Middlesbrough vs. Forest preview..

Pre-season the bookies would have had you believe this was a game likely to be contested between two title contenders.  Whilst Forest’s assault on the automatic places has faltered a degree of late, the fate of our hosts on Tuesday has been somewhat less auspicious.  This is, of course, the game in hand – so if nothing else, by Tuesday evening we’ll have a clearer view of how the land lies.

Saturday’s trip to Millwall was a competent enough performance from the Reds, but their dominance in possession did not translate to goals as Forest struggled to break down a resilient Lions rear-guard.  At the same time Tony Mowbray’s men were on the end of a fairly comprehensive pummelling courtesy of league leaders QPR on their own pitch.

Boro have been a team of extremes in their last five games – wins against Scunthorpe at home, and Millwall away are interspersed with defeats at the hands of Palace away, Swansea and QPR at home – they’re a difficult team to predict, that’s for sure.  Indeed, reports suggest that the weekend result was in no small part thanks to outstanding individual performances from Adel Taarabt and Wayne Routledge.

Despite limping off the pitch at The New Den it’s thought that Joel Lynch will be okay to resume his duties covering for Konchesky’s injury at left back, which is good – he had a decent game on Saturday.  Earnshaw appeared to come through his return unscathed, which leaves us with Tys, Moussi and Findley on the crocks list (I refuse to accept Wils is really injured!).

Anyway, Middlesbrough are – as we’ve discovered of late with other opponents – not a side to be underestimated.  After games in which we ought to have achieved more (thinking Scunny, Preston and Millwall) we really need to develop more of a cutting edge, and fast.  Both in creating and finishing off chances.

I still think it’s too soon to say that failure to get the win at the Riverside would consign us to the play-offs at best this season, but it would certainly make an assault on the automatic promotion places a much more daunting prospect.  Whatever happens I’ll be glad to see an end to the ‘… but we’ve got x games in hand’ type thinking we’ve all be doing.

Scunthorpe away was of course a game in hand and that didn’t exactly go according to plan.  Win this one and we are level on points with Cardiff in third – a one goal margin levels our goal difference, but they’ve scored more.  It would also enhance the slight gap we have to Leeds and Leicester beneath us.

But of course we must not count chickens – Boro inevitably count this amongst their games in hand, and will be keen to be rid of such things as much as us, albeit for different reasons.  They are one of the few teams below Derby in the league table – three points adrift of the Rams, five points away from the drop zone – which is starting to look not great for the current inhabitants of the bottom three.

There’s been a degree of talk about banana-skins in our recent fixtures – and without being disrespectful, both Scunthorpe and Preston have proven to be just that of late.  It does sap my confidence somewhat, and added to the unpredictability of our hosts I’m left worrying we might end up with another frustrating evening…

Come on Billy and the boys, prove me wrong.

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Forest can’t convert lion’s share of game into goals..

Solid performance from Lynch

Millwall – 0
Nottingham Forest – 0

Firstly my apologies for not posting a match preview for this one – I’d got it on my list of stuff to do on Thursday but a busier-than-usual day both at work and afterwards resulting in me completely forgetting to get around to it.  Most remiss!

So, a trip to the supposedly hostile environment of The Den was in store for the Reds this afternoon – and a reasonably open game ended goalless.  It wasn’t without interest though, the Reds had some good opportunities but were denied a goal (or indeed, too many close chances) down to dogged defending from the hosts.  I was certainly pleased with the performance, although three points would obviously be better than one.

Billy had positive news on one injury – Robbie Earnshaw was deemed fit enough to return to the squad, but on the bench, less good news in the shape of Paul Konchesky and NAthan Tyson who remained sidelined.  A return from suspension for Raddy left us with a starting line-up looking like this:

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Lynch
Cohen    McKenna   McGugan    Anderson
Majewski
McGoldrick

The game was lively and open from the off, although few chances fell our way despite some positive possession and pressure.  The first chance of the game came after around nine minutes after Millwall sought to hit us on the break, an effort from Steve Morison was cleared by Chambers but his header only found Bouazza who headed over.

