Forest are Hammered..

Nottingham Forest – 1
West Ham United – 4

Where to start.  Going forward we actually created some chances, but another home game of concerted and dedicated defensive suicide meant that our visitors didn’t really have to get out of second gear to register an impressive looking scoreline.  A really frustrating afternoon – particularly after a promising start.  The Forest website calls it a rare poor defensive performance from Forest.  Did they not see the Leicester game either?  Or the Notts County one?  I could go on…

Despite seemingly finding a side with balance and the right blend of attacking and defending at Wycombe, McClaren opted to fiddle and put Cohen back to left back to accommodate George Boateng in midfield, leaving Joel Lynch on the bench.  Interestingly his first substitution early in the second half would restore the team to how it should have started, but it was too little too late.

Any visiting West Ham fans, this might well end up a whole lot of navel-gazing and general reflections on our woes rather than a detailed match report, you’ve been warned!  Here’s how we started:

Gunter   Morgan    Chambers    Cohen
Majewski    Greening    Boateng    McGugan
Miller    Findley

The opening exchanges were fairly timid from both sides, with no real end product from either side.  With twelve minutes on the clock a McGugan corner found the run of Findley at the near post, but the American striker couldn’t get a decent connection and it appeared to bounce off his shoulder and into the West Ham fans in the lower Bridgford end.

There was promising stuff building from the Reds though – some lovely skills from Lewis saw him jink he way past a couple of defenders into the West Ham area but put his shot over the crossbar.  Shortly after an inswinging Cohen freekick was expertly dealt with by Robert Green, having to wait ’til what looked like the last second in case anybody headed the ball back across him.

So we were holding our own, and sure enough the inevitable occurred – a quick break forward culminated in a Matt Taylor cross which Luke Chambers conspired to put into his own net.  This of course woke up the visiting fans, but also the visiting side – a few minutes later a corner found an unmarked Tomkins, who headed it back across to an unmarked Nolan who had the easy task of heading it in.

Again, Forest had moments going forward – a lovely pass from Majewski set Miller free in the box, his shot getting round Green but just wide of the post too as the ‘keeper seemed to have his angles spot on.  Moments later an excellent cross from Gunter was met by McGugan with a powerful left-footed volley that Green turned onto the post before saving the rebound.

The Hammers were threatening to extend their lead too, though – a deflected attempt by Faubert went only just wide before Carlton Cole took advantage of further clown defending from the Reds with a goal closely resembling their second.  A cross from O’Brien found the unmarked Reid, who headed it on to the unmarked Cole who headed it into the goal past Lee Camp.

It should really have been four too, a hesitant Lee Camp didn’t get out to the striker quick enough and but for Wes Morgan on the line he would’ve had his second.  Nolan too should’ve netted his second goal after good work from Cole found him around six yards out with not a marker in sight, but he put his shot wide.

Another good run from Miller was found by Majewski, as the powerful striker burst into the box he lofted the ball over the advancing Green but just over the goal too – meaning we went in at the break three goals down.  In a way it was harsh, but if you defend like that you get what you might not deserve on balance – coupled with the excellence of Robert Green in the West Ham goal.

The second half saw the Reds labouring to look like they were attacking, and West Ham content to sit back and let them.  With twelve minutes of the second half gone, Steve opted to change the side to the one he should have started with, he released Cohen into midfield, and withdrew Boateng to bring Joel Lynch on to cover the problematic left back position.

Not long later he threw on Derbyshire and Reid for Majewski and McGugan.  Raddy had been our best player by far so I was pissed off to see him withdrawn.  Findley moved to the right, Derbyshire joined Miller up front and Reidy waddled around on the left.  Chants of ‘You Fat Bastard!” by A-Block toward Allardyce were unfortunately timed in this regard!

We snagged a goal finally when Cohen and Lynch did well on he left hand side, culminating in a cracking delivery from Lynch to Robbie Findley who made no mistake from close range.  Why oh why the club put the ‘goal music’ on is beyond me – and why oh why did so many Forest fans dance to it?  Dear me.  Completely embarrassing, and on national television too!

