earnie in the box looked on, but you can hardly criticise Lewis for fancying his chances with the form he’s been in.

Cohen was the next Red to fail to hit the target after another move, shooting over after another nice spell of passing.  In the meantime our visitors did start to wake up a little – Wes committed his first foul on Jutkiewicz right on the edge of the box.  The unpopular Marlon King struck the resultant freekick straight at the wall, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Five minutes later it was the away side celebrating, though.  Another Morgan foul, another ex-Forest player taking the freekick – this time Sammy Clingan played a decent inswinging ball into the box, but even he must’ve been surprised to see it was Luke Chambers who planted a head to it and divert it into his own net to give the visitors a very flattering lead.

The goal reignited the Reds into something more like how they were performing prior to Coventry’s mini-incursion into our territory though, and when Cohen laid the ball back towards Majewski he only had one thing on his mind as he took a touch and shot powerfully from 25 yards, I’d need to see the replay but I think Westwood got a touch but couldn’t stop it going in.  Another contender for goal of the month I’m thinking!

It wasn’t all one-way traffic now, though – and before the half time break made a spectacular save from a Clingan freekick as the Reds continue to look shaky from set-pieces.  As half-time arrived it was with a sense of frustration of us not capitalising on our earlier dominance, delight at Raddy’s superb goal and concern that we looked susceptible.

The start of the second half didn’t do much to quell our fears – a Clingan corner was headed by Keogh and saved superbly by Lee Camp’s feet.  The Reds were giving away possession cheaply and Gunnarsson ought still to be kicking himself for blazing over, unchallenged, as the ball broke to him at the edge of the box.

Slowly but surely Forest were waking up though, Westwood dallied with a clearance which Tyson got a block in on.  The ball spun up and near to the goal-line, Tys got there but the effort was tame towards the goal on his weaker right foot.  Top marks for the closing down in the first place, though!  Westwood was having an unusually shaky game distribution-wise, usually he impresses me.

Minutes later we had the lead that would secure us the three points, though – a freekick from far out on the right touch line was taken by Cohen, swinging in it evaded everyone in the box and nestled delightfully in the corner to give us the lead – with most of the people around me asking each other who’d got the killer touch.  Nobody, it went in direct!  Well done, Chris!

As is the way, we started to get a bit nervous after this – countless opportunities were handed to the visitors as we flagrantly gifted them possession, with strains of she said no, Marlon… she said no (to the tune of ‘kumbaya’), it might have impacted the controversial striker as he glanced a header wide then fired into the side netting.

Aside from a couple of clumsy attempts at timewasting in the corners which we’re so rubbish at I don’t know why we both, the half ended with mostly ineffective Coventry pressure.  A few finger-nail-biting moments occurred in the penalty area before the assistant referee put up the board to show six minutes of added time (which seemed excessive to me!).

The only chance in stoppage time again fell to the sex pest, this time he was on target but fortunately Camp was equal to the effort with another fine diving save.  After a long wait the whistle came and the celebrations could begin in earnest, a tricky few days off the pitch capped off with a deserved win over opponents who’ve been on a decent run away from home.

In a week when their seniors at the club have hardly covered themselves in glory with their childish and clumsy manipulations of the media, it’s great that the players at least are doing their talking on the pitch.  A mostly fine performance – although still some warning signs there with another very sloppy goal conceded, but I’m definitely concentrating on the positives.

I really look forward to seeing the highlights as from where I was sat the strike from Majewski might well give Lewis a bit of competition on the spectacular goal stakes!  As I left the ground I was dearly hoping that the late rendition of ‘She said no, Marlon’ had been made up by A Block but alas it’s not a City Ground original – it was great, nonetheless!

A run of 27 games unbeaten at home (as ever, ignoring the play-offs) is a fantastic run, and a good performance and win to give us something positive after all the uncertainty is the perfect preparation for what will prove to be the tricky prospect of Queens Park Rangers coming to visit us at the weekend.

Forest vs. Coventry City preview..

Okay, let’s draw attention away from the apparent implosion that’s occurring in the upper echelons of Forest and consider matters on the pitch for tomorrow.  We welcome Coventry to the City Ground where, of course, we’re on a bit of an unbeaten run – the bad news for us is that our visitors are on a pretty good run of away form of late, so will undoubtedly be looking to end our run.

Twenty-six games unbeaten is an impressive record at the City Ground (creatively ignoring the play-offs, of course), and as we struggle for things of positivity to draw upon it gets mentioned more and more by the club and hence picked up by the media (and me).  I’d not really noticed us amassing an unbeaten run at home ’til a few games ago though, once these things start getting talked about a lot they seem to be at most risk of ending!

