Forest vs. Hull City preview..

Erm, we played Ipswich didn’t we?  It didn’t go brilliantly – unable to pass, unable to defend, Camp was lucky to stay on the pitch then unlucky enough to save a penalty whilst conceding the rebound – Dexter was alert enough to convert a chance.  One for us to forget, one for Sean O’Driscoll to remind the players of a lot in the preparations for the visit of Hull this weekend.

I’m going to skip over re-living the game with a detailed match report (although the main reason for that absence is life getting in the way a bit since the trip to Suffolk!).

The Tigers are sitting pretty in the play-off zone, just.  Three points ahead of us – so clearly not a side to be trifled with, although their form has dipped of late.  We haven’t beaten them for ages, but largely due to the fact we’ve spent most of that time in different divisions to them.  Their recent games saw defeat to Burnley and a draw with Palace at home.

We were unbeaten in five games before the Ipswich debacle – a debacle that might lure the gaffer into changes.  Cox, Majewski and Hutchinson remain sidelined by injuries, whilst Jenas, Ayala and Halford are doubts – so the manager’s choices in changing things around too much are somewhat limited.  It will be rather interesting to see what he comes up with.

So, as we are becoming accustomed to, our visitors will provide a stern test for us – they’ll be keen to capitalise on our stutter and try to kick start their own season back underway having missed the chance to win their last two home games.  For us it will be fascinating to see the response from the players – Tuesday’s trip to Ipswich prompted the first hint of anger for the gaffer.

I know I’m becoming a bit of a parody of myself in urging caution but Hull have enough about them to be worried about – and we just seem so tricky to second-guess at the moment, even when we see them week in and week out.  This is the kind of game where we might be able to extrapolate how things might pan out over that traditionally tricky winter phase we seem to struggle with.

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Ipswich Town vs. Forest preview..

Having had a tricky start to November the Reds have been on a decent run of late, and travel to struggling Ipswich to reacquaint themselves with last year’s skipper Luke Chambers.  Since Mick McCarthy took over from the hapless Paul Jewell there has been a degree of improvement – but there’s been some pretty shambolic results nonetheless.

In their last six they’ve lost three, won two and drawn one – they’ve let in sixteen goals in those games, admittedly eleven of those came in just two rather disastrous defeats on the road against Palace and Leicester City.  At home they shipped three to the Owls, narrowly beat Burnley 2-1 whilst only mustering a 1-1 draw against struggling Peterborough at the weekend.

If you weren’t the kind of uber-paranoid person I am then you’d feel quite confident – the Reds on decent form, heading to a team low on confidence – but well, I am uber-paranoid.  The kind of form Ipswich have been on is likely to improve – they have a decent squad and a decent manager at this level.  So it wouldn’t do to be over-confident.

Which is something not many would accuse Sean O’Driscoll of, anyway – he’ll have a cunning plan I’m sure.  With Cox out our only real option up front now is Blackstock – I’m sure he’ll relish the opportunity to go head to head with former Reds skipper Luke Chambers, who left for greener grass that so far this season has looked a little parched and dead.

Elsewhere in our squad we missed Halford, Reidy and Jenas through injury in our last trip to Wolverhampton – so they’ll be assessed for their fitness to see whether they can feature in Suffolk tomorrow evening.  Our hosts are likely to be without Nigel Reo-Coker who injured himself in the weekend game against the Posh at Portman Road.

A win would be a third on the bounce for us – something we’ve not managed for a year and a half years, so would represent a decent achievement.  Of course, it could also be a result that could push us into the play-offs should other games finish favourably in that regard.  However, so far all I’ve got is a basket full of eggs and no chickens!

The thing to watch out for is that man DJ Campbell.  Remember him?  He’s on loan (along with about nine others) at the Tractor Boys and well, we all have our own bad memories of him don’t we?  Forest should approach this game with confidence and I’m sure they will – but I do think that Mick McCarthy will start to turn things around there.

Hopefully on a selfish note he’s not quite had enough time yet…

Guedioura strike snags rare Molineux win for Reds..

Guedioura is a match-winner at his old club..

