Crystal Palace vs. Forest preview..

A three match unbeaten run is a pretty modest boast, all told, but it seems miraculous considering what we’ve become accustomed to.  That’s what we’re taking with us to Selhurst Park tomorrow, still five points clear of the drop zone following successive draws at home to Brighton and then away at Leicester, which of course followed on from that game at Leeds.  I can’t really mention the scoreline again can I? Oh, okay, I can.  7-3.

For those of you that enjoy the jaded experience that is Soccer AM (hmm, maybe twelve years ago for yours truly) then you might want to tune in to see some Forest fans playing the role of ‘fans of the week’ – personally I might just wait for the YouTube highlights having long since tired of the show and also dispensed with Sky Sports.  These are, of course, austere times, after all!

If you’ve managed to avail yourself of enough fuel thanks to the combined idiocy of our government, our media and the great unwashed, then you might be relishing a trip to London to see Forest take on our former player Dougie Freedman’s Eagles.  The rookie manager has proven a natural, and has elevated Palace from a more customary lower-mid-table berth to within sniffing distance of the play-offs in a short time.

That said, it’s a sniffing distance that requires a rather keen sense of smell – it has to be said.  Palace’s excellent start to the season has descended into a degree of mediocrity of late – mind you, they’ve only lost once in their last twelve league outings – and that was to Derby of all people.  The problem in mounting a play-off bid has been the number of draws – in those twelve games eight of them have ended in stalemate – leaving just three wins.

They’re stronger at home than on their travels though, so not to be underestimated.  As if we’ve been doing much underestimating of late, have we?  I still struggle – in spite of considerable improvement of late – to muster much by way of optimism when it comes to our prospects against pretty much any opponent.  Three decent performances on the bounce if anything make me more uneasy.

On the injury front the big news for the Reds is the uncertainty surrounding Garath McCleary and his troublesome hamstring.  A scan hasn’t offered much clarity and whilst he’s not been ruled out, he’s certainly a strong doubt.  Danny Higginbotham should be available following an appearance from the bench midweek, and whilst George Elokobi is on the road to recovery he’s not likely to displace Cunningham from the side.

Palace will be missing Anthony Gardner and Mile Jedinak both of which who’ve received the shit news this week that they’ll be out for the season.  Paul McShane is missing with a hip injury, and Sean Scannell will be out with an ankle injury.  It has left Freedman talking about utilising youngsters – something that the Eagles have certainly thrived at doing lately – and given the lack of pressure to get points unlike us it might tempt their gaffer to be a bit more experimental in his approach.

Given the imbalance in their squad at the moment and the chance that they might well use the game as an opportunity to test some inexperienced or fringe players should be a benefit to Forest.  For us, we are imbalanced by nature thanks to the summer squad assembling by Steve McClaren, and if McCleary isn’t fit to play then we seem likely to see Gunter out of position on the wing again as we try to keep some semblance of shape.

Of course, a win would be most welcome – but frankly plenty of teams have come away from Selhurst Park with bugger all this season to mean that a point would have to be considered a decent result.  The calibre of ‘goodness’ of a draw naturally rather hinges upon what Portsmouth do at home to Burnley, what Bristol City do at home to Derby, what Coventry do on their trip to Hull and whether Birmingham hold on to the lead they have over Doncaster Rovers as I type.