If Billy is actually in Nottingham for the fixture (sic), he might be tempted to tinker with the team that drew at Vicarage Road slightly.  Kelvin Wilson’s mysterious back problem renders him a doubt, but there are no fresh worries from the trip to Watford so there’s plenty of scope for potential tinkerage – with the likes of Raddy Majewski and Nathan Tyson eager to reclaim a starting berth.

The Skyblues are on a decent run away from home, built at least partially on their ability to field an unchanged side for a number of games – that seems set to change, as Coventry manager Aidy Boothroyd have injury concerns over defender Ben Turner and striker Clive Platt.  That could open the way for former Forest striker and notable sex-pest Marlon King to make only his second start for Coventry.  He’s sure to enjoy a less-than-friendly reception from the Reds fans.

In their last couple of away games Coventry have taken all three points from Sheffield United and Ipswich Town, so they will be high on confidence on their travels much as the Reds might feel our own home record sufficiently impressive to give them the edge psychologically.  Of course, with the unsettling news of the latest round of histrionics between Billy Davies and the board, our players might have their mind elsewhere..

Bizarrely the official site preview picks out Ian Wallace as a notable player linking the two clubs – presumably they must’ve forgotten that we signed Stuart Pearce from them, very much as a makeweight in the signing of Ian Butterworth.  Butterworth only went on to play 33 times for the Reds, whilst Stuart Pearce – well, we don’t need reminding of what he went on achieve with Forest and beyond!

As for the game, despite Coventry’s decent away form of late you’d like to think that we should have enough in the locker to secure the win.  You’d like to, wouldn’t you?  Recent form gives the impression of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object – of course, that physics paradox could just result in our favourite scoreline this season playing out, a low-scoring (or no-scoring?) draw.

I’d prefer a win, though!  And still have a nagging fear that we might taste defeat at the City Ground for the first time in aeons…

An exhibition for football fans to check out..

Anyone into the local music scene in Nottingham might remember the criminally under-rated band Six by Seven.  Well, as well as being a talented musician, singer and songwriter, their singer – Chris Olley – is also a tremendously gifted photographer.  Not only this, I’m not being deliberately tenuous – this is of massive relevance to football fans!

In pursuing his skills from behind a lens, he’s been touring the 92 league football grounds with his camera – but this repositions such familiar venues by the stark removal of the crowds and the colour.  It shows us them in a different light, and invites a closer look at structures with which we may be unfamiliar – or indeed, those that we might take for granted every other week..

As well as checking out his website, you can pop along to the dark side of the A52 to check out an exhibition of both the photography and also diary recollections of the tour around the country he made on a vintage motorbike!  It promises to be a really fascinating exhibition, I think!  It opens on 13th November 2010 and will be on ’til 20th February 2011 in The Silk Mill, Derby.

The City Ground as perhaps we’re not used to viewing it…

Things that are worrying me..

There’s been a few things playing on my mind as a Forest fan recently that I’ve decided to just brain-dump here and see what my fellow fans are thinking and feeling too..  apologies for the necessarily self-indulgent nature of this post – but here are a few things playing on my mind at the moment and causing me to worry a bit…

Billy’s rant..
I don’t allow myself to be drawn into taking sides, I try to look at facts – unfortunately, we aren’t privy to many of those.  However, Billy kicking off in the local media repeatedly, often contradicting himself and – when grilled – bottling out of his initial desire for conflict gets a bit repetitive and a bit boring, for me.

If I apply logic to it then he is either supremely confident in his relationship with his employers, or he is angling for them to terminate his employment and move on.  A pity, as like most other Forest fans I’ve a lot of time for the wee fella – but that doesn’t make his willfully vague and profoundly unprofessional outbursts anything other than a little galling.

Of course, there are plenty of muck-spreaders out there who claim to be privy to all manner of the workings at our club, but more often than not it is simply a case of a lot of hot air garnered from listening to one or two rumour mongers who should really know better.  I – like most of us – have no idea how our transfer acquisition panel operates.  I know there’s something wrong with it!

Billy himself claimed to have recommended 60 odd players at his last ‘Evening with’, others claim Billy habitually rejects players he didn’t want – his recent outburst saw him claim Bertrand was nothing more than an act of desperation – firstly, great man-management there, Bill.  Secondly, players of his calibre are fine by me – so resort to desperation more often!

Because I don’t let myself get drawn to either ‘side’ as many do it makes it very difficult to rationalise this obvious unrest behind the scenes at the club.  As a natural conflict-avoider it’s very jarring – and the information vacuum is filled with nothing more than people desperate to appear ‘in the know’ or mischief-making Derby fans… annoying!

