Blackstock’s late leveller nets Forest a deserved point..

Dex celebrates scoring the last goal to be updated on Ceefax!

Blackpool – 2
Nottingham Forest – 2

Bloomfield Road rarely seems to be a happy hunting ground for us, nonetheless over 1,200 Reds braved the trip on a Tuesday night and were rewarded with a spirited performance and the magic of a late equaliser – one of those things few things better, aside from a late winner of course, in terms of match-day experiences!

For those of us who couldn’t juggle the time off to make the trip, a nostalgic evening of listening to Martin Fisher commentate on the Reds again, deputising for Colin Fray.  If you fancy an even more nostalgia-driven factoid – with Ceefax being switched off last night, Dexter Blackstock’s late leveller goes down in the history books as the last goal to feature on the archaic bringer of goal news thanks to the slightly later kick off time for our game.

With Guedioura suspended following his red card against Cardiff, Sean brought in Majewski in a straight replacement, with Jermaine Jenas taking his place on the bench – so quite a straight forward arrangement really!

Halford   Ayala    Collins    Harding
Cohen    Gillett   Majewski    Reid
Sharp   Cox

The home side had the first opportunity of note, Crainey burst into the box down the left channel playing a neat exchange with Thomas Ince.  Camp rushed out to meet him, but was beaten by a calmly finished effort which struck the post to give us a shot across the bow, as it were.

At the other end some nice play between Cohen and Sharp ended with Cohen running on to a pass in the area, the midfielder went down in the box whilst close to former Reds loanee Isiah Osbourne, but I’m not entirely convinced the shouts for a penalty were particularly convincing – even if it has been more than a year since we’ve had one!

Cox spurned a great opportunity with a rash volley off target when he had the time and space to compose himself a little better.

Forest were starting to pick up though, Sharp burst into the box and hit a decent shot which Gilks sprawled to save whilst a defender conceded a corner.  From this Reid picked out Cohen on the edge of the area, his shot was blocked but the ball came back to him to nod back into the six yard area where Billy Sharp was lurking to flick the ball over Gilks and into the net.

The resulting celebration is probably something that will go down in folklore – the striker ran to the Forest fans holding his LJS Foundation wristband aloft, before promptly taking a hot dog from one of the Forest fans and taking a bite from the end of it!  Classic!

So, as on Saturday – donations in to Goals for LJS please, if you’re participating!

Ayala picked up a knock which saw him substituted for Brendan Moloney – the Irishman took up the right back spot whilst Halford moved to the centre of defence alongside Collins.  Brendan almost immediately had an awesome impact, clipping a cracking lobbed throughball to find the run of Billy Sharp, who got a shot away but it deflected off-target.

At the start of the second half you could feel the frustration Reid must’ve felt whilst on loan at Blackpool come out in the form of a venomous free-kick.  Whilst John McGovern bullishly stated the kick was too far out to shoot from, Reidy lined it up and struck a powerful effort just wide of the post – so I guess the former skipper was probably right, but it was a decent hit!

Even after Holloways customary ‘throw caution to the wind’ when behind tactic the Reds looked pretty comfortable containing the home side – but conceded the equaliser and went behind in quick succession thanks to some fairly poor lapses in concentration.  A great cross from deep by Matty Phillips was met by Grandin in the box to level from close range.

The next goal was worse, Forest didn’t get a decent challenge in despite several opportunities to clear their lines, the ball eventually falling to Taylor-Fletcher in the box to put the ball in the net with a not particularly powerful, but well-placed, shot from inside the area.  To have gone from winning and comfortable to losing is always a frustration.

Having seen Holloway’s mix-up of personnel draw benefits, O’Driscoll introduced Jenas and Blackstock for Majewski and Gillett respectively to try to fashion us an opportunity to get back in the game.  It nearly paid dividends when a cracking flick-on from Dex put Billy Sharp through but the striker put his effort off target.

We did have the last laugh though, Reid somehow managed to dig out a right-footed cross under the attentions of a number of Blackpool players, the ball eventually fell to Blackstock who took a calm touch before planting the ball into the net whilst the Blackpool defence seemed to be hoping for an offside decision.

A cracking result, and great to see the Reds not letting their heads drop when falling behind.  Of course, the defensive lapses and indecision are food for thought on the training ground, but to have taken four points from the visit of Cardiff and a trip to Blackpool is very decent indeed – with a forthcoming trip to (we never win at) Barnsley coming up this weekend it’s great we’re heading up to Yorkshire in a positive mood.

Blackpool vs. Forest preview..

Blackpool and Forest are pretty close in the league now, but the Tangerines are falling from on high after a blistering start to the season, Forest are climbing back upward after a somewhat indifferent beginning.  The home side are looking incredibly vulnerable at the back right now, so Forest should certainly approach this game positively.

For us it’s an opportunity to register three wins on the bounce, which would be very welcome indeed!  As well as injuries and poor form there is speculation that Ian Holloway is wanted by the Venkys at Blackburn which can only help to upset the applecart.

Just as we’re able to bring back one man from suspension, in the shape of striker Dexter Blackstock, we lose another – Guedioura has earned a two-game suspension for receiving his second red card of the season, after picking up two bookings against Cardiff at the weekend.  Whilst the first booking was harsh, the second wasn’t – and he should’ve thought before diving in.

Having had more opportunity to train it is likely that Jermaine Jenas will return to the squad, and Guedioura’s omission gives an opportunity for Lewis McGugan to re-stake a claim in the side, or Raddy Majewski to claim a starting place having been effective from the bench at the weekend with a neat assist for Sharp’s goal.  Lansbury and and Hutchinson remain unlikely to feature.

