Forest vs. Notts County preview..

With more Notts County fans in the City Ground than they would’ve averaged at home last season, and Forest only reluctantly opening the upper tiers for the home areas – it underlines the danger that Forest might not be taking this fixture too seriously.  Or at least the fans certainly aren’t – not that the early rounds of the League Cup generally do engender massive interest.

It’s true we’ve not faced our city rivals in a competitive fixture for 17 years, that day still celebrated as ‘Sir Charlie Palmer Day’ when a header from the aforementioned Charlie Palmer earned the Magpies a 2-1 victory over Forest at Meadow Lane.  That season the Reds were to ascend to the Premier League in second place, whilst Notts County just missed out on the play-offs.

Times change for both sides since then, and that’s for sure – although Forest of course remain in the second tier.  After a lengthy stay in the basement division Notts County sensationally underwent the Munto Finance ridiculousness – but the legacy of that most amusing of con-jobs has at least given them a leg-up to League One where with Martin Allen installed at the helm may give them enough to get up another league.

Are you Derby in disguise? County captain Bishop greets the travelling Notts fans at Carlisle..

An opening day trip to Carlisle and a comfortable victory secured with three first half goals and no reply would suggest he has his side in confident mood.  Certainly ol’ ‘Mad Dog’ will recognise the invincibility a win over Forest would deliver for him in the eyes of Notts County supporters – and as such, I’m anticipating them to provide a stern test for the Reds, who endured a less emphatic start to the season yesterday.

Whilst much of the County squad might be unfamiliar aside from perhaps names that Colin Slater mentions quite a bit, there’s a few recognisable names in there for Reds fans.  Controversial front-man Lee Hughes undeniably knows where the net is, whilst Forest youth-team cast-offs Bencherif and Westcarr will undoubtedly be keen to impress.  Ravenhill and Bishop too could prove a threat from midfield.

As for us, certainly a more attacking display is required from the boys in Red.  Steve McClaren will hopefully have taken on board that neither McGoldrick nor Garner are suited to the lone striker role if your entire midfield is going to withdraw to the extent that ours did.  I’m expecting him to mix things up a bit – although it’s too early in the career of the Reds manager for us to hope to predict matters!

A chance for the likes of Findley and Moussi who didn’t even merit a place on the bench could inject a bit more enthusiasm into the lacklustre showing on Saturday.  Whilst the cup isn’t the priority, and there’s no real glory in defeating Notts County, a win would be a welcome boost for manager, squad and fans alike.  I don’t think it will be easy though, certainly County will be more up for it than Barnsley were.

If nothing else a victory for the Reds will prevent what will seem like a lifetime of gloating from Colin Slater on Radio Nottingham.  For that alone it’s got to be worth making the effort!!  For Reds fans, their latest kit looks like a Derby shirt, so we could always pretend they’re the real enemy in order to muster up a bit of excitement for the fixture?

Paint dry.. it’s just like watching paint dry..

Jesus hacked down by anti-footballer Jay McEverley. There were to be no miracles today, though!

Nottingham Forest – 0
Barnsley – 0

It shouldn’t be a surprise really, excitement at the start of a new season followed by a swift reminder of the frustrations that can come as a result of supporting a team.  A limp encounter, for sure – which saw Barnsley initially playing for the draw with the Reds having no idea how to break them down, followed by a realisation from the visitors that they might nick a win and opening up a bit more – with Forest still having no idea how to break them down.

The customary nonsense about the miner’s strike debated in single syllables between groups of supports too young to have had any direct involvement in them, Barnsley with a mysterious third syllable in their ‘Barns-er-ley’ chant – all in all, frustrations aside, it was good to be back amongst those folks you only see during the season – but hell, it was a really rather dull game – and that’s probably being kind.

Steve opted to start all his new signings in midfield (excluding the Moose of course, who I suppose is technically a new signing), and raised a few eyebrows with his choice of David McGoldrick as a lone striker.  The optimists speculated perhaps he might know something we don’t, or maybe Jimmy Floyd had unlocked something we’d not seen in the youngster yet.  I guess you can guess who was right!

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Cohen
Boateng    Greening
Anderson    McGugan    Reid

I think that’s how the formation was meant to look – the truth is that Boateng and Greening were incredibly deep, Reid too was often found amongst the defence.  Anderson and McGugan dropped deep to receive the ball leaving a gigantic no-man’s land before you found McGoldrick ploughing a lone furrow upfront, getting little joy from the occasional glimpses of the ball he was treated to.

McGoldrick has been in receipt of some rather unkind comments around the ‘net over the last day or so – it’s fair to say he was ineffective but personally I ascribe that to the fact he was played in a role to which he’s not suited, and wasn’t remotely helped by a singular lack of service from midfield.  Sound familiar?  It should, it’s not a new problem for the Reds.