Of course, the January transfer window looms large and this is where I think this situation will come to a head.  Mind you, I thought the same in the summer as it became increasingly apparent that it was going to prove a disappointing time in which we really should have been signing players.  Is anyone else struggling with this, or are people generally choosing a side in the Billy vs the Board battle?

Most of all I’m worried about the fact I don’t really know whether or not I have anything to worry about.  Having read that sentence back I’m also worried that I might be losing some of my mental faculties!

Ultimately Billy needs to quit excuse-making.  I have some sympathy with the constraints he works within, but no idea how much of those constraints are self-imposed.  Either way, he has a squad – and I’m not entirely convinced he gets the best out of what he already has.  Other managers in our league would love our squad, some of who are already higher than us in the league…

Players out of contract..
Whilst it’s great news that Chris Gunter has extended his contract (by a mere year), it’s clear after the initial “Oh, good!” moment that this was simply a built-in opportunity from his existing contract.  Great that he wants to enact it, but hardly the most pressing of our contract concerns when you think about it.

Robbie Earnshaw’s contract has at least been mentioned by him in the press – and hopefully discussions are going on to get the striker signed up to a longer term deal.  Whilst it’s been a tricky season for him with injury problems, he’s a key player in our squad and a real talent at this level.

So it’s great we’ve heard about these two – now what about some of the other players out of contract in the summer.  Kelvin Wilson, openly courted by Celtic in the summer, hasn’t been mentioned in terms of contracts.  He’s 25, in January he can talk to other clubs, and we won’t see a penny for him if he chooses to go elsewhere.

Lewis McGugan, the man of the moment – the man without whose dramatic return to first team prominence we would be in the relegation zone on the same points as Palace – is out of contract in the summer.  He’s been obviously unhappy for some time before his recent renaissance – so probably has half an eye on a move away in January.

In Lewis’ case he is still young enough to command compensation should he elect to go on a free, but we’ve seen how these panels take the piss with regard to valuations of young players.  I would be amazed if his goals haven’t caught the eye of Championship and maybe even Premier League teams alike – sad to say, I’ll be surprised if he’s still with us come February.

Combine a poor transfer window in terms of incomings with losing these two potentially and we’re looking at something of a disaster.  Should that happen it might well focus the mind sufficiently to start kicking off at something specific rather than being the perpetual fence-sitter that I seem to find myself operating as.

Fellow fans..
It is very difficult to judge from a snapshot of grumblings at the ground, or the odd browse around Internet forums or Facebook pages – but, and I’m not sure how else to describe this, we do seem to have a bunch of over-reactionary (in words at least, if not deeds) people operating purely on a near-religious belief of nothing more than rumours.

As with any group of people that size there are polarity positions and every shade of grey in between – but the ferocity of opinions I read (and of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion) being expressed based on nothing more than the flimsiest of rumours and hearsay is staggering.  This is my favourite recent example from the Billy Davies fan page on Facebook, a veritable den of bile and ill-thought-out rants.

David Pleat is a favourite target for vitriol – people will forcefully state he’s paid too much, he meddles too much and basically everything that goes wrong is his fault.  The small problem being they don’t know how much he is paid, how he operates nor – indeed – what his actual role is.  It’s fair game to criticise the powers-that-be for not making this clear (wages aside perhaps).

It beggars belief, and I get frustrated as being part of the same pool of people who gets constantly exposed to this either online or – increasingly – in the stands.  Mercifully it’s proven pretty limited in the comments I attract from readers – which helps to keep me a bit more sane!  Or maybe it’s just me… I’m not sure…

To conclude..
I’m not sure how to conclude really, but more than things on the pitch things like these spoil my enjoyment of Forest and make me increasingly question why I spend so much time and money following the Reds (and writing about them!).  It’s not about on-the-pitch stuff, I endured our time in League One with good grace and actually perversely enjoyed a lot of it!

It’s the uncertainty and unprofessionalism that irks me – it’s the utter lack of clarity of where things might be awry higher up in the club, and – given that information vacuum – it’s the ready willingness of my fellow fans to either fill it with vacuous nonsense, or believe the vacuous nonsense of others so readily…

Of course, I’m not quite ready to retire my season ticket just yet – but I’m finding the more ‘optional’ element of away games increasingly tempting to miss – which is a pity.  And so ends my brain-dump, I’d be fascinated to hear where fellow fans are at on these things – because as ever with football fans on the internet I’m not sure it’s majority voices that come to prominence, just the loudest.. (self-included, possibly!).