At the other end good work from Majewski found Lynch whose cross was deflected for a corner – alas, we weren’t proving much cop at corners this afternoon.  Our closest to a goal so far came from a long range McGugan effort – he drove it hard and low but Forde was able to get across to touch it just wide of the post for another Reds corner.

Joel Lynch – who’d had a solid game in defence – almost became an unlikely hero, after around 25 minutes the Reds had been passing the ball around nicely and eventually Cohen chipped it toward Lynch in the area at the back stick, he chested it down well and went for the volley, which looked good from the away end but missed the target – the official site suggests it might’ve been a cross which just missed McGoldrick.

Another opportunity from a 30 yard freekick arose, McGugan struck it powerfully but it was blocked.  So powerfully it appeared to spark-out Millwall defender Darren Purse for a moment!  Just before half time Paul Anderson went to ground after appearing to be elbowed, Forest continued to play on and attack, once Millwall regained possession the referee stopped play – much to the chagrin of the away fans.

Can understand their point on that score really – he should have spotted the foul on Anderson, but having allowed play to continue he really should have continued to do so as the home side sought to break.  Of course, I’m glad he didn’t – the largely quiet home fans did make their feelings plain as the half time whistle came and the officials left the pitch.

Which brings me to the venue – it has a certain reputation, but the New Den is a nice ground and – having not opted for the uber-secure methods of arrival (coach travel or train) I can’t say I experienced the kind of terrifying experience outside the ground I’ve heard tell of.  As for Billy’s suggestion post-match that the atmosphere was intimidating – I thought it was pretty poor aside from when even correct decisions were given against them.

Anyhow, Millwall were out and lined-up waiting for the Reds, who had the best of the opening exchanges.  Lynch found Raddy early doors whose shot from the edge of the area was agonisingly wide of the post.  Lewis was looking threatening in spells too, one weaving run culminated in a decent shot on goal which was put out for another corner by Forde.

Just after the hour Billy started to make changes – Majewski, who looked good in spells, but not many spells, was withdrawn for Tudgay to try to give McGoldrick a little more support.  After this (but probably not related) the game became a bit of a stalemate, with both defences standing firm and little attacking opportunities presenting themselves.

Forest almost unlocked the Millwall defence though when Chris Cohen spotted Gunts steaming into the area down the right – alas he opted to take a touch rather than shoot first time, although he did win us a corner!  The corner, as ever in this game, didn’t quite find its’ mark.

McCleary was the next player to be introduced from the bench by Billy, taking off Paul Anderson.  He nearly scored with his first touch too – a cracking ball in from Lewis found the Forest number 12 who touched it goalward only to find Forde there to make the save.  Shortly after this the Millwall keeper was alert again to prevent McGugan from scoring.

Ten minutes to go and Billy replaced the hard-working McGoldrick with Earnshaw, but it was second-sub McCleary who had the next chance.  A cracking run down the right saw him cut inside in the process taking the ball around three players before hitting a slightly disappointingly tame shot with his left foot which was a reasonably comfortable save for the ‘keeper.  A great run, though.

Forest continued to press and were backed by decent noise from a sizeable Reds away following – Earnie put one wide from eighteen yards out, McGugan nearly found him again but he couldn’t quite get on the end of it – and finally deep into stoppage time Earnie scuffed it from the edge of the area.  Somewhere in all that Joel Lynch amusingly skied it from the edge of the area too.

All in all, a good point – as Billy said – and an encouraging performance against a good side.  Results elsewhere see us drop to fifth which is disappointing, but we’ve seen how quickly the league table can change.  Despite limping off at the end Lynch should be okay for Tuesday, which is good given Konch isn’t – Lynch was probably our stand-out player with an excellent game.

Having just started watching The Football League Show it looks like Swansea are the ones to watch, hitting form at exactly the right time.  Scott Sinclair looks to be the signing of the season for just £500k.

Deadman walking..