Unfortunately there was some more idiotic defending to come for the Reds – a fairly routine ball into the box was missed by Greening, and hen found its way to Winston Reid at the back post, guess what, unmarked, enabling him to pop the ball seemingly through the seemingly translucent and not-particularly-interested Lee Camp.

Forest did – to their credit – continue to labour forward, but it was increasingly like watching a fly trying to piss off a slumbering lion.  West Ham only really deigning to react when they really needed to – indeed, it was the snoozing big cat that came closest to adding to their lead, an effort from Nolan deflecting off Morgan and ending up just wide with Camp wrong-footed.

As less principled fans streamed out to cries of “Is there a fire drill?” from the West Ham fans, those of us who remained really wanted the final whistle to end our misery – it came just after Robbie Findley had beaten his man and put the ball past Rob Green, only to find a defender on the line to calmly prevent us from getting a second consolation effort.

A disappointing afternoon indeed, and it given our problem is with a zone comprising 80% the same players we’ve used for the last couple of seasons it points to a change in training emphasis – certainly Chris Fairclough moving on as coach could be a factor, as well as perhaps expecting footballers to ‘play from the back’ who aren’t capable of it might be problematic.

The result is a ‘Bermuda triangle’ zone between Camp, Chambers and Morgan that – whenever the ball goes into it – causes all manner of chaos for us.  The captain’s armband weighs heavily on Luke Chambers, who is generally more highly thought of by Forest fans than he has ability anyway, and Lee Camp seems to have lost all of his powers of organisation and vocalising.

Whether the ‘keeper really did fancy that move to the Premier League, whether he’s sulking that he was overlooked for the captaincy and is leaving the shouting to the also-increasingly-muted Chambers is unclear – but certainly he’s looking a shadow of his former self.  Coupled with Cohen at left back who works hard but is often out of position, and it’s no wonder we’re so shaky.

If McClaren can’t see these problems then we could be in trouble – because our defensive bedrock has been the foundation of our recent successes.  Expecting the likes of Wes and Luke to be ball-playing centre halves is silly, but also expecting our fullbacks to provide our width leaves them too far apart when we’re caught on the break and prone to leaving a massive gap in the middle – one that Boateng and/or Greening aren’t filling.

We are seeing the difference between Billy and Steve’s ideals here – Billy had his defence well drilled to ‘do a job’ – he also had Paul McKenna on hand to patrol infront of them to remind them what their job was.  McClaren’s more open style allows players to have a bit more autonomy, unfortunately in the case of some of our players, they need to be given uncomplicated jobs.

Otherwise we end up with defensive displays like yesterday.

Having said all that – there are positives to be taken – we created good chances today and we won’t come up against a ‘keeper of Green’s calibre again this season barring at the Boleyn Ground.  Give Lynch a chance at left back and simplify our defensive players coaching and we could plug these issues at the back.

I would like to see us attempting to recruit players capable of playing to Steve’s template at the back – Gunter certainly can, and there’s possibly room for Morgan or Chambers, but not both.  I would certainly be tempted to divest Chambers of the captain’s armband, and Lee Camp needs a massive kick up the arse.  Sounds simple when you write it down, doesn’t it?

The most important lesson of yesterday was, though, to stop playing Chelsea Dagger when we score a goal.  Please.


Forest vs. West Ham United preview..

So Sunday’s pain-in-the-arse kick off time enables Championship TV coverage to continue its love affair with West Ham United.  Despite the inconvenience factor I’m quite looking forward to it – I quite like the Hammers for a couple of reasons, firstly my first away game was against them, at Villa Park in 1991.  We won 4-0 but my abiding memory is the West Ham fans never stopped singing despite getting a shoeing after Tony Gale’s harsh sending off.