Wolverhampton Wanderers – 1
Nottingham Forest – 2

Yeah, we never win at Molineux, even if they’re on rubbish form!  It turns out that particular hoodoo is long gone after an open and entertaining game in the Black Country.  Whilst the romantic matchwinner by former Wolves midfielder grabs the headlines, Henri Lansbury’s pass and Billy Sharp’s finish were just as lovely.

There were other opportunities too – and not a few scary moments at the back.  New boy Alan Hutton had somewhat of a baptism of fire, with little cover from midfield to help him deal with Sako on the home side’s right hand side.  However, I don’t think it’s unfair to say the Reds had the better opportunities and a narrow win didn’t flatter them on the day.

As noted, Hutton came straight into the side, Harding returned to the starting eleven after his injury whilst Lansbury came in for Reid, and Cox came in for Blackstock, giving us a line-up that looked something like this:

Camp
Hutton    Ward    Collins    Harding
Gillett
Lansbury    Guedioura    Cohen
Cox    Sharp

So, match report is delayed – it’s been a busy weekend, so my apologies – there’s been a fair amount of booze consumed between the match and now too – so I’ll do my best to do it justice!

An open start to the game looked to be heading for disaster for the Reds.  Pennant played a ball into the area after just six minutes, a ricochet from a lunging Gillett propelled the ball neatly to Sigurdarson who was in far too much space in the area – he got the ball under control and put a comfortable finish past Camp from inside the box.

Forest were understandably rattled for a while but regained their composure quite well – Cox and Sharp looked lively up front and Forest seemed to be overtly targeting a dinked ball into the channels over the generally quite high Wolves back line.

That doesn’t quite do justice to the pass Henri Lansbury dug out to find sharp advancing behind the Wolves defence though, he took a couple of touches and before the defender could get to him he’d slotted the ball into the net past the ‘keeper from inside the D to give Forest an equaliser much to our delight!

We had other chances too – Sharp tried to tee up Cox, Cox tried to tee up Sharp, Cox put another effort just wide after cutting in from the left hand side – whilst Lansbury spurned a chance to hit the target from range.  Wolves were causing us problems too – generally Sako was the source of their danger, but he wasn’t too proficient at hitting the target fortunately for us.

He did find the target and brought a good save to keep the winger’s cross out, however it did fall for Edwards who looked odds on to score but for an excellent last gap block by Danny Collins in the area.  Sigurdarson had a decent effort too that Camp saved with his legs, whilst another hit from range by Lansbury almost caused problems after a crazy deflection but was dealt with in the end.

Forest altered their shape a little in the second half to give Hutton more cover – with Cox looking more like a right-winger-cum-striker.  The Reds started the half brightly – Cohen and Sharp combined to give Cox a sight of goal but he wasn’t able to direct his shot away from Ikeme.  It was a brief reprieve for the Wolves ‘keeper though.

Just shy of the hour Cohen played the ball inside to the Algerian midfielder who took a couple of touches whilst advancing toward the area – never really looking like he had the ball under control – before unleashing a peach of a shot low just inside the post, with too much pace for Ikeme to be able to stand a chance of reaching.

Perhaps the quality of the strike combined with the overly muted celebration from Adlene against his former club even drew some applause from the home supporters which is quite sporting considering they’d just gone behind (and have been on a spectacularly poor run of results of late).

The only real other moment of note was a sour one for us – Simon Cox hit the deck after fairly inconsequential-looking contact from Foley, it looks like a stud caught in the turf – we’re now awaiting news from scans to understand the extent of his injury.  Apparently the only striker we can recall from loans to other clubs is Matt Derbyshire, so we might as well not bother really.  Hopefully Coxy isn’t too badly injury.

Blackstock replaced the fallen man, and it’s fair to say Forest didn’t quite play so openly as before as they sought to keep their lead .  Sako caused a last gap threat with a dangerous cross that nobody was able to convert, late introductions of Moussi and Moloney helped us run down the clock to register a deserved win at what has been a very tricky hunting ground for us.