Yesterday’s refereeing performance (which probably contributed heavily to the length of match report – sorry!) is still consuming my every waking moment.  I was infuriated during the game – and it seems that mostly people are thinking along similar lines.  Whilst I rarely have praise for match officials, I’m struggling to think of a poorer or less consistent performance for some time – so I decided to do some digging.

It would seem that Darren Deadman is a yearly affliction that strikes the City Ground every January or February – he officiated home games against Swansea in 2007/2008, Queens Park Rangers in 2008/2009, Reading in 2009/2010 and finally of course against Preston North End last night.  He has risen from the lower leagues, so it would seem that promotion is our only likely vaccine against getting another dose of the Deadman this time next year.

My main issue with him was his awarding of fictional fouls repeatedly, playing advantages for Forest where no advantage existed, and inconsistencies like booking Morgan for kicking the ball in the air after we scored, but ignoring the more devious kicking aways the likes of St. Ledger et al were performing throughout the game.  He didn’t clamp down on timewasting and, whilst this was to our benefit, he missed two cast-iron penalties for Preston in the second half (and one for us in the first half on Ando that I wasn’t so sure about).

Trawling through old match reports, he didn’t warrant much mention for our game with Swansea in 2007/2008, however by the time we reach the QPR game in 2008/2009 certainly I point out some issues with him.  He ignored an incident which saw Tyson withdrawn needing stitches to his head, he gave us a penalty – but didn’t red card the offender who was the last man – that man then went on to score both QPR goals.  He later booked Wes for a tackle in which he won the ball when operating as an emergency striker.

Against Reading in 2009/2010 we won 2-1, but were denied a penalty for a hand-ball in the area (that’ll sound familiar to Preston fans!), in this game he also sent off Nicky Shorey and gave a penalty to Reading when the offence looked outside the box (certainly Billy Davies thought so in his post-match comments).  Didn’t have much issue with the red card at the time, although other fans in the comments called it harsh.  Lee Camp saved the penalty.

So when next year’s fixtures are out, cast your eye for home games in January/February time and mentally steel yourself for the City Ground once again falling foul of a nasty case of Deadman.  Hopefully the assessor at the game last night saw enough of his nonsensical decisions to perhaps recommend he get bumped down a few leagues and we never have to see him again!

According to his profile page on RefWorld, Darren Deadman believes that to be a good referee requires man management and leadership skills.  I think perhaps a hasty refresher in these areas, as well as basic observation, the rules of the game, dealing with timewasting and spotting a dive are probably in order.  Am I being too over the top or was this refereeing performance one of the worst we’ve seen in ages? (And there’ve been some bad refereeing performances for us in recent years!!).

I’d be very interested to hear your collective thoughts too – indeed, those from any passing Preston fans too as I can’t imagine you guys were too happy with some of his decisions either!

Late lapse denies Forest jammy win..

Forest's newest strike pairing...

Nottingham Forest – 2
Preston North End – 2

Oof. Where do you start with that?  A below-par (and that’s kind!) performance from the Reds, a niggling time-wasting diving performance from our desperate visitors, a serious contender for the most hapless official we’ve seen in some time (no mean feat!), a late 3 points game rapidly turned into a draw in the sixth minute of five minutes added on to the game.  It was certainly eventful!

From having the kind of bench that had opposing managers looking wistfully at our options to bring on as a substitute, we seem to be alarmingly low on numbers – only six named on the bench after late injuries to Earnie and Tyson – and they included youngsters like Nialle Rodney making up the numbers.  It’s difficult not to feel a bit grumpy, but as ever I have a fairly conflicted outlook after this evening’s game.

Billy’s line-up almost picked itself with the late withdrawals of Tys – with an ankle injury (expected to be out for two weeks) and Earnshaw (back injury – no timescale specified):

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Konchesky
Cohen    McKenna    McGugan    Anderson
McGoldrick    Tudgay

The game was delayed due to the late arrivals of the fans taking advantage of the £10 ticket offer, causing both teams to come back out to extend their warm-ups – hardly ideal preparation, and perhaps a pitfall in an otherwise decent idea to boost the attendance for a midweek fixture during half-term.  So it was 8:00pm that saw the game start rather than the scheduled 7:45.