The second reason is that West Ham were our first league visitors after Brian Clough passed away – an emotional occasion for us, and the fans who travelled up from London that day were absolutely immaculate in their observation of the minute silence and joining in our plethora of Clough related chants.  I’m not sure what that has to do with previewing the match, but there you go!

Forest will hopefully be heartened by a fortunate-but-spirited fightback after an awful start against Leicester, followed by a fluid and impressive attacking display against Wycombe.  Unfortuantely, Sam Allardyce teams aren’t famous for the open and free-flowing style that Wycombe opted for that allowed us the opportunities to keep attacking them repeatedly.

Our visitors are generally regarded as hot favourites to go back up, retaining plenty of top notch players for this level as well as adding the likes of Kevin Nolan to their ranks.  Having said that, it’s been a sluggish start for them – particularly at Upton Park.  Unfortunately for us they’ve fared better away from home, winning at Doncaster and Watford already.

Whilst only Dex is still not training – Ando, Reidy and McCleary are still out with injuries – the slight knock Derbyshire picked up to keep him out of the squad for Wycombe has cleared up so he may well feature too.  Guy Moussi has stepped up his return to action with a run out in the reserves against Burton Albion.

Big Sam opted to make big changes against Aldershot in the cup midweek, which led to them being knocked out.  It’s likely a return to a full strength line-up is on the cards which will certainly pose a big challenge for the Reds.  The only player missing for them is McNaughton who is suspended following a red card in the Carling Cup.

The leader of the opposition? Fnar!

They’ve just signed Sam Baldock from the MK Dons, who looks uncannily like Ed Milliband – he was apparently highly sought after, although I must admit I’ve not heard about him before – and Leicester haven’t bid for him yet – so he can’t have been that much in demand!

The future of Scott Parker remains unclear but is subject to strong interest from Tottenham Hotspur – who are apparently in talks with the Hammers over securing his services.  Hopefully those talks are fruitful – I’d be happy to not see him in the starting line-up!  Not that he is the only player they have to be worried about, of course.

A spectacularly difficult one to call.  If we play like we did against Leicester from the off, then we’ll get annihilated.  Hopefully we can take something from the subsequent cup game to show some attacking impetus but retain some defensive steel to cope with what I would expect to be a more challenging attacking display by West Ham.

I’m afraid I fear another bad result, folks.  Then again, I am a bit of a pessimist these days.

The bird is the word as the Reds stroll through to round three..

Miller time for the Reds as Ishmael runs amok in the Wycombe defence!

Wycombe Wanderers – 1
Nottingham Forest – 4

You know what, we might have expected a win here – but it was really important we got one – and preferably one by a decent scoreline.  So a big well done.  Steve opted to field a strong team, with four changes to the starting eleven compared to that which lined up against Leicester.

Forest raced to a two goal lead, adding a third in the second half before a slightly dodgy-looking penalty to the home side gave the Chairboys an opportunity to make inroads back into the game.  It was a forlorn hope though, as Raddy was on hand to put away our fourth and sew the game up for us in decent style.

So, we lined up something like this:

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Lynch
Majewski    Greening    Cohen    McGugan
Findley    Miller

I liked the look of the line-up, and it didn’t take long for them to vindicate that general sense of optimism.  Right from the off Raddy found Cohen who played it early across the face of goal, with Miller not quite able to get on the end of it.  A moment later and Raddy again was instrumental, playing a splendid through-ball to Miller, who made no mistake in stroking the ball past the ‘keeper and into the net.

Miller again was causing problems for the home side, this time Greening the provider set the big striker loose, getting past the last defender before being felled by the ‘keeper.  Lewis again took on penalty-taking duties, smashing it powerfully into the goal – the Wycombe keeper getting a hand to it, so perhaps a tad unlucky not to have redeemed himself for the concession.

Heavens be praised the Reds carried on attacking too – Gunts found himself in an outrageous amount of space, and fed the ball to Miller who went for goal but was blocked, the rebound found McGugan who got a shot away on target, but it was saved by the Wycombe ‘keeper.  Moments later he was on hand again to stop a goalbound McGugan freekick.

