Forest vs. Barnsley preview..

As we all have that nice mellow comedown from yesterday’s demolition job on Derby, we have the visit of the Tykes to look forward to as we’re trying to shake off New Years Eve hangovers.  Billy has been quick to talk of not losing focus, and will have the lads well prepared for a game that is inevitably going to be a bit of a comedown after such a spectacular win.

Barnsley have had a tricky festive period – losing on Boxing Day to Burnley at home, and then travelling to Swansea and again suffering defeat on the 28th.  Forest, of course, are on a decent run – particularly at home, where we now are in the midst of a run of 30 league games unbeaten.  Not bad at all really, but certainly a record teams will be looking to end, and the Tykes will be no different!

Whilst the Derby game was relatively clean, it’s likely we’ll be missing Ryan Bertrand who picked up a hamstring injury.  That gives Billy a few options to consider – he might play Chris Cohen there, which was his initial choice when Ryan had to leave the action, or possibly Kelvin Wilson who later slotted into that most troublesome of positions.  Hopefully Ryan’s injury isn’t too bad.

Paul McKenna’s continued absence was apparently enhanced by a virus recently, so the skipper might be back in contention should Billy want to shuffle his midfield pack.  McGoldrick and Adebola remain highly unlikely to feature with their knee problems and, of course, Dexter Blackstock.  Aside from that, we’re in pretty good shape!

Barnsley are only unable to call on Garry O’Connor – his loan from Birmingham has become permanent, but for reasons I’m sure someone who cares more than me might know he’s ineligible for this game.  Adam Hammill is the one to look out for, with eight goals already this season – the Tykes are likely to have to fend off interest in him when the transfer window opens.

It’s really hard to not let the buoyancy of last night’s game let you get carried away, as I seem to normally say – our opponents are not to be underestimated, and I’m sure Billy Davies will be instilling the same thing into his side.  Despite their recent slip-ups, Barnsley are dangerous on their day and not far from us in point terms (four points behind, having played one more game).

That said, we are a tough prospect at home – probably the trip that teams relish the least, and we should take confidence from that little nugget for as long as it lasts.  Hopefully the excitement of our last game will coax some extra people to the ground from the ashes of their revelries from their new year celebrations and we can enjoy a decent crowd.

Certainly I’m hoping Billy doesn’t alter too much, because elements of our starting eleven against Derby were working wonderfully.  Certainly with the injuries it seems likely Earnie and Tudgay will continue to develop their partnership which is looking great – aside from leftback the defence is pretty self-selecting, midfield of course is more difficult to predict!

I’m sure Davies and team will have been keeping a close eye on Barnsley’s latest performances and have the team suitably prepared.  It’s difficult to not feel confident of getting a win, hopefully the team aren’t suffering with the same degree of complacency I feel guilty of exhibiting in writing this!

Best game in history?..

Nottingham Forest – 5
Derby County – 2

Perhaps not the best game in history, but our best scoreline over Derby – who are the worst team in history – and one hell of a way to round off the Christmas period, so the pun was irresistible.  What a way to preserve our unbeaten home league record for the full calendar year of 2010.  Whilst the game played out more to form, this one always had ‘potential banana skin’ written on it, such is the nature of this.

A surprisingly unfeisty encounter – where a dispassionate and shambolic Derby side were summarily despatched with a – whilst handsome – scoreline, one that, if anything, is pretty flattering to our visitors rather than ourselves – as we spurned countless other opportunities to make the net bulge whilst conceding two incredibly sloppy goals – one a good finish, but poor marking, the other a scuffed freekick that shouldn’t have been given.

But still, these are but mere perfectionist quibbles in what was for Forest fans a very pleasant evening’s work from the boys in Red – not that there weren’t jangling nerves, that’s par for the course with this fixture!  Billy’s team selection as usual defied prediction:

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Bertrand
Ramsey   Moussi    Majewski    Tyson
Earnshaw    Tudgay

I was particularly surprised – with no disrespect intended – to see Tyson starting, until I saw that Derby had opted to put Dean Leacock at right back.  Aside from the fact he has no pace, vision or ability, it was of course Leacock amongst others who caused the whole corner-flag incident to, well, become an incident rather than just Tys running around with a flag!

Derby kicked off, and spooned the ball forward ending up with Lee Camp, the next touch they would get would be to concede a corner, which was expertly taken by Raddy Majewski – finding Chambers quite far out, and with at least three Derby shirts surrounding him, to plant a very well taken header into the roof of the net.

What is it about Derby and early goals?  2 minutes on the clock, one nil to the Reds.  However, the Rams struck back on 14 minutes.  Forest’s marking was pretty atrocious and a burst forward from Bueno saw the loan man feed a decent ball through to fellow loanee Luke Moore who was able to beat Wes for pace which hit the bar, I thought via a hand from Camp but it’s hard to be sure, and spun back into the net.

It woke up the Derby fans for probably their most vociferous spell of the game – although it also woke up Forest, Bertrand broke well down the left and crossed to Earnie, who miscontrolled initially before getting it back under his powers – but poking a fairly tame shot goalward which Bywater had no problem gathering up.  Raddy had a pop from range but it deflected and was ultimately saved to win us a corner.

The sustained Reds possession and pressure finally got us the lead back on 24 minutes.  Earnie looked to have gotten a bit lost taking the ball wide to the bye-line but did brilliantly to hook the ball over where Tudgay steamed in with a fantastic header that struck the bar and – according to the linesman at least – crossed the line, because I wasn’t at all sure at the time – looking forward to seeing the highlights!

