Forest’s cup run Don’t Stop..

Dex celebrates snagging Forest’s first goal of the season..

Fleetwood Town – 0
Nottingham Forest – 1

Apologies for the delay, after the late trip back from Fleetwood I was more tempted by sleep than my laptop – plus I do get to be amused by Derby County’s exit from the first round this evening despite having been 3-0 up at half time, and 5-3 up after ninety minutes – eventually drawing 5-5 and going out on penalties after a goalless extra time against Scunthorpe United.

Hell, even Tyson scored!  Letting down five second half goals though, with two of them in stoppage time – ooh, the 6,000 odd Sheffield Wednesday fans travelling to Pride Park on Saturday must be feeling like they might get to see something quite exciting!

But anyway, I digress already!  Like most Forest fans we passed on the delights of Fleetwood early doors and went for the dubious pleasures of Blackpool instead, heading up the road to what the Forest fans unkindly dubbed ‘a bus-stop in Blackpool’ to the match – so aside from the inevitable Fleetwood Mac punning that I’ve certainly been indulging in since the draw, I don’t have much to say about the place!

Fleetwood’s Highbury ground is tidy enough, two small terraces behind the goals, a decent modern stand on one side, and small half-stand effort (which appeared to be built infront of the old stand, oddly) opposite – and a big video screen, and the most sinister looking mascot ever called ‘Captain Cod’.  He was good fun though, responding well to the travelling fans’ banter.

So, Forest started with a pretty strong and positive looking side, it was something like this at the start, with Guedioura and McGugan seemingly alternating in the holding role:

Darlow
Moloney    Ayala    Collins    Harding
Halford  McGugan  Guedioura Reid
Majewski
Blackstock

It was a pretty forgettable first half, in truth.  The home side closed down quickly and the Reds struggled to move the ball quickly so often lost it.  Fleetwood had the first chance of the game, a decent ball in found Jon Parkin who glanced a header goalwards and gave Karl Darlow – who’d had a great reception from the travelling fans – with a fairly routine save.

I’m struggling to remember much else at all aside from a number of balls getting booted out the stand, including nearly taking out a seagull, and lots of fun in the terraces with the inflatables purloined from the day in Blackpool many fans had.  Raddy had an ambitious effort after Halford had tried to force a shot through, but he put it well off target from a tricky angle.

The weather loomed sinisterly in the form of a big black cloud drifting toward the ground, but Forest appeared much more decisive.  Halford had moved more centrally into a holding role to try to get McGugan and Guedioura less deep in midfield, and Majewski appeared to be tasked with covering the right side of midfield.

Almost immediately we looked more impactful, a good delivery from a freekick from Lewis McGugan found Halford at the back post but if he managed to connect it was barely, ending up with a goalkick.  Closer still, another cross from McGugan found Blackstock in a difficult position but he dug out an effort that hit the cross bar.

From a ridiculous angle Guedioura – who’d just beaten a defender to get into area – struck a real palm-stinger which was well saved by Davies in the Fleetwood goal, he might’ve been better crossing it, but it would’ve been a pretty neat goal!  The goal came quite soon after – Reidy crossed well from the left to Blackstock who headed down, but Davies was able to save – but fortunately Dex was quickest on the draw in the box and fired the rebound into the goal.

Forest looked more comfortable now but without really massively threatening – a freekick was well-struck by Reidy but saved by Davies, Halford connected well with an overhead kick  but it proved an easy save for the home ‘keeper.  Lewis was working hard in midfield, and was almost rewarded when he burst through but dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area.

Meanwhile it wasn’t too touch to be distracted by the electrical thunder storm visible over the other terrace – with Forest fans sounding almost like the crowd at a firework show with lots of ‘Ooohs!’ and ‘Aaahs!’.  Luckily the rain never really properly got started, so the insubstantial roof over the terrace was sufficient to keep the travelling fans dry.

A Guedioura cross almost found Dex, but he was just unable to connect.  That was his last action with Tudgay replacing him, and the sub almost immediately made an impact meeting Reidy’s cross with a controlled header that he put just wide.  Shortly after it was Reid again providing to the replacement striker who headed straight at Davies.

Greening was a late change for the largely ineffective Majewski, and immediately sought to get involved – there wasn’t much more direct action, there was a long range scare from Gillespie late on but it was over.  All in all, a good result – Fleetwood looked a tidy side, as you’d expect given how they romped to promotion last season, and the Reds looked still a little less than match-sharp.  Unsurprising really.

All in all, a pleasing result – and perhaps can be considered a bit of an extension to the pre-season campaign.  It was good to keep a clean sheet with our defence being brand new, and a clean sheet for the rookie ‘keeper as well.  There’s still a lot of work for Sean O’Driscoll to do, but it would certainly appear that he’s making progress already with his squad – and that’s reassuring!

