Up against Hull, it’s gonna be dull..

Raddy: Came closest to scoring with a snapshot from range

Nottingham Forest – 0
Hull City – 1

It’s the third time we’ve played Hull in my lifetime, and I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that for whatever mystical reason these are games I’m not destined to enjoy!  Three games, no goals for and two goals against – one point earned.  Whilst there were shots on target, there weren’t many genuine challenges for either keeper – the one that did come was for our visitors and it was taken expertly and that was that.

A frustrating afternoon – Nigel Pearson had done his homework on Forest and set out his stall to invite Forest to try to break them down, and to be frank, we didn’t do a very good job of it.    Cotterill handed a debut to loanee Greg Cunningham at left-back, which enabled him to reshuffle Gunter to right midfield, and have Greening move inside to cover for the suspended Guy Moussi:

Chambers Morgan   Lynch   Cunningham
Gunter   Greening   McGugan   Majewski
Miller   Tudgay

Wes led the team out with the armband on to commemorate his 400th appearance for the Reds – a fantastic achievement, and at just 27 years old there’s still room for a few more games for the big defender.

A chance early doors came from a McGugan cross which found Tudgay whose header was just off target.  Moments later a cross in from Greening was aimed towards Miller, but Basso was on hand to claim it ahead of the striker.  Whilst the Reds carried on dominating possession, those early shows of intent were proving difficult to build upon.  A cross from Radi looked to be heading towards Gunts, but a defender got it clear.

Hull worked their way into the game and Cairney had a tame effort that was easily dealt with by Lee Camp.  A freekick on the right was played in dangerously by Brady but went wide – but certainly the previously closed-off visitors were starting to have a bit more of a look at going forward, but Forest did haul themselves back – a snap-shot from Lewis from distance ended up just over the bar.

The Reds built on the pressure, Majewski fed the overlapping Cunningham who put a decent ball into the box which was put out for a corner by a defender.  From that corner – probably the only decent delivery from a corner we mustered all game – Wes won a header but was only able to place his header directly into the arms of the Tigers goalkeeper.  The last chance was another long-range effort from Lewis, which this time was just over (he had taken an earlier freekick that was on target but an easy save).

During half time both Adebola and McKenna warmed up for the visitors and were both afforded a great reception from the Reds fans, which was great to see.  Indeed, I even heard Forest fans chanting the name of Paul McKenna – which is more than they managed to do when he played for us!  He came on straight after the break to replace Cairney and was warmly applauded by the fans including those who’d been in the concourse during the break.

It seemed both managers had stressed the need to inject a bit of pace into the game – the upshot of which was both teams frantically scrapping about and making very little progress early in the half.  Freekicks from range seemed to be our only chance to get a shot on target – Lewis had another chance at this, but this time struck the wall – the rebound fell for Gunter who had a glimpse of glory and unleashed a shot that was, well, best forgotten – well off target!!

Hull introduced Adebola to the mix who had a similarly good reception from the Reds fans, his first contribution was to concede a couple of fouls!  The chance of the game from Forest fell to Majewski, who hit a lovely effort from long range with his left foot – but Basso, who let’s face it hadn’t had masses of difficult work to do, was alert enough to get across and tip the ball out for a corner.

Forest took some heart from this – the hard-working Tudgay found Raddy in the box who worked well to get himself a shooting chance, at which point he only seemed able to prod the ball gently towards Basso.  The increasingly ineffective Miller – who did appear to be moving awkwardly – was replaced by Robbie Findley, and – as seems to happen but I’m not sure it’s because of – Hull nipped down the other end and scored.

Remember those clipped balls forward that some of you used to groan about when McKenna did them?  Well it was one of those that unlocked the Forest defence, he clipped it over the defence to find the run of on-side Aaron McClean who took the ball into the box and struck a powerful shot under Cunningham and beyond Camp – the first clear-cut chance in the whole game, well worked, well taken.  For all their hard work and possession, 1-0 down for Forest.

Cotterill introduced the still rather-large looking Reid for Greening, and not long after Tudgay was going to be replaced for Derbyshire – but either an injury or some cramp saw the plan changed at the last minute to take Cunningham off instead.  A promising debut from the young fullback.  As has been the case for managers before him – Wes Morgan ended up as an emergency striker as Forest pushed to try to get the equaliser.

Well, I say pushed – Hull did a real job on frustrating our endeavours before they became anything approximating a threat.  We got the ball regularly to the final third but I can’t recall a single significant chance to score from the Reds.  Begrudgingly you just have to take your hat off to our visitors for their defensive work, and also perhaps start to point an accusing finger to those of our players who should be providing more opportunities to threaten the opponents goal.

