Ipswich Town vs. Forest preview..

There’s just no respite from match previews at the moment is there?  The games are coming thick and fast, so no sooner had we basked in the excitement of the Derby match did we have to endure the less glamourous performance against Barnsley.  The Reds take to the road to face Roy Keane’s Ipswich side in what feels like our first away game in ages!

Ipswich have just played out a draw with Coventry having had their prior two games against Watford and Doncaster called off due to frozen pitches,  In personnel terms Zuiverloon has returned to West Brom, and they have an injured duo in Brian Murphy and Shane O’Connor.  They might also have half an eye on an FA Cup trip to Chelsea the week after our visit…

There’s been a reasonable amount of talk of Roy Keane’s job being precarious, and casting an eye on their run of results it’s understandable why in this trigger-happy age of football.  They have only won one of their last six league games – at home against Leicester, and lost four of them.  Indeed, their recent league results are a sea of losses with the occasional win – and of course today’s draw against the Sky Blues.

They are moderately better at home than away lately, but it’s pretty difficult to discern any real pattern to their results.  Of course, we can reflect on the fact we beat them at the City Ground back in October, and it was a pretty comfortable afternoon for the Reds, winning 2-0 with a goal for McGoldrick and that spectacular 35-odd yard free-kick by Lewis McGugan.

Of course, a lot of water under the bridge since then – and we’ve got one more game under our belt in the last few days.  Certainly Billy will be eager to get them performing more like against Derby than this afternoon’s slightly less (slightly? ha!) impressive showing against Barnsley today.  With no fresh injury concerns, the usual questions of what to do about left-back and midfield will be those that he surprises us with.

Personally I’d be inclined to use Wilson at left back – rumours suggest he’s going to Celtic on a free in the summer, so if we’re not cashing in we should utilise him when needed.  He looked more comfortable than Cohen against Derby, and the midfielder looked out of sorts against Barnsley too.  I like Chrissy, but he’s not a fullback – neither is Kelv, but he has a bit more pace to get him out of trouble.

I’m not sure whether Ramsey is eligible for this game or not before his return to Arsenal, it’s been a short cameo from the Welsh midfielder but an appreciated one.  Such a pity that Diaby picked up an injury, both for himself – of course – but also because it cuts short any possibility of an extension to his loan.  Echoes of Bale last season!

With Ipswich being absolutely impossible to predict and the Reds putting in two such contrasting performances in their last two games this really is the game that could go any way.  The Tractor Boys are on what has to be considered a poor run of form and they certainly won’t be happy to be merely hovering above the relegation zone, whilst the Reds still lurk just outside the play-offs.

It’s got draw written all over it hasn’t it?  It would be nice to get our first double of the season sorted though, wouldn’t it?

Reds get out of jail free..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Barnsley – 2

Billy must have kept a ‘Get out of jail free’ card tucked in his back pocket after enjoying a festive game of Monopoly with his family over the Christmas period.  It certainly came in handy today as Forest lived up to the ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ cliché and falling behind by two goals to nil against a spirited and dogged Barnsley side.

A dubious penalty (looked both outside the area, and questionable whether a foul took place at all!) was despatched by McGugan and a scrambled effort from Nathan Tyson two minutes later hauled us back into the game to claim a point that, if we’re being honest, we should be very grateful for.  It also of course keeps our unbeaten run at home intact!

Unsurprisingly I suppose Billy shuffled his line-up given the glut of games we find ourselves in the midst of, and if the ‘starting eleven’ competition is anything to go by on LTLF, it’s pretty impossible to second-guess the wee fella in his selections!

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Cohen
McCleary    Moussi    Majewski    McGugan
Tudgay    Earnshaw

The first few minutes might as well not have happened really – it was disjointed and Barnsley were very quick to close down our players, who didn’t cope well with it at all.  Misplaced passes, aimless punts gobbled up by their dominating centrebacks.  It was not an auspicious start by any stretch of the imagination!

After around ten minutes some clever work by Lewis beat two men before putting it through to the overlapping Cohen, his cross was aimed for Earnshaw (if we actually aim crosses – I’m not convinced about that!) but it was relatively straightforward for the Barnsley defence to deal with and it was blocked and cleared without posing much danger.