Very pleased with the win, whilst the injury to Cox is of course frustrating for us (and him, I’m sure).  A trip to Ipswich next is both tempting and daunting because surely they can’t be as bad as they have been indefinitely.  We can but hope.  Because I’m running so late I’m about to go straight into writing a match preview after this post… tsk!

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Forest preview..

Wolves isn’t a happy hunting ground for the Reds typically – I’ve certainly never seen us win there, and the only time I can remember us doing so was in the League Cup I think back when Frank Clark was in charge. So there’s always two ways of looking at that – firstly is being pessimistic and saying “We never win there!” or being more positive and saying “Well, it’s about time we did then!”

Hot off the press for us is the loan signing of Alan Hutton from Aston Villa on loan. With Sam Hutchinson injured presumably indefinitely the right-back comes in until 2nd January – which presumably spells the bench for Moloney – assuming Harding is fit to resume duty (having returned to training following his injury) it could see Halford returning to the centre of defence too.

Wolves haven’t gotten off to the kind of start they would like this season – sitting down at 16th in the table, admittedly only four points behind the Reds in what is still a pretty tight league table. They haven’t won since the start of October away at Blackburn, and have lost four of the seven games since then – so if there’s ever a time for the Reds to get the balance back at Molineux then this is it.

With the away allocation sold out there should be good backing for Sean O’Driscoll’s men. The gaffer is hoping that Andy Reid and Jermaine Jenas are fit for action having both gone off against the Owls at the weekend with injury. Wolves will have Berra available after his red card was rescinded by the Football League (why are our appeals never successful!) – they are likely to be without Boukari, Margreitter and O’Hara.

It would be great to pick up an away win here – but whilst Wolves form is undoubtedly bad, we’ve not been exactly deadly when it comes to taking chances – so I’m sure it won’t prove easy. Whether Adlene Guedioura will take the opportunity to shine at his old club remains to be seen. With this game being followed by a trip to struggling Ipswich you would certainly hope we can add to our points haul.

The other news of note that isn’t Forest related admittedly is the return of Karlton Watson to the professional football scene. The defender – released by Steve Cotterill after recovering from a serious injury – has earned himself a contract with Leicester City. He came through the Forest system with much promise and hopefully his career is back on track now having been cast aside by the carrot cruncher.

Book review: The Glory of Forest..

There are so many Forest books out there – there’s been a real glut of autobiographies in particular at the moment, I’ve still got somewhat of a backlog of books to read through which I’ve struggled to find the time to do – so in many ways the last thing I wanted was a preview PDF a new Forest book by Alex Walker (of LTLF fame).

The premise of this tome is a collection of Forest-inspired lists celebrating what is good about Forest’s history (let’s not forget that Alex was part of the team that brought us the LTLF fanzine that rather optimistically attempted to put the fun back into supporting Forest!).  Let’s face it, our history is a rich vein of amazing feats or strange innovations.

So I figured that I could skim-read a few of the entries to get enough of a view to pen a review of the book and go back later to look properly.  I must admit, I did get a bit absorbed and have read nearly all of it – there’s a great balance of things-what-I-already-knew told in a witty manner combined with a few new things I’ve learned (and I think a couple of mistakes, which Alex was delighted to hear about from me!).

Some lists are straight-up fact based, most are more emotive as most football-related rankings will always be – some are downright controversial.  I mean, a whole book of lists inspired about Forest and not even an entry, let alone an entire list, features Brian Rice!  You’d think that 21 lists of Forest facts with a bit of blurb would be short – but there’s plenty in here.

Obviously some notable figures feature more than once in the lists – and it’s great to see figures from throughout Forest’s colourful history looming large throughout.  Contrary to what folks who support other clubs would have us believe, life did not start nor end with the arrival and departure of a certain Mr Clough at the City Ground – although that particular figure of course features heavily throughout.

For just a tenner and a convenient release date just before Christmas it would make a great stocking filler for any Reds fan – you could read it cover to cover, or dip in to the lists that tickle your fancy at any point.  It can be ordered from this website (where you can also find extracts), or you could buy directly from Alex in the Trent Navigation Inn after the Hull City game on 1st December where the book is being officially launched.