Now for the season proper to start – I can’t wait!

Work in progress..

Tonight was my first opportunity to take in Forest’s stunted pre-season, and if nothing else it reiterated what we should already know, Sean O’Driscoll’s era as Nottingham Forest manager is still very much a work in progress.  Of course, first things first, a belated welcome to Simon Gillett and Daniel Ayala who joined Forest over the last few days.

Ayala joins on a season long loan from Norwich City – I first remember him whilst on loan at Hull City from Liverpool in a game at their place.  It was the first time we played them in about eight million years, we threw everything at them but couldn’t score, not least because of the classy young centre half who seemed hell bent on thwarting our chances of scoring.

Subsequently he returned to Liverpool with an injury problem – but he did score against Derby for the tigers, so that’s not so bad.  He later joined the Rams that season once the injury situation was resolved and made seventeen appearances for them.  Norwich signed him from Liverpool around a year ago, but had a nightmare time of it with injuries.

So hopefully he can stay fit – because I rate him.  I must admit, I’d not really heard much about Simon Gillett before our interest in him.  He came through at Southampton but never really made it at the Saints, being loaned out to Walsall, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Yeovil and finally Doncaster before moving permanently to Rovers in 2010.

His contract at Donny expired and left him a free agent in the summer – and the gaffer has taken the opportunity to reacquaint himself with him.  He’s a small combative midfielder who plays the ‘niggly’ role that we’ve kind of missed lately.  I didn’t get to see him in action this evening, so haven’t really got much else to say about him!  It’s generally a role that I think is important though, and under-valued by most fans.

So anyway, as I said I got down to the City Ground for tonight’s friendly, which looked something like this in terms of line-up:

Darlow
Halford   Ayala   Collins   Harding
Moussi
Moussa   McGugan   Reid
Blackstock   McGoldrick

After a decent result against Villa and a decent half against County, tonight’s game was a bit of an anti-climax really.  Forest were disjointed and a little relaxed against a West Brom side who didn’t really have to work too hard either – an early lead was acquired through a hit from range by Mulumbu, it deflected slightly but I thought Karl Darlow in the goal should’ve done better than get a hand to it on its’ way in.  McGoldrick had a couple of efforts from range – they might’ve been our only shots on goal.

It was 2-0 and game over just after a quarter of an hour – Gera had an effort from range which Darlow again messed up a little – he parried it toward Shane Long who, as we know only too well, is a diving bugger – he fell over under no contact from Danny Collins but the ref pointed to the spot and Long picked himself up to send Darlow the wrong way with a well taken penalty.  Really, there’s not much else to say – it wasn’t a great match!

The second half was more even – Forest looked more useful in containing their opponents and getting a bit of possession in,  but there wasn’t much by the way of threat going forward.  Lots of changes came ten minutes into the second half – Al-Mutawa, Guedioura, Greening, Derbyshire, Majewski and Tudgay came on for Moussa, McGugan, Moussi, Reid, McGoldrick and Blackstock, as noted – it didn’t make much difference but Forest were containing the not-exactly-busting-a-gut Baggies.

Bader Al-Mutawa’s appearance was interesting – he didn’t even have a number on his shirt, he sat infront of Halford mostly and I thought looked a bit lost most of the time, but he did have some nice touches on the ball which is promising.  Lascelles came on for Collins as O’Driscoll looked to protect his defence, Moloney replaced Halford, then Taylor (a triallist) replaced Harding and Regan later replaced Ayala meaning we had a whole new eleven out by the end of the game.

Probably the best thing about the evening was the slight sense of arousal at having a number three with a blonde Psychoesque haircut.  Of course, Harding is no Psycho, but if you squint a bit then you could almost sell the idea to yourself.  It’s too early to judge anything or either take overly optimistic or pessimistic views from what we’ve seen so far – my friends who made it to the other friendlies reassured me they had been much better, so certainly it’s not doom and gloom.

With the season proper kicking off on Monday night at Fleetwood for the Capital One Cup and then we’re into the League season next weekend I can’t help but think we’re going to be basically having a bit of an extended preseason into the real one – it can’t really be helped given the level of rebuilding and disruption our usual preparations have undergone.  I do think that given the circumstances we’re taking the right approach, but we will need a bit of patience (certainly more than the two whinging sods sat behind me!) whilst the team gels.

Other things that are work in progress is the blog – I’ve been absorbed by a summer of sport so been less active than I might otherwise have been online, as the season starts it should galvanise me to get a bit more lively in posting on here!  Obviously Forest have been through a gigantic upheaval on and off the field over the last few months – but well, I wanted to stick to my ‘having some time away from it’ resolve, so stuck to it.  I could do with rejigging the look of the blog though, and obviously as the season commences there’ll be more impetus to write.

I did find a bit of time to moonlight for the Guardian for a preview of our season  though, which you can find here.