Moments later and Earnie was one-on-one with Bywater but opted to loft the ball over the ‘keeper, and the goal, rather than simply sidefoot it either around or through the legs of Bywater, who was doing his best impression of a star-fish at that point so couldn’t have been too difficult to find a route past, we were desperate for him to get a goal to give him a much needed confidence boost.

With ten minutes left of the half Bertrand was withdrawn with what looked like a hamstring injury – hopefully I’m wrong, and regardless hopefully it’s nothing serious.  Chris Cohen came on to replace him and slotted in at left-back.  Meanwhile Commons, who’d been quiet so far, got a half chance from range which he kick tamely straight at Lee Camp from around 20 yards.

Tys, who was having a great game running at the hapless Leacock (who’d been booked early doors for a typically clumsy foul on Tyson) did well to trick his way to the edge of the area before putting the ball across the face of the goal but Aaron Ramsey and Robbie Earnshaw couldn’t quite get to it to get us the third goal.

It was Tyson who was the architect of the third goal though – a great burst down the left leaving the hopeless Derby defenders in his wake, before a frankly delicious cross into the area where Tudgay rose from between two defenders to plant a header into the net – no question of this one crossing the line.  As with his first goal, Tudgay accepted his teammates’ congratulations but didn’t celebrate – shows a bit of class, that does (take note, for later).

So half time and 3-1 up and playing very well with hopeless opponents.  Doesn’t sound too dissimilar to last season really, does it?  We were three nil up then at half time and had a rocky road to travel in the second half – so there was a mixture of cheeriness and a fair bit of nervousness.  Surely non-league Nigel would give them a rocket and get them fired up at half time?

Early indications would suggest not – Earnie again was one-on-one very early in the half but seemed to slip or stumble as he pulled to trigger resulting in an easy save for Bywater.  Tyson was still strolling down the left flank at will, eventually Clough decided, oddly, to switch Leacock and Brayford, marooning his one vaguely performing defender at rightback and leaving the hapless Leacock and Barker in the middle.

Tyson’s latest foray down the left wing culminated to him cutting in and going for the shot which – in fairness – wasn’t too far off, although I couldn’t help but look to the three or so red shirts in the box better placed to hit the target.  Of course, there would have been no complaints if Tys had stuck it in the net – if he had, I wonder if he’d have utilised a corner flag in his goal celebrations?

As if he sensed the frustrations of his last decision, Tys again on the left but this time opted to cross in to the centre of the penalty area where Earnie finally got the ball in the net, getting a toe on it to put it past Bywater to give us a three goal cushion and settle the nerves somewhat.   For a brief moment at least…

Used to play for a big club

Straight from the kick off Derby pushed forward and Commons fell over as presumably he ran out of breath, the referee interpreted this as a foul (I won’t slag off the ref though, by and large he had a very good game).  The chubster himself lined up to take it and, again, I need to see a replay – but he either scuffed it or it deflected, either way, it appeared to go under the wall and totally wrong-footed Camp and went in.

Unlike Tudgay who showed composure when scoring against a former club, Commons elected to goad the supporters in the Brian Clough stand with a display of ‘faux fat belly’ and badge-pointing.  The utterly shit Dean Leacock joined in.  It was a little bit like when Waghorn ‘shushed’ the Trent End after he scored the consolation goal in our 5-1 demolition of Leicester City last season at the City Ground!

At this point it’s fair to say that nerves were jangling and Derby did have a better spell.  It was whilst defending a corner (always a risky move in my book!) that Billy put on Kelvin Wilson for the excellent Aaron Ramsey, putting Cohen into midfield and Kelv slotting into left-back.  The corner ultimately came to nothing, so what do I know about making subs at that point?

The loss of Ramsey’s cool head in midfield did see us shaken for a while and Derby did have possession – although they invariably lost it cheaply.  They had one excellent opportunity where substitute Chris Porter got some space in the right channel and put the ball across our penalty area – Chris Gunter calmly dummied it (or missed it!) whilst Derby players slid in either side of him to try to poke it in the goal.

Tyson was our last player to be withdrawn – we guessed that by his switching to the right wing, and he didn’t exactly hurry off the pitch to be replaced by Paul Anderson.  This seemed to incense the Derby bench and shortly after a kerfuffle former Forest player Johnny Metgod was sent to the stand for one too many tantrums at the fourth official.  Tys was taking this piss a bit, but his departure still took less than the 30 seconds referees add on for subs anyway.

All that remained was for Tudgay to return Earnie’s earlier favour – the worthy man-of-the-match put an excellent cross into the area where Earnshaw was under pressure from Barker, but should still have done better than to put the ball over from close range.  He made up for it moments later though, blasting the ball in during stoppage time to make it 5-2 – as noted above, a scoreline that is flattering to Derby more than us!

A really excellent win, and a great way to seal an unbeaten 2010 at the City Ground.  Hats off to Billy for exploiting Derby’s many weaknesses – although I think any of our midfielders would have had a similar field day, special praise should go to those that were selected – a great performance all round that left non-league Nigel ranting at specific players in his post-mach interview, which further lowers the esteem I once held him in…

Barnsley up next on New Years Day – but I can’t help but have half an eye on the return fixture in three weeks time…