Forest vs. Derby County preview..

Well, if I can’t get myself motivated for this one there’s something seriously wrong.  It’s the fixture we all looked out for first, and here it is!  Certainly there’s a bit more nervousness than perhaps we’ve felt of late – but as we know, form doesn’t mean a jot in these fixtures.

Certainly the numerous Derby fans of my acquaintance haven’t come across as over-confident in the run-up to this game.

Having said that, they’ve all joined the clamour to get tickets though, and will be ensconced in the away end hoping to see them turn us over in our own back yard.  Given how long it took me to finally see us register a win at Pride Park, it’s an understandable impulse – and it’s not like the Rams haven’t been able to do that to us on our pitch in fairly recent history.

I suspect they’re quietly confident but laying the psychological groundwork to minimise office-based ribaldry come Monday morning should the Reds triumph.  I’d be lying if I said I’d not been meticulously downplaying our own chances of winning in the same manner.

We’ve just sent David McGoldrick out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday so that – with all due respect Dave – is one less sigh for me to make upon seeing what line-up Steve McClaren opts for.  Hopefully that means that Ishmael Miller and Robbie Findley are fit for this – the official site is claiming doubts for Anderson, Tudgay, Findley and Boateng – as well, of course, as Blackstock and McCleary.

Could the loaning out of one of our strikers be a sign of an incoming emergency loan in the run up to this most crucial of games?  Hmm. I wouldn’t like to bet much cash on it, but who knows?

As for our Sheepy neighbours – the big news for them is the long-awaited return to fitness of Nathan Tyson, who is highly likely to make his league debut for the Rams following his summer switch from the nice end of the A5-2.  Whether Nigel Clough opts to start with him (I think he will), or perhaps utilise him as an impact sub remains to be seen – it will be interesting to see the kind of reaction he gets.

Personally I don’t hold much of a grudge against him – a committed and hard-working lad in his time at Forest, with fairly limited ability and certainly past his prime given pace is his main asset.  And of course, as Derby have already discovered, incredibly injury-prone!  Certainly he’ll be on the end of some banter from the crowd but I’d hope not with any real malice.

Derby have obviously enjoyed a much better start to the season than us – indeed, their best start since 1905 I think – although that 100% start has inevitably started to look like a tail-off, and you have to be a bit disappointed with a defeat against Coventry.  As for us, going forward at times we’ve looked sublime – in defence we’ve looked less experience than an under-12s team.

If, and it’s a big if, we can take the game to Derby and keep the emphasis on attacking then we have a chance – but if we let Derby attack us, unless our defensive coaching has somehow miraculously more effective then we could find ourselves in trouble.  A tough game to predict at the best of times – but certainly I would hope that McClaren and co will realise the potency of a win here in lifting the mood of the supporters.

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It’s going to be a tense afternoon, I fear – and after an early start to give myself a suitable mental blanket of alcohol – I’m hoping that the fans play their part in getting behind the boys.  We worked hard to win and retain the Brian Clough Trophy last season – let’s do all we can to keep hold of it, by winning too – not by drawing.

We definitely shouldn’t lose though.  I wouldn’t like that very much at all.

Controversial decision piles on the pressure for Derby visit..

Matt Derbyshire: Opened his account, but denied a penalty late on..

Southampton – 3
Nottingham Forest – 2

It’s difficult to know how to react to this – I was expecting a shoeing, which we didn’t get.  I was hoping to not see Cohen at left back, but he was.  I was expecting shambolic defending – which we were given, but you know what? Southampton are a decent team, but we are unlucky not to have taken at least a point from this fixture.

A combination of laziness, apathy and the need to borrow a laptop from somebody made this the first game in years I’ve not previewed on the site.  I wanted to wait to see the disappointingly short highlights on The Football League show to see the two penalty incidents, they only showed one of them which – whilst not at the best angle – still looked like a spot-kick to me.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning – a line-up that had me worrying that Southampton would be attacking down their right hand side all game with gusto… I wasn’t too far wrong!

Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Cohen
Majewski    Greening    Moussi    Reid
Derbyshire    Miller

It was the Saints who started most effectively – but the Reds who managed to snag the first goal early days.  Ishmael Miller picking up the ball and bursting down the right edge of the penalty area before putting a nice ball across the six yard box, finding Matt Derbyshire in the right place to tap in from close range to open his account for Forest.