As the game lulled a little the away end had to contend with the attentions of a strange bird that decided to start swooping down at them.  Back on the pitch Majewski was still pulling the strings, playing Miller free down the left who managed to cut in and get a shot away which was well saved by the ‘keeper.

Miller turned provider with a flick to Robbie Findley, who – under the attentions of a defender – managed to get a shot away, but just over the bar.  The last chance of the half fell to McGugan from a freekick won by Joel Lynch, but he put his well-struck effort just over the bar.  So, 2-0 at half time and really dominating the game, no complaints here!

The risk, of course, is the whole ‘game of two halves’ thing.  Fears were initially allayed – Forest started the second half at a good pace, a nice ball from Findley looked to have set Miller clear but the linesman’s flag curtailed the move.  Lynch too tried to feed the big striker with a cracking cross after a break down the left, but it was just out of reach for him.

Lee Camp was called into his first meaningful action – and was beaten thanks to a deflection on a shot from Benyon, luckily for us it struck the inside of the post and back out into play.  Miller was withdrawn having been clattered by Winfield (he didn’t have treatment though), and was replaced with Joe Garner.  A solid starting debut for the big fella.

Our third goal came around the hour, again Raddy was on hand to provide a dangerous through-ball – this time to Robbie Findley who escaped the attentions of a couple of players before curling a left-footed shot into the goal from inside the area.  A nice finish.

Just as we were breathing a little easier though (not that we were under massive danger, you understand, but just because – well – it’s Forest!) the referee handed the home side a lifeline.  Now, given Saturday’s shenanigans it’s probably a bit rich to complain about soft penalties, but there didn’t seem to be a great deal of contact between Lynch and Lewis.

Lewis went to ground, the referee pointed to the spot.  A pity for Lynch who had had a decent game.  It was a well-taken penalty, though – Benyon stepped up to claim the spot-kick and duly sent Lee Camp the wrong way to slot the ball neatly in the other corner.  A good finish.

Forest responded positively – Lewis feeding the ball to Majewski whose effort was saved by the Bull in the Wycombe goal, the ball falling for McGugan whose effort ended up with a Forest corner.  From the corner Garner got a header in that was cleared well by Bull.  Findley was withdrawn to big applause and replaced by Marcus Tudgay with about 20 minutes left on the clock.

The fourth goal came after good work from Joe Garner, beating Winfield whilst bursting into the penalty area – before unselfishly spotted Majewski in a better position and squaring the ball for Raddy to claim a tap-in that rounded off an excellent performance for the midfielder.  McGugan was withdrawn again with a good reception, and replaced with youngster Kieron Freeman for his first team debut.

He was quite quickly in and amongst it, too – working well with Majewski, and eventually getting a decent shot in from the left hand side of the box and bringing a save from the ‘keeper.  In the final minute he perhaps should’ve opened his Reds account, after a nice pull back from Gunter looked to have handed him a goal on a plate, only for him to slip and miss his chance.

All in all, just what the doctor ordered – okay, with all due respect to them, we will face tougher teams than Wycombe this season, but we needed to see a positive performance from the Reds tonight.  We needed to see some goals, and it’s great to see Raddy really grasping his starting opportunity to demonstrate his ability to unlock defences with his passing.

We couldn’t have asked for much better by way of preparation for the tricky prospect of West Ham visiting the City Ground on Sunday.

Wycombe Wanderers vs. Forest preview..

There could be a school of thought that might see a game like this as an unnecessary distraction, but after Saturday’s performance at the City Ground it’s clear that Steve McClaren’s team could do with all the practice it can get!  So a trip down to Adams Park to take on the Chairboys in the second round of the Carling Cup.

I’d hope to see a reasonably full strength side out, obviously not risking anyone to injury.  Our opponents have had a mixed start to the season – they’ve won only one game in the league, away at Leyton Orient, drawing two and losing their most recent at home to Bury.  Their first round win was over Colchester at home – on penalties, much like ourselves.