I’ll close with some of Alex’s own words – probably my favourite passage from the book (although there were a few contenders), from the list covering our top five wingers.. I will let you guess the subject of the paragraph, and indeed where he might have featured in his particular list…

If you were writing a fictional film about football and had as the lead character a man who liked a drink and a smoke, was over-weight, generally scruffy-looking and had recently suffered a cartilage injury, then you had this man revive his career in a Second Division promotion campaign, you’d have something that might go in the same gritty realist bracket as This Sporting Lift.  With a bit of artistic licence, you could maybe stretch the realms of possibility to have this loveable rogue be the key creative force of a team that stormed the First Division and won it with games to spare.  But even Hollywood execs would laugh you out of the door if, for the final act, you had your hero go on to set up the winning goal in one European Cup Final and score the winner in a second… even if you had Brian Clough among the supporting cast!

A highly enjoyable read that absorbed me much more than I had time for it to do, so now I find myself frantically finishing things off I was supposed to be doing whilst basically reading the whole book rather than skimming it as I had intended.  Thanks a lot, Alex!

Reds survive Semedo day to snag three points..

Match winner: The unfortunate Liera scored the winning goal for his opponents..

Nottingham Forest – 1
Sheffield Wednesday – 0

Some of the reports I’ve seen have been a little harsh on this game, but for some wasteful finishing or questionable decision making there could’ve been a number of goals for both sides.  As it is, it was decided by an unfathomable own goal from Owls defender Liera after a good cross in from Chris Cohen on the right.

O’Driscoll made a couple of changes to the side, granting Jermaine Jenas his first start in a Forest shirt since his move on loan from Tottenham Hotspur at the expense of Adlene Guedioura, with Dexter Blackstock coming in for Simon Cox who was on the bench having picked up a knock during midweek international dutie for the Republic of Ireland.

Camp
Moloney    Ward    Collins    Halford
Gillett
Cohen    Jenas    Reid
Blackstock    Sharp

With a big following of 4,400 fans – many bedecked in Portuguese flags and cut-out masks of their midfielder Semedo, it was certainly one of the more interesting away followings we’ve had for a while.  With the inimitable ‘Tango’ lapping up the usual inane ‘banter’ from the home fans and conducting the visitors, it promised to be a good atmosphere at the ground.

It was the Owls who started the better too – Camp having to dive to save from Madine within the first few minutes – and moments later he was on hand again to deny Jay Bothroyd who really ought to have made more of the space he had in the area.

Forest’s first attack resulted in a great opportunity for Reidy – the Irishman played a one-two with Sharp and found himself through on goal but Kirkland was upon him fast to block the chance.  Madine again came close for Wednesday heading wide from a long throw.  Our best chance came from a Cohen cross, Jenas rose to head it wide, taking it off Billy Sharp’s head in the process.

The Owls had the last chance of the half, a corner came in and was knocked down by Miguel Liera to find Pecnik unmarked in the box, who conspired to hideously miss the target from twelve yards in what seemed like acres of space.  So half time, and 0-0 – a really open game with both sides susceptible to defensive lapses, and by the same token not taking their opportunities when they presented themselves.

Shortly into the second half Reid was withdrawn for Henri Lansbury, he is apparently struggling with a hamstring problem.  Like some sort of curse-of-the-Forest-oldboys it was Jenas who needed to head to see the physio to be replaced by Adlene Guedioura.

Lansbury had an early attempt from range which Kirkland spilled, but not quite far enough to reach Billy Sharp who was lurking ready to pounce on the rebound.  At the other end it looked like Bothroyd had capitalised on Camp spilling an effort from Jermaine Johnson, he struck the ball goalward only for Danny Collins to head it over from close to the line.

Supposedly once a Forest target, Jermaine Johnson demonstrated his limitations quite aptly moments later when presented with an opportunity to lash the ball home for the opening goal from eight yards, only to spanner it high and wide into the Trent End.

Meanwhile we replicated the wastefulness at the other end – Lansbury moved well on the edge of the area, playing the ball in to Blackstock and continuing his run into the box to receive it back again – then promptly spannering it over!  I assumed there must’ve been a deflection or a save, but upon looking at the replay he just missed.  Pity, it was a nice move!