It was a sluggish start but it was Forest making the early tentative running, with the visitors looking rather haphazard in positioning.  Four minutes in McGoldrick did well to get past a couple of defenders and get a ball into the box which after a bit of a scramble Iain Turner in the Preston goal was able to claim.  Later a lovely ball from Konchesky found Cohen whose shot wasn’t too far from finding the inside of the post but went wide.

The best chance in the first half for the Reds fell for former Preston skipper Paul McKenna though, and bloody hell he should’ve done better – a lovely ball across found him in the box in acres of space with the Preston defence at sixes and sevens, but he lacked composure and blazed it over into the visiting supporters.  A real frustration – at this point it looked like a goal would see the Lillywhites collapse, but of course, things change quickly in football!

At the other end Keith ‘Bambi on Ice’ Treacy managed to stay on his feet for long enough to whip in an excellent cross from the left which found Barry Nicholson in the box, he duly despatched a well placed header inside the far post and silence the home crowd and give the small band of fans from Lancashire the chance to cheer.

This perked up Preston and Forest just didn’t compete – Billy Jones had a decent effort from 25 yards that Camp needed to dive to save.  Meanwhile Forest seemed static and unable to string many passes together – the game descended into head-tennis which generally Preston won.  The visitors also started time-wasting as early as thirty-five minutes, the referee setting an early precedent by doing bugger all about it.

Gradually the Reds did start to build some degree of progress – a decent ball in from Konchesky found Anderson who shaped to shoot from a tight angle but his connection played it back across the goal, Tudgay was lurking and got a slight touch on it, but couldn’t react quick enough to turn it goalward so instead it gave Turner the chance to take an age over a goal kick instead.

Forget the timing but Anderson got floored in their area at some point from a corner – reminiscent (admittedly without having seen a replay!) of Chambers being hauled to the deck by his neck in the Cardiff game, predictably the referee gave nothing, but gave a series of freekicks to the visitors whenever their players went to ground regardless of any contact with Forest players.

The final chance of the half came to us when Cohen put a delicious ball in to the six yard box from the left, Tudgay got a good header on it which brought an excellent save from Iain Turner.  McGoldrick was lurking behind Tuds and might’ve had a better chance of scoring, but you can’t really blame a striker for having a go – and he brought a good save from the keeper of course.

The whistle from the referee was greeting by some booing – which, whilst the performance was below-par, is totally unacceptable.  Whether this correlates with the influx of irregular visitors to the City Ground lured by the cheap tickets or not I wouldn’t care to speculate (but sort of just have), but frankly, it’s not necessary, it’s not helpful and it’s not welcome – support the lads, for fuck’s sake!

Half time was a glum affair – particularly as scores from around the rest of the league started filtering through, with most of our promotion rivals doing somewhat better than we were being a goal down.  The promise of a Billy rocket at half time was our only solace as we contemplated what had been a disappointing performance from the Reds against a hard-battling Preston side scrapping for points.

As the game restarted it didn’t look like it was getting much better in a hurry – whilst there was more endeavour from the Reds the early exchanges were more of the same – with the referee increasingly baffling.  I don’t really blame Preston’s players for time-wasting and hitting the deck every five seconds because they profited from it every time by a very fussy referee.

I was just starting to contemplate the words of ‘Can anyone smell bananas’ on my match preview when suddenly the ball was played through to McGoldrick who turned well and found Anderson, his shot was blocked but fell nicely for Konchesky who emphatically volleyed it into the Trent End goal.  Not before time too, it really helped wake the crowd up and got Forest back into focus.

On the hour Billy replaced the increasingly ineffective Tudgay with Adebola from his depleted options on the bench, shortly after Konchesky (who was apparently limping – I hadn’t noticed!) was taken off for Lynch, naturally we assumed an injury and post-match it transpires he’s twinged a hamstring.  Just what we need, isn’t it?  Hopefully the Konch isn’t too seriously hurt – he was one of few players to come out of the first half with credit for us.