Barnsley were largely pressing he Reds and hitting on the break – but they looked dangerous when they did so.  Hammill – supposedly a Forest target in the transfer window – put in a cross towards Trippier who kinda messed up his shot, but it fell neatly for Andy Gray who brought a good reaction save from Lee Camp in the Forest goal.

A minute later it got worse!  Barnsley left-back Matt Hill nicked the ball from Marcus Tudgay in midfield and inexplicably found a completely open run to our goal, as our midfield and defence were strangely absent.  As he bore down on Camp he showed great composure with the finish, driving it firm but measured past the ‘keeper into the net.

Forest laboured to get back into the game – the fat linesman infront of the Main Stand seemed to have a strange idea about the offside rule, it wasn’t ’til a freekick from McGugan wide on the right that we threatened again.  It was taken well, but a little too high for the head of Wes Morgan so ended up over, with Tudgay following up behind.

The nearest we came to a goal in the first half saw some nice precise passing which saw Majewski unselfishly attempt to lay in Earnshaw rather than take a pop himself.  Barnsley keeper Luke Steele was quickly out to smother the effort at the near post.  Moments later Raddy was flattened in the area by Foster but the referee waved it on, looked like a penalty to me.

So at half time it was one nil down and not a great performance – after being veritably gifted a goal (admittedly Hill had a lot to do after nicking the ball!) Barnsley had harried and not committed too much going forward, but looked dangerous on the break.  Pretty sensible policy really when a goal up and with the kind of players they have.

They were much more direct in the second half – Hammill had a pop from range which was an easy save, but that was a mere shot across the bow as they’d doubled their lead after great work from Trippier, who got the better of Cohen and put in a terrific cross to the far post where Andy Gray was well positioned to plant a header into the net from close range.  Things were not looking good!

The Tykes kept coming too – Hammill again failed to beat Camp after doing well to beat Morgan, as the white shirts of Barnsley streaked forward.  Perhaps seeking to play their way to a goal might’ve been more profitable but it was a let off for Forest who were looking just as post new-year hungover as many of the fans in the stand.

Billy took off the ineffective McCleary for Tyson, and introduced Aaron Ramsey in place of Majewski who’d flitted in an out of the game.  It didn’t immediately change the passage of play at all – Barnsley continued to press and their intrepid band of a little under 1,000 fans must’ve had skateboards or rollerskates for Christmas, a few spills from them resulting in scabs – understandable why they seem to hate them so much.

As I was saying “We need something really undeserved to get back in this” to my neighbour that’s just what hapened – Chris Gunter had burst forward and Tudgay found his run, the Welshman made a beeline to the edge of the area and – from my seat (at the wrong end to be decisive) appeared to take a swan dive into the area.

Perhaps thinking of the penalty appeal he ignored in the first half the referee pointed to the spot, and Lewis McGugan stepped up to take the spotkick.  He drove it powerfully and low to the left – Steele guessed right and wasn’t too far from getting something on it but it was a well struck.  Earnie grabbed the ball from the net and Forest finally started to show some urgency!

Moments later Tys had done well to dink in a cross from the bye-line and found Earnie well positioned, but he opted to strike first time with his left foot whilst leaning back.  He probably had time to control it, so it was frustrating as his effort looped harmlessly over as the Barnsley fans again started to remind us we were still behind.

That was enough for Billy to make his last change – he took off Earnshaw to put Dele Adebola on, a sensible move as Forest’s most notable tactic of the day seemed to be lumping up to the Barnsley centrebacks who were generally lapping it up against Earnie and Tudgay.  Dele immediately gave us a little more joy with aerial balls into the danger are – and it wasn’t long before we had equalised.

A melee in the box saw more shouts for a penalty – impossible to see from my seat whether they were justified, but Tudgay attempted a shot that was blocked before falling to the feet of Tyson in a very crowded penalty area, he duly popped it into the goal and the City Ground erupted in a manner quite unbecoming of a mere equaliser – but given the performance and fears, quite justified!

This was enough to deflate our visitors, and we could’ve nicked a winner at the end – the best chance falling to Tyson after a good cross from Adebola.  It would’ve been really harsh on Barnsley though who’d certainly had the best of the game.  Whilst not champagne football it’s good to see Forest are capable of scrapping to get a result when need be – but I’m sure we’ll all be hoping for a better performance at Ipswich on Monday.