Just as we were starting to chunter about it being a draw we got the fortunate breakthrough – a decent cross from Cohen looked like it was heading into the path of Dexter Blackstock’s run into the box, only to be headed powerfully into his own goal by Liera.

Since he was writhing about on the floor in agony early (under instruction from Kirkland) after a nothing aerial challenge, I didn’t have much sympathy for him – but it must’ve been quite embarrassing for him particularly to look up at the disappointed faces of his own supporters (and of course the bizarre sight of hundreds of Semedos looking back at him!).

Wednesday did have moments after this but few direct chances, and the same for Forest really who largely seemed content to hold the ball up when in the opponent half.  We did have one final lovely move which culminated with a shot from Chris Cohen which ended up just wide of the far post.

All in all, a very welcome three points – although a fortunate one, it was one of those open games with plenty of defensive mistakes that – if punished – could’ve gone either way.  I guess we benefited from the biggest defensive mistake on the night sending Wednesday’s impressive away following disappointed.

I am hoping that the Lansbury’s appearance from the bench might herald a new opportunity for the midfielder to properly get his Forest career underway – he looked positive, incisive and eager to find a way to unlock defences.  In the absence of Raddy Majewski through injury and Lewis McGugan through lack-of-favourness we could really do with that kind of mindset in our midfield.

Still, three points are three points and very welcome they are too ahead of next weekend’s tricky trip to Molineux.

Post-match it was all about the Nottingham Arena where Carl Froch demolished Yusaf Mack in three rounds with a devastating body shot.  A cracking atmosphere from the Nottingham public spurred the Cobra on to retain his IBF Super-Middleweight title – a cracking night and an excellent day for Nottingham sport!

Forest vs. Sheffield Wednesday preview..

I like Sheffield Wednesday.  Not sure why, always have – so I look forward to playing them, and with 4,500 travelling fans there should be a boosted atmosphere at the City Ground as we tend to lift our game in the midst of a decent set of visitors.

November has been a stuttering experience for Forest after an excellent October (an October that sees Sean O’Driscoll up for manager of the month award – well deserved, although I bet he’s under tough competition from Kenny Jackett of Millwall).  We’ve not picked up a win since beating Barnsley 4-1 at their place, so hopefully another South Yorkshire visitor will be amenable to us snagging the points.

On the team front there’ll be no opportunity for Marcus Tudgay to haunt his former club, he’s been loaned out to Barnsley to get first team action.  The timing of this could be risky, as Simon Cox picked up an injury during the Republic of Ireland’s defeat by Greece last night – hopefully he’s okay.  Guedioura came through Algeria’s game unscathed.

Daniel Ayala may have a chance of returning from injury, although Dan Harding remains a doubt as he continues to recover from his hamstring injury.  Sam Hutchinson remains unavailable too.  As for the Owls, they have O’Grady out and a possibility of Lines returning from his injury.  They’re supposedly after Connor Wickham on loan from Sunderland – hopefully not in time to face us!

After a promising start to the season Wednesday have been faltering somewhat of late – and seem particularly prone to dropping points on the road.  They’ve picked up just five points from a possible twenty-four.  Whilst we are draw-heavy, we’ve only lost one in the last eight run-outs so the form book would suggest that we ought to be able to win.

Said that before though, haven’t I?

Forest’s defensive uncertainty continues to be a concern – that’s no disrespect to our defenders, but the constant chopping and changing through injury is somewhat less than ideal in helping these players build and understanding.

The other thing to look out for is the Owls fans who are hosting an impromptu ‘Semedo Day’ in honour of their midfielder – this apparently involves them donning Semedo masks, and bringing inflatables and props in the colours of Portugal.  Pretty random, huh?  Sounds like fun though – fair play to ’em.

I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see a considerably improved performance than we mustered in our last game at the City Ground (and indeed away from it), and if that happens we should be able to get the result we want.  Then it’s off to the Arena to hopefully witness Carl Froch give Yusaf Mack a damn good panelling too!