The Reds were on top now, though – McGoldrick should have made Turner work harder with a disappointingly tame effort from 25 yards out, however we were still open to threat from the visitors too, who whilst playing conservatively were foraying forward on occasion.  Luckily for us though the couple of efforts they mustered were off-target.

Nialle Rodney was introduced for McGoldrick with a quarter of an hour remaining, creating the dream strikeforce of Del and Rodney!  He probably should’ve scored a few minutes into his pitch-time.  A great ball in from Cohen to the back post headed towards Rodney and Adebola was met by the youngster – but his header clipped the outside of the post and out for a goalkick.  Gutting!

Forest were pressing now and Rodney looked lively and keen to profit from Adebola’s lay-offs, but it wasn’t quite happening for us.  A cross by Dele found Anderson who put it back across goal which won us a corner.  After this Rodney crossed towards his strike partner but Adebola couldn’t get much power on the header so it was a simple catch for Turner.

As five minutes of stoppage time was announced it looked like Preston’s time-wasting might end up biting them on the bum – a freekick was curled inswinging by Cohen.  I didn’t see a touch from him, but Chambers appeared to claim it – I thought it was straight in by Cohen personally and that’s where most of the Reds team, nay, all of them went to offer their congratulations.

That over-celebrating of course always looks daft with what we know was to come, but it probably created extra minute of stoppage time in which Preston were able to equalise.  Forest weren’t able to stave off pressure from the away side, we didn’t stop a cross into the box – Camp looked like he slipped as he came to claim what should’ve been a routine catch, leaving Jones to head over him into the waiting goal.

Very annoying because of the timing.  Having said that, we probably didn’t merit much more than a draw if we’re being honest.  I left the match spitting and ranting about Preston’s timewasting, diving and nonsense – but well, they’re fighting long odds against relegation and scrapping for anything they can get.  It’s the referee who should be spotlighted for doing nothing about it and giving so many ridiculous freekicks.

I’ll be very interested to see the ‘fouls committed’ column for this game – because every time a Forest player so much as breathed near a Preston player, if they went to ground they got a freekick.  Conversely, Preston had two pretty strong-looking claims for a handball in our area – which he didn’t give, so the visiting fans might well dislike the man with the whistle after today too.

It wasn’t until the linesmen seemed to take the law into their own hands that we seemed to get any decisions at all when our players were knocked around.  But, we were also the architects of our downfall, we started slow, we didn’t compete (particularly in the first half) and whilst the comeback showed good spirit, the lapse at the back was frustrating.

On balance I’ve decided to not be too grumpy – listening to the radio on the way home it seems my fellow Reds feel similar.  Some shit freekicks and over-fussy refereeing didn’t cost us the game – indeed, missing handballs in the area might’ve done us a favour really.  Our own performance was below par but the unbeaten run is intact.  It puts more pressure on forthcoming games against Millwall and Middlesbrough though, which isn’t ideal.

The real concern is how thin our squad is suddenly looking – Billy sounded oddly positive post-match despite this, not bemoaning lack of transfers and reiterating he will only bring in quality loan signings if available, and acknowledging that’s a tricky ask.  I’m starting to worry that we will find ourselves once again limping over the finish line when some of our fellow promotion contenders have added depth to give them momentum.

Fingers crossed the quick withdrawal of Konchesky proves to be more precautionary than necessary.  We welcome Majewski back from his suspension from Saturday which is something positive, and await more concrete news on the injuries to Tyson and Earnshaw, but it’s looking a bit of a worry that we are short on bodies at this crucial stage of the season.

As for Preston, I’ve made my peace with their shenanigans tonight – I hate time-wasting (including when we do it!) and diving, but the referee positively encouraged them with his absolutely shocking performance.  I wish them well in their battle against the drop – certainly with Norwich, Leeds, Swansea and Cardiff still in the list of their teams to play they could yet do us a favour!

And if we’re going to cast our final strike pairing as Del Boy and Rodney, then there was only one person on the pitch who was going to play Trigger, and that was the referee!

Forest vs. Preston North End preview..