Reidy is likely to want to bank some happier memories of Bloomfield Road having had an ill-fated loan there back in 2011.  He only made five appearances for the doomed then-Premier League side and isn’t remembered with much affection by their fans, I imagine something he reciprocates in kind!

Depending on who you believe, Blackpool either have a full squad to pick from (official Forest preview), or are ‘down to the bare bones’ (the Blackpool Gazette).  Perhaps the real story lies somewhere between the two?

Former Notts County man Thomas Ince has been the one to watch for Blackpool this season, with a great run of goals earlier in the season – and the similarly dangerous Matty Phillips – certainly we shouldn’t let their recent run of form allow us to be complacent, they’re a dangerous side that will undoubtedly create chances and make life difficult for our defence.

Irrespective of their recent downward trajectory, this game will be a challenge – I know I am cultivating a bit of a habit of being a bit doom-and-gloomy, but maybe that’s my nature!  If Blackpool do play their natural open passing game then this will potentially be good for us, as we are building confidence in playing our way.

It’s always worth considering the bookies on this one – a successful £10 bet on Blackpool winning with Paddypower you’d get £11 back, on Forest you’d get £25 – a draw would net you £22.50.  Based on that you’d have to say that any point(s) from this fixture would be rather good, or that Paddypower are being bloody stingy!

I’d be happy with a point, though.

Oh, the kick off time has moved from 7:45pm to 8:00pm too – which probably doesn’t make any material difference to those of us travelling up, to be fair!

Reds knock Cardiff off top spot..

Sharp-shooter – Billy holds his LJS Foundation wristband aloft having opened his Forest account

Nottingham Forest – 3
Cardiff City – 1

Well, so much for my doom and glooming in the match preview – Forest comfortably cruised past the league leaders with a solid win marred only by Adlene Guedioura picking up a second yellow in the second half, really.  A very encouraging performance by the Reds against the, erm Reds.

Malky Mackay’s side didn’t really live up to their billing at all, lining up with a lone striker and attempting to fill the midfield much like we’ve seen from other teams in recent home games.  This time we seemed to be able to find a way through this kind of tactic.  The visiting fans too much quieter than we’ve become accustomed to when Cardiff visit.

Sean opted to drop McGugan and replace him with Guedioura who of course was just back from suspension.  Lewis dropped to the bench, where there was no place for Jermaine Jenas who hasn’t had sufficient training time having come back from a back injury.

Halford    Ayala    Collins    Harding
Guedioura    Cohen    Reid
Sharp   Cox

The first opportunity of the game fell to the visitors, a decent cross from Conway was met by Cowie but he didn’t get his header on target.  It was a mostly lacklustre start to the game, with nothing really clear-cut for either side until Cox was felled on the edge of the area.  Reidy stepped up and clipped a deliciously placed free-kick against the underside of the bar and in.

We were still celebrating it seemed when a cross came in from the right from Halford and was met by the leap of Daniel Ayala, who was still in the area from one of Greg Halford’s long throws which hadn’t been particularly well cleared.  So within the space of a couple of minutes we’d gone from a fairly lacklustre game to two nil up against the league leaders.

The first half nearly ended with a flourish for the Reds too, Billy Sharp was agonisingly close to breaking his Forest duck with a header from a Chris Cohen freekick, but the effort was deflected for a corner.  Half time arrived, and we were two goals to the good with a very confident performance, which was of course very pleasing indeed!

If Billy Sharp was letting his ongoing goal drought eat away at him, it didn’t show.  The first act of business though was the withdrawal of Cox (arf) for Majewski, I’m presuming because the striker had picked up yet another booking rather than for any other reason.  A minute after that Sharp played a lovely one-two with the substitute and burst into the box, scoring from a tight angle to open his Reds account.

So, those of you participating in the Goals for the LJS Foundation initiative set up by a Forest fan, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is!  Hopefully this is the first of many opportunities to donate (indeed, there’s nowt wrong with donating full stop – it’s a great cause!)

Cardiff did start to wake up somewhat, an excellent cross from Noone should have given Tommy Smith a goal but he conspired to put his header wide of the target.  Camp was having a good game in the Reds goal, claiming crosses and making saves when needed – however, there was little he could do with the ball looped in to Helguson who, under challenge from Collins, did well to flick the ball goalward with the outside of his foot to give the visitors a lifeline.

This certainly energised them, and saw perhaps their best spell of the game – Smith was unlucky with low effort that struck the post – in the aftermath of this Noone had two bites of the cherry, the first blocked by Ayala’s face, the second saved well by Camp.  At the other end Cohen had a decent effort which was stopped on the line by Hudson.

The cloud for the silver-lining of the afternoon came when Guedioura was booked for a late challenge, probably the right decision, but galling considering his first booking was for a dive when he was pretty clearly shoved by a Cardiff player.  That said, he shouldn’t have made such a challenge when already on a yellow card.  An inconsistent performance from the referee – there’s a change, eh?

Cardiff definitely finished the stronger now with a man advantage, but rarely managed to dominate us – that said, the remaining chances of note were certainly created by the visitors, Camp had good saves to make from Noone and Gestede – the Reds keeper certainly on top of his game again and looking confident again, which is great to see.

Full time and a deserved win against a good side – no Forest player stood out head and shoulders above the others in terms of man of the match, Reid got the sponsors award, and he had a fine game, but I’d probably choose one of Camp, Collins, Ayala, Halford or Gillet.  Harding too had an excellent game after a tricky start as a Forest player, but the bottom line is it was an excellent team performance where everybody contributed solidly to make a decent Cardiff side look very ordinary.

Whilst I do think we seem to be picking up more cards than we should – this game saw Cardiff commit more fouls than us, yet us get more cards, which is odd, there is something for the Reds to work on.  Whilst Halford was fouled (not given) just before he petulantly booted the ball into the stand, he still petulantly booted the ball into the stand – it was unnecessary, and Cox has clearly made a bit of a reputation for himself for needling referees.

One thing I’d like to see the manager working on would be discipline from the players like we used to have in Clough’s time here – there’s no benefit in haranguing an official, indeed, as John McGovern recounted the other week in The Approach, Clough used to say that the referee would probably make fewer mistakes in 90 minutes than any player, so why should the player rebuke the official?  The fans will give the referee sufficient feedback, after all.

A very good afternoon’s entertainment, a cracking performance – well done to Sean and the boys.  The goals are below for those of you who haven’t seen them yet (whilst they last!)

Everything but the goal..

The moment that should have won us the game..

Nottingham Forest – 0
Blackburn Rovers – 0

This is the third time I’ve used this headline – but it fits so well.  I’m sorry, it’s late.

Well, when I predicted a stern test from one of the likely ‘there or thereabouts’ teams come the end of the season I couldn’t have been more wrong, could I?  It turns out that Blackburn came and offered very little threat to the Reds who dominated the game but were unable to create enough tangible efforts on goal.  Those efforts we did have were spurned.

However, it’s funny how 90 minutes changes your perspective isn’t it?  At kick off I might have been tempted to take a draw if offered – but certainly I’m sure the gaffer and the players, like me, will feel disappointed not to have snagged all three points against a particularly unambitious visiting side.

With suspensions playing havoc with our attacking line it wasn’t too surprising to see Sharp up top on his own, with Lansbury earning a start in midfield, leaving space on the bench for Jermaine Jenas to eventually get the chance to make his second debut for the Reds.

Halford   Ayala   Collins   Harding
Cohen    McGugan    Lansbury   Reid

It was sort of like that.  Kinda.  You know what our midfielders are like, they’re all over the place!  Having been made to swap ends, Forest started brightly, an early corner evaded Ayala and Cohen early doors.  McGugan crossed from the right to Sharp, but he couldn’t muster any power for this shot which ended up an easy save.

The visitors had their moments too, a shot from outside the area from Hanley needed dealing with by Camp but it was a routine stop.  But really it was a fairly pensive half of little chances – Blackburn pressed really far forward to try to stop us playing from the back, we just as stubbornly carried on trying to do so, which was risky.

As the half drew to a close we had a bit of a pinball session with a number of efforts flying in towards the Blackburn goal, but ultimately after a combination of saves and blocks we ended up with the ball in the Trent End after a particularly ambitious volley from McGugan.  So half time and to be honest, it hadn’t been the most gripping of halves – but we’d certainly more than matched our opponents, which was good!

The first action of the second saw Reid fire just over after a corner hadn’t been cleared particularly well, and we resumed the battle of wills to try to break one another down – with Blackburn increasingly content to allow the Reds possession in their own half.

On a rare foray forward Jordan Rhodes tried to buy a penalty with an unconvincing collapse whilst stood near Chris Cohen.  Fortunately the referee – who had been ridiculously lenient all game – didn’t give the spot kick.  He also didn’t book Rhodes for the dive (in fact, he didn’t book anyone all game).

Lansbury had had a few wayward moments after some nice touches in the first half, but showed a moment of real class when he controlled the ball whilst taking it round his man to give him space to shoot in the area.  His left footed strike was decent enough but saved well by Robinson in the visitors’ goal.

It was Lansbury who was withdrawn shortly after for Majewski who was immediately eagerly bustling around the place.  He made a lovely jinking run along the bye-line, tricking his way past Olsson before putting a dangerous ball right into the six-yard box, sadly no Red shirts were close enough and Orr was able to get it clear.

The real chance of the game though came to Billy Sharp.  A lovely clipped ball from Reidy found the striker in the channel, he did everything right with his first touch to control the ball and tee himself up with a chance to shoot from close range and… missed and hit the side-netting!  Gutted doesn’t come close!  It was just the kind of chance you’d expect him to score.

I’m sure he’s thinking that himself, too.  There’s not much point in labouring the point!

Jenas was introduced with just over seventy minutes gone to replace Lewis, he had a few nice touches but sat quite deep for the most part.  Blackburn by this point had all but given up trying to get forward as the Reds enjoyed a lot of possession whilst trying to find a way through the away side.

Coppinger was the final change near the end for Reid, but despite enjoying possession and territory we weren’t really able to mount anything approximating a decent chance in the closing stages, which was a little frustrating.  Definitely a game where we could and ought to have done better and given Robinson to do.

Though as Robin Chipperfield pointed out on the radio on the way home, had Sharp bagged his chance (or Lansbury, for that matter), the tone of this report would be very different and we’d be celebrating a decent performance and three points.  It was still a decent performance – and it’s good to be able to say that having looked like we were on somewhat of a downward trajectory in recent games.

Oh, should show some respect for the Rovers defender who got up after being full on booted in the face (accidentally, I might add!) by Ayala in a penalty area scramble following a corner.  It looked nasty from where I was sat so I was glad to see he was okay following the incident!

We only had ten men..

.. and a fat lot of good it did us, a limp showing from the boys in Red led to defeat.

So yeah, I predicted one goal would settle it. Derby managed it with their sole effort on target – a half yard tap in for Bryson after good work down the right by Coutts and a decent ball into the box. There’s been a lot of ire directed at the referee, rightfully, but that shouldn’t distract from our own shortcomings.

I’m going to keep this brief as I’m on my phone, and I can’t be arsed. We weren’t at the races, a tame effort from Cohen and a last gap Gillett effort (which Fielding did well to save) were our only efforts on target. We didn’t create enough, and as seems to have become characteristic of this fixture, the visitors seemed to arrive with a more effective game plan and wanted it more.

Blackstock shouldn’t have been red carded for a fairly innocuous looking challenge, and quite how Buxton and Keogh consistently got away with GBH on him throughout the first half is something only the referee can answer. For me though our lack of threat was a result of our own lack of application, the referee – albeit atrocious – was a mere side story, one that ought to be followed up by the powers-that-be of course, but not one to distract us from how we need to improve.

Fielding had looked suspect on crosses – we didn’t subsequently put more crosses in, partly down to that perpetual problem with lack of wingers so there’s little chance to get the ball wide then in the box. Derby were largely industrial in their approach, but it was effective at stifling our game and once the referee handed them a one man advantage they took the chance they made.

That’s a few games of ineffectiveness now for the Reds – our early season ‘clicking’ perhaps took our opponents by surprise as much as it did many of us. Now it seems teams are finding it relatively easy to limit our Plan A, as yet we’ve not seemed to create a Plan B that looks like it could cause teams too many problems.

We might see an alternate approach on Wednesday – Blackstock is suspended, I’m assuming if we appeal the Football League will as ever ignore whatever evidence is submitted and stick by their incompetent official. Simon Cox is out too, after being booked for – get this – standing a bit near Fielding (who was time wasting). Coxy has picked up a LOT of bookings in his short time here though, it has to be said.

A very disappointing afternoon. It’s always a shit fixture to lose, and there’s usually always some handbags or cries of injustice but the most annoying thing is that we didn’t do more to control the game. Gillett had a decent game, and it was nice to see Cohen back, but well, there’s a whole lot of cloud and not much silver lining from where I’m standing.

Blackburn aren’t going to be pushovers in Wednesday either. I hope fans and owners alike aren’t going to start getting silly with regard to Sean O’Driscoll – patience is needed by all concerned as he works with the squad to get our results back on track.

Reds left with lessons to learn at Leeds..

Dex attempting to understand the bamboozling performance from Mr D’Urso under the attentions of Diouf

Leeds United – 2
Nottingham Forest – 1

So, it was nice being the last unbeaten Championship side for a few hours, but it didn’t last long.  And despite Leeds being unsurprisingly Leeds-like, and D’Urso being unsurprisingly D’Urso-like, we never managed to offer enough in an improved second half to counterbalance a pretty shoddy first half in which the home side scored both their goals.

Coppinger was given the nod to slot in in place of Guedioura on the right-ish of midfield, with Guy Moussi preferred to Lewis McGugan in midfield for reasons best known to Sean O’Driscoll.  Dexter returned to a starting place alongside Simon Cox, whilst Lansbury and Cohen featured on the bench:

Halford   Ayala   Collins    Harding
Coppinger  Moussi   Gillett  Reid
Blackstock   Cox

Despite this largely being a first half to forget, Forest did start quite brightly with decent possession and pressure on the edge of the Leeds area.  A Gillet shot was charged down, a nice pass from Coppinger gave Cox an opening but his effort was straight at Kenny who held on to the ball to deny Blackstock the opportunity of a rebound effort.

Leeds started to awaken though, a Lees headers from a corner was just wide – but Forest were still at the races, more good work from Cox won us a corner from which the ball was put in the net by a combination of Collins and Peltier – the referee deemed this a foul though. Difficult to tell from our seats, and needless to say the replay board didn’t deign to show it.

The home side took the lead shortly after – Diouf performed a bit of trickery to get space from Harding to put in a dangerous cross, the Reds struggled to clear and the ball fell kindly for Becchio – the last person you’d want it to fall to – who was able to powerfully strike the ball into the roof of the net from inside the area to give Leeds the lead.

It’s fair to say this boosted the home side immeasurably and Forest seemed to wilt as Leeds’ confidence grew.  The lead was doubled when Ayala made a mess of what should have been a fairly routine clearance, giving goalscorer Becchio the opportunity to shoot – Ayala recovered to get a tackle in but the ball fell kindly for the onrushing Poleon who finished well to double the lead.

Forest attempted to haul themselves back into it – largely through some fairly crude direct football.  A decent ball from Ayala found Cox who was summarily hacked down by Pearce, D’Urso booked him – the freekick seemed to take a while to take, eventually Reid put it off target.  Coppinger put one just wide just before half time, and that was pretty much it aside from two more good opportunities for Leeds.

So O’Driscoll had a job on at half time, because whilst there was an element of fortune to both Leeds goals, they were undoubtedly good value for the margin of their lead and we were not playing well at all.  He made two changes, switching is back to a 4-1-3-2 formation by taking off Moussi and Reid and introducing McGugan and Lansbury.

Early in the second half Coppinger had a decent chance to get us off the mark but was denied through the attentions of Adam Drury.  A McGugan free-kick struck a defender first enabling Kenny to make the easy save – but Forest were definitely setting about their opponents more than they had for much of the first half.  Another McGugan freekick after a cynical foul on Blackstock was struck into the wall.

The goal came from the ultimate direct source, which probably seems apt since we’d struggled to play much decent football this afternoon.  A long throw from Halford into the box found Blackstock who got to the ball ahead of Kenny to head into the goal – amazingly the referee could find no reason to disallow it so it was game on with an hour on the clock.

Leeds’ main tactic to deal with a resurgent Forest was to make a couple of substitutions lasting approximately three weeks each, and to have their players go through cycles of feigning injury whilst waiting for the trainer to come on.  The referee was spineless, and fell for every single trick – which was frustrating.  I used to hate it when we did that kind of thing under Billy Davies, but I suppose you expect it at Elland Road.

Coppinger had another effort, this time cleared off the line – although it wasn’t all going our way, a header from Austin (probably the most influential home player, I thought, as the second half progressed) was saved well by Camp.  Cox created a good chance for Dex, whose effort was blocked, the ball came to McGugan who struck a good shot goalward which was stopped well by Kenny with a diving save.

Lewis McGugan struck a decent freekick just wide, and Forest continued to try to press.  Lewis was having a bit of an impact, a nice turn in midfield was rudely halted by Lees – the resulting freekick was struck powerfully into the area and appeared to strike a hand in the box, which was – naturally – ignored by the referee.  Halford had an effort from close range blocked, as Forest continued to be frustrated in their efforts.

Sharp was introduced late on, replacing Coppinger for the last seven minutes or so – but Forest were struggling to keep up their momentum in the midst of both our own lack of ideas on occasion but also the frequent stoppages in the game through fouls or mysterious injuries to Leeds players.

Six minutes of injury time were announced, but Forest had started to run out of steam.  We certainly had opportunities to snag an equaliser, and whilst our second half performance was much improved, it wasn’t enough to counter the poor first half – so I’m consigning this one to a learning exercise for the manager.

It’s demonstrated that Moussi and Gillett together doesn’t really work very well – and on the brighter side I liked the look of what I saw from Lansbury, it will be exciting to see more of him in a Forest shirt.  We have a little over a week now for one of our most important fixtures of the season – there will be no better occasion for the Reds to bounce back with a positive result.

The goals are here if you’d like to see them, and you might have spotted a familiar name in the Leeds United programme if you decided to cross Ken Bates’ palm with four quid.

Dex gets Forest out of jail..

Dur Dur Dur Dur! Dexter Blackstock!

Crystal Palace – 1
Nottingham Forest – 1

As 1,800 or so hardy trickies make their way from Selhurst Park I feel a bit guilty sat in my warm living room cobbling together what I remember from Colin Fray’s commentary as well as pinching bits from the official website match report. Certainly the travelling reds weren’t treated to a feast of football from the Reds in probably our least effective performance of the season.

With any luck a late equaliser from substitute Dexter Blackstock after we’d been reduced to ten men in the second half might just have warmed their collective cockles enough for the long journey home. Because let’s face it, even if you live in bloody London it’s a long journey home from an away game against Crystal Palace!

Sean opted to start out with the 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 hybrid formation that seemed to help us get back into the game against Birmingham City at the weekend, giving us a starting line-up that looked a bit like this:

Halford Ayala Collins
Hutchinson Harding
McGugan Gillett Reid
Sharp Cox

Palace, on the back of a local derby win over Charlton, started the brighter – after only nine minutes Wilfried Zaha was able to find plenty of room to cross from the right, finding Glenn Murray who saw his header end up striking the post. Lee Camp was required to deny the home side goals, too – Williams robbed Hutchinson of possession and brought a save from the Forest ‘keeper.

The home side continued to press, eventual goalscorer Dikgacoi struck a rasping shot just over from the edge of the area. Lee Camp was on hand twice more before the half time whistle – Jedinak had a pop from range, and after Ayala had lost possession on the edge of the area the Forest ‘keeper was alert enough to deny Murray to spare the Spanish defenders’ blushes.

To start the tale of two substitutes, an injury to Hutchinson meant that Guedioura was introduced from the bench with around five minutes remaining. The Reds had weathered the home storm for the first 45 minutes and offered little going forward themselves. Clearly an opportunity for SO’D to get the lads firing, I imagine Dougie Freedman would’ve loved an extra five or ten minutes of first half.

As it transpired, the momentum carried on with the home side into the second half – just five minutes gone and Dikgacoi met a corner from Williams and put a looping header beyond Lee Camp to give Palace a lead their possession and chances undoubtedly deserved. Forest started to awaken, McGugan created some space for himself on the edge of the area but his shot was charged down.

Guedioura picked up a booking for a foul after 55 minutes, then was foolish enough to kick out at Jedinak after the referee had given a dubious freekick against Reid. A silly action giving the referee no choice – the Algerian midfielder has already apologised to his teammates and fans alike via the medium of Twitter. Hopefully this gives him a bit of thinking time, because he’s come close to losing his head a few times already this season.

Sean O’Driscoll introduced Dexter on 73 minutes at the expense of Sharp – who hadn’t really enjoyed much service, and on 79 minutes replaced Lewis McGugan with Majewski. It seemed that the manager’s bench-based alchemy was to bear fruit again – Simon Cox turned well on the edge of the area and got the ball to Blackstock who beat Speroni with a cool finish.

Dex gets the headlines, but Coxy carries on his record of either scoring or assisting in every game he’s played for us – long may THAT stat continue!

We could’ve nicked a ridiculously undeserved win, too – Halford took a long throw into the six yard box which was met by the head of Blackstock, and saved brilliantly by Speroni. At the other end Camp made a brilliant save from a point-blank header from Peter Ramage, leaving both sides to be content with a draw – I imagine we will feel rather happier with the point than Palace will!

So Sean said we got out of jail, it’s hard to argue with it – and whilst it’s a bit concerning that we put in such a lacklustre shift for most of the game, it’s rather heartening to see another demonstration of resilience from the Reds who are able to continue to boast an unbeaten league record – somehow! Under the circumstances it’s a cracking point for us, dropping to ten men when already a goal down.

Leeds away up next – they lost 3-2 at home to Hull City tonight, so they’ll be pissed off anyway without even mentioning what happened when Forest went to Elland Road last season – but we don’t want to mention that, do we?

Interested in placing a bet on an upcoming Forest fixture? Would you like to get all of the latest betting tips and odds? Make sure you come to bwin today!

Reds remain unbeaten with two-goal comeback..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Birmingham City – 2

A fairly unspectacular first half in which the Reds had some chances, but were largely nullified by the visitors exploded into goals in the second half.  Forest lapsed in concentration twice in quick succession and found themselves two goals down – a couple of O’Driscoll substitutions later and we’d hauled ourselves back level – so it should go down as a good result.

The only change to the line-up was Simon Cox – subject of an injury scare – was dropped to the bench and replaced by Billy Sharp.  On the subject of whom, some fans have set up an initiative where they will donate cash to the LJS Foundation for every goal he scores for us – check out this link if you’d like to join in, I think it’s a great idea!

Forest too are getting behind the cause, agreeing to stock wristbands in the club shop and have collection containers in there – from what I heard they sold out of bands before the Birmingham game, which is great!  I digress, here’s the team as started:

Hutchinson    Ayala    Collins    Halford
Guedioura   McGugan    Gillett    Reid
Sharp   Blackstock

Our first real opportunity came a little after ten minutes when Butland struggled with a Hutchinson cross, Sharp latched onto the ball in the area  but by the time he’d composed himself the shot was straight at the ‘keeper.  The next chance was from McGugan – a carbon copy freekick from the same spot as against Charlton, if anything struck better, but tipped over well by the ‘keeper.

Probably the best opportunity for us came part way through the half – a ball from Gillett sent Sharp a little bit too far down the right, but he dug out a ball to Reid on the left.  Reid had options for the pull-back into the area but instead opted to return the ball over to Sharp, a pity but some nice movement and awareness nonetheless.

At the other end Camp was alert when King was put through by Lita, getting out to block any chance of the sex offender scoring.  Reidy had a freekick on target which again Butland was equal to with a tip over, whilst King squandered a decent opportunity for Birmingham by firing over as the half drew to a close.

Our half time reflections were that Birmingham were certainly – Wigan aside – the best team we’d seen so far at the City Ground, they were proving more difficult to execute a passing game against, we also lamented the lack of cutting edge of decision-making for the opportunities we did fashion.  We’d edged the first half, but only just.

We started the second half brightly with a dangerous cross from Reidy, but quite rapidly the game became somewhat of a struggle.  Referee Mark Halsey was proving unpopular as ever so it was quite amusing when Sharp inadvertently took him out (the referee, of course, missing the foul on Sharp that caused him to floor the official).

SO’D made an uncharacteristically early change on the hour, taking off the tired looking Dexter Blackstock and introducing Simon Cox, but it was the visitors who were to draw first blood soon after.  A lapse allowed Marlon King a shooting chance which was well blocked by Hutchinson, but the rebound fell for Mullins who struck powerfully goalward and in via a deflection.

We’d barely had a chance to blink when Redmond made a great run down the right, cutting the ball back to King who placed an accurate finish in the bottom corner to put the West Midlanders two goals to the good.  Harsh on Forest in terms of balance of play, but you certainly couldn’t argue with the incisiveness of the Blues’ attacking play.

It only took us a couple of minutes to reignite our game though – a precise pass of fifty yards or more from McGugan found Cox in the box, he deftly controlled it with his right foot, cushioning the ball up infront of him – in the meantime, Butland was rushing out of his goal, Cox casually flicked his right foot again to put the ball over the ‘keeper and in the goal, evading the two defenders on the line.

Sean made another change, introducing Harding for Guedioura (who’d also had a rather quiet game).  Harding went to left wing back, Hutchinson to right wing back with Halford slotting in to the right hand side of a defensive three alongside Collins and Ayala.  A ballsy move, but one that started to give us the width we’d lacked earlier in the game.

Whilst we were making inroads, the last change saw him gamble on losing the defensive screening of Gillett – another impressive game from the midfielder – and introducing the creative influence of Majewski.  Whilst the Pole might not have been directly involved in the equaliser, his presence certainly gave our opponents something different to think about.

As it happens, it was an unlikely source of a goal – but as Halford took the ball forward a gap like Moses created in the Red Sea opened up, he duly took advantage and strode further forward, clipping a decent ball in which found Harding at the back post.  His shot was off target but deflected in off a defender to give us the equaliser.

I will admit it was quite a thrill to see a blonde haired number 3 marauding forward to sweep the ball into the net, even if it was really an own goal!  There was a chance for the winner too, a difficult aerial ball was met by Billy Sharp but he couldn’t get his header on target – I’d have liked nothing better than to celebrate three points by chucking the first of what I hope will be many pound donations to the LJS Foundation.

As it is, it wasn’t to be – and given the circumstances a draw is a decent result.  Despite their shaky start I expect Birmingham to be in the play-off or even automatic mix as the season draws on, the jury might be out for some on Lee Clark but he has a cracking squad at his disposal.  Whilst it’s annoying to have lapsed and let in two, our response to that was fantastic, and should see us in good spirits for forthcoming trips to Palace and Leeds.

The goals are here if you’ve not seen ’em yet.

We’re Nottingham Forest, we’ll pass you to death..

Simon Gillett – doesn’t make the headlines, but so crucial to Forest’s early success

Nottingham Forest – 2
Charlton Athletic – 1

If the exciting transfer deadline wasn’t enough, spells of today’s game – big spells – were enough to test the resolve of the most cautiously optimistic fan. We played some lovely football and made a decent Charlton side look very ordinary at times. The caution should come in at the realisation that we mustered just two goals, both with an element of fortune too.

The opener from McGugan shouldn’t really have been a freekick – Simon Cox did well to nip infront of the defender but couldn’t keep it in play, I’m not convinced he was fouled – but well, we’ll take it. For Sam Hutchinson’s excellent winning goal it wouldn’t have been surprising, particularly from this referee, to have (incorrectly) given a foul against Dex – fortunately he didn’t.

To allow a player of Riccardo Fuller’s quality so much space in the box to be found by a cross is a worry – Camp was unlucky to have the ball bounce in off him, only his second real save to make of the afternoon. But don’t let me bring you down, as I’ve always said – we are a work in progress, and progressing very nicely indeed!

Sean O’Driscoll made some changes – Hutchinson came in for his full debut, Halford moved to left back as Dan Harding had a sleepless night becoming a father (congratulations to him and Mrs Harding). Lewis and Guedioura returned to midfield whilst the two new boys both had a place on the bench:

Hutchinson Ayala Collins Halford
Guedioura McGugan Reid
Cox Blackstock

The game started with the strange sing-off between the travelling Charlton fans and the home fans, both adopting the Wings track Mull of Kintyre. Weight of number gave the home fans the edge (not to mention that they seem to sing it even quicker than us!) and that early nominal home advantage was soon replicated on the pitch as the game kicked off.

Lots of patient passing play saw Forest keep hold of the ball and barely give Charlton a touch, to delighted chants of ‘Sean O’Driscoll, he plays on the floor!’ – none of the idiotic impatience I witnessed from some of the fans in the midweek cup game against Wigan.

An expansive series of passing that went on for seemingly ages culminated in Cox finding the influential Andy Reid in the area, his pull back was perfect for Adlene Guedioura in space – the midfielder’s sidefooted shot was perhaps a little too ambitious, looping and hitting the bar and out. If you were being harsh then he didn’t really have to find the very corner, the Charlton ‘keeper was in a poor position.

Despite enjoying huge chunks of possession, Forest didn’t create rafts of chances – but did pick up the lead after a little over fifteen minutes. Cox was typically terrier-like, he nipped in front of Solly on the left, but couldn’t keep the ball inside the touchline, he went to ground and the referee gave a freekick – I think it was harsh, if I’m being honest – I didn’t see it as a foul at the time, and the replay on the Football League show corroborates that.

Lewis McGugan flighted the freekick towards the far post and Ben Hamer will be not wanting to see his strange non-attempt at preventing the shot from a tight angle going straight in and nestling into the far corner of the net. A little later Lewis again was the threat, his shot was heading on target at the near-post before deflecting wide for a corner. After that he had another effort from outside the area but this time straight at Hamer.

The remainder of the half went as the rest had – Forest enjoyed possession and passing, with the excellent Simon Gillett winning the ball back and moving it on – always available for a pass. I counted he lost the ball twice all afternoon, considering how often he’s involved in our play, that’s fantastic. Reidy and McGugan too really stood out in midfield for both their workrate as well as craft.

It’s difficult to judge the defence at this point in the game – because Charlton offered practically no threat at all. At half time we speculated whether we were really good, or Charlton were really poor. Perhaps a bit of both, as Charlton did improve after the break. The other concern is that despite our dominance in possession we’d only mustered a one goal lead.

Chris Powell obviously had a few choice words for his side in the dressing room, because the Addicks began the second half in much more positive fashion. Their first effort on goal came quite early in the half, a fairly tame shot by Cook not dealt with brilliantly by Camp who needed two grabs to claim the ball, although Collins was on hand to deal with the loose ball had the ‘keeper lost it.

After forcing a corner the visitors had another chance from the setpiece, with Yann Kermorgant heading wide. Forest began to get to grips with this new more energetic Charlton side. Guedioura, who’d picked up a booking for a rash looking challenge, fired a powerful strike that deflected over the bar from a defender, not that the referee noticed this – giving a goal kick for his troubles.

Simon Cox stung Hamer’s palms from a tight angle – a little bit greedy from the frontman, but I kinda like that in a way. As the keeper grabbed the ball Cox went through the ‘keeper rather unnecessarily and picked up a booking for this trouble, which was probably right – although the writhing around after the incident was rather unnecessary.

Forest still struggle from corners – although it was good to see some McGugan drilled efforts as well as the Reidy floaters over the course of the afternoon. Although eventually from one we fashioned a chance – after it was half-cleared Guedioura managed to get the ball back in and Halford just put his header just over the bar.