As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, I must confess I know not a fat lot about our opponents – but taking the simplistic stance of league standings screams banana skin.  Wycombe won promotion to League One last season after finishing third, just pipping Shrewsbury Town to the coveted last automatic promotion spot.

Whilst I’ve argued a full strength line-up being a sensible ploy for us, I can see the merit in granting experience to some fringe players or youngsters too – however, I do think that McClaren really needs – at this point – to be making a concerted effort to be working out his best combination of personnel and tactics.  Something he’s not really demonstrated in previous games!

If we’d enjoyed the kind of storming start to the league (at least in results terms) that certain other teams not a million miles away geographically have managed, then I’d be quite open to a cup exit – but right now, with performances looking sketchy – we really could do without anything to further dent the old confidence.

Adams Park isn’t going to be an easy place to play, and whilst I’ve already freely admitted how little I know about our opponents, they ain’t going to be looking to do anything other than making it difficult for us – so if we indulge in a campaign of making it difficult for ourselves as well then we are more than capable of being turned over.

Steve McClaren thinks that the comeback against Leicester could turn our season around – that’s a sentiment that obviously appears to us, a top notch performance and positive result in this game could really help us to kick on as we then go on to prepare for another tricky league fixture with West Ham making the trip to the City Ground next weekend.

And of course, whilst we worry about the performances (rightly), we must remember that the points haul we’ve amassed so far is highest in a while at this stage.  Plus this time last year we’d been dumped out the cup by Bradford City (revenge of sorts, since we’d knocked them out in the first round of the competition in the 2009-10 season).

Anyway, I’m rambling in the absence of any genuine insight.  Let’s just not embarrass ourselves!

Forest use another ‘Get out of jail’ card: How many do we have?

Nottingham Forest – 2
Leicester City – 2

That difficult start to the season continues for the Reds, although it has to be said upon seeing the starting line-up, it wasn’t too difficult to divine the potential pitfalls we would encounter.  Steve replaced the injured Reid with Lewis McGugan, and opted to drop Raddy for George Boateng.

A frustrating afternoon for the Reds with a happy ending – to some degree – that goes some way to papering over the cracks of a spectacularly hapless first 70 minutes of the game.  Still, a point is a point.  Plus a bit of deja vu – a 2-2 draw with Leicester at the City Ground, with a stoppage time equaliser (that stoppage time brought about by cheatery and play-acting from Leicester players).  Some things will never change!

So, anyway, our initial line-up was a little something like this, and might disjointed it was too – as, frankly, I would expect anybody to anticipate from a cursory glance at it…

Moloney   Morgan    Chambers    Gunter
Cohen    Boateng    Greening    McGugan
Derbyshire    McGoldrick

The early exchanges were fairly flaccid from both sides – which was kind of what I expected from two sides that have hardly set the league on fire as yet.  It took a quarter of an hour for either side to sting the palms of a goalkeeper – it being, of course, Lee Camp called into action – making saves from a Nugent header, and then from Bamba – both from corners.

After 18 minutes all looked calm, the Reds were building from the back – the fullbacks were pushing on, Greening had the ball in midfield and played a criminally short pass to Chambers, it was intercepted by Fernandes who burst clear, but wide thanks to Morgan busting a gut to get across – he midfielder had the presence of mind to cut it back to the unmarked Nugent who put it in the empty goal.

Suspicions of offside, maybe – I thought Nugent looked a little ahead of play and the ball pulled back wasn’t square or back, but slightly forward – but that’s probably nitpicking really, plus the nature of the counter-attack thanks to our clumsiness on the ball meant the linesman wasn’t exactly in line anyway.  A real frustrating episode, one that Greening will be keen to forget!

It seems we don’t learn either.  It wasn’t long before it was two – and again, we were architects of our own downfall – with Danns latching onto a poor ball again in midfield, his effort was cleared off the line but it fell to the unmarked Fernandes who crashed it home from close range to capitalise on our extraordinarily generous play.