Being Forest though, we couldn’t calm the game down and compose ourselves – an attack found Do Prado down the right who had time and space to pick out Connolly in the box, Camp made an excellent save from his initial shot, but the ball fell kindly to Ricky Lambert who made no mistake in firing in the equaliser from close range.

It was all about the home side for much of the half now – Morgan chucked himself in the way of an effort from Hammond, an effort from Connolly was blocked by Gunter.  Lambert threatened again from a free-kick, and finally they broke our not particularly convincing resolve.  Another attack down the right, another cross – this time from Cork – a flick from Connolly and Lambert on hand to head in unattended at the back post to net his and Southampton’s second.

They kept attacking too – a decent save from Camp denied an unmarked Fonte a headed goal from a Danny Fox free-kick.  Suddenly though, Forest started to come to life again – Miller appeared to be impeded in the area, but his appeals were waved away by the referee, shortly after Matty Derbyshire headed just over.

We did pick up the equaliser shortly after though, it was Miller again causing the problems for the home defence.  He fed the ball to Derbyshire who had spotted Majewski’s unchecked run into the box, and was able to put the ball in the net from about eight yards out.  We could’ve snuck the lead too – a corner found Raddy, his effort fell for Chambo whose header was just off target.

So, half time and 2-2 – similar to other recent games, signs of alarming disorganisation in defence, a glaring weak link at left back in Cohen (compounded by Reidy’s unwillingness/inability to provide support or cover), but with some genuinely excellent forward play – and a slice of bad luck in the form of a refereeing decision.

Forest started the second half really positively too – clearly McClaren had found the right words to say in his half time talk – Miller brought an exceptional save from Davis with a header from a Cohen free-kick.  At the other end Lallana stung Camp’s palms from outside the area and won his side a corner.

On the attack again Miller almost found himself on the end of a pull-back from Cohen, but it was scrambled clear.  The game continued to ebb and flow, and Fonte was unlucky not to restore the lead for the Saints with a header against the post from a corner.  Shortly after this Camp made a decent save from a long range effort from Schneiderlin.  Lallana will be kicking himself for not doing better with a rebound off Camp from a Lambert freekick.

With about eight minutes left on the clock was perhaps the decisive moment of the game – honours even at this stage was probably about fair, until Derbyshire got to the ball just ahead of Davis, who elected to haul down the striker.  The linesman was well-placed, and favoured the goalkeeper and his referee agreed – Derbyshire picking up a booking for his troubles.  At the time it looked a penalty to me, having seen the replay, the angle isn’t the best to be honest.

It was more of a penalty than the one we were given against Leicester, and certainly more of one than Coventry got against Derby today.  Them’s the breaks – there’s no point in dwelling, there will always be contentious decisions and the key for us is to get over them and carry on – that is exactly, of course, what our players didn’t do.

A free-kick by Fox was met by the head of Lambert who completed his hattrick.  You would really think the Forest defence would pay more attention to a man who’d already scored two, but no – it was all to easy for the dangerous front man.  We really do look clueless from set-pieces.

So, reasons to be cheerful – we can attack, we can attack well too.  But we can’t expect to score 3 or 4 goals in order to register any points in games – so our defensive frailties are all too concerning.  Cohen is not a left back – if we play him there, he must get cover from infront, which Reid will not provide.

We also, in my opinion, desperately miss the ‘screen’ that McKenna provided infront of the defence.  Not only that, the constant coaching and advising he provided our defence on his pitch.  Given that we have had the same defensive unit with a left-back issue for some time, it’s increasingly obvious to me that it’s the role of our last skipper we are missing – whilst his legs were failing, his voice and experience appears to have been invaluable.

With Derby at home up next there will always be pressure – there could probably no more so than now, the Rams – whilst falling to defeat at Coventry – have had an excellent start, and McClaren and indeed the board are already under pressure.  Something embarrassing in this fixture will bring out deafening voices of discontent.  What ever you do Steve, don’t describe this as just another game.

Even at St Mary’s there was a gentleman I spotted with a t-shirt emblazoned with an anti Nigel Doughty sentiment.  Unfortunately the website listed on aforementioned t-shirt doesn’t seem to actually exist.  The signs are there though – in times of trouble sections of Forest fans will hit the self-destruct button, which personally I rarely find helpful.  We really need to win.  Even more so, we really need NOT to lose!!