Derby hit a new high, and a new low..

Reid felled by Davies in a at-times fiery encounter..

Derby County – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

Well that’s that, then.  It’s sad to have lost a record that’s stood for such a long time – but it’s hard to offer much sense of hard feeling aside from the softness of the freekick leading to the late late late winning goal from Jake Buxton to feel hard done to.

Cotterill elected to fight hoof with hoof, and rarely did a game of football threaten to break out as two decidedly average looking sides basically slugged it out – I’m disappointed with how we set out to get a point.  Sure, it nearly worked and I’d have been pleased with it, but bloody hell when will our manager learn that our players just aren’t built to scrap?

There’s much talk of the home supporters chanting derogatory things in relation to Nigel Doughty passing away – it was loud, there were a lot of them, it went on outside the ground after the game too.  It’s disappointing that the more right-minded Derby supporters who presumably make up the majority of them couldn’t regulate the idiots amongst their number a little better.

On the line-up front we had the big miss of Higginbotham – whilst I’ve no problem at all with Lynchy, he doesn’t provide the leadership we get from Danny and as such doesn’t always have the benign influence on his teammates.  That means, to his credit, the manager decided to stick with a four-four-two line-up rather than any kind of crazy rearrangement as many feared.

Gunter   Chambers   Lynch   Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi    Guerdioura    Reid
Tudgay    Blackstock

Whilst possession was largely dominated by Derby, the first chance came to Chambers who nodded over from a Reid freekick.  Derby threatened with a series of corners delivered dangerously by ex-Notts midfielder Ben Davies – indeed, what he lacks for in mobility he certainly offers threat from deadballs – on the ten minute mark he hit a freekick low through a crowded box which Camp needed to be alert to save.

The first booking came shortly after, Davies – Steven this time – felled Reid and picked up the card from D’Urso.  It kind of set the tone, Guedioura hacked Tyson down much to the delight of the travelling fans – and also picked up a booking.  Then Moussi was in on the act, pulling back Bryson unnecessarily and also picking up a yellow card.  The wronged man nearly got Derby the lead with a header but missed the target.

Tys had a few chances to get his first Derby County goal but couldn’t quite get onto the ball as it was headed back into the area after a freekick, he also latched onto a ropey pass from Guedioura but didn’t react fast enough.  Steven Davies came close from a Paul Green cross but his glancing header missed the target – shortly after he shot from long range but put the ball well over.

As for us – our best chance came from a HOOOOOF from Lee Camp, Shackell made a mess of dealing with it allowing Marcus Tudgay to nip in behind him – but he lacked composure with the finish and put it over from around twenty yards.  Another opportunity followed for Chambers who again couldn’t find the target.  The last chance fell to Ben Davies who dragged his shot wide after a pull-back from Tyson.

All in all, a scrappy half devoid of quality edged by the home side at least in chances created.  Kind of predictable I suppose, and since we’d managed to avoid conceding, there was some feeling that there might be the chance of a turnaround in the second half – after all, it wouldn’t be the first time we’d seen a poor first half followed by a much improved second half!

A livelier start to the second half again saw Forest with the first opportunity, a cross from deep by Cunningham had Frank Fielding flapping at it, the ball falling to Moussi whose effort was blocked and missed the target.  Exchanges beyond this were limited and scrappy with neither side creating much – with a little under an hour gone Cotterill took off Guedioura and replaced him with Jonathan Greening.

The Rams started to press more – Tyson with another opportunity to get off the mark as a Derby player cut in from the right and hit a shot but put it wide of the near post.  Marcus Tudgay picked up a yellow card for fouling Ben Davies, the fouled man then taking a freekick that almost crept all the way in eliciting an excellent last gap save from Lee Camp to prevent it going in.

Echoes of earlier in the season saw the home side play on with Joel Lynch prone on the deck, no goal this time – but a number of petulant challenges from all and sundry ended up with one of those embarrassing pushing and shoving nonsense.  Dexter Blackstock – maker of the latter petulant challenge – was singled out for a booking apparently for his part in the post-foul scenes – not sure what he did that others didn’t, but there you go.