The opening was potentially bright, Paul Anderson was felled by ex-Derby thug Jay McEverley giving us a freekick on the edge of the box.  Excitement built in the stands with both Reidy and McGugan lining up – it was Reid that struck it in the end, and well, I bet he wishes he hadn’t – it was ridiculously off-target, much to the amusement of the Barns-eh-ley fans.

At the other end some good work from Danny Haynes saw him pushed too wide for a shot, but a decent cross was just diverted from their big striker Craig Davies thanks to the attentions of Cohen.  Moments later a freekick from Butterfield found Davies perfectly unmarked at the near post, but fortunately for us he was unable to find the target, heading high and wide.

As for the Reds, plenty of possession, some nice passing (usually sideways) culminating in a hopeful punt forward resulting in zero goal threat and a visiting side comfortable to sit and wait.  With around fifteen minutes remaining there was a bit more of a sense of urgency.  Reidy, looking several yards off the pace, played a lovely cross-field ball to Anderson who in turn beat his man and found McGugan, who shanked it off target.

Keen to make amends, Lewis turned provider, getting away from his man on the left and putting a cross a bit too close to Luke Steele who was able to pounce on the ball before McGoldrick could get a toe on it.  That was prett much it for the first half – it wasn’t particularly good and had succeeded in nullifying the pre-match excitement that had been building.

New boys Greening and Boateng had both looked comfortable on the ball – but hadn’t seen enough of it, and had both been too deep for most of the game.  It seemed to me a little overly negative to have them both in the ‘sitting’ role in a home game.  Reidy does look a little heavy, and didn’t seem to realise he wasn’t likely to beat opponents for pace – he needs to release the ball more quickly.  He can still deliver a killer ball.

The second half saw Barnsley come out more positively, probably realising the Reds were a little toothless.  Haynes tickled Lee Camp’s palms with a low shot from an angle which never looked in any danger of going in.  At the other end a powerful cross from Anderson was punched back into play by Steele, falling to McGugan who fell as he volleyed it and put it wide – a bad miss, and he’d changed his boots at half time too after falling over a couple of times in the first half!

Just ten minutes into the half McClaren made his first chance, withdrawing the isolated and extremely ineffective McGoldrick and replacing him with Garner to play in the same lonely role.  That said, he was hacked down by Addison after not long (and customarily continued moaning at the ref even after being given the free kick!).

McGugan struck the freekick well, a double-ricochet took it out for a corner – it could’ve been one of those that deflected in, but t’wasn’t to be.  The visitors had their moments too, Cohen blocked one effort on goal, and a header from Doyle went wide.  Another opportunity for Forest saw Anderson capitalise on a defensive mix up, he put a lovely ball across the goal but it evaded the lunges of both Garner and Reid.

Morgan headed wide from a corner, and McClaren replaced the increasingly knackered looking Reid for Majewski.  We did knock the ball around quite well, but ultimately the final ball was a real let down – a right-footed cross from Cohen one example gifting Barnsley a goal-kick right away.  The Reds pressured, won corners, but deliveries were never quite good enough.

Lewis remained – despite a quiet game by his standards – our main threat and was found with a nice ball to unleash a volley from around 12 yards, alas a Barnsley defender was wise to the threat and managed to get in the way of it.  Cohen meanwhile was looking decent in defence in marshalling Doyle and preventing him posing a meaningful threat on goal.

The Reds laboured ’til the end but it wasn’t ever really looking like a team that was going to score.  Indeed, the only save I saw Steele make was at the end when Majewski managed to wriggle a shot away in a crowded area with Steele diving low to make the save.  I’ve seen stats suggest we had five shots on target – I’d love to know when the other four were (are they counting the rather ‘firm’ header back to the keeper by their defender?!).

A Cohen free-kick into the box headed towards Chambers who was pressing Steele, but the keeper was able to get a punch on it to clear to herald full-time.  A draw was fair, really – we didn’t offer nearly enough going forward, and looked a yard or two off the pace in most areas – that said, smatterings of boos at half and full time were hardly warranted.

McClaren’s era at Forest starts as many have before him, with a limp performance in the first game.  Certainly it will be interesting to see what adjustments he makes to try to provide more goal threat – his selection this time did a nice job in why he’s trying to canvass for more players, and it’s not hard to imagine how the manager must hope a player like Ishmael Miller might be more effective in the lone role.

With the visit of Notts County on Tuesday night it gives him a quick opportunity to make some adjustments and hopefully opt for a more positive formation in a game that doesn’t have quite so much importance (that said, I’m not sure I really want to hear the gloating of Colin Slater indefinitely, so it would be best to get a win I’m thinking!).  With not that far off as many away tickets sold as they average for home games, it will be an interesting crowd dynamic on Tuesday.

The positives – a clean sheet, the negatives – well, re-read the report, there’s plenty.  We must retain perspective though, it was the first game, and whilst we crave a positive start we don’t often get one!  Certainly it gives Schteve a very clear few of some deficiencies which aren’t new to us, and I’m sure even now he’s working through training as well as hopefully with the transfer panel to address them.