From a promotion showdown to a scrap with relegation battlers at the City Ground, the games are still coming thick and fast.  Both sides will have good reason to go into these games with a positive frame of mind, too – whilst Forest were beating Cardiff City at the City Ground on Saturday the Lillywhites played host to league leaders QPR and – despite going behind – equalised and earned a draw against Neil Warnock’s men.

Phil Brown will be able to call upon Leon Clarke who wasn’t available for their last game due to the loan agreement with QPR, but is likely to be without Chris Brown and Paul Coutts.  Iain Hume is a possible returnee, he was reported to be recovering well from injury prior to the QPR game but didn’t feature in it nor on the bench.  Of course, he might not opt for changes at all after the weekend’s good result.

Forest came through their game with Cardiff unscathed – despite some ‘robust’ challenges (not least the one on Lewis in the lead up to our second goal by Quinn, the dirty fecker!).  So our only injury concerns are the long term ones like Moussi, Blackstock and Findley – and the mysterious near-constant-flimsy-injury-excuses made for Kelvin Wilson.  Majewski of course serves the final game of his suspension.

That said, it’s reasonably unusual for Billy to not to tinker with his line-up – I wonder whether we might see starts for Tyson and/or McGoldrick.  Although I’ve long since given up trying to second-guess how he will decide to start a game these days, his combination of rotating and presumably keeping an eye on how our opponents might need nullifying are beyond my expertise!

It’s tempting to see this as a home win – we’re on our worryingly increasingly well publicised home run, Preston are – whilst improved under Brown – struggling.  They may have drawn a couple, but they lost three before that – and haven’t won a game since December, and that was against Ipswich, who were also on a bit of a hapless run then.

Do you see where I’m going with this – they’re on a ropey run, indeed, on their travels they’ve not won since September – beating Coventry then Leeds in quick succession in the league.  The latter was a goal-fest, finishing 6-4 to Preston, with now-Cardiff striker Jon Parkin netting a hat-trick.  So they are, frankly, a bit pants away – we’re really really good at home at the moment…

Anyone else smell bananas?

Certainly the pitch-factor that conspired to contribute to our downfall at Scunthorpe won’t be a problem on the morrow, the City Ground pitch continues to be a credit to our excellent ground staff.  Hopefully other lessons have been learned too from last week’s mid-week wobble to avoid any complacency at all.  Complacency isn’t a word I generally associate with Billy, so hopefully he gets that across to the boys.

With Cardiff entertaining in-form Leicester and QPR at home to a rejuvenated Ipswich Town there are a few tough games up there – I’d fancy Swansea to pick up points away at Coventry and certainly think that Norwich will be able to see off struggling Doncaster at home.  So three points in our game would be most welcome to see us remain in the automatic promotion spots.

I think we’ll have enough about us to do it too – with tickets cut to a tenner for this one it promises to be a bumper crowd – even the Main Stand side of the Lower Bridgford End has been made available to Forest fans, so as ever hopefully we can generate good backing for the boys (which will be trickier with the likelihood of a smaller away following unless the game kicks into life fast!).

Thank you very much for six points, Cardiff!

Earnie pulls the trigger...

Nottingham Forest – 2
Cardiff City – 1

A great way for the Reds to bounce back from the mid-week disappointment at Scunthorpe with a rip-roaring win against fellow promotion-chasers Cardiff City.  A really open game in which both sides carve out opportunities was eventually decided by Robbie Earnshaw’s second half strike after Cardiff had levelled Wes Morgan’s opener with a penalty that should never have been given.

Many stand-out performances from the Reds – Lee Camp made two excellent saves, Konchesky had another solid game at left-back and also cleared one off the line, the centrebacks held firm against the not inconsiderable attentions of Bothroyd and Parkin, you would hardly have noticed Bellamy on the pitch which is testament to Gunter’s endeavours.

McGugan had one of his hardest working and most influential performances in a while, McKenna and Cohen both battled like troopers, Anderson had his best game in a while – Tudgay won more than his fair share against Cardiff’s larger defenders and Earnie finally netted after looking dangerous all game – a realteam performance, and really tough to pick a man of the match.

