Billy’s battlers becoming bottlers..

Forest unveil their new mascot: Banana man!

Sheffield United – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

So, Sheffield United haven’t won since December – enter stage right, Nottingham Forest.  Whilst I’m not one to show disrespect to our opponents, this is another disappointing result for a team aspiring to attain promotion.  Another one.  On another day when we could’ve made up ground on some other teams at the top as a mixed bag of results elsewhere played out.

Indeed, on a night where we may have to reappraise our desire for automatic promotion and start hoping we can at least keep a foothold in the play-offs.  As it stands this evening, three points separates us in sixth place to seventh placed Burnley.  Seventh placed Burnley have two games in hand over us (which, as we know from bitter experience, does not necessarily equal full points!).

After today’s signing of Boyd, Billy opted to keep his new lad on the bench – and fielded what appears to be a team to try to play the Blades at their own game rather than play around them.  That’s not something we’ve proven particularly adept at in recent weeks, but benched were Raddy, Lewis and Earnie in favour of Dele, Goldie and McKenna in a line-up that looked a bit like this:

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Konchesky
Cohen    McKenna
Anderson   Tudgay   McGoldrick
Adebola

Sort of.  As ever, formations vary – and to be honest, I’d describe ours as largely shapeless – but I’m second-guessing what the actual intention might have been.  It was a first half of few chances – a run from Anderson fed the ball to McGoldrick whose shot towards the top corner was just wide of the goal.

At the other end Sam Vokes teed up a shot for Daniel Bogdanovic lurking around the penalty spot which brought a save from Lee Camp.  The Reds spurned an opportunity when Dele won the ball in midfield, setting up a chance for McGoldrick who shot wide from the edge of the area.  They almost stung us with a good move down the right, Lowton crossing to Vokes who shot but was denied by Camp.

Meanwhile Tudgay became the latest Reds player to fail to hit the target – having chesting the ball down, controlling awkwardly and missing the target from 20 yards.  Then commenced the customary Brammal Lane hoof ball session which resulting in neither team creating much – ultimately the stalemate of frustration was broken by a home shot on target, but it was an easy save.

It was the Reds to take the lead, though – Paul McKenna made a good run down the right, fed it to Anderson whose cross found Dele with his back to goal, but the big striker managed to turn and shoot from six yards putting it under Steve Simonsen to give Forest the lead after 42 minutes.  Little of note occurred before half time, which left the Reds in a good position – 1-0 up and feeling rather chirpy.

We could’ve been chirpier still moments into the second half, a drilled cross by Chris Cohen was almost turned into his own net by Neill Collins, but fortunately for the defenders’ blushes it ended up just wide of the post.  A freekick for a foul on Cohen was struck tamely at Simonsen as the Reds struggled to try to build on their fragile one goal lead.

The home side started to get more into the match – Montgomery had an effort blocked by Wes, from the resulting corner Lowton connected with a header but put it over.  It looked like they would be back in it when Gunter brought down Bogdanovic in the area – the referee awarded a penalty which was taken by the fouled striker, but Camp made a smart dive to his left to prevent the goal.

A rare break for Forest saw Cohen get the ball through to McGoldrick who was a little too slow to pull the trigger to prevent Colins from diving infront of his shot to block it.  Kris Boyd was introduced for his Forest debut at the expense of goalscorer Dele Adebola, but it was to be a portent of ill-fortune for Forest, as minutes later we would concede the equaliser.

Lee Camp was quickly out to prevent Vokes doing damage from a Lowton cross, unfortunately it was a bit misjudged as the striker put the ball through his legs from six yards out to get the goal.  Bugger.  Billy withdrew McGoldrick in favour of McCleary to try to inject some creativity into the side – he soon put a decent ball in to the danger zone, but Montgomery was on hand to block it.

With ten minutes on the clock Sheffield United claimed what proved to be the winning goal – a disappointing one to conceded too.  A corner, a free header from six yards, a cracking header from Lowton into the top corner of the net.  A real kick in the proverbials, and worst of all eminently preventable by simply marking everyone at a set piece.  Very frustrating indeed.