I do think the referee bottled an absolutely shocking challenge late on by Fryatt on Andy Reid though.  It wasn’t going to be a game changer, but tackles like that are a red card in my book.  Particularly given that it was deep in our own half – so there was no bloody need for it even from a nullifying any tiny threat we might have caused from possession in that area of the pitch.

Disappointing, but at least Cotterill has had a chance to see some of the forward-moving frustrations we suffer from and think about how to go about putting these things right on Tuesday night.  As for me, the excitement I had at the idea of finally playing Hull last season is quickly turning to that sense of dread we used to have when facing Walsall – it’s not because I have any issue with the Tigers, but we just don’t seem to be able to perform against them!

Forest vs. Hull City preview..

Three wins on the bounce?  Sounds a bit outlandish, doesn’t it?  It sounds even more so when you consider our visitors on Saturday are unbeaten in eight games and not far off the pace being set at the top end of the table.  Having said that, who was expecting wins against Middlesbrough and Blackpool?  I must confess, not I.

I’m not getting carried away either though – Hull are a decent well-organised side under the tutelage of Nigel Pearson, and won’t succumb easily to the slightly more promising advances of the mighty Reds.  As well as undoubted improvement amongst our number, there has been luck that has been attained – particularly at Blackpool – or performances of opponents that were surprisingly poor (Middlesbrough).

Loan signing Greg Cunningham looks likely to make his debut at left-back, which frees up Gunts who covered the position in the absence of Clint Hill up at Blackpool.  Whether Steve opts to stay with Chambers at right back and utilise Gunts in midfield again remains to be seen, but given the suspension to Guy Moussi he might do this to enable Jonathan Greening to drop in to the more central midfield role.

The ‘crock list’ remains the same – Blackstock, Anderson, Boateng, Cohen and McCleary all feature on the long-term sick-list.  As for Hull, they may be able to call on Martyn Waghorn who’s missed a couple of games with a hamstring injury, whilst ex-Red Nicky Barmby is a potential doubt with a calf problem.  Andy Dawson, Cameron Stewart and Martin Pusic are likely to miss the game.

It was Hull of course last season who put paid to our impressive run of home results – winning one-nil in a not-particularly-thrilling encounter from our point of view.  A single Matty Fryatt strike was enough to seal the win for the Tigers.  A similarly cagey nil-nil took place at their place earlier in the season – the first time we’d met them in a fixture for some thirty odd years if memory serves.

I’m intrigued to see what will happen – Cotterill’s first full week with the squad since arriving, and what must be an obviously more-buoyant-than-before dressing room gives cause for optimism on the terraces, but of course any battle-hardened Forest fan will know, optimism is something to be kept under strict control.  It’s true we’ve come up against two games ‘on paper’ that I didn’t expect to win and did regardless, but this is definitely another one.

The main thing is that fug of dread that was creeping in to visits to the City Ground under the-other-Steve has lifted for me, I relish my trips to watch Forest again and this weekend is no different.  Let’s see what Saturday brings, eh?

Oh we do like to be beside the sea-side…

Wes celebrates the opener..

Blackpool – 1
Nottingham Forest – 2

What a difference a new Steve makes, eh?  Blackpool have proven a considerable thorn in the side of our recent history, so a win at their place shouldn’t be downplayed.  Even the announcer during the half time ‘zorb’ competition between a Tangerine and a Reds fan announced smugly “And Blackpool beat Forest… again!” as their fan got his slightly-more-inflated-looking ball over the finish line before the Reds fan.

Certainly there was fortune involved, some wasteful finishing from the home side is a factor – then again, some adversity too – a questionable refereeing performance left us finishing the game without Guy Moussi, victim of two ludicrously soft bookings that would see games across the country called off due to lack of players if they became the norm for referees.  But anyway, the boys dug in and ground out the result – so that’s a fairly inconsequential fly in the ointment.

With Clint Hill disappointingly recalled to QPR it meant a re-jig in personnel – Gunter moved from right midfield to left back, with Greening coming from the bench into a narrower looking midfield.. something like this, but with Lewis perhaps a bit more advanced and ‘free-er’ in where you might find him on the pitch, resulting often in a more narrow midfield than we saw against Middlesbrough in midweek..

Chambers    Morgan    Lynch    Gunter
McGugan    Greening    Moussi    Majewski
Tudgay    Miller

The first half was pretty scrappy – there were few clear cut chances early doors, a cross from Tudgay was heading towards Miller but Gilks was able to intercept it fairly easily.  The home side was posing little threat either – the first job Lee Camp really needed to do was claim a corner under pressure from two home players.  Meanwhile at the other end a freekick from McGugan fell at the back post but Chambers just headed over.

Forest continued to edge an edgy half – an effort from around twenty yards from Miller deflected, taking the sting out of it and providing Gilks with an easy save to make.  Meanwhile the home side too were starting to fashion chances – a cross from Eardley also deflected making Camp’s life a little difficult – but he was able to gather it.  Moussi lost out to Shelvey whose cross was hammered somehow clear by Morgan when an own-goal looked a real danger.

From this point the half sprung more into life – a delicious left-footed cross by Luke Chambers of all people found Marcus Tudgay, who did well to get a looping header on it whilst jumping backwards.  A smart save by Gilks gave Forest the corner – amazingly, a corner that we actually eventually score from – will wonders never cease?

McGugan’s corner found its’ way to the back post where Wes managed to rise to plant a header low into the corner.  Question marks should probably be asked about both defending and goalkeeping – but hell, we’ll take it regardless!  As ever though, those crucial couple of minutes after scoring a goal were almost our undoing again.  The red herring in this encounter is Miller being on the ground during the build-up – a la Derby (albeit not a serious injury), this wasn’t the issue I took exception to – the ref should’ve played on.

However the referee ignored the fact that McGugan had been felled by Eardley and let play go on, Chambers stood off Phillips who turned and hit a well-placed shot into the bottom corner – but really Lee Camp should be asking himself a few questions too.  You kind of expect idiot refereeing these days, so that doesn’t make up for the subsequent mistakes our lads made.  Half time and all level, perhaps a little harshly but it had been a closely contested half.

Forest started the second half brightly – Raddy and Tudgay worked well together to fashion a cross which was cleared uncomfortably by Cathcart for a Forest corner.  Lewis put in another good delivery which Chambers headed off-target when he really should’ve done better.  As the momentum seemed to be waning Cotterill made a couple of changes – introducing Derbyshire and Moloney for Miller and Greening respectively.

The home side were looking dangerous though, particularly through former Notts County loanee Thomas Ince who beguiled the Forest defence with both pace and trickery – having an effort on goal that hit the side netting.  Not helping Forest’s cause was the referee who seemed to only have eyes for falling over Blackpool players – of course, I only have eyes for falling over Forest players so maybe my own bias is creeping in there.

Ince created a great chance for Phillips to net again, but the experienced front man conspired to miss from about two yards out.  Ince again burst into the area and beat both Gunter and Derbyshire with some great footwork, he looked to have beaten Camp with his shot too which cannoned off the post – Forest eventually managing to get the ball clear.  Proper backs-against-the-wall stuff, it was starting to look like.

Just as we feared the worst though, something unexpected occurred.  A long throw into the box from the left by Gunter was either nodded back by Derbyshire or badly cleared by a defender (even after watching the replay I can’t work it out!) – either way, it fell invitingly for Majewski who swept the ball on the half-volley through the legs of both defender and goalkeeper from around ten yards to give Forest the lead somewhat against the run of play.

The celebrations were naturally jubilant – Moussi ended up on the other side of the advertising board, but didn’t make any contact with the supporters yet was carded by the referee somewhat harshly.  Moussi’s actions were no more than you see at any game (we’ve seen a LOT of opposing players celebrating goals afterall).  It was to prove a costly piece of harsh judgement from the referee.

Taking the lead gave Forest initial impetus though, Majewski turned provider to hold up the ball and tee up Moloney who struck a decent effort, but not too difficult for Gilks to gather.  The home side were starting to build up their own momentum though.  Derbyshire was booked for being fouled, and shortly after Moussi got his marching orders – he did clip their player who went down like he’d been shot, it was a foul – a booking?  Maybe I guess.  Obviously added to his earlier ridiculous card though it made for a sending off.  Frustrating!

The Reds reshuffled quite quickly, Cotterill taking off the similarly harshly-carded Derbyshire to prevent something similar happening to him – and replacing him with Andy Reid to add more ballast (sorry, Reidy!) to midfield.  It’s the first we’ve seen of him under the new manager and he certainly cut a more dynamic figure than we’ve seen so far last season – he took up position on the left, sending Raddy to the middle and barked orders to his teammates.

It was mostly defending for Forest from here on – and the lads dug in admirably to deny Blackpool with blocks and tackles aplenty.  It’s true that Phillips missed another golden opportunity, as did Shelvey, but the Reds managed to clear their lines after each attack had broken on them and get the ball clear to safety.  Admittedly it usually came straight back, but ultimately we weren’t to be breached again.

The reaction from the players at the final whistle spoke volumes – they mostly stopped and dropped to the ground.  They were knackered, they’d put in a tremendous effort and got a cracking result.  Once they’d had the chance to take stock they naturally joined the raucous celebrations going on in the away end.  Whilst I have no malice at all towards Blackpool, it did feel a bit cathartic finally getting a result against them, I must admit.

Not a classic though – all three goals were eminently preventable, but three things we can’t be denied are much needed points.  Still some way to go, but Cotterill’s is already a couple of points shy of what McClaren had managed to accomplish after ten games in the league.  Onwards and upwards, hopefully!

Making plans for (not having) Nigel..

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I’m not sure who they are, or why they say that so much – but apparently they do.  It’s perhaps a succinct way to mark the departure of Nigel Doughty as Forest chairman after ten years.  It’s undeniable we’ve seen some disappointing times in the last decade.

I’m not going to engage in the sometimes disgracefully personal and willfully ignorant debate (from whatever stance you take) that goes on regarding his tenure – it seems fruitless.  I do think it’s fair to say that he took on Forest at a time when we needed someone to pick up a mess that ultimately our greedy committee members had left us in.

There’s little point in denying there have been plenty of mistakes along the way – an early one perhaps proving a significant barrier to making some bolder decisions in the future.  The final mistake in moving heaven and earth to acquire Steve McClaren was the straw that broke the camel’s back – when the Wally walked, Nigel fell on his brolly.

Whilst there’s lots of talk of takeovers, I’m not sure that’s likely in the current climate – but not impossible.  Doughty has put Forest in the hands of Seymour Pierce – an investment bank (who also have other clubs on ‘their books’ apparently) to handle any potential new-owner approaches.  I wonder if I’m the only one who absent mindedly fantasised about the owner handing Forest over to an S Pearce.  Oh, just me then!

Given some of the vitriol directed both his way and towards his family (both his kids use Twitter), I’m quite pleased for him that he’s taken a full step backwards.  I’m not suggesting fans shouldn’t have the right to register their dissatisfaction or protest – but only in an appropriate way, and as ever some folks seem to take it too far.

That he’ll honour his liabilities and leave Forest ostensibly debt free ultimately means that he leaves Forest in the league pyramid roughly where he found them – but in considerably better shape financially.  With the constant talk of financial fair play, however, it casts a lot of doubt over those players whose contracts will end in the summer and whether we will be able to offer similar terms for new ones.

With our aim to become self-sustaining this points to a number of factors we need to consider – we need to grow our revenue, which could be achievable through supporters (tricky) or perhaps player sales.  We need to reduce our outgoings – the bulk of which is player wages.  Reduced contracts all round?  Can’t see many players enjoying that too much.

Let’s hope the talk of the academy facilities bears considerable fruit – because it could be a pipeline of talent both on more manageable wages, and it might of course also provide us with saleable assets.  Ultimately we are very quickly needing to get accustomed to cutting our cloth to fit a business model that does not include an end-of-year book-balancing exercise.

So it’s a fond farewell from me to Nigel Doughty.  I completely agree that under his stewardship there have been some monumental errors, but there have been some good times too.  One of my acquaintances of a certain age always reminds me when I bemoan missing the glory years: “D’you know what? I celebrated that game against Yeovil with just as much joy and ferocity as the trips I made to Munich and Madrid back in the day”.

He meant the league game against Yeovil where promotion to the Championship was won, of course, not the play-off game!  It’s an interesting perspective, because y’know what – that was a magical afternoon.  He was right.  But let’s not go back down to the third tier to experience it again, that’s all I’m saying!

This is the dawning of the age of Steve Cotterill..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Middlesbrough – 0

Ahh, that feels better doesn’t it?

It wasn’t a world-beating performance either, y’know – but even with fifteen minutes gone we were already turning to one another and observing we’d seen more completed passes and more positive football than ten games under McClaren.

What a difference a new Steve makes, huh?  It was great to see Mr Cotterill get a good reception from the Forest fans, and he seems to have quickly recognised one of the the problems we’ve endured is a lack of width in midfield (and I don’t mean the kind that Andy Reid provides!) with quite an unconventional selection:

Chambers    Morgan    Lynch    Hill
Gunter    Moussi    McGugan    Majewski
Tudgay    Miller

That’s right.  Four-four-fucking-two.  Sure, Gunts and Maj aren’t wingers, but they’d clearly been very definitely told that that was where they were playing.  The other difference was the workrate – our lads were up for it, big time.  That of course puts question-marks over their culpability for the earlier games this season, of course – but let’s embrace the spirit of a new era and look forward instead.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t looking forward to the game.  Whilst they’ve stuttered with some draws, unbeaten Middlesbrough represent a tough opponent in this league, and if we couldn’t even muster a fighting performance against a team as bereft of confidence as Coventry with a new manager watching from the stands – what chance did we have, really?

Early doors was pretty frenetic and disjointed – Forest looked to press without too much end-product whilst the visitors found their feet initially by defending in numbers and looking for the quick break.  The first half-chance fell to Tuds who pressured Hines into giving up possession, but the striker snatched at the chance to shoot from range and put it wide.

Another half-chance came for his strike-partner when a long ball saw the big striker chasing back with a defender who was composed enough to chest it back to Steele before Miller could get it.  Forest continued to probe with some nice passing in and around the final third – but always struggling to put the final ball in (which we’ve become accustomed to in fairness), but it was good to see at least good intentions.

These good intentions paid dividends ten minutes before half time – some patient build up saw Lewis end up with the ball in midfield, he played a delicious through-ball to meet the excellent run of Gunts, who took the time to look up and drill in an excellent cross to find Tudgay whose run was perfectly timed to meet the ball four yards out and plant the ball into the net.

A lovely team goal – I can’t wait to see the highlights of it.

We were buoyed by the goal – a decent corner from Lewis found Chambers who headed goalward, only for a defender to block (I thought with a hand personally, but then I always think that!).  It fell for Chambers again who couldn’t get much on it other than divert it into Miller and over the bar.  A late chance almost netted us an own goal after more good work from Lewis and Gunts saw half time arrive.

Very pleasing – a confident performance, a balanced performance – a footballing performance.  Of course the usual nervousness remained – being a goal up at half time is nothing new to us, and nobody was expecting Middlesbrough – as yet to have a shot on target – to remain quite as non-threatening as they had been so far.

Our fears were nearly realised early in the second half – a spurious freekick (don’t get me started on the referee!) was delivered inswinging by Robson, exactly the kind of delivery we’ve struggled to defend all season – and sure enough, the Boro players were queuing up at the back post to claim what looked like an easy goal.  Lucky for us he missed it – amusingly a chunk of the Boro fans thought it was in.

It was a false dawn for Boro though, Lewis nicked the ball in midfield and burst forward, but elected to shoot from range when perhaps he could either have sought to play in Miller or take on the one defender remaining.  His final effort ended up some way wide of the target which was a disappointing end after he’d done so well to create the opportunity.

Of course, we’d soon forgive him.  Forest pressed again, Miller had two effort both of which were blocked, Majewski had one which was blocked too – before the ball found Lewis who evaded a number of desperate lunges from the Boro defenders, jinking his way into the box with consummate ease before sliding the ball into the goal from the D to send the home fans into raptures.  Another cracking goal.

Could’ve been three moments later – a freekick from McGugan found Wes in the area who glanced a header just wide.  This confident performance was like watching a different side to that we’ve become accustomed – I really can’t over-state that here.  With fifteen minutes on the clock Cotterill replaced Miller for Findley – Miller getting a decent send off from the Reds fans who’d appreciated his physical performance.

Boro notched their first shot on target and first real work for Lee Camp moments later – saving well from Justin Hoyte’s effort at the far post.  There were a few groans when Greening was seen warming up, which is a bit mean, he came on to replace McGugan and immediate got involved with a couple of decent passes and a crunching tackle – the what-started-as ironic cheers soon started to sound more genuine.

Just as we were complimenting the manager for not fucking around with the formation and just changing like-for-like to a degree, he did alter things a bit – he withdrew the hardworking Radi and put Derbyshire on, and rather than reshuffle seemed to opt for a 4-3-3.  Possibly because despite falling behind by a second goal Boro were still providing very little threat.

They did start to threaten a late burst – but the defence held firm, with Joel Lynch again putting in a stand out performance with some excellent tackling and superb anticipation of where the ball was going to end up.  The Reds mopped up a late threat from their number two, who had given Gunts the slip and got one-on-one from a tight angle – but Camp made a good save at his near post – and that was pretty much it.

More than anything it’s a relief – Forest fans showed the perfect attitude, they – after some considerable grumbling (including from me!) got behind the new boss from the off, and clearly the players have too.  As he said himself, this is a great start – but there’s a lot of work to do, and he sounds like he’s going to really relish doing it as well.  How refreshing that is to hear compared to the “I don’t know what’s going wrong” monologues from Steve McClaren.

Well done to the boys in Red.  It’s a late start, but it’s better late than never – we’re out of the relegation zone which even this early in the season didn’t feel comfortable.  Now the work begins for the new era.

Forest vs. Middlesbrough preview..

Three defeats on the bounce, into the relegation zone after eleven games – an eye witness account of a fairly typically poor showing from the boys in Red at Coventry.  These are the stats and facts that will be running through the mind of Steve Cotterill as he takes charge of his first game as Forest manager.  I imagine if he could have picked any opponent, then Middlesbrough wouldn’t have been too high on the list.

Having said that, Boro’s early storming form seems to have been replaced with a big run of draws of late – they took the lead at the Riverside against Millwall on Saturday only to be pegged back by the Lions.  That said, they’ve yet to taste defeat this season with Tony Mowbray in charge – so combining form and everything else it would take a considerable ‘new manager syndrome’ to get a win.

On the treatment table we can add Joel Lynch to the longer term ranks of Cohen, Blackstock, McCleary, Anderson and Boateng – which gives Cotterill the same limitations of selection as the previous management team.  Unless, of course, he starts to look to the youngsters for an injection of pace and urgency.  It might be a bit early in his reign to expect him to resort to that, however.

Our visitors are likely to be missing Ikeme in goal, who missed the weekend’s game with a broken finger.  Doubts surround Hines and Franks who are both back in training but still recovering from injury problems.  It seems that goals have been hard to come by of late – it’s hard to imagine that Emnes, Robson et al won’t get plenty of opportunities against our disorganised defence tomorrow.

Bearing in mind recent history – Boro are perhaps a reassuring story of a side who have had a fairly rapid turnaround of fortune in the last year or so.  Struggling despite appearing to have a decent enough squad last season, it’s taken a bit of patience and rebuilding to see them challenge under Mowbray.  Interestingly it’s almost a year to the day that Strachan resigned, just before their trip to the City Ground.

In the match at Trentside we triumphed 1-0 thanks to an early second-half goal from Lewis McGugan, whilst  at their place a rare Adebola goal got us a draw in March of this year.  Either of those results would see me leave the City Ground either pleased or very pleased come tomorrow night, which I guess illustrates the stark change-in-fortunes both teams have undergone in the last year.

Sad to say it, but anything other than defeat looks like an achievement to me on this one – and that’s a depressing thing to say about a home game.  Hopefully Steve can have an instant impact on our bunch of workshy primadonnas and get them working for him, and for each other.

This is what you’ve got to work with, Steve!

Coventry City – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

No matter how much the official site tries to dress things up, this was poor. A poor performance against another of The Championship’s poor sides, and culminating in leaving with no points to show for it to boot.  The plus side, Steve Cotterill – watching from the stands – has seen exactly what he has to work with, what our limitations are, and what he needs to fix.

Rob Kelly took charge of his only game as caretaker boss, and to be honest – and perhaps unsurprisingly – didn’t really deviate too far from the unfathomable template that Steve McClaren had previous operated under, choosing to send out the following team to face the struggling Sky Blues:

Gunter   Chambers   Morgan   Hill
Moussi   Greening   McGugan
Derbyshire   Miller   Tudgay

Depending on how you want to interpret it could be seen as bolt, shapeless or perhaps just what we’re stuck with given the absence of wingers available to us.  There was some early promise – an early surge by McGugan saw him pull back for Tudgay who hit the target, but Murphy was equal to it – Derbyshire was loitering for a rebound but was offside.

As the game developed it increasingly looked like what I suppose it was – two struggling sides doing what they do best – not a fat lot.  That said, we did create some chances – Miller had  shot from distance and won a corner, he brought a save from Murphy from an effort inside the area.  With half an hour gone the home side started to probe too.

It was that familiar story though – Coventry were bereft of confidence early, but as the game wore on began to realise that the side they faced weren’t much cop either.  Christie crossed well to Platt who got the ball goalbound meaning Camp needed to make a smart save to tip the ball over.  Another ball in found Jutkiewicz (the one on the Football League Show I always think ‘he’ll do well against us’ – oh dear!).  On this occasion he missed the target.

More danger from Coventry came when Gunts slipped and was unable to prevent a ball into the box, Wes was on hand to deal with it with a typically robust challenge that saw the home fans calling for a penalty.  The resulting kerfuffle saw the ball ending up with Bell who put a dangerous ball across the box, but there was nobody on hand to make the conversion.

Hill needed to put a good last-gasp challenge in to deny Coventry a goal just before half time.  So we went into the break thinking that maybe we’d quelled the fairly incompetent looking storm from the home side, and Kelly could instill some belief in the lads to mount one of their own in the second.  Of course, we’ve seen the score, we know that fails.  The second half started as the first left off.

There was a brief interlude – much like in the first half – a nice turn from McGugan saw him evade two challenges and burst into the box where both he and (unsurprisingly) Derbyshire went to ground in rather unconvincing fashion.  The referee waved away appeals for a penalty (quite rightly from my view), and both players should count themselves lucky not to have been cautioned.

Coventry resumed the upper hand in the battle-of-the-rubbish-teams – a cracking save from Camp kept Richard Keogh off the scoresheet.  Predictably enough though, there was no clearance, a cross went in from the right hand side with no challenge finding Jutkiewicz who couldn’t really miss, and duly headed past a helpless Camp to give the home side the lead.

The pressure mounted – a flimsy punch from Camp to the edge of the area was nearly headed in by Conor Thomas but for the attentions of Clint Hill on the line to clear off the line.  Camp was on hand to deny Bell who cut in well on the right and got a decent shot away.

A long delay after an incident between Miller and Murphy in the Coventry goal – a disappointing reaction from a small number of the Forest fans, as it transpired the injury looked quite serious the Reds fans joined the home fans in applauding the prone keeper off.  I believe his condition hasn’t been deemed to be serious after the game – which is good news.

We tried to inject a bit of pace and creativity to proceedings by chucking on Findley and Majewski on for Derbyshire and Greening.  Findley was involved quickly, utilising his pace to get on the end of a McGugan ball but missing the target.  Again it was another false dawn for the Reds as the home side again started to build pressure upon us again.

A diagonal ball into the box from Clingan gave Jutkiewicz the chance of a second – but this time his header hit the top of the bar.  With ten minutes of stoppage time announced following the injury to Murphy, the big idea from Kelly to inject some much needed urgency was to take off Tudgay and put on Andy Reid.

Reidy would show a turn of pace eventually – but after the full time whistle when he couldn’t get his considerable derriere down the tunnel any quicker, without bothering his arse to acknowledge the fans.  Anyway, I digress, because the stoppage time was frustratingly awful.  Majewski looked like he cared, he found Gunts who crossed a little too waywardly to find Miller.

Findley perhaps should’ve done better when he was absolutely gifted the ball late on, but managed to spanner it over the bar with a mis-kick.  So ended the game – frustration continues, 2,191 Reds fans made the trip, a number presumably swelled by the good will surrounding Frank Clark’s arrival (the momentum of which was cut short for some with the subsequent appointment of Steve Cotterill!).

Steve Cotterill watched this one from the stands – and as I wrote on Facebook earlier – it was good of the Forest squad to not appear to make any extra special effort compared to previous games to try to deceive their new boss.  He got a great representation of what we’ve been about this season and will hopefully even now have a clear idea about how to go about improving matters.

It’s a job I don’t envy him, and one that I’ll support him in.  I’m still struggling to fully understand how we’ve become quite so shambolic in such a short space of time, but certainly reversing that trend and rebuilding us somewhere towards where we were is going to be a monumental task.  We are now second from bottom in the league.  At this stage of the season even Doncaster are better than us.

So, Cotterill it is, then..

Apologies for the late response on pretty seismic Forest news- sometimes I do have real life to attend to, honest!

So, in spite of being kept quiet by Forest, the voices everywhere else that seemed to know we were courting Steve Cotterill were right.

I’m not excited by it, although naturally the next Steve of the season gets my support by default.

It does make the Frank Clark appointment announcement timing look like a brazen exercise in earning some goodwill before dropping this bombshell, though – particularly immediately wheeling out the new chairman to talk about the list of ‘high calibre’ applicants he now needed to consider carefully.

Obviously he’s had a hand in our recruitment drive for some time and it transpires that Cotterill is the man who stood out as the man for the job in his eyes:

“I’m really excited about the appointment.  Steve was always at the top of the list and he fits the criteria that we set out when I first started looking at this with the board last week.  He’s enthusiastic, he’s hungry, he’s got a terrific CV and he’s experienced at this level.  He was everything we were looking for”

Almost in the same breath he says experience in the Championship isn’t the most important thing.  Hmm. I must confess to be worried that we have paid good money for a manager who looked like a reasonable shout to be available for nothing within a couple of games.  A manager who has never finished in the top half of The Championship.

A manager who left Notts County less than two years ago because he wanted to move down south to be closer to his family, I mean, I know we’re 400 yards more South than Meadow Lane – but what the hell?  There are many areas of concern for me – and I’ve not even got on to the perceived style of football he is an exponent of.  That’s less of a worry for me, I thought the same about Billy Davies and I was wrong – and, well, he can’t deliver performances worse than the last manager.

All in all, he comes here – on a three and a half year contract no less – with a lot to prove.  Obviously the immediate priority is to deliver some results by hook or by crook, and of course as fans our immediate concern should be to put our energy behind supporting Steve and the team on the pitch and park any concerns or doubts we might have.  They might be justified, but let’s give the guy a fair crack of the whip.

In his first interview as Forest manager he said:

“It was a wrench to leave Portsmouth after everything we’ve been through together there but I’ll remain great friends with people down there.  The fans were terrific with me but now I have a new challenge with Nottingham Forest that I’m really looking forward to.”

He obviously hasn’t seen some of the celebrations on Portsmouth FC fan forums nor on Twitter.  Having said that, we should know from our own collection of forums that it’s always difficult to get anything approximating a concensus for a fanbase.  So welcome aboard Steve – may you blow us away with unexpected brilliance and make this cautious blog post look ridiculous.

At least Terry the Kitman can help with the financial frugality by just piggling the M and the little C away from Steve McClaren’s old training kit…

Okay, now I’ve got all that off my chest:


Coventry City vs. Forest preview..

Feels a long time since that godawful game against Birmingham doesn’t it? Since then we’ve seen Nigel Doughty leave following the departure of his last managerial appointment, we’ve seen a LOT of rumours – we’ve seen Frank Clark arrive as chairman, and we’ve seen him announce that he’s going to take some time to put a shortlist together.  Rather rubbishing the claims in certain quarters that shortlists were already made!

Which means that Rob Kelly takes the helm as caretaker manager for the trip to Ricoh Arena (unless we really do make a swift move!) where Andy Thorn’s Sky Blues will pose our latest challenge.  They are one of the three teams with a worse start than us, sitting third from bottom just a point below us with just one win to their name all season – against Derby!  Their website is describing this as a ‘derby clash’ – odd!  It’s bad enough Leicester claiming rivalry!

The Coventry players will be donning black armbands to honour the memory of their recently deceased physio Graham Jones.  May he rest in peace.

On the squad front we’ve got potentially good news, Lee Camp is apparently likely to be fit and ready to play after injury worries made him miss Northern Ireland’s game against Italy with a groin injury.  There are no further injury worries following the break – leaving us missing the usual suspects of Paul Anderson, George Boateng, Garath McCleary, Dexter Blackstock and Chris Cohen.

Our hosts have a number of worries on the injury front – ex-Red Sammy ‘sideways’ Clingan has been suffering with a back injury after his game for Northern Ireland, whilst McSheffrey, O’Donovan, Murphy and Cranie are all ‘touch and go’ to quote Andy Thorn.  Richard Wood could return to central defence after an injury.

It was only back in February we last played at the Ricoh, winning 2-1 and coming from behind with McGugan and Earnshaw scoring after ‘She said no’ Marlon had netted a first half goal for the home side.  It was the game in which the Moose picked up a nasty injury in setting up the winning goal.  We beat them earlier last season at The City Ground too – again by 2-1, and again coming from behind.

Difficult to predict what’s going to happen here – two teams in dire need of kickstarting their campaign.  With the arrival of Frank Clark having lifted the fans, hopefully he’s had a similar impact on our underperforming players too – and perhaps without the weight of expectation or demand the coaching team will be able to have a positive influence too.

Without wishing to be disrespectful, a trip to Coventry at this stage given their form and injury problems couldn’t come at a better time on paper.  Of course, we all know damn well that games aren’t played on paper – so let’s hope the boys in Red aren’t as complacent as I just sounded!  Hopefully the renewed mood with the new chairman on board will see plenty of Reds travel and get behind the boys…

It would be lovely for the new manager to come in on the back of a win to relieve some pressure on results.

Forest appoint new chairman..

It’s been a frustrating time for Reds fans of late, indeed, the lack of information has driven many on Twitter and messageboards into meltdown.  After endless rumours, betting being suspended and ‘nailed on’ claims from all and sundry, Forest have – rather than addressing the managerial vacancy – taken the sensible step of replacing Nigel Doughty in his role as chairman.

Frankly (ha!) they couldn’t have picked a better candidate for me.  Let’s put aside for a moment the fact he played for us – indeed, he played for us in our best ever era.  He managed us, and let’s face it – we ain’t gonna see a newly promoted team finish third in the Premier League any time soon.  It only got you a UEFA spot then – in which we reached the quarter final.

Okay, let’s not put it aside – but let’s also consider the fact that Frank Clark is highly regarded amongst the leadership in the game, the League Managers Association with which he’s been associated for years, and – best of all – is an absolute an utter gentleman.  I can’t put across how absolutely thrilled I am at this development after a spell of irritation.

The cherry on the top of all this is that the decision on the managerial appointment that is becoming increasingly urgent rests with Frank.  A football man, a man who knows the club and the sport – and probably a hell of a lot more about all the candidates than we do.

That feels better, doesn’t it?  Welcome back, Frank – it’s bloody great to have you on board!