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Konchesky
Anderson    McKenna    McGugan    Cohen
Tudgay  Earnshaw

And that is probably the story of the game for me –  our visitors undeniably have the kind of players many sides envy, but didn’t seem to gel as a unit unlike the boys in Red who worked hard to get a deserved win.  A decent following from Wales was pretty quiet – aside from pre-match largely singing about the miner’s strikes, and after they scored of course.

It was only five minutes into the game when we had the ball in the net – when Anderson was put through and he unselfishly found Earnie who finished well from close range, only to have celebrations cut short by a fairly late flag from the linesman – looked like the right call though.  A pity that the more confident Ando who would develop as the game went on, as he might’ve had a pop himself.

An open game this would be, though, and the next opportunity was for Cardiff, with Bellamy finding a bit of space to have a shot which game saved diving to his left.  On the attack again Tudgay found Earnie well with a header but the number ten fluffed his lines to waste the opportunity.  Probably the chance of the game so far came for Bothroyd who should really be scoring, but Camp was out quickly to make the save.

From the resulting corner the ball fell to Bellamy who struck a decent shot from range, it had the beating of Lee Camp who’d punched it out from the corner, but Konchesky was on the line to clear the danger.  We had three good opportunities from deliveries into the box, Chambers had two headers and Earnie one from close range where – whilst not easy chances – should perhaps have been finding the target.

After a quick break one-time Forest target Peter Whittingham would’ve perhaps counted himself unlucky with a cracking long-range strike that looked to have had Camp beaten but was also just off-target.

Our goal came from a corner forced after a decent move by the Reds, it was taken by Lewis McGugan who found Wes Morgan’s run around six yards out to plant a powerful header into the top corner of the net to give the Reds the lead.  There were complaints towards the referee after the goal, I’m not sure why – I certainly didn’t see anything other than bad marking by the Cardiff defence!

This really picked up Forest who enjoyed long spells of possession – indeed, I’d love to have counted but after Olofinjana had given the ball away Forest passed from side to side involving most of the team before finally crafting a chance when Anderson knocked it in to McGugan in the area, whose left-footed finish hit the top of the crossbar.  It would have been some goal!

The last action of the half was a corner to the visitors but Camp was on hand to claim well in a crowded box.  So at half-time it was all smiles, the Reds were up and looking confident – it’s true the visitors had opportunities too, Parkin and Bothroyd in particular arguably should have done better with opportunities that presented themselves, but well, they didn’t!

After half time was over the game started at a frenetic pace that saw both sides wasteful in possession.  Eventually the kind of open and attacking game we’d enjoyed in the first half started to resume, a decent effort from McNaughton was saved by Camp, whilst a cross whipped in from Gunter on the right was just too far infront of Earnie.

A McGugan freekick was bloody close after Keinan had hacked down Tudgay, whilst at the other end a  strike from Olofinjana saw Camp needing to be alert to make the save.  Then came the nonsense from the referee – which I need to see again, at the time I’d just said “Fantastic tackle by McKenna!” as he took the ball cleanly, the official site claims the alleged offence was by Gunts – and he was booked as Forest players crowded the referee to ask what the hell he was playing at.

That no Cardiff players or fans appealed at the time of the ‘incident’ speaks volumes.  After the complaints had died down Peter Whittingham spotted the ball up and despatched it into the bottom corner, sending Camp the wrong way – which did at least spark some noise from the numerous but disappointingly quiet away following.

It threatened to spark the visitors into life too – substitute Jay Emmanuel-Thomas hit a powerful strike from 25 yards which moved horribly in the air and threatened to wrong-foot Camp who made a good save with his legs.  We were back on the break though, and the referee waved play-on after McGugan was scythed down leaving Anderson to feed the ball through to Earnie who blasted it under Heaton and into the goal.

Whilst he didn’t exactly look unhappy Earnie spared the fans of his former clubs his customary flip – always a nice thing to see, I think.  With around 70 minutes gone McGoldrick was introduced for Tudgay, and later Tyson came on for Earnshaw.  It was a still an entertaining and open game at this point, but with little direct chances created by either side.