Whilst Forest laboured to get back into it, and Boyd had one chance parried away by Simonsen, but ultimately the painfully familiar scenario of us trying to force a late chance resulted in the typical end-product we’re used to seeing.  Or rather, it didn’t result in an end-product, and of course that means we didn’t get the equaliser, and we lose whilst Norwich win, Swansea and Cardiff draw and ominously Burnley lurk below us, too close for comfort.

How fickle fate is treating us, from dreaming of perhaps pipping QPR atop the table we now find ourselves casting fearful glances over our shoulders at the chasing pack.  As many people point out, there’s usually a ‘drop out’ from the play-off picture, usurped by a surging run of form.  I must confess that, despite usually trying to be a positive character, I increasingly fear that ‘drop out’ will be us.

Certainly I’m not all doom and gloom at the moment, there’s still time to put things right but our run of results of late is undeniably concerning.  Particularly against ‘lowly’ teams (in league placing at least), which is why Saturday’s visit of Doncaster – you know, struggling-injury-ridden-Doncaster also has that increasingly familiar whiff of bananas about it.  Rotten bananas.

I can’t even eat bloody bananas now, I’m that fed up of slipping on the skins.

I hope Billy’s got a plan up his sleeve.  The very thing I love about this league, the competitiveness, the fact that anyone can beat anyone on their day, the number of teams still in contention to get promotion and all that jazz.  I’m starting to change my mind about it now, since we seem to be very much on the ‘being bitten on the arse’ end of these arrangements!

Reds Boyd by Kris signing..

There’s been lots of talk of signings needed, and the gossip from yesterday seems to have had legs as Kris Boyd has joined the Reds on loan from Middlesbrough.  He’s immediately available for Billy to use in tonight’s game against Sheffield United which is great, although the striker hasn’t had much game time for Boro of late.

Of course, signing a Boyd on loan seems to be becoming a bit of a habit at this stage of the season for Forest – with Peterborough’s George Boyd hardly making waves when he arrived last season.  In return for the loan, the Reds have allowed out-of-favour ‘keeper Paul Smith to move to the Riverside Stadium in a loan move too.  A good move for him, as clearly his future at Forest is sketchy at best.

All the best to him and Boro’s bid to try to get Derby closer to the relegation mire!  Indeed, Derby are Middlesbrough’s opponents this very evening.

Kris Boyd was part of a raft of players to arrive at Middlesbrough from Scotland in the summer, but he’s struggled to make much of an impact at the North East club.  He’s been limited to appearances from the bench since Tony Mowbray took the reigns at the Riverside Stadium – so hopefully he’ll relish the opportunity of a fresh start and a different kind of battle at the other end of the table.

Whilst he didn’t exactly have the impact he’d have liked in Middlesbrough, you don’t become Rangers’ all-time leading goal-scorer without knowing where the onion bag is, and given our difficulties in scoring goals lately it could hopefully prove to be a shrewd move by Wee Billy.  Whether or not he can walk the walk remains to be seen, but from reading the official site, he’s certainly talking the talk.

“The loan transfer has come out of the blue for me. I didn’t know anything about it until Monday but once I knew that a club of Forest’s stature and history wanted me, I didn’t need asking twice.

I want to be part of a successful team and one that is heading in the right direction and Forest certainly fit the bill where that is concerned.

There are a lot of games coming up in a short time and I just want to concentrate on what’s right for Forest and do everything I can to help them get into the Premier League.

I’ve spoken to a few people about the manager at Forest and all I have heard back from them is good. He’s got a fantastic record in the Championship and has the right mindset to get the club promoted.”

Welcome to Forest, Kris.  Certainly this makes tonight’s game at Sheffield United all the more interesting.  Fingers crossed he really can hit the ground running and weigh in with some goals against the Yorkshire strugglers.  All the best to Smithy too, I wasn’t one of those fans that seemed to delight in turning on him, but I do think it’s best for all concerned that he looks to rebuild his career elsewhere.