Forest did still create some opportunities – a cross from the left was met by Tudgay and Barker simultaneously resulting in the Derby skipper needing lengthy treatment (since writing this I’ve learned he’s broken his leg – here’s to a speedy recovery, Shaun) – he was eventually replaced by eventual matchwinner Jake Buxton, whilst Ishmael Miller was introduced to replace Dexter Blackstock.  Once back underway, Tudgay had another close opportunity flicking an Andy Reid cross just wide.

The last ten minutes were pretty much pressure from the home side – Reidy cleared one off the line, Camp made a point-blank save and eventually we had the potential for our only ‘we only had ten men’ story (although I’d like to think we’d not stoop to hiring a poxy plane) as Marcus Tudgay  received a second booking for a challenge on Bryson.  As stoppage time added up it was a Ben Davies delivery that finally broke the deadlock.

A freekick awarded more from the reaction of the crowd than from what occurred on the pitch was delivered well from deep, was not dealt with and Buxton was free to head into bottom corner at the back post – I know we’re a man short, but there’s really no excuse for that.

A disappointing lack of composure, a scrappy match that in truth could’ve gone either way – but Derby certainly created the best opportunities.  Whilst the journey from Pride Park on the back of a bad result is never fun, it just ended up feeling a bit numb to be honest.

I wasn’t going to mention it, because I’d like to think it’s a brainless minority, but I would hope to see some form of apology from Derby for those fans who decided it was a good idea to sing derogatory things about the death of Nigel Doughty.  Loudly, and repeatedly – there were a lot of them.

Alas, I’m not confident that if the boot were on the other foot some of our own idiots wouldn’t indulge in similar – so there seems little point in getting too worked up by some pond-life.  Still, congratulations scumbags – an achievement some of your fans have desperately hankered after seeing for 40 years has finally been realised, and the headlines will be all about your idiotic and disgusting chanting.  I hope you’re proud of yourselves, you sad pathetic human beings.

Elsewhere Donny grabbed a point against Reading, which – whilst not ideal – could’ve been worse as they were winning.  So, for the first time in my life Derby have done a league double over us – and d’you know what, I don’t feel as bad as I thought I would about it.  Worryingly I think I’ve become accustomed to failure.  Leeds away up next – the light at the end of that tunnel is looking further and further away…

Derby County vs. Forest preview..

I’m still finding it difficult to get too worked up for this fixture, which is a worry.  There’s the usual rabble-rousing and flagrantly biased cock-waving going on in both Derby and Forest online communities that generally precedes matches between us –  but well, much like back in February when the snow put paid to the scheduled date for the fixture it’s a bit difficult to muster much excitement.  However – we are on much better form now than we were then.

Both sides of course come off the back of home games at the weekend – we got a morale-boosting-even-if-a-bit-fortunate 3-1 win against Millwall whilst the Rams lost 2-1 at the hands of Watford.  Doncaster aside, we’ve had a few decent results lately, whilst Derby are sitting lowly in the form table with poor recent performances.  Not that the form book generally has much say in this fixture typically.

With a welcome win against the Lions we have elevated ourselves to five points clear of the drop zone – tempting me to look at this game more as the game in hand it is.  Derby are in a reasonably comfortable lower-mid-table position so are not as desperate for points as we are – but Nigel Clough and co will be rather eager to notch a catalyst to revive their ailing form.  He will, of course, have his eyes on the first league double Derby have managed over Forest since his dad was in charge at the Baseball Ground.

On the team front Steve Cotterill is waiting on confirmation over the availability for Elokobi and Anderson who were both missing at the weekend having picked up injuries during and in the warm-up-to the Doncaster game respectively.  Whilst means the longer-term and suspicious injuries are those that remain – which means, so far, there’s no excuse for an outlandish square-pegs-round-holes formation.

Derby have a few niggles – Gareth Roberts missed their weekend defeat through illness although is likely to be fit to return, whilst Shackell has been carrying a hamstring injury that he’s been playing through.  Jamie Ward has been out too with a thigh injury, although they do have the ‘boost’ that glass-man Nathan Tyson is apparently fit to face his former club.

From a Forest point of view – and indeed, from Derby’s point of view – it’s all about the start, Derby have started games badly of late and given themselves a difficult job to come back into games – much like us, remember the Donny home game?  Ultimately this is a game between two mediocre-at-best sides which will probably be decided by a fairly slim margin – fingers-crossed that fortune will favour the Reds.

With a tough few games coming up in the shape of trips to Leeds and Leicester as well as the not inconsiderable visit of Brighton to the City Ground then this fixture represents the ‘on paper’ best opportunity for acquisition of points.  So maybe trying to write it off as a bit of a bonus game in hand is probably not quite right – and no matter how necessary points may or may not be the bragging rights are important.

I’m lucky enough to work with a number of Derby fans – it’s fair to say that they tend to be less magnanimous in victory than I am (and it’s more of a novelty for me, too!), so if karma is at play in this encounter then it should surely lend a fated hand to the Reds.  This is an age of austerity afterall, a Forest win wouldn’t see reams of paper and printer ink being wasted in petty small-town decorations adorning desks around my office.

It certainly wouldn’t result in the carbon footprint of a small aircraft being chartered in a few months time.  Mind you, if we arranged a similar stunt of a ‘months after the event’ reminder then we’d be in the middle of summer before the visible-if-you-squint banner was flying over an empty Pride Park.  I can’t call this one – Derby have to be the favourites by virtue of being the home team – let’s hope Reidy plays and has magic in his boots again, he was the difference between us and Millwall on Saturday.

Uncharacteristically deadly Reds tame the Lions..

Reidy seals the game, and a man of the match performance, with our third..Nottingham Forest - 3

Nottingham Forest – 3
Millwall – 1

It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job – the Reds relied on a fair degree of luck with the visitors rattling the woodwork on a number of occasions and a reasonable looking shout for a penalty.  At the other end Forest were uncharacteristically deadly in front of goal, there weren’t all that many chances created – so the conversion rate of those we did make was most pleasing for the home fans.

Unlike midweek, the team that Steve Cotterill went for wasn’t far away from what many of us would select, I think – a conventional 4-4-2 with people playing in their proper positions.  True, Elokobi missing through injury isn’t ideal, and I’m sure like me many fans might consider whether or not Chambers’ recent performances in defence justify keeping out Lynch or even Wootton on the bench – but all in all, I was pretty pleased.

Gunter    Chambers    Higginbotham    Cunningham
McCleary    Moussi    Guedioura    Reid
Tudgay    Blackstock

Millwall won the toss and elected to make us swap ends, so the incongruous sight of Forest kicking towards the Trent End started the match for us.  It was the visitors who had the first decent chance, too – James Henry (remember him? he played for us for about ten minutes whilst on loan from Reading) struck a shot from in the area, hitting the upright before Lee Camp was able to claim the ricochet.

Another opportunity falling to the Lions left us fearing the worst, the ball coming off Henry to Keogh whose volley was just over.  Forest started to awaken a little and some good work from Adlene Guedioura saw him get the chance to cross from the right to Dexter Blackstock whose effort was dragged wide.  It did start to see us liven up a little though and take the game to Millwall a little.

Gunter and McCleary work really well together down the right hand side – it was the Welshman feeding the ball to the on-form winger whose snapshot was almost diverted into the goal by Andy Reid, the ball ending up just wide of the post having beaten the dive of Forde.  We didn’t have too long to wait until we did manage to break the deadlock, though.

Reid picked up the ball on the left, and with no pressure from Millwall took his time to pick out a lovely cross to the back post where it found Garath McCleary lurking.  The ball in was too high to volley comfortably, too low to head standing – Gaz opted to practically get onto his knees whilst heading the ball into the net at the far post to give Forest the lead with their first shot on target.  Nice!

Spurred on by a buoyant City Ground, the Reds carried on attacking – Guedioura took the ball down the left and played it across the pitch to Gunter on the right.  He put in a decent cross towards Dexter, but Paul Robinson was on hand to intercept and get the ball clear at the expense of a corner.  Naturally, it being a corner – and us being Forest – very little of note came of this!

A second goal was to come though.  A decent run forward from Greg Cunningham was cynically cut short by a Millwall foul.  Reid delivered an outswinging ball towards the back post where it was headed up in the air by Chambers, falling fortunately at the back post to Danny Higginbotham who kept his eye on the ball and struck a fantastic volley into the net from a ridiculously tight angle.

Millwall reminded us they were still a threat though – James Henry again was causing problems, unleashing a powerful dipping shot from around the twenty yard mark.  I thought Camp might’ve got a decisive touch on it that caused it to cannon off the underside of the crossbar, eventually the ball was put out of play thanks to a poor shot from visitors.  I do think Kenny Jackett had his side briefed to ‘shoot from anywhere’ against the Reds.

We closed out the first half with Millwall trying to mount the pressure on us with little success – at one point (and I can’t quite remember the placement of it, it might even have been at 1-0) Garath McCleary appeared to clip Scott Barron – the defender’s overly-dramatic swan-dive perhaps costing his side the decision from the referee who waved away protests.  It certainly looked like a penalty to me.  Still, how many should-have-been-penalties have we not been given?

Funnily enough with goals to talk about and results elsewhere to check (kudos to County for being 4-0 up down at Charlton at this point) I must confess I didn’t pay any attention whatsoever to the kicking-the-ball-through-Victor’s-hole competition – so I couldn’t tell you whether or not it was managed this time around.  That is something that always bodes well!

A lively start to the second half saw the visitors again getting the first chance – a break culminating in an effort from Keogh which Camp was able to save.  Some nice work again between McCleary and Gunter saw the former flick the ball through to the latter – Gunter then crossed brilliantly across the six yard line only for nobody quite being able to get on the end of it to apply the killer touch.

Millwall responded positively by attacking – and a nervy clearance by Cunningham in a crowded penalty area gave Alan Dunne the chance to hit a powerful shot that Gunter was able to deflect out of play.  At the other end McCleary had a go from long range which – whilst straight at him – was spilled by Forde but he was able to regather it before any danger was posed by other Reds players.

Our visitors were good value for a goal at least though – and it arrived after it looked like Josh Wright was to be the latest unlucky player for them to hit the woodwork.  His shot deflected off Higginbotham and looped up and over Camp to strike the post.  Agony turned to joy for the Lions in an instant though, the ball rebounded to Darius Henderson who had all the time in the world to pop the ball in the net to get the visitors back in the game.

I was feeling pretty nervous by this point – but to their credit the bulk of Reds fans kept positive and vocally behind the lads – Forest were spurred on and Gunter again was well forward and crossed in towards Moussi but Robinson was on hand to clear.  As the game threatened to fizzle out the ball fell to Reid deep in midfield.  With nobody closing him down he carried the ball forward a few yards before picking out a delicious shot from around thirty yards into the far top corner.

Millwall continued to battle – Robinson should’ve done a lot better with Bouazza’s cross but he conspired to head it over from close range.  Forest wound some time down by using the fairly limited options on the bench – first Wootton came on for Tudgay, the substitute lining up in midfield.  As the stoppage board went up revealing five minutes of time added on we made two more changes, Lynch replaced Reid who got a great ovation, and eventually Miller came on for Blackstock who hadn’t spotted it was his number up.

By this point Millwall had all but given up really trying by this point so it was a relatively stress-free close out to the game not least thanks to the two goal cushion afforded by Andy Reid’s strike.  It feels good to be celebrating a win, it feels very good to have a better points cushion from the drop-zone and puts me in a much more positive frame of mind for the trip to Derby on Tuesday.  That’s our game in hand on everyone but Doncaster.

Whilst we should always celebrate three points and acknowledge the good things – so let’s do that, well done Steve and the boys.  Reidy, Higginbotham and McCleary in particular (and not just for their goals) stood out.  However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and a side less wasteful in finishing, and with a bit more luck with efforts off the woodwork or with refereeing decisions could’ve seen this result be different.

But it wasn’t, which would explain why I’ve had a few well deserved celebratory pints!  You Reds!

Who will buy my sweet red sports club?..

After a pleasingly small amount of macabre speculation Forest have confirmed some degree of what will happen to Forest in the aftermath of Nigel Doughty’s untimely death.  In a nutshell, we are more than likely going to be operating under new ownership from July-August 2012 – until then an unconfirmed level of funding for the club has been confirmed to be support by the estate of Nigel Doughty.

Discussions with potential purchasers of the club are already underway, according to Mark Arthur – and there are several of them.  Investment bankers Seymour Pierce have been retained to advise this process, they had initially been tasked by Nigel Doughty to field queries relating to the acquisition of the club once he’d stepped down as Chairman after the club also parted company with Steve McClaren.

Whether these arrangements will allow for the honouring of commitments beyond the 2012/2013 season start (upon standing down Mr Doughty had agreed to cover contracts signed during his tenure, remember) is unclear at this juncture.  It’s unclear also if we will have any wriggle-room to address some of the contracts that expire this summer – the likes of Lynch and McCleary, two of very few players to impress this year, spring to mind immediately.

So really, aside from confirmation of the unsurprising fact that those that survive Nigel Doughty don’t want to continue to own the club, we haven’t really learned much new – the club is still up for sale, like it was before – only now there’s a target date.  That target date is beyond May – so frankly, much like the rest of the club should be, I am going to focus upon matters on the pitch – there’s a match tomorrow, and there’s an embarrassing relegation to be avoided.

Forest vs. Millwall preview..

Having undergone that game against Doncaster on Tuesday I’m afraid the mood at nffcblog towers is very gloomy and pessimistic again after the respite of better results before.  With not just a poor performance, but poor effort levels evident, against Rovers and mounting injury concerns things are looking a little bleak before we even consider the capabilities or otherwise of the manager.

We are, of course, still in control of our own destiny to some degree – we are outside the relegation zone, we have a three point cushion.  Millwall are a little further ahead of us on the road to safety, and did themselves no harm at all midweek by travelling to Peterborough and pummeling them by three goals to nil,  getting eight points clear of safety.

The burgeoning injury list can now have Marcus Tudgay, Paul Anderson and George Elokobi pencilled in, although we may have the boost of Danny Higginbotham back from his lay-off.  Tudgay and Anderson picked up groin and thigh strains respectively in the warm-up on Tuesday – at some point I would think that somebody would ask the question about the number of injuries we seem to be getting like this.

Having said that, I remain spectacularly unconvinced that the likes of Radi Majewski, David McGoldrick and Matt Derbyshire – to name but three – are actually injured at all.  But anyway, enough of the internet conspiracies.  I have nothing to back up that statement except my own cynicism.

The Lions might be missing leading scorer Henderson, and dangerous midfielder Trotter – both of them have been out for the last three games with hamstring and thigh problems.   They’re on an indifferent run of late – in the last six league games they’ve drawn two, lost two and won two – one of each at home, one of each away.

Our recent form is largely the same – two of each result, and spread evenly between home and away games; if you take the classic six-most-recent-games comparison factor then you’d have this pegged as a reasonable close encounter.  Of course, it’s probably not enough to simply look at recent games.  There’s a big fat reason for this.

Recent form comparison needs to be counterbalanced with the fact that we have the joint worst home record in the whole football league.  That’s right, only four of the 92 teams have hit double figures in terms of home defeats – just ourselves and Hereford have managed as many as eleven.  Hereford just pip us to the worst by virtue of their inferior goal difference on their own patch, although do hover just above the League Two drop zone.

Without a massive reversal in attitude from the players it’s difficult to see much other than another disappointing home reverse.  Hereford at least are not playing at home.  Millwall will offer fight, resolve and effort – if we extrapolate performance levels from the Doncaster game then they’ll find it relatively easy to pick up a result.

So it’s a case of all eyes on Coventry’s game against Birmingham and Donny’s trip to West Ham.  If we lose and either of those win they’ll overtake us and we could find ourselves second from bottom by the end of the day.  If Portsmouth are able to turn over Brighton at the Amex Arena then they’d only be three points away from us too.

Just when I thought I was out…

… they pull me back in!

Nottingham Forest – 1
Doncaster Rovers – 2

Okay, I’ll be honest, nobody really thought that we were out of it – but well, I needed a way to cheer myself up and what better way of gratuitously quoting the Godfather?  After a decent mini-run of results Cotterill made changes, some were enforced (not least the last-minute changes due to injuries during the warm-up), others less so – either way, from looking quite balanced and with options we suddenly looked, well, not even one dimensional.

Initially my aghastness at McCleary being on the left started to look like a potentially shrewd move with Chimbonda struggling to deal with him – but there were too many poor performances today.  With injuries to Tudgay and Anderson pre-match, and one to Elokobi during the game, we are looking worryingly thin on the ground in areas again – particularly up front where we had to rely on the hapless Robbie Findley.

Even Cotterill didn’t have his customary bizarre excuse post-match – he sounded just as baffled as the rest of us as to why the lads just didn’t appear to put in the effort.  He also left an intriguing nugget hanging in the air around Findley before stating that he doesn’t talk about things that happen in the dressing room – so we know there’s a problem with the USA striker, but not what it is.  So anyway, here was the team that lined up, at odds to the scoreboard:

Wootton   Chambers   Lynch   Elokobi
Gunter    Moussi    Guerdioura    McCleary
Blackstock    Findley

The early running was with Doncaster in possession – albeit not creating much of note.  Forest actually fashioned the best early exchanges – coming from Findley which missed the target, and a distance effort from McCleary from distance giving Ikeme an early easy save to make.  It was clearly a game between two sides low on form and confidence.  Dex did well to create some space in the box but shot straight at the ‘keeper.

Probably our brightest moment was courtesy of man-of-the-moment McCleary who ran forward well, cutting inside and blasting powerfully from around 25 yards – putting it just wide, it wasn’t really clear whether Ikeme would’ve got anything on it or not.  As the Reds were easily stifled from further attacking our visitors started to tentatively probe foward, Piquionne was ready to shoot but Moussi was on hand to clear the lines.

It was the debutant who gave Rovers the lead though – he carried the ball forward as Donny had three on two down the right channel.  Rather than play it to his teammates he unleashed an absolute piledriver unexpectedly from thirty odd yards – whilst it was powerfully struck and looked to be swerving it was also bloody nearly straight at Camp from my seat (need to see it again, really) but took the ‘keeper by surprise and was in.  A real sucker punch right before half time.

So what had looked a disappointing but not disastrous first half had quickly become something more approximating an uphill battle.  One bright spot of a disappointing evening was actually noticing somebody actually manage to kick the ball through the hole in the world’s most poxy half time ‘entertainment.’  Yes, goal aside, that was perhaps the highlight of the evening for us on the pitch!

To mount the challenge for the second half Cotterill restored Andy Reid to the pitch, sacrificing Wootton, who isn’t a rightback, and moving Gunter – who is – back to that position, putting McCleary on the right and Reidy on the left.  I can kinda understand why he opted to give Reid a rest but, well, he needed to put somebody on the pitch who knows how to kick the ball to his teammates, with only Guerdioura and McCleary really showing much propensity to do this.

As far as starts to a second half go, this was bloody shit, though.  A mix-up in defence presumably between Elokobi and Lynch as it was down the left allowed El-Hadji Diouf as much space as he could want on the right to pick out an excellently placed cross to find a completely unmarked Kyle Bennett to convert from close range into a practically open goal to double the visitors lead.

It was nearly tripled as well.  The dangerous Bennett again the danger-man when he hit a decent low shot that looked to have Camp beaten, only for the Forest keeper to make a belated dive to tip the ball onto the post and eventually gather the loose ball under supervision from Elokobi.  It was so nearly a very very embarrassing evening’s work, make no mistake at all about this.

After a renewed attempt to get forward the Reds were left with another enforced change with Elokobi left sitting on an advertising hoarding at the Trent End – he was replaced by Cunningham (who himself had been a late addition to the substitutes thanks to the injuries elsewhere).  Doncaster reverted to a spoiling and timewasting style, which is unsurprisingly really given their predicament, and the Reds had very idea about how to break this down.

Until Guedioura picked out a lovely pass down the right to Gunter who’d got well forward.  His cross found Blackstock who’d found some time and space in the box to put the ball high into the net to get a goal back for the Reds.  One of my season ticket neighbours was convinced that this would herald the comeback to get a draw, I struggled to muster much by way of optimism, to be honest.

I’m sad to say I was very pleased to see Robbie Findley withdrawn – I have no idea what issues Cotterill alluded to about the striker, but regardless of this he was shockingly bad this evening.  McGugan replaced him presumably to play as an advanced midfielder – he kinda just strolled about though rather than grasp the opportunity that we were obviously hoping he’d grasp like he used to under Billy when reduced to substitute.

McCleary again was our principle source of danger – he cut in from the left and hit a decent shot through plenty of bodies in the box – Ikeme spilled it but re-gathered just before the onrushing Guedioura could get on the end of it.  Gradually we ran out of ideas and our main idea of attack seemed to be to pass the ball to Chambers to launch towards the now-emergency-striker Lynch up front – it was predictably ineffective.

A really frustrating evening – unplanned changes notwithstanding.  A lack of effort from some quarters, a lack of quality from other – it all added up to a deserved win for Doncaster who lift themselves from the bottom of the league.  Indeed, win their game in hand over us by two goals and they’d consign us to the bottom three again.  Just as we’d dared to hope we might open up a gap from danger we’re back up the famous creek with a super-slippery-gripped paddle.

However, to offer some balance to proceedings I suppose, most of us expected us to lose at Birmingham and beat Doncaster.  I suppose the end result on the points front would be the same – the disappointment is that goodwill that was starting to develop and the momentum we’d built up is eliminated, and the gauntlet is thrown down now for the players to restore that on Saturday when Millwall come to town.

Forest vs. Doncaster Rovers preview..

In the midst of a heady run of three games unbeaten, the visit of Doncaster Rovers tomorrow evening represents a sizeable game for both clubs, both ensconced at the wrong end of the table.  Of course, with a recent upturn in form and the benefit of a points deduction to Portsmouth we find ourselves outside the relegation zone with a four point margin of safety – our visitors remain firmly at the bottom of the table.

The Reds were denied a win on the road at Barnsley at the weekend thanks to a combination of a referee missing the most obvious handball you’ll ever see, and of course our own lack of capitalising on our lead and allowing the home side a way back into the game.  Our visitors also mustered a draw at home to Brighton thanks to getting a late spot kick which was duly converted by El-Hadji Diouf.  They remain five points clear of safety and are looking increasingly desperate for the points.

On the injury front Steve Cotterill will be checking upon injury victims Chambers and Moussi – their injuries apparently minor in nature they’re likely to be contenders for this one.  Danny Higginbotham has a more serious injury so is unlikely to return, remaining on the sick list with Miller, Harewood, Derbyshire, McGoldrick, Majewski and Cohen.  Suddenly we seem to have a considerable injury list again, don’t we?

Doncaster will be missing Brian Stock who picked up a knock at the weekend against Brighton.  On the personnel links front Forest have of course relatively recently taken on former Rovers manager Sean O’Driscoll as a first team coach – he was replaced at Doncaster by former Forest striker Dean Saunders.  With no win in their last eight games, fans of Online Bookies might fancy a bet on Forest to continue their faltering return to form and bid for safety.

All in all an important fixture for both of us – and one neither side is likely to be taking lightly.  As such it would seem salient to predict a cagey encounter.  Without wishing to be disrespectful to our visitors I think it’s reasonable to expect Forest to be able to overcome their fellow strugglers – however they’re going to have to put a shift in to do so.  It’s more of a must-win for them than us, but it would come really in handy for us too!

A big couple of games coming up.  Wins would go some way to offering significant reassurance on us achieving safety!