We should have had it sewn up though when Tys won the ball in an excellent challenge with their right-back and burst forward, with McGoldrick and McGugan getting up with him we had three men against one defender – but Tys opted for a right-footed shot rather than squaring to his colleagues for a tap-in.  It was a decent shot, and it was well-saved, but dear me! It’s a good job we held on!

Cardiff had one last main attack really but a foul by Olofinjana on Camp gave us the opportunity to take the pressure off, Adebola was introduced but despite the natural feelings of tension in a game where there’s only a goal in it in stoppage time, Forest were never really under any great pressure and saw the game out in a reasonable amount of comfort to claim all three points.

A great result by the boys – and with results panning on remarkably well elsewhere it elevates us back to second place, with our visitors dropping to fourth behind third-placed Swansea who chalked up a win today.  Not long to wait ’til Preston come to visit on Tuesday either – they came back from a goal down to hold QPR to a draw which was another good result from our point of view, so they’re not to be taken lightly…

Forest vs. Cardiff City preview..

Straight back into the saddle for the Reds after a disappointing midweek setback against Scunthorpe.  And it’s fellow promotion hopefuls Cardiff City who visit us with our unbeaten home record firmly in their expensively-assembled sights.  Cardiff currently sit in second, two points ahead of the Reds having played one more – between us sit Norwich who must visit Leeds on Saturday.

Once again Raddy is missing through suspension, but no fresh injury concerns have arisen following our last game – so it’s just the longer term injuries to Dexter Blackstock, Guy Moussi and Robbie Findley the Reds are suffering with.  Dave Jones has a lot of firepower in his locker (huh, Davey Jones’ locker – geddit? Sorry) – indeed, in their last game Bellamy and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas were on the bench!

Former Reds loanee Aaron Ramsey is likely to feature too, and whilst of course it’s disappointing that we couldn’t get the lad back on loan I’d hope he gets a reasonable reception from the Forest faithful.  As well as Bellamy and Emmanuel-Thomas pushing for returns to the starting eleven they also welcome Stephen McPhail back from injury.

In terms of form we’re both looking strong, Cardiff slightly more so owing to our recent dropped points away at Scunthorpe and QPR.  The Bluebirds haven’t tasted defeat in their last five games – and have won three of ’em – drawing most recently with Burnley and earlier in the run with Reading.  Forest of course remain unbeaten in league games at home for quite some time!

We have of course already met Cardiff this season at their place – and we triumphed with a 2-0 scoreline that I must confess surprised me at the time.  It was a costly win though, a dubious (and, shock horror, unpunished) challenge by Olofinjana left Dexter Blackstock – scorer of one of the Forest goals – on a stretcher and on his way to lengthy surgery and recuperation.

A really big game this for both teams – having missed the opportunity to put matters regarding second place into their own hands on Wednesday, this is a second bite at the cherry.  Win this game, win our game in hand at Middlesbrough, and our fate is in our own hands if we can match the results of our fellow promotion chasers.

Pretty big ifs and buts though – with 17 games remaining it seems unlikely there won’t be a few more twists and turns which is why it’s been disappointing to see a few murmurs of discontent from some Forest fans, although this is greatly overshadowed by the general view that the Scunny game is a setback we are capable of overcoming.

Whilst our visitors run of results of late have been solid, their performances are not exactly breathtaking.  A lot like us, if we’re being honest.  Like us they’ve ridden luck to a degree, got a few late goals.  Whilst their attacking threat speaks for itself I’m not so convinced by their defence – this is borne out by the stats, away from Cardiff they’ve only scored one more than they’ve let in (our away stats aren’t any better – luckily we’re at home for this one!).

A defeat in this game would be a pisser – a draw tolerable, a win would be very welcome.  I think these are two pretty well match teams as our relatively close league placing would testify.  We certainly didn’t see them at their best back in November and hopefully Billy can get the better of Jones a second time this season.  Certainly I’m expecting goals – as for who will get ’em and who, if any, will get more – I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue!