Lacking leadership..

Even the biggest disbeliever in instant gratification couldn’t help but be pretty disheartened by the midweek showing against Brentford.  A spirited and hard-working side, and undoubtedly deserved victors on the night, but an at times shockingly bad showing from the Reds.  Sure, the familiar message of individual errors were central to the story, but the organisation and application from most of the squad for swathes of the game (Antonio and Osborn excepted) was pretty woeful.

As I inferred in my last post – I didn’t have massive expectations of Stuart Pearce the manager – but one thing I really did expect would be application and passion from his team, and I’m at a bit of a loss to explain its absence aside from the loss of our key ‘voices’ on the pitch in Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Jack Hobbs.  Leadership.  The thing that the manager epitomised as a player doesn’t seem to be present in any kind of abundance amongst our squad.

Henri really needs to step up to the plate

I can’t stand the football fan tendency we all indulge in from time to time of scapegoating individuals – so that’s not my intention here – but as I look around the squad without these pivotal characters I can’t help but feel that Henri Lansbury hasn’t stepped up to try to fill this void a little more.  You get passion from him occasionally – usually in the form of a reckless foul – but he’s really struggled to impose himself on games as he did so well at spells last season.

The run we are on and the demeanour of the players is pretty concerning – nay – very concerning.  We have an owner who has demonstrated a quick and ruthless policy when it comes to underperformance, as noted before a small number of fans even have cast off their Psycho-tinted glasses and seem to actually want yet another managerial change.  Hopefully the addition of John McGovern and Paul Faulkner to the senior leadership of the club will help to quell his more impulsive nature in favour of prudence.

With Norwich arriving tomorrow even on similarly dodgy form it would be a brave bet to bet against another failure to win, which is a sad state of affairs irrespective of how the Canaries might or might not be underperforming.  The lack of confidence the players are showing on the pitch is certainly influencing me off it – which brings me neatly onto the other thing I was going to mention – hat’s off to the fans in the Lower Bridgford on Wednesday.

At 3-0 down to still be determinedly making an atmosphere – and to sing the manager’s name at the end – is such a welcome relief from the normal negativity that seems to quickly permeate the City Ground at the smallest sign of trouble (and I freely acknowledge, our current run and most recent performance certainly exceeds ‘the smallest sign’!) – hopefully the team can take the lead of those fans and put in the kind of performance that they ought to be.

Back to leadership, if Henri isn’t going to step up to the plate I struggle to think of another suitable candidate – for all his quality Mancienne is young and not too vocal, I don’t rate Wilson’s leadership qualities indeed the only players ‘leading by example’ midweek as discussed above were Antonio and Osborn.  I’m dearly hoping that the players dig themselves out of their malaise at the weekend, and whilst I support Stuart Pearce wholeheartedly hope he opts for a less unconventional line-up to face the Canaries.

It would be gutting to see the club thrust into another period of uncertainty.

Edit – Fawaz (or probably his ‘people’) has been treating about remaining together whether we win, lose or draw at the weekend – I’m not sure whether to be relieved or whether to treat it like a dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ announcement!

Reds hold out for a point in Brighton..

Brighton and Hove Albion – 0
Nottingham Forest – 0

Apologies for this being so ludicrously late – it’s a busy time of year and a few unanticipated occurrences have happened.  Nothing serious, just time-consuming.  So anyway.. remember playing down at Brighton last weekend?  Okay, must admit I’m struggling – the home fans might do better, particularly as it was the biggest crowd the AMEX has ever seen.

Sean made a few changes, Ayala returned from injury to line up alongside Collins in defence.  There was a midfield shuffle with Moussi, Cohen and Guedioura introduced at the expense of McGugan, Gillett and Lansbury.

Hutton    Ayala    Collins    Harding
Cohen    Moussi   Guedioura    Reid
Blackstock    Sharp

The first half was basically all about Brighton dominating, and struggling to make the best of the considerable number of opportunities they had.  Early doors Calderon headed over unmarked from a corner, shortly after he clipped the post from the edge of the area after good work from Craig Mackail-Smith.

Former Reds loanee Will Hoskins looked set to convert a cross but under pressure from Collins put his effort wide.  A rare foray forward for the Reds culminated in an Andy Reid shot which troubled little more than any seagulls flying overhead.  Then again, gulls probably head inland at winter – so even they probably weren’t too worried.

It was a short-lived break for us though – Brighton were back on the assault, Bridge put an effort wide after Buckley had forged a chance for him (Buckley was making life incredibly difficult for poor Harding), whilst Mackail-Smith again was provider for Will Hoskins who really should’ve done better from close range but volleyed over.

Forest did have occasionally long range speculative efforts – but nothing particularly exciting, whilst the hosts continued to spurn much better close-range opportunities.  Hoskins again missed the target this time with his head, nodding a decent cross from Crofts over.  Forest’s best opportunity of the half came when Sharp teed up Reidy who lacked composure and put it over.

