See below…

Nottingham Forest – 0
Cardiff City – 1

Just like dogs can resemble their owners, I’m starting to get concerned that a football team can resemble the manager.  There was endeavour and effort (perhaps excepting ‘I’m already gone’ McGugan and Matt Derbyshire who were both terribly lethargic), but no quality. No end product – no difficult save for their ‘keeper to make.

Our visitors, on the other hand, offered very little – however brought one decent save from Camp in the first half, saw Miller miss a gilt-edged opportunity to open the scoring, shortly before he – well, did.  We blustered and huffed and puffed but ultimately did not make any significant or meaningful assault on the Cardiff City goal despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession and mounting a fair amount of pressure.

Mixed news at the start on the injury front, Dexter is injured, but Lynch returned:

Camp
Gunter    Chambers    Lynch    Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi    Greening    McGugan
Findley    Tudgay

A bright start from Findley saw him brought down having touched the ball past the Cardiff keeper – he certainly wasn’t clean through and it was a heavy touch past him too (does he do any other kind?) – so a booking was probably fair.  Shortly after that after going up for a header he stayed down and was subbed for Matt Derbyshire – deja vu there, an early substitution due to injury.  Not ideal.

As for the match, same as usual really – promise, some degree of endeavour – but lacking in final balls or strikers prepared to gamble in the danger areas.  Tuds is, bless him, too slow and I’m sad to say that I’ve all but written off Derbyshire.  He’s lightweight, has poor anticipation and doesn’t seem to have a particularly strong work ethic either.  Most attacks came via the useful looking combination of McCleary and Gunter down the right.

I’ll be amazed if we don’t succumb to one of the inevitable offers for Gunter in the January window – whatever Cotterill says in the papers about him wanting to stay.  I’m sure he does, but I’m sure he’d like to play in a better side too whilst probably earning more cash.  It’s easy to point the finger at players we’d like to see moved on – more difficult to imagine who on Earth will oblige us by taking them off our hands.

A special word should be saved for a particularly bad referee as well.  He wasn’t biased, just mind-bogglingly poor with his decision-making.  Cardiff didn’t look up to much either – full of gamesmanship, play-acting and diving which surprised me since Mackay has taken over – but proved they had the quality necessary to convert one of the limited number of decent chances they made.  As noted above, for all our bluster we failed to draw one decent save from their keeper.

The introduction of a spirited Bamford from the reserves was perhaps a slight glimmer – he put himself about a bit and caused some problems, perhaps an earlier introduction might’ve paid dividends (indeed, Derbyshire might as well have not been on the pitch anyway).  Hopefully the mediocrity surrounding him doesn’t detract from the good performances he’s been putting in in the reserves and we get to see a bit more first team action for him.

Listening to Steve Cotterill suggest post-match that we’re not in trouble if we’re only losing 1-0 and not by 4 or 5 is infuriating.  I do realise an element of his job is to remain positive, and I also realise that he is massively hamstrung in how he can operate here – but I regretfully have to say that I really don’t believe he is capable of achieving what is looking increasingly like the impossible and dragging us out of that relegation zone.

Naturally I’d love for him to prove me wrong, but I shan’t be holding my breath.

A big Happy New Year to you all, let us hope for some miraculous turnaround in 2012 to see us start to pull in the right direction.  Alas all I can foresee is the very likely impending relegation of the club – and a probable trip into administration.  Who would’ve thought that this mess was on the cards this time last year?

Finally the Goal of the Month competition for December has been a hotly contested race for Forest, with really only too main contenders.  In a close vote it was decided by a narrow margin that the Trent End goal was just preferred to the Bridgford End goal, because it’s the one our lads do the warm-up in.

Ipswich up next.  They’re the last team we scored against!

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Forest vs. Cardiff City preview..

My new year resolution might be to be a little bit less of a grumpy sod.  Which gives me a couple of days to get such things out of my system.  It’s fair to say that our last trip to the City Ground wasn’t particularly fruitful, and that coupled with the higher calibre opponents we are expecting on New Years Eve makes me not exactly look forward to this fixture.

Let’s try to be more positive though – Chris Gunter wants to stay with us despite apparent interest from elsewhere.  Either that, or Forest are laying the ground to increase their asking price for him.  Cynical?  Me? Never.  Manchester City have agreed to extend the loan of Greg Cunningham ’til the end of the season – which I think is good news, despite him being somewhat hit and miss of late (like his colleagues!), and the return-of-old-boys continues with Marlon Harewood signing on ’til the end of the season from 1st Jan.

Certainly I’m expecting significant activity on the transfer front in January – an odd feeling for us.  Strong rumours link McGugan to a move which he made in his head several weeks ago, Wolves seems to be the destination of choice.  Tony Mowbray is apparently keen to reacquaint himself with Ishmael Miller – and well, I imagine anyone who will fetch a price will be considered for sale.  There aren’t many of them I’d miss!

Still, I digress.  Cardiff City.  So, as we know we’ve lost five out of the last six, we’ve not scored in six and we’re in the bottom three (unless Southampton put seven past Bristol City tonight, of course).  Our visitors, on the other hand, are in their customary play-off spot – sitting pretty fourth in the Championship and have only lost one in their last thirteen games, most recently coming from behind to earn a point away at Watford.

The latest injury concern is Paul Anderson, who the official site claims limped off the pitch against Peterborough – I thought he veritably trotted off!  Joel Lynch too is going through one of those difficult injury-ridden phases, so it seems like we’ll see McCleary on the wing and Moussi back in defence.  Morgan, Moloney, Cohen and Miller are on the longer term injury list.

Cardiff have doubts over Kevin McNaughton who was injured during their Boxing Day encounter with Watford, whilst former Reds loanee Stephen McPhail looks likely to miss out on the squad too with a knee injury.  Former Reds favourite and – if fielded – probably my favourite player on the pitch Robbie Earnshaw has struggled to make an impact having moved back home to the Bluebirds.  He’s made only eleven appearances and netted three goals – but has been missing in action from first team action since October.

I’d take him back like a shot right now!

It’s difficult to see much other than our goalless run continuing along with our lack of clean sheets – and that means another defeat.  To add to inevitable woes running the line will be Amy Fearn (nee Raynor) who’s up there in the list of incompetent officials.  So we probably will score and have it disallowed for something ridiculous.  Hmm, score?  Nah, okay – maybe I’m being silly now.

The chances are for most Forest fans in attendance thoughts will quickly turn to how to see in the New Year – it’s difficult to look forward to a trip to the City Ground these days, which is a sad state of affairs.  However you’re planning on celebrating I hope you enjoy it and against the odds manage to do so with the bonus of three points to Forest in the bag as well.  We can hope, can’t we?

Guess what? We didn’t score and lost.

Nottingham Forest – 0
Peterborough United – 1

Steve Cotterill’s search for a goal was to end with nothing again in an increasingly predictable borefest at the City Ground.  Despite ‘tweaking a hamstring’ in the warm-up Anderson started, only to be replaced after seven minutes by Garath McCleary, George Boyd ran more in the first half than he ever did in a Forest shirt, and of course, scored the decisive goal (lovely finish, nobody closed him down, if being over-critical Camp might’ve got a better hand on it).

We lined up like this (as noted, with Ando coming off for GMac early doors):

Camp
Gunter    Moussi    Chambers    Cunningham
Anderson    Greening    McGugan    Majewski
Blackstock    Tudgay

And d’you know what?  They couldn’t be arsed – I can’t either.  I shall live up to the example of the players and take no responsibility for chronicling their latest limp offering – for those of you who would indeed like to read an account of another wasted afternoon for Forest fans then head on over to EighteenSixtyFive who faced up to the daunting prospect of reliving the match.

I know it’s a bit mardy of me, but frankly I couldn’t be more disheartened by all things Forest at the moment – to think it’s less than a year since we dismantled Derby by five goals to two, it’s a bloody alarming slide we’ve taken, and I’ve seen enough relegation seasons to recognise the signs.  With all due respect to him, because he seems a lovely fellow, if Steve Cotterill’s CV was the best we had in the aftermath of McClaren-gate then I dread to think who else was in the hat.

There’s some degree of credibility to his repeated pleas of bad luck – but it’s wearing a bit thin, and according to the old adage you do make your own luck to an extent.  His post-match comments whereby he quantified the game by how many times we got the ball in the box betray his intention to ‘play percentages’ – the trouble is not only are we resorting to playing shit football, it transpires we’re not very good at it.

We may well have got the ball in their area 30-40 times, Steve – but how many times were our players anywhere bloody near it?  I don’t blame Cotterill, though.  The players (with a few exceptions) don’t seem to care enough.  Cardiff up next, reckon we’ll get a goal then?  Apparently our current crop have already reached our record number of consecutive games without scoring, the league record is eleven.

Season of goodwill my arse.

On Saturday we are considering taking a pot of paint in to the ground with us so that we can finally answer that tricky debate of which is most boring to watch, Forest poncing around the pitch not giving a shit or some paint drying.  We’re a bit too far from the pitch to properly see the grass growing, after all.

Forest vs. Peterborough United preview..

Right then – first things first, huge apologies for my lack of online time over the last week or so – sad to say I got completely floored by a nasty case of man-flu that conspired to make me not only miss previewing the Palace game, but the trip itself too.  Rubbishness!  I suppose I didn’t end up missing anything too special, and am at least fully recovered and fighting fit for festive frolics.

Second things second, a huge huge huge Merry Christmas to my fellow Forest fans – we’ve had a real rude awakening this season after daring perhaps to feel a little bit like we were making progress.  I truly hope that in spite of the financial machinations of the world going into meltdown your off-the-pitch lives have been more satisfactory for you than trips to watch the increasingly less mighty Reds this season.

Thirdly, I suppose we need to face up to thinking about this here football match that takes place at the City Ground on Boxing Day.  Peterborough United provide the opposition and, well, after five games of no wins, no goals and one solitary point thanks to last weekend’s trip to Bristol – it has to be a win we’re aiming for.  That’s of course not to suggest that The Posh won’t provide a stern test of our resolve on that front.

Peterborough’s preseason ambitions were probably quite different to ours – consolidating their Championship status after battling up from League One again, and whilst we may have harboured loftier ambitions, they are currently a cool seven points clear of the drop zone whilst we retain our place within the dreaded bottom three.  Ye gods, it’s been a bloody shit end to 2011 hasn’t it?  Let’s hope we can reach the very end of the year with a couple of decent home results!

Within days of Frank Clark speaking about our future being through youth development, Forest have announced they’ve released former-Academy-player-of-the-year defender Karlton Watson and his fellow academy graduate Neill Byrne.  It would seem that despite the re-jig of boardroom duties the Forest foot-in-mouth PR machine is still in full effect, saying something with their left hand before doing something else with their left!

Meanwhile, in first-team land, the defensive crisis continues – Joel Lynch may or may not be fit to partner Chambers in defence, meaning Moussi or Moloney will be on standby to provide cover at centre-half – we’ve seen the Moose do a decent enough job at the City Ground here, and by all accounts Moloney stepped up to the plate well when called upon to cover for the injured Joel Lynch at Bristol City last weekend.  McCleary is a potential miss, whilst Morgan, Miller and Cohen are our long term casualties.

Our visitors are missing a few players too – notably Lee Tomlin, Grant McCann and Mark Little.  Lee Frecklington is a potential missing man too having limped out of The Posh’s last game against Coventry.  They are the picture of inconsistency, are Peterborough – but one thing that has been of note is that they aren’t shy of having a pop at goal, and play a nice open style which could (hey, let’s be optimistic) work to our favour.

Of course, if we’re defending like the Keystone Cops then it could become a bit embarrassing!  They haven’t won on their travels since beating Bristol City 2-1 back in October – indeed, they’ve only won one in their last six games – beating Coventry at London Road in their last game.  If there were to be a game at which to try to turn around our fortunes – this is it.  To counterbalance such positive thinking – they have brief-loanee George Boyd of course, and reserves-reject Emile Sinclair banging in the goals this season – odds on one of those two scoring, anyone?

With tickets available on the day and Forest kindly waiving the strangely levied £2 surcharge they add for tickets bought on a matchday, hopefully people will feel compelled to prize their turkey-stuffed bodies away from the frankly rubbish selection of Christmas television and cheer the lads on.  A win would do a lot to reignite my Forest enthusiasm which I freely admit has been on the wane of late!

Before all that of course we have Christmas – I hope you all have a fantastic day, and those of you choosing to brave the last minute shopping don’t get trampled.  Thanks for your continued support this year, let’s hope to see a turnaround from now!

Déjà vu..

Déjà vu, a glitch in the matrix, it means they've change something. European Champions into a bag of turd!

Nottingham Forest – 0
Crystal Palace – 1

I really don’t have the motivation to go through this in depth – another game where we had the better of the play, but our final ball and/or shot let us down.  Admittedly there was an improvement on the Brighton game in that the visiting ‘keeper had a few saves to make – one of them excellent.  Then again, Camp wasn’t untested prior to eventually conceding.

So here’s how it all started for us…

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi     Greening    Anderson
Majewski
Tudgay

An unchanged line-up from last weekend, which was forced into a crazy level of make-shift-ness when Wes Morgan picked up an injury.  Bizarrely we probably had our best spell with ten men, before Andy Reid was introduced and Moussi moved to cover centreback.

Zaha (who was lucky to be on the pitch for me, after diving, kicking the ball away and a foul all of which warranted a card) turned Cunningham too easily, burst forward whilst our entire defence seemed to back-pedal and not close down, simultaneously ignoring the run from Murray to his right.  Zaha picked out the pass, and t’was a nice finish by Murray to put Palace in front just shy of the hour.

Forest laboured and worked hard but constantly came up short as we’ve seen of late – this worries me on many levels.  Just as the mark of a good team is one that plays badly and gets a result, we are a team that plays well – against, with all due respect to Palace, a not exactly good team yet comes up with nothing at all.  That is not a positive thing, and as a supporter of a team that has been relegated a fair few times, it’s a worryingly familiar trait.

Perhaps the one highlight of the afternoon aside from some promising yet ultimately toothless build-up play was the return of Dexter Blackstock, introduced as a late sub he got a fantastic reception from the City Ground crowd – and perhaps could’ve done better with a headed chance put directly at Speroni.  That and Greening’s inexplicable lunge off the pitch at a Palace player which he was lucky to just get booked for.

It wasn’t a bad performance, but we are in the results business now more than ever – and this is a fourth straight defeat.  Indeed, Steve Cotterill has now managed more defeats than Steve McClaren – and done so in one game fewer.  Not having defensive cover on the bench is something he’s answerable for – that said, Moussi deputised well at the back I thought – it appeared to be a combination of Cunningham initially and then Chambers I’d fault for the goal.

A tricky trip to Bristol, then free-scoring (and hopefully free-conceding) Peterborough at home, followed by Cardiff at home… who can see where the points are going to come from there?  That takes us to January, the month of transfer droughts for Forest traditionally – I think that trend changing rather dramatically is our only hope of salvation this season…

Forest vs. Crystal Palace preview..

Three defeats on the bounce, ensconced in the bottom three – it’s not good is it?  The Reds will be eager to turn the tables on the arch-rivals of our last opponents as we welcome Crystal Palace to the City Ground.  Palace of course are on a high having reached the semi-finals of the Carling Cup recently, although did blot their copybook by failing to beat Derby in their last league outing, indeed, their league form isn’t exactly great.  It just looks good compared to ours!

As for us – we did really well at Brighton but failed to convert our chances, and failed to keep our concentration levels up.  The points column doesn’t lie, and ultimately if good play and performance isn’t capped off with a finish then it’s pretty pointless.  Despite that, the gaffer and players will hopefully take heart and come into this game with confidence to take the game to the Eagles.

Whilst it must be tempting to stick with the 4-5-1/4-3-3 type arrangement deployed at Brighton, Cotterill does have the likes of Andy Reid returning from suspension and the continuing recovery curve of Dexter Blackstock, who came through 76 minutes of reserve team action unscathed.  Depending on the fullness of your glass you could see an unchanged line-up as an attacking formation, or you could see Tudgay ploughing a lone furrow upfront.  Certainly the addition of Anderson and McCleary gave us a more direct feel.

Palace have a few issues on the injury front – Williams, Marrow and Hils are on their long-term sick list, whilst Sean Scannell was injured during Palace’s tremendous quarter-final victory over Manchester United.  It’s likely he’ll be fit to face us though, whilst former Rams defender Dean Moxey is likely to be out with a knee problem, which is a pity as he’s been red carded in his last two appearances against the Reds in both a Palace and a Derby shirt!

Dougie Freedman – the boss for the away side – is of course a former Red, albeit for a relatively short and not-exactly-blistering spell.  This, his first full season, started at a fantastic pace but seems to have stuttered in the league – of course with the not inconsiderable punctuation of an excellent run in the Carling Cup.  Having put aside the distraction of the cup for a little while, they’ll be keen to arrest their decline in league form.

It’s going to prove tricky – but frankly, if we don’t start picking up some points soon then it’s going to start looking rather dicey for us.  A positive and spirited performance would be a helpful catalyst to get the crowd behind the team – not always a given at the City Ground these days.  We could really use three points, and rather worryingly, I’m not sure whether a dogged Palace side will make it very easy for us to get.

Everything but the goal..

Brighton and Hove Albion – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

Gutted isn’t the word – Forest rose to the challenge from Tuesday night’s fiasco with a spirited and dominating performance over a very good Brighton side.  Only to find themselves being hit by a sucker-punch at the death.  Don’t think that the Forest site is exaggerating (although Steve Cotterill’s ‘3 or 4 goals’ claim is an exaggeration) when they say we were by far the better team.  We really were.  It’s bloody infuriating!

It wasn’t really the game that I was looking forward to, more the new ground (supposedly designed to offer an unsurpassed away fans experience), a day out in a pleasant town and hopefully a bearable game of football.  Brighton is a good day out, indeed, I wish I’d stayed over now.  The locals were friendly, and with Forest providing their biggest away crowd so far, there were plenty of Reds around too.

The first limitation with the out-of-the-way location of the ground is getting there – friendly locals advised us to avoid getting a taxi (as was our plan) due to congestion, and just hop on the train.  The demand for the train being such that you can just get on in Brighton and off at Falmer without ever having your ticket paid for.  We joined the throng at the station and ended up on the second train to arrive at the station.  It was cosy on the train but a chance for a bit more banter.

If I’m honest, I’d built the ground up to be more than it was in my head.  The ‘lighting in your team’s colours’ was a single red tinted light, the ‘imagery of your players’ was a single big screen in the eaves of the concourse.  The local beer is a nice touch, although like most other concourses the queues to attain it were prohibitive, the stewards were friendly and ‘light touch’ in their duties, the atmosphere was loud when manufactured at the start of the game, less so during.

In truth – it’s really not a great deal different to any other edge-of-town new-build stadium – of course, given their previous occupancy of the Withdean Stadium it was long overdue for Brighton.  Perhaps I set my expectations too high, but this was nothing more than an above-average away day experience in a ground for me, nothing revolutionary.  But where this was to underwhelm, the match was beyond my wildest expectations after Tuesday’s mauling (albeit with the obvious unhappy ending for us).