The goal that would ultimately win the game came though – Hutchinson played the ball up the line to Blackstock who did very well to hold off the attentions of a defender who ended up on the deck (more gym time for him needed, methinks). In the meantime Hutch had motored through, and Dex played a lovely little chipped ball to find him, Sam’s touch was good, and his finish calm as he nutmegged Hamer to double Forest’s lead.

Cox was withdrawn (fnar) on eighty odd minutes to a great ovation from the crowd, and replaced by Billy Sharp who got a tremendous reception from the supporters. He had a chance too, a nice bit of skill to nip the ball over the ‘keeper but before he could get his shot away the Addicks defence managed to get it away from him – if we’d scored at this point I think the roof would have come off and we’d have steamrollered them.

As it is, it didn’t go in, and we didn’t steamroller them. Moussi was introduced for McGugan shortly after, and the last change was Coppinger for Reidy. I don’t think it’s a reflection on Copps, but taking Reid away, who’d been running the show somewhat (it was between him, Gillett and Hutchinson for man of the match for me) seemed to coincide with Charlton really starting to come back into the game.

Solly crossed in and Riccardo Fuller had a ridiculous amount of space to place a header off the inside of the post. It came back across the line and made Lee Camp look a bit daft as it ricocheted off his feet and over the line, technically an own goal but one I imagine that Fuller will be more keen to claim than Camp will, so will probably go down as the striker’s.

They had a few more chances too – Dex, of all people, responsible for some crucial defending, Ayala too put a late block in with shouts of handball which would have been a harsh call for sure. Definitely a nervy finish though, and one that should have been comfortable considering the balance of play – certainly something for the squad to concentrate on as they go into a two week break thanks to International fixtures.

Once we start translating our play into goals then we could be on to something really special. It feels a bit unreasonable to be critical, so please realise when I am it is constructive criticism – I am still absolutely and utterly staggered at how quickly the club has recovered from what looked like a terminal decline at the end of last season – huge credit to the owners, the coaching team, the players and to the fans too.

Let’s keep pulling in the same direction – because when we combine our energy it’s a bloody heady brew. I’m loving the vibe at the City Ground at the moment, long may it continue!

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Latics give Reds a lesson in finishing..

Simon Cox continues his impressive run of scoring or creating goals in an otherwise disappointing evening for the Reds..

Nottingham Forest – 1
Wigan Athletic – 4

Oof – that was a bit of a lesson from the Latics on finishing, for sure!  Having said that a heavily-tinkered-with Reds side had their moments against a strong visiting side – but ultimately didn’t quite have the attacking craft to get the goals that a combination of excellent attacking and some suspect defending had granted Wigan opportunities at the other end.

Still, having slumped to 3-0 down at half time it was good to see Forest continue to press their game in the second half and get a consolation goal – a 30 yarder from Simon Cox.  Unfortunately even when reduced to ten men the Premier League opponents still proved a cut above us at this stage and countered brilliantly to get a final goal to regain their three goal deficit.

Sean O’Driscoll made a few changes to the line-up, introducing some recently injured players, as well as some of those on the fringes, giving us a slightly unbalanced looking side comprising something like this:

Halford   Ayala   Collins   Harding
Cohen   Gillett   Moussi    Reid
McGoldrick    Cox

Initially the Moose was playing the more overt holding role with Gillett further advanced than we’d seen before, McGoldrick and Cox were alternating in dropping deep to support the midfield whilst Cohen and Reid played the narrow extremities of the diamond.  As always though, it wasn’t always clear who was covering where in midfield and perhaps with this unfamiliar midfield line-up it showed amongst the players a little more.

It was a pretty open start to the game, with both sides pressing forward without creating too much by the way of opportunities.  Just as it seemed Forest were making some headway and building pressure Wigan hit us with an excellent suckerpunch of a counterattack.

Alcaraz picked up the ball and found Gomez who played a ball out on the right to Stam, arguably Harding could’ve done more to prevent the cross from coming in – once it had it would’ve been harder for Boselli to miss a close range header into the Trent End goal.  A really devastating move from the Latics.

This seemed to take the wind out of Forest’s sails and we seemed to lose our sense of purpose – we had been closing down brilliantly further up the field and making it really difficult for Wigan to play from the back, but our defence wasn’t quite so hot on closing down.  This was part of the problem when Figueroa picked up the ball from 30 yards and unleashed, well, it was a belter.  And it doubled the lead.

This left us looking somewhat shell-shocked and seemed to give Wigan real confidence in pushing forward – and just before half time they picked up their third goal where the tiny Albert Crusat got the ball to Gomez, Collins unusually got caught ball-watching and didn’t close him down, so he duly put a great shot from range into the top corner giving Camp no chance (despite the protestations of the idiot sitting near me that Camp had ‘let in three soft goals’ – honestly!).

So half time and comfortably behind – a bit of a return to earth after a cracking start to the season and of course the excitement of Henri Lansbury being unveiled to the crowd before the game.  Potentially a useful one though – look at Sean O’Driscoll’s post-match comments, as ever, our mild-mannered gaffer has a brilliant outlook.  But they were his post match comments, we have a second half to get through!

It started really rather well – a long punt from Camp found Cox who was able to spin his marker around forty yards out and advancing towards goal, before the other defenders could get to him he’d unleashed a lovely shot which curled away from Al-Habsi in the Wigan goal before nestling neatly into the top corner – game on?  Well, perhaps not, but certainly it perked Forest up.

We did put some pressure