Naturally enough the Leicester fans (who did that daft “turn around and jump up and down” thing – I think it looks bloody ridiculous anyway, doubly so when only half the fans seem to understand what’s going on and join in) started to enjoy themselves, and the opportunity to goad the Forest fans.  Who, like me, seemed to mostly be being anaesthetised by an almost impossibly bad Forest performance.

Leicester will, and should, be looking back at this game and asking serious questions about why they couldn’t capitalise further upon our awful play.  Moloney was struggling at right back, our midfield lacked pace and bite, and Gunts – whilst giving 100% – isn’t a left back.  That said, he put in the one decent delivery of the half for us, finding Derbyshire in the six yard box who conspired to barely connect with a header to miss the target.

Half time was greeted with boos, and – whilst generally I don’t condone such actions – it’s difficult to argue against it today, we really were that bad.  Shambolic at the back, wasteful in midfield and non-existent up front.  A decent side would have been absolutely out of sight by the break, fortunately Leicester don’t quite look the finished article yet either.

As the second half drew near Robbie Findley and Ishmael Miller came out a little early to warm up with Haisselbank, and sure enough both were introduced in straight swaps with McGoldrick and Derbyshire.  It might be a little harsh, both strikers had little or no service, but it did seem to have made a real difference.

Leicester played their part in their downfall, with little forward impetus, content to sit and absorb the limited threat they expected Forest to pose.  A freekick was spanked into the wall by McGugan after Greening was hacked down by Wellens, a break from Danns resulted in a cross right across the six yard box and out for a goal kick.

To be frank, the change came for us with the introduction of Raddy, who replaced Brendan Moloney.  Gunter was restored to right back (as important a change as Raddy’s introduction), and Cohen pushed back to left back.  Suddenly the Reds sprang to life with about fifteen minutes of normal time remaining.

A flick from Miller on a Camp kick put Findley almost through – the American’s shot was good but Schmeichel – who’d had nothing to do up until now – was equal to it, parrying it back into play where Findley couldn’t get the rebound on target.  A minute later Miller did well to hold the ball up back to goal at a tight angle, and turn and shoot – again, the Leicester keeper was up to the save.

The change in mood on the pitch was echoed in the stands – as the fans started to realise an effort was being made, and repaid the favour – and the breakthrough came on 79 minutes when a Gunter cross richocheted around Findley, Mills and Schmeichel.  The eagle-eyed referee spotted a handball by Mills, on seeing the replay, I’m not convinced it was deliberate.  But you have to take what luck you can get!

Schmeichel was booked for acting like a prize arsehole before the kick was taken, as was Mills for the handball itself.  The penalty was taken expertly by McGugan – the keeper dived the right way, so it needed to be right in the bottom corner which it was.  Schmeichel probably sealed his man of the match award for Forest by hurling the ball away in disgust – and being booked for it, and therefore obviously sent off!

A pause while the visitors put on their reserve keeper – ironically it was the man who gifted us three points last season, Chris Weale.  He replaced Neil Danns and Leicester retreated into a world of defending and falling over and feigning injury a lot.  Even their fans joined in by refusing to throw the ball back right away when it had found its way into the away end.

With normal time almost at an end a freekick on the edge of the box was lined up by Lewis – it looked decently flighted by clipped the wall at the expense of a corner.  The previously gloating visiting fans were incredibly quiet by this point, despite the goads of quietness during the time they had a two goal cushion – and this nervousness was reflected in their team as well.

Five minutes of stoppage time was announced – probably about right with the number of substitutions, the red card kerfufflery and the amount of ‘injuries’.  It was in the fourth minute of this time that a Cohen ball in evaded Weale who looked badly positioned, and fell to the back post where I fancy it was probably a Konchesky own goal – but undoubtedly Boateng looks to be claiming it.  A real relief.

What this shouldn’t do though, is paper over the cracks of what was another – for the most part -bloody awful performance.  A better team than Leicester would have really put us to the sword today – and, indeed, on another day we’d never have got that penalty and the referee might well have seen a push for our second.  We got very lucky.

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Hearing McClaren in his post-match interview he seems well aware of this, at least – let’s just hope that he can work a way through it.  He spoke of wanting 2-3 more bodies in – and even uttered that fateful phrase ‘stellar signings’.  We really do need to add some penetrative attacking players into the mix, because at the moment we’re about as much use as a dildo made of sponge.

Forest vs. Leicester City preview..

Two sides with two former England managers who’ve enjoyed perhaps not the kind of auspicious start to their Championship campaigns.  Whilst the Reds might draw some confidence from a midweek win at Doncaster, the Foxes suffered the ignominy of being booed off the pitch at the Walkers Stadium, sorry, the King Power Stadium, where they’ve lost their last two games to Reading and Bristol City.

With eleven signings being made by Sven Goran Eriksson it’s perhaps not surprising that our next opponents appear to be struggling to gel, much like we’ve not quite found the line-up or indeed formation that best suits our new era under Steve McClaren.  I’m not sure what to predict from this one, because let’s be honest, we’ve not got much ground for over-confidence.

Forest have proven unpredictable in terms of line-ups – but it seems likely Ishmael Miller will be champing at the bit for a full debut having made a substitute appearance at Doncaster and continued to get match time in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Brighton.  I’m hoping to see a partnership between him and Matt Derbyshire to start.

On the injury front we’ve got Anderson and Moussi out with shorter term knocks, and the longer term knee-injury victims Dex and McCleary.

As for Leicester, Sven responded to defeat at the hands of Reading by ringing the changes to face Bristol City – so maybe he’ll do the same again following another disappointing performance from his expensively assembled squad.  It would be pretty futile to suggest they don’t have the potential in their personnel to cause us a fair few issues – particularly if we’re in “suicidal defending” mode again.

Certainly I wouldn’t expect Kasper Schmeichel to do us the kind of favour Chris Weale did last year when he somehow let in the weakest pea-roller ever from Paul McKenna to gift the Reds an edgy 3-2 victory at the City Ground.  Of course, the less said about the game at their place prior to that the better – that didn’t go so well at all!

Given the development stage both squads seem to be in under new managers I’m struggling to find an informed opinion on the outcome – certainly I’m not discounting the possibility of us getting a positive result, but fear disjointedness on both sides might result in an ill-tempered affair where neither side is able to break down the other.  Or we might lose of course.

I’m full of insight, me.  What do you think?  Certainly so far the Foxes have shown nothing to justify their pre-season spend-inspired hype – but well, do you expect Derby be level pegging with the league leaders once the season is underway proper?

Oh god.  That’s tempting fate, isn’t it?

Forest get their season under way with a win at Donny..

Chrissy Gunter - long odds for first league scorer this season!

Doncaster Rovers – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1

Just about 2,200 Reds fans had the chance to witness our first win of the season in the bleak Keepmoat arena, cheering on the boys in – well, black and green – with white shorts and socks.  A kit combination of epically awful proportions.  However, it seems to have done the job – so let’s not get too hung up on the fact that Terry the Kitman is clearly severely colour blind!

As for the starting eleven – well – who’d have predicted it?  I don’t think anyone would!  Derbyshire got the nod for his debut, whilst Miller had to be content with a spot on the bench, and forgotten-since-opening-day-and-favourite-fans-whipping-boy David McGoldrick was restored not only to the squad, but to the starting eleven.

To compound the unpredictability there was the (in my opinion very welcome) return of Chrissy Cohen into midfield to give it a bit more oomph.  So we looked like this:

Moloney   Morgan   Chambers   Gunter
Majewski   Greening   Cohen   Reid
McGoldrick   Derbyshire

Sort of.  You know how it goes with our midfield – they’re all over the bloody place!  Anyway, Donny came out the blocks quickest and James Coppinger was their key dangerman, a speculative shot from 25 yards looked to have caught out Lee Camp who flailed towards it, fortunately for us it was wide of the target.

The ‘keeper was on his toes to deny Kyle Bennett shortly after though, with a dangerous shot from the edge of the box which Camp tipped over.  Not that the referee was paying attention though, giving the goal kick to the Reds much to the frustration of the home supporters.  A bad call by the referee for sure.

Forest started to come into the game more though – a solid challenge from Majewski enabled him to feed the ball to Derbyshire, who drilled a low ball across toward McGoldrick, who couldn’t quite get on the end of it – ultimately ending up going out of play.  Tails up though, a ball in from Reidy almost found Chambers, but did find the following-up Wes Morgan whose looping effort ended up wide.

The home side were still creating opportunities though.  Bennett evaded Cohen to bear down on goal, but his effort ultimately ended up both wide and high of the goal.  Shortly after recent Forest-trialee Giles Barnes teed up Gillett who will be disappointed how easy his effort on goal was for Lee Camp to gather up.

Just as frustration was getting the better of some, though, our first league goal of the campaign came from a most unlikely of sources!  Brendan Moloney won the ball in midfield, and wasted no time in pinging a cross to the back post where none other than Chris Gunter was on hand to head powerfully down toward the post.  The ‘keeper should’ve arguably held it, but it didn’t – and it’s one nil to the reds!

At the other end Camp made an impressive save from Coppinger who’d latched onto a ball in from Gillett and unleashed a defence shot towards the back post.  The Forest keeper leapt to tip the ball over with a two-handed save.  Gunter was proving a thorn in the side as an attacker, only being stopped from bursting through from a Cohen pass thanks to a challenge by Dumbuya.

A Majewski volley from a corner which was off-target signalled the end of the half pretty much.  Not a scintillating performance by any stretch of the imagination, but the much sought-after goal acquired, a clean sheet – let’s face it, tonight was only ever going to be about the result really!  Cautious optimism seemed to be the prevailing mood in the away end.

The second half commenced with the home side on the offensive again – Barnes picked out Gillett with a good ball in, but under the attentions of Gunts he ended up putting the ball wide.  Moments later Gunts was bettered by Bennett, but ultimately the cross – from Dumbaya – was poor and cleared by Majewski.

Matt Derbyshire was the first player to be withdrawn just before the clock reached the hour, with Robbie Findley chosen in a like-for-like swap up front.  The game had started to stagnate to the kind of performance we’ve become accustomed to of late, but the Reds did start to wake up – good work from Findley resulted in a foul and a freekick from the edge of the area.

Raddy lined it up and struck a powerful effort – but it ended up on the roof of the net.  McGoldrick – after a more convincing performance than the season opener – was withdrawn with 15 minutes remaining to give Ishmael Miller his first run out in a Forest shirt.

Donny did have a few moments to scare us late on – a quickly taken corner wasn’t well anticipated and culminated in the ball in finding a good run from Gillett.  Luckily for us his finish wasn’t quite so sublime – whilst on target and with some power it was pretty much straight at Lee Camp who was able to save.  Another save came shortly after as Forest struggled to make the ball stick up front.

Miller did show a glimpse of what he’ll bring to the party, a powerful run forward saw him better a Donny defender and whip a ball in despite the defender literally hanging off him.  Ultimately the ball was beaten away, but certainly he looks like the kind of player who could get the crowd excited (and possibly exasperated in equal measure!).

With time tick-tocking away Joel Lynch was introduced for Andy Reid, just as four minutes of stoppage time was announced.  Reidy made no friends with how long it took him to leave the pitch, I don’t think the Donny fans had perhaps realised just how much pace he’d lost [sic].  We were able to see out the game and earn our first three points of the season – which are most welcome!

Top half of the table now, and by recent season’s standards one of the better starts in terms of points we’ve had in a while.

I don’t know what you were all fretting about.