Steve Cotterill made changes forced and unforced – Reid suspended, Lynch injured and McGugan and Findley dropped to give us a different look.  Tudgay operating as a lone striker, and the fantastic news that Dexter Blackstock merited a place on the bench:

Camp
Gunter    Morgan    Chambers    Cunningham
McCleary   Greening    Moussi    Anderson
Majewski
Tudgay

It was kind of like that, Raddy playing in a free role, with he, Ando and GMac presumably tasked with providing support for the potentially isolated figure of Tuds upfront on his own.  It was a bright start from the Reds too, pressing forward from the off and McCleary winning us a corner early in the match.  Greening took charge of the corner, which was played short and back to him to cross, just evading Wes Morgan at the back post.

Another opportunity fell this time to Anderson, it was a decent ball by Moussi that gave him the chance to shoot – it was close enough to trouble Ankergren into diving, but was just wide of the post.  The home side too had forays forward at the beginning of the match, a cross from Noone looked dangerous until cleared by Moussi at the expense of a corner.  Raddy was playing well for us, a cross from the left from him was just too high for Tuds to convert.

It was Majewski again causing problems, jinking past Navarro on the edge of the box before being cynically hacked down by him – the resultant freekick was spooned over by the Pole, which was disappointing!  So t’was all square at half time, a text I sent to a friend at that time was ‘0-0 HT.We just shaded but no shots on goal either way – can see this being decided by the next goal. 1-0 either way or 0-0‘ – I should’ve put a bet on, shouldn’t it?

The chance we really should have buried came soon after half time – lovely play between Majewski and McCleary eventually fed the ball to Gunter whose cross from the right was perfect for the diving header by Tudgay.  Alas the striker conspired to put it wide – it’s true that a Forest man was just infront jumping for it too before it dropped – but put that on target and it was a goal, Ankergren was well out of position.

This buoyed on the travelling Forest fans and the team alike – a ball this time from Cunningham on the left came to McCleary who jinked past a couple of players but couldn’t fashion a chance to shoot.  Closer still, a cross from Anderson caused bedlam in the Brighton area but eventually ended up just wide of the post, begging for a leg to just poke the ball over the line.  It was at once exhilarating, but worrying because we were creating but not really causing Ankergren too much work.

Brighton were starting to get more of a foothold in the game in which they’d mostly been spectators so far.  A decent cross from substitute LuaLua found Noone at the back post who – much like Tudgay earlier – perhaps should have at least got his header on target, instead he put it wide of the post.

Forest back on the attack got the ball to McCleary who again did well to trick himself a shooting chance – it deflected off defender Dunk and looped up and … just over for a corner.  This was a well-taken corner from Greening too, it found Tudgay who got his head on it at close range, but straight at Ankergren who caught it gratefully.  I reckon this was the first shot on target all game, but could be wrong.

The next chance fell to Raddy, he worked well to get past Noone and set himself up with a shooting chance from the edge of the area – he struck a curling effort well, but it went beyond the far post.  Yet another case of so near but yet so far.  McCleary was withdrawn late on having had an excellent game, replaced by McGoldrick with many in the stands desperate to see a fairytale return for Dex.

With Brighton attacking more, Forest had a few counter attacks – one such attack saw Gunts burst forward and – on the other side – Anderson busting a gut to get up to support him.  After the cross came to nothing you could see how knackered Ando was, it’s easy to forget he’s been out injured for a while.  He was the next withdrawal, oddly for young Brendan Moloney who didn’t seem to be too sure where he was playing, so sat next to Cunningham.

Into stoppage time came to sucker-punch, Mackail-Smith got away down the right and – unlike the rest of the game managed to stay on his feet (what a diving sod he is!!), put a ball into the box which found Vincelot, he teed up Will Buckley who finished well past Camp.  The first and only shot on target for the home side.  Galling.  However, we could and should have done better with the chances we created – it’s not like we were denied by a goalkeeping masterclass.

So it was a reverse of what I expected really – a more run-of-the-mill match experience sandwiched an excellent performance from the Reds, just that lack of killer instinct is costing us – and, in truth, the biggest cost coming at a late defensive lapse in concentration because whilst the goal was well-taken it was eminently preventable (aren’t they all?).  Brighton fans on the way out seemed to agree with me, lots of consolatory words and phrases like ‘too good to go down’ – hmm. I’ve heard that before.  A few times.