Mackail-Smith attacked our goal, bursting into the box and putting his shot past Camp, but just wide of the post.  Minutes later the Reds keeper finally had his first proper save to make – Calderon shot and he tipped it over.

Despite barely being at the races in the first half we could’ve gone in to the break leading – a throughball from Reid down the left found Cohen who put in a low cross for Sharp who flicked the ball up and over the ‘keeper but agonisingly it rebounded off the bar.  It would’ve been a massive injustice – but then, remember that other game we played in the AMEX where the boot was on the other foot?

At half time Sean removed Harding who’d had a torrid half against Buckley and replaced him with Halford – who certainly made his presence felt on the fixture from the off.  He got forward and put a low cross in to Dex who put it wide with El-Abd puttin ghim under pressure – then got booked for letting Buckley know he wasn’t going to get quite such a simple second half.

From the free-kick the ball fell to Hoskins who again fluffed his lines from close range, volleying wide.  Halford was perhaps lucky to remain on the pitch considering he’d already been booked, he took the winger out again then clashed off the ball with him – it was a bit of handbags, really – but it certainly got the home crowd going a bit – it also seemed to quieten down Buckley.

Guedioura was replaced by Lansbury after around an hour, as Forest seemed to be not only containing the home side better but were starting to offer more themselves.  Lansbury latched on to a knock-down from Dex who’d been crossed to by Hutton, but his low drive didn’t give much challenge to Kuzczak in the Brighton goal.

As the rain turned from persistent to torrential the home side took off the wasteful Hoskins to replace him with Lua Lua.  Forest were continuing to look better, one of those infuriating short corners almost came off with Reid tricking his way into the box to cross, but when it came to Ayala he wasn’t able to get it on target.

Dex headed wide from a Halford cross as Forest had a few turns at being wasteful, in the meantime Lua Lua escaped the attentions of Hutton and got an effort on target which Camp made a decent save on to get it wide.  Better was to come when Buckley finally got the better of Halford, who’d slipped, putting the winger one-on-one with Camp who made a one-handed save.

Ayala made the final last-gap challenge to deny what looked like yet another gilt-edged chance.  Our final change was to take off Reid for Gillett, but there was little else of note – and ultimately we should feel pleased to have got a point.  Of course, we could’ve got more – but that would be greedy!

The other exciting news of note is that Fawaz is now the chairman rather than Omar – there’s lots of speculation about this elsewhere, I know nothing other than it has always seemed to be Fawaz who was driving the takeover so I welcome his further involvement.  Whether the decision was linked to the reported financial trickies is unclear – although that just sounded like an administrative cock up to me anyway.

Oh, and a couple of big screens and irritating electronic scoreboards are being installed at the City Ground ready to be unveiled on Boxing Day.  I must admit, neither of these excite me particularly – but if they enable the club to generate a bit more revenue then who am I to complain?  Also if the screens distract the people who start moaning after 3 seconds of boredom then they could be a canny addition…

Back to winning ways!

Reidy – architect of both Forest goals

Nottingham Forest – 2
Burnley – 0

I must admit that at half-time I was quietly resigning myself to a draw – whilst we saw a much improved performance from Forest, they were struggling to convert some nice passages of play into meaningful chances before the break, but some subtle changes in approach helped us to unlock Burnley and snag the win.

Much to the delight of the callers to Matchtalk, I’m sure, Sean opted for two up front – with Dexter returning to the starting eleven along with a surprise start for Lewis McGugan – and the excellent news that Majewski and Ayala were fit enough to take places on the bench, resulting in Forest lining up something like this:

Hutton    Ward    Collins    Harding
Lansbury    Gillett    McGugan    Reid
Blackstock    Sharp

In reality the midfield was inevitably narrow, as Gillett sat deep whilst Reid and McGugan roamed – with the full-backs clearly having the brief to get forward when the opportunity arose.  The tricky with this was when Burnley attacked our fullbacks, as ever, were exposed – Harding was usually on his own, whilst even when Lansbury was back to assist Hutton the Clarets would often have three attacking down there.

The first half I’d say we rode our luck a bit.  Dyche’s side had great movement in and around our box which pulled our defenders all over the place and created some real opportunities.  Their first chance came through a mistake, though – Ward totally mis-timed a header and the ball fell to Charlie Austin.

The 21-goal striker is probably the last person you’d want to end up clean through with the ball dropping to him – luckily for us he rushed his shot from the edge of the area putting it off target when there looked to be ample time to have controlled and got a bit closer to make sure of getting the ball past Lee Camp.   A definite let off early doors.

Paterson was the next to spurn an opportunity, putting his effort just wide after a cross from the right from Trippier.  Whilst Forest were, at times, passing the ball neatly we didn’t fashion much to bother Lee Grant.  A low freekick from McGugan was close but just wide having picked up a deflection, whilst Dex couldn’t get a header from Hutton’s cross on target.

The strikers were isolated from midfield somewhat, so it was often them heading out wide to get the ball – Sharp did this and was picked out by Reid for a pass, he crossed well towards Blackstock but he wasn’t able to get any real power on his header which was straight at the ‘keeper.

Burnley looked dangerous on the break – and a counter-attack culminating in a cracking throughball from Dean Marney put Chris McCann clear of the Reds offside trap but mercifully for us he was unable to convert.  Paterson was given aeons of time to pick out a shot that Camp saved as the half came to a close, he spilled the shot though but Harding was able to get it clear.

Whilst there was no obvious change post-half-time, the fullbacks were a little more disciplined and the ‘wingers’ were a little more likely to be found in wide positions, and whilst initially we weren’t exactly creating a plethora of chances we did at least appear to have nullified the very real threat that Burnley had been posing in the first half.

A Reid cross from the left found Blackstock, his header fell for McGugan in the area who elected for a volley comfortably over when perhaps there was time to control it and do something more productive.  I don’t suppose we’d be complaining if he’d leathered one into the top corner though, so maybe we shouldn’t be too critical when ambitious efforts don’t quite come off.

With the hour mark coming up Lansbury was withdrawn for Cohen, and he proved a lucky omen as moments later we were ahead.  Reidy – who many had been chuntering about (self-included) demonstrated his value, playing in a deep cross that found Blackstock in the area who looped his header perfectly into the ‘net beyond the despairing grasp of Lee Grant.

I must admit I was surprised to see it not disallowed as Dex was definitely climbing on the defender, and the referee had given every challenge as a foul against him for much of the game – but well, we’ll take that, thankyouverymuchindeed!  Certainly Sean ‘Stonecold Steve Austin’ Dyche wasn’t happy about it, and I can see why.

The goal got Burnley going again, and Camp made a decent save from Austin to maintain the Reds lead, the top marksman cutting inside having been fed the ball from Lafferty before unleashing a powerful strike.  Substitute Sam Vokes spurned a good chance by heading wide from close range shortly after being introduced.

O’Driscoll replaced Gillett with Moussi in the defensive midfield role, and the big fella was involved from the off with some decent touches and passes (whilst always maintaining that uniquely Moussi-like ability to not look in full control of his limbs!).  Guedioura replaced McGugan a few minutes later and immediately injected more urgency into proceedings with an eye-catching performance.

With the Burnley central-defence standing flat-footed in a line, Reid slotted through a lovely pass to find the arcing run of Billy Sharp – he got through one on one with Lee Grant and, just as the defender was catching him up, came up with a composed finish to double the Reds lead and effectively put the game to bed.

Sean definitely knows best – I’d have been tempted to take Reidy off before he assisted both the goals that enabled us to win the match!

A good result, and a very good second half performance in particular.  The first half wasn’t bad as such, but we were limited in the opportunities we created – it’s good to see that some minor adjustments gave us enough options to get a result against a decent side.  It’s true we rode our luck defensively in the first half, and I’d definitely say that 2-0 is flattering to us.

This was a 1-0 either way or draw type game on balance of play, I thought.  But, with players coming back from injury and illness, and hopefully some improved confidence from players and fans alike after a good result perhaps we can look forward to some more convincing displays.

Oh yeah, and if you hadn’t summarily dismissed the ridiculous rumours about impending financial meltdown anyway – then you should do so.  Apparently there was an issue with BACS payments to Forest staff, which of course was jumped upon with glee by desperate fans of a certain other club.  So yeah, nothing to see here.

Dull Forest vs. Dull City.. Forest – 1
Hull City – 2

It’s not too often I disagree with Sean O’Driscoll vehemently even after a disappointing showing – but I do this afternoon.  Whilst this wasn’t the horrorshow of disjointedness and errors we saw at Portman Road, personally I didn’t think that this performance was good enough from Forest against dogged visitors.

Whilst it’s easy to say they had a penalty that should never have been given and handballed their only other decent chance into the net, the fact is we didn’t offer much either.  Our penalty is was definitely in the ‘soft’ category but perhaps a better claim than theirs, and aside from that I don’t think we brought a save from their goalkeeper.  That’s not good at home.

I don’t have the rabid frustration many feel at playing one up front at home if you have the right supporting cast in midfield, but I think it’s fair to say that we don’t really have that.  The side lined up looking a little something like this:

Hutton    Ward    Collins    Harding
Coppinger    Guedioura    Cohen    Reid

Of course in opening I’ve been somewhat uncharitable to Hull, who did go about us a bit – and whilst Camp only had one save to make of note in the first half we did see Ward clearing off the line from Evans prior to Meyler putting the rebound wide.  This was half an hour into the game though, it was definitely one to file under slow burner.

The opening goal came for the visitors, Meyler ran into the area with Gillett alongside – the Hull player shoulder-barged Gillett into the deck before taking to the ground himself, only to see the referee (and assistant, I think) give a penalty.  Flabbergasting and understandably the Forest players were absolutely incensed at the decision.

Robert Koren stepped up and coolly sent Lee Camp the wrong way with a very good finish.  Just before half time Billy Sharp capitalised on a bit of lax defending, nipping in front of Brady and going over under a smidgin of contact, going to ground in the box.  Soft, certainly – but at least there was actually contact by their player.

Amusingly the Hull fans didn’t seem to realise the kick had been given initially, only to revert to diving gestures which was rather ironic considering how they’d taken the lead!  Billy Sharp took the kick and bagged his fifth goal for Forest with a very good finish into the top corner to give Forest the equaliser.

Those of you playing the Goals for LJS game for each of Billy Sharp’s goal need to get your donations in to the page today.  Click here to do so!

Chris Cohen perhaps ought to have done better as the half time whistle approached – but he blasted over after the ball came to him from a Reid corner.  All in all a fairly dull half, I thought Hull offered a little more than Forest – although there’s no way on earth there’s was a penalty, and ours was soft too.

Forest did start to look like they’d woken up a little bit in the second half, Guedioura had a chance to shoot after good work from Reid but curled his shot just wide from the edge of the area.  Sharp nicked possession thanks to a mistake from McShane but Chester was able to get a block in on Coppinger’s cross to deny us the opportunity to capitalise.

McShane was the man to give Hull the win with a little over 20 minutes to go – a corner was hit in powerfully and the defender rushed in putting the ball in with his arm, pretty visible from where I was but apparently not to the referee or his assistants who gave the goal despite the rather angry protests of the Forest players and Lee Camp in particular.

Having said that, it was bloody awful defending from Forest regardless of whether it was scored by McShane’s hand, arm or todger.  O’Driscoll made some changes, introducing forgotten-man Lewis McGugan and Dexter Blackstock at the expense of Gillett and Cohen (the latter in particular who’d had an uncharacteristically quiet game).

Sharp had a couple of late efforts, one just wide and bringing a fingertip save from Stockdale with a looping header at the end.  Whilst I disagree with O’Driscoll’s assessment of being pleased with the performance I suppose it’s reassuring at least that it was a considerable improvement over our last outing.  That said, I still maintain it wasn’t good enough.

That’s not sour grapes or disrespect – whilst they were dour and negative (and Stockdale is probably the only goalkeeper to take longer over a goal kick than Lee Camp!), Hull were certainly more positive than us over the ninety minutes and whilst I maintain neither of their goals should’ve occurred, on balance of play they probably were good value for a win.

Disappointing – and plenty of work to do on the training ground for the Reds.  I do accept we’ve been hit hard by injuries, and I certainly accept that we’re a work in progress this season, but I expect better than I’ve seen in our last couple of games.  I suspect that the manager does too despite his post-match comments.

Despite all this though I do think there are sections of our fans that are over-reacting (particularly the Twitterati).  I’m still very much supportive of the manager and the players, and think the fans could do more to play their part in what could become a difficult run in December.  I do hope to see some re-balancing of the squad in January though.

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:

Hutton    Ward    Collins    Harding
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!

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.

Moloney    Ward    Collins    Halford
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!

Reds make Foxes pay the penalty..

Wrong way, Kasper!

Leicester City – 2
Nottingham Forest – 2

I’m quite pleased with this result considering the performance level.  Whilst Leicester aren’t exactly on rip-roaring form at the moment, they’re a talented side who I expect to be in and around the play-offs at least come the end of the season.  The source of our equaliser seems to have become the main talking point of the game however.

I imagine if the boot were on the other foot then I’d be having a moan too, probably – but well, no penalties in fourteen months it’s about time we got one even if it’s soft.  Fact is, that happens outside the area and nobody would bat an eyelid at it being given as a foul – that the defender got a foot on the ball belies that his other foot was going through our player, and that he ended up scissoring him.

It was ill-judged and foolish at best, dangerous and uncontrolled at worst.  Plus it’s common sense not to do that in your own area – so I don’t have too much sympathy with mardy-arse Pearson, although can empathise with his frustration as there’s no doubt who the better team on the day were so it must have been a bit of a kick in the nuts for him, particularly in a game that means more than a normal one to the home fans.

“What do you mean my watch looks gaudy and tacky?!”

The only change in line-up for us was due to an injury to Dan Harding, Brendan Moloney replaced him with Greg Halford moving over to cover the tricky left back position with Moloney lining up in his more conventional right back spot.

Moloney    Ward    Collins    Halford
Cohen    Guedioura    Reid
Cox    Sharp

Moloney was immediately under a stern examination of in-form winger Dyer.  Reid had an early sniff of goal for Forest too, but put his effort considerably wide of the target.  It was just six minutes when the home side took the lead, Dyer tricked his way into the box and fired what looked to be an off-target cross-cum-shot that the unfortunate Elliott Ward deflected beyond Camp.

The Foxes nearly returned the own-goal favour, having picked up a freekick for a Schlupp (probably my favourite footballer name at the moment!) foul on Moloney, Cohen put in a dangerous free kick that Andy King almost cleared into his own goal.  At the other end Cohen was on hand to keep a Knockaert effort wide of the Forest goal.

Sharp – isolated up front with little service – won a freekick for the Reds on the twenty minute mark, but Reid is back on to kicking-the-at-the-wall at the moment.  The home side continued to pose the greater threat, a deep freekick from Waghorn nearly gave Wes Morgan an opportunity to put one past his old club, but the big defender couldn’t quite get the touch on the ball.

In a rare moment of nice cohesive football Forest got the equaliser – Cox and Cohen linked up well together with the midfielder getting to the bye-line and pulling the ball back into the middle of the area to meet the run of Guedioura who put a composed finish past Kasper Schmeichel to level the match somewhat against the run of play, it has to be said.

Leicester pressed and immediately won a corner that Forest cleared unconvincingly, whilst Gillett did well to prevent Knockaert causing us problems down the right.  As the game opened up Cox found Cohen in the box, but Chris’s short was scuffed wide with a number of defenders in attendance.

A home lead was restored as Knockaert scooped either a fortunate or a very impressive pass to Nugent in the area, who put a fortunate or a very impressive touch on it to lob the ball just inside the post.  It was a nice looking goal for sure – and Camp couldn’t really do much about the accuracy of the finish.

Dyer really ought to have made it 3-1 shortly after – he was put clear on goal by King but his touch let him down as he tried to beat the onrushing Forest ‘keeper fortunately for us.  There were a number of desperate last gap blocks and challenges that kept the Reds goal from being breached again, whilst Nugent wasted an opportunity from range by missing the target by a large margin.

At half time I don’t think it’s unfair to say that we were probably fortunate to still be in with a shout.  Forest had been disjointed and had struggled to create opportunities whilst the Foxes had proven dangerous and but for some last gap defending and profligate finishing we might well have found ourselves on the wrong end of a shoeing.

The second half started with the home side again in the ascendancy – early in the half Guedioura gave the ball away very cheaply to Nugent whose pass to Waghorn found the forward with perhaps too much time and space.  First time shot and I think he’d have scored, he took a touch and a decent shot which beat Camp, but gave Ward time to get on the line and make an excellent g0al-line clearance.

Despite his goal it had been a sub-par performance from Adlene, and perhaps this was the final straw for O’Driscoll who put Jenas on for him shortly after.  A rare effort for Forest came from a Collins long ball which Cox knocked down for Sharp who perhaps didn’t need to take his effort first time, he did and missed the target.

Camp made an excellent save from a Waghorn  header, then had the undoubted smug moment of watching it back on the big screen.  At the other end Cox was perhaps rash to have lashed a left-footed effort off target when he could’ve set up a team-mate with a more straight forward chance.

Dyer was text to test Camp who rose to the challenge to save the low shot from him, whilst Waghorn failed to connect with a decent clipped ball in from Drinkwater.  Despite the game feeling like somewhat of a forlorn hope from the away end, we were handed our life-line, Sharp was between Whitbread and the ball, the defender’s challenged was deemed a foul by the referee and the penalty awarded (see above for more detail on that).

The most important part of proceedings from our point of view was Simon Cox picking up the ball and stroking it comfortably into the net, sending Schmeichel the wrong way in doing so.  Shot-on-target number two, goal number two – we certainly took our chances – it has to be said!

This controversy sparked the home side into life again – Collins gave away the ball cheaply triggering mayhem in our box.  Ultimately Dyer hit a shot which appeared to strike Gillett on the arm, eventually the danger was cleared with Reid clearing a ball from close to the line.  I’m not convinced it was a deliberate hand ball, but well, we got lucky – you see them given regularly.

Waghorn continued to cause problems but perhaps his failure to convert a chance so far affected his confidence as rather than take on a chance himself he tried to combine with Lingard who didn’t seem to understand what was happening, giving Lee Camp the opportunity to reclaim the ball.

Reidy was withdrawn from Lansbury.  The home side continued to press – a tackle from Moloney gave them a corner from which Waghorn was able to get a free header at the near post.  He put it wide, thankfully.  Shortly after he picked up the ball on the left, but Jenas was on hand to prevent his cross causing any real problems.

An opportunity to really take the piss and claim three points was spurned when Billy Sharp volleyed over with his left foot from a Halford long-throw which had caused a certain amount of panic in the home box.  Blackstock came on for Gillett in a strangely bold move.  Three minutes of stoppage time saw Whitbread head wide from a corner, and Forest actually finish quite strongly, admittedly without creating any real opportunities.

So, all told a good point – even before the game it would’ve sounded good.  Considering our own lack of chances, our fortunate moments in the game particularly the penalty we were awarded, not least the one that they weren’t.

Wasteful Reds left to settle with a point..

It wasn’t to be Billy’s night as Forest spurned opportunities..

Nottingham Forest – 0
Middlesbrough – 0

Oof.  A better game for sure – quite an open entertaining one, but a frustrating one as the Reds struggled to convert the chances they carved out.  The in-form visitors posed limited threat (although there were a couple of heart-in-mouth moments in the second half) which offers some degree of reassurance after the crash down to earth against Millwall at the weekend.

With Halford back from suspension Moloney was back on the bench with Greg slotting in at right back, and Guedioura was restored to the starting XI in place of injured Raddy Majewski, giving us this line-up to commence the match:

Halford    Ward    Collins    Harding
Cohen    Guedioura    Reid
Cox    Sharp

Middlesbrough were first to have an opportunity, although an easy stop for Camp after McDonald turned and shot from the edge of the area.  That was pretty much the only goal threat the visitors offered in a first half that Forest enjoyed the lion’s share of.

Forest were getting good possession particularly through Simon Cox down the right hand side – it was he who set up fellow Irishman Reidy in the area who perhaps should’ve hit his effort first time, in taking a clumsy touch and lining up his shot he curled it just wide.

Sharp too spurned a couple of good opportunities in the box, air-hitting one and putting another just wide after good work from Reid and Guedioura.  The referee seemed adverse througout the match to shoves in the back, as Cohen was felled in the area by Bikey (he later ignored Halford being shoved over and gave Boro a corner, but he also ignored Forest shoves too).

Finally a spectacularly brave block from supposed once Forest target George Friend denied what looked like a goalbound effort from Guedioura.  The defender appeared to dive headlong to block the powerful effort with his face – pretty hardcore!  Billy Sharp spurned perhaps his best opportunity after more good work from Cox down the right.  He drilled a cross in which Sharp couldn’t get a good connection on, dragging his effort wide.

The final chance of the half fell to Guedioura, which despite Forest’s dominance was actually goalkeeper Steele’s only actual save of the half, diving to his right to stop the Algerian midfielder from sneaking his shot in the far post, giving Forest a corner (which inevitably led to nothing – we never score from corners!).

A fan took to the pitch at half time again for the return of the John Pye sponsored challenge.  He dispatched the 18 and 25 yard efforts with consummate ease but dragged his 40 yard effort wide.  The mood was good though, albeit frustrated at our wastefulness in front of goal which had kept a decent midweek following of just under 1,200 from the North East pretty quiet.

We started the second half as we seemed to spend the first – an early corner was put in and Sharp met it and put it just wide with a header.  Later Elliott Ward found himself on the left wing and his cross almost found itself dropping it to the goal, just to graze the crossbar and ending up over.

Boro had excellent chances of their own in this half too, a clever clipped pass from Leadbitter found McDonald who’d beaten the offside trap, he advanced on Camp who made an excellent stop, and the good work from Collins denied the rebound from finding its’ way into the net – instead giving the visitors a corner rather than the lead.

At the other end Billy Sharp was getting closer and closer to breaking the deadlock – he was strong enough to hold off Seb Hines and connected well with a shot from inside the area.  Certainly he appeared to have the beating of Steele at his near post, but the ball struck the post and out to safety.   Ward again was an unlikely nearly-scorer with an attempted overhead kick from a partially cleared corner.

Middlesbrough were carving out chances though – Lee Camp again was on his game to get to the ball ahead of the onrushing Lukas Jutkiewicz to gather the ball after a quick counter-attack from the visitors.  Camp took a boot to the head for his troubles too, but seemed non-too-fazed by the encounter and the striker was good enough to apologise too.

Sharp turned provider in the Boro area having struggled to break the deadlock himself, this time it was Reid who failed to connect with an excellent pass which found him around six yards outside the area.  Boro nearly nicked it again when McDonald unleashed a lob over the onrushing Camp but put it onto the roof of the net.

I’m not quite sure why Sean O’Driscoll opted to make a late triple change, although the timing was amusing -Harding had just had a frankly awful shot from long range only to be changed for Moloney.  At the same time the hard working Cox was taken off for Blackstock, and Lansbury was introduced for Reid.  It didn’t really make much odds, though – and we ended goalless.

A good point considering Boro’s recent form – but well, we were so wasteful it’s hard to not think that we really ought to have taken three points.  However, the performance had much recommend it.  Of course, Boro played their part by not being the kind of physical pressing team we’ve struggled with of late – but even so, reassuring.

Next up is a tough trip to Leicester.  Tough one to call, you never know – I might get around to doing a preview for that one if it doesn’t creep up on me like this game did!

Cockneys vs. Zombies..

Nottingham Forest – 1
Millwall – 4

Oof.  A poor showing from Forest yesterday afternoon saw us succumb all too readily to an effective gameplan from Millwall who, despite certainly not having the Lion’s (arf) share of possession, were a lot more decisive in using it to devastating effect when they did have the ball.  Forest again struggled to break down a physical side – this time one with craft going forward.

Henderson and Wood caused constant problems when the Lions were on the attack, and with in-form Trotter and substitute Andy Keogh also amongst the goals it’s not hard to see why Millwall are on such a good run of form.  Even though I said pre-match they’re not a side to be underestimated, I certainly think I might have done that!

Sean O’Driscoll made the expected change of bringing in Ward for the suspended Halford, and sticking with the narrow 4-1-3-2 type formation we’ve been using lately…

Moloney    Ward    Collins    Harding
Cohen    Majewski    Reid
Sharp    Cox

It was a shit start too – a booking for Harding, a freekick badly cleared fell to Trotter who got past Gillett and fired a neat finish inside Lee Camp’s far post to give the visitors the lead.  Annoying!  Forest stung into action had an effort from Majewski in to the side netting, before he was left prone on the deck after a Millwall player challenged him clutching at his ankle.

Whilst you can’t really use it as an excuse for the poor performances all over the pitch this was a big blow.  I think Raddy has been a pretty pivotal part in our upturn in performances lately – he’s capable of that little bit of trickery or craft that might have helped us have more joy in unlocking a determined Millwall defensive line.  Alas, t’was not to be and Guedioura came on to replace him.

The Lions continued to fashion chances – Camp saved from Taylor but spilled the shot into the path of Henderson so was forced into action again to deny the big striker.  Forest did start to wake up though, and produced probably their only moment of real quality to equalise.

Reid got the ball to Sharp on the edge of the area, he made a move inside and laid the ball off to Simon Cox whilst carrying on his run into the box.  Cox picked out the perfect through ball putting Sharp clear to slot the ball neatly past David Forde in the Millwall goal.  A lovely goal, and another quid into the Goals for LJS fund.

Sharp was looking lively after this – Forest finished the half strongly, a dangerous cross from Harding looked to be arriving at the striker to get his second but for an impressive defensive header clearance by Beevers resulted in us just getting a corner.

A penalty shout was waved away after Sharp nudged the ball beyond Forde and appeared to be clipped.  I’ve seen ’em given but frankly it looked to me like he’d put too much on the ball anyway, and went down a little too easily.  Plus y’know, it’s us isn’t it?  We don’t get penalties!  At the other end Henderson was close to restoring their lead, and the final chance fell to Guedioura whose dipping powerful drive was just over.

At half time I must admit I thought I’d see a much improved Forest come out, but well – it certainly wasn’t!  For a player as dangerous as Darius Henderson to be unmarked from a set piece is ridiculous.  James Henry put in the freekick and the big striker was able to head it past Camp with far too little challenge.

Sean took off Reidy for Blackstock to try to drive our attack some more, and whilst Forest did press Millwall back we struggled to fashion any chances.  A clearance looked to be going out for a throw but James Henry had other ideas, getting to it and breaking towards goal with Ward caught between him and Wood.  I thought Ward did really well considering, only for Wood’s fairly tame shot to deflect off Collins (I think) to wrong-foot Camp and give Millwall a third.

Forest lost all shape after this by withdrawing Gillett for McGugan – we were rather gung-ho but without any penetration and increasing use of long-balls weren’t really cutting the mustard against Millwall’s giant centre halves.  The crowning turd of the afternoon came late on when Taylor crossed from the left for substitute Andy Keogh to convert.

We definitely deserved to lose because we didn’t create enough – I’ve seen arguments pointing out the penalty claim, but I’m not sure it was one.  Others pointed out that Henderson appeared to elbow Danny Collins before he scored, but the referee clearly didn’t see it (I didn’t either, I was following the ball which Collins had just headed out) – but well, we should have been doing more ourselves, and we didn’t.

Fortunately for us we’ve an opportunity to get straight back on track, less fortunate is that our next visitors are in-form Middlesbrough next Tuesday.  I’m assuming ‘dangerman’ Ishmael Miller won’t be playing (or maybe as a condition of loan we stipulated he had to play against us.

As for yesterday, one to forget for sure – although the Millwall fans chants of ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ were somewhat bemusing!  Credit to their team though, I thought their movement going forward was extremely dangerous and their forwards were deadly with their conversion of their chances – so sometimes you just have to give credit where it’s due and accept defeat.

I saw a post on LTLF that likened the game to Cockneys vs Zombies – whilst I realise that the South Londoners would baulk at being described as cockneys it’s not a bad analogy for how the game seemed, with Forest very slugglish and lacking in their usual organisation and drive.  So that’s the source of the headline..

Forest awaken and sweep aside the Tykes..

He’s one of our own!

Barnsley – 1
Nottingham Forest – 4

We hardly ever win at Oakwell, and if you saw Sean O’Driscoll’s post-match interview and were unaware of the scoreline you’d think we hadn’t done particularly well here again.  Despite falling behind to a Marlon Harewood strike, even if you perused sports betting sites here you’d probably still find decent odds at us coming back. Come back we did, we were two goals clear by half time before Jermaine Jenas signed off his loan spell in style.

It was only a shame that Billy Sharp couldn’t convert one of his chances to get a goal on the weekend that would have been the first birthday of his son Luey.  But a very satisfying performance, and despite the cake being denied its’ cherry on the top, it was a delicious prospect nonetheless.  As for Sharp, he took on the Great South Run today to continue to raise funds and awareness for the foundation he and his partner set up in memory of Luey.  A real inspiration.

Back on to the game, just one change from the manager which was enforced.  Ayala’s injury gave Brendan Moloney the opportunity to return to the side at right back, with Halford moving into central defence to partner Collins.  New loanee Ward was named on the bench alongside Jenas and Blackstock, meaning we lined up a little something like this:

Moloney    Halford    Collins     Harding
Cohen    Majewski    Reid
Sharp    Cox

There were quite a number of opportunities early doors in the game – Marlon Harewood was causing much mirth in the away end with a number of misses,  whilst when Reidy picked up on an error by Stones he perhaps should’ve provided the Tykes ‘keeper Alwick with a stiffer challenge.

Forest picked up a freekick from range, everyone expected Reid to strike it but it was Halford of all people who struck it powerfully but straight into the wall, however it broke for Cohen who unleashed a venomous shot that was also blocked, finally falling to Reid who put his effort just wide.  Reid turned provider with a pinpoint cross under the attentions of two defenders, and Billy Sharp – free in the box six yards out  – really should have opened the scoring for the afternoon.

It was the home side who struck first despite the tide of the game going against them – Marlon Harewood timed a run beyond Collins perfectly and was picked out well by Mellis, giving the former Reds man the opportunity to round Lee Camp and score in an empty net.  To his credit he pointedly didn’t celebrate despite the less than charitable reaction from the travelling Reds fans to his earlier misses.

The home side were clearly lifted and good work from Harding on the line with Matt Done looking to capitalise.  However, the Reds picked themselves up and in a frenetic final ten minutes of the half we had conspired to turn the game upon its’ head.

Our first goal came from a rather unlikely source, Halford cut in from and as he entered the area hit what can only be described as a hopeful shot with the outside of his right foot, a favourable deflection from Wiseman close to goal completely wrong-footed the ‘keeper and levelled the game for us and gave Greg his first goal for us.

Just a few minutes later Sharp was unfortunate not to convert an excellent ball in by the tireless Chris Cohen.   He did bring a decent save from Alnwick who was only able to parry the ball directly into the path of Simon Cox following up on the strike, and the former West Brom man was able to put it in to give us the lead.

So already happy with our progress it was a hammer blow to the home side on the stroke of half time, Reidy did well down the left but his pull-back into the box evaded Sharp – fortunate for us it fell for Cohen who unleashed a powerful strike from around the 25 yard mark to put us two goals to the good as the sides went in for the break.

We were looking eager to continue to put Barnsley to the sword in the second half too – Cox was proving a total nuisance, getting to the ball before Alwick and attempting an outlandish overhead kick from a tight angle.  It was considerably off-target but it was also literally a chance from nothing as I don’t think anyone expected him to get hold of the ball.

The home side made wholesale changes from the bench to try to change the game in their favour – and had opportunities.  As Kennedy shaped to float a freekick into the box he cunningly drilled it to the near post and Camp was alert enough to make a sprawling stop.  He also denied other sub Etuhu from close range.

Greg Halford picked up his fifth booking of the season – which sees him suspended now for the Millwall game.  Sharp again was wasteful after a cracking long ball from Harding and put him clear, the striker had a bit to do, but with two defenders bearing down on him was pressured into dragging his shot wide of the far post.

He might’ve got that elusive goal but for Alwick making the save from a Sharp header after a Reid corner, but it was Jenas who was to complete the scoring for the afternoon.  Cox tried to pick out Sharp with a throughball, it was blocked by the ball came back to the Irishman who slotted a throughball for Jenas instead, he raced clear down the right hand channel and lobbed Alnwick with a classy finish.

The celebration was quite emotional too – his Forest badge to his lips he raced infront of the visiting Reds fans who were on song proclaiming the midfielder as one of our own.  Which, of course, he is!  Rumour has it the loan will be extended, which is great – I’m sure he’d hoped for more game time in his time with us, but it’s great to have him on board and I hope he does extend the loan.

Ward replaced Halford just after, sensible move to give Ward some pitch-time with little at stake – and to make sure Halford didn’t pick up another booking – and shortly after Coppinger was introduced for the influential Reidy.  It was pretty much game over though and whilst there were occasional half-chances neither side looked like scoring again.

A very pleasing trip indeed which puts us into the playoff zone again – too early to be excited, of course, but it’s a nice psychological boost regardless – and a fitting end to what has been a very profitable October for the Reds, taking eleven of the fifteen points on offer.  It will be good to go into our game against Millwall in confident mood, they’re on a decent run themselves.

If you’ve not seen ’em yet, then the extended highlights are just here, which is a rather more satisfying watch than the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it coverage that the Football League Show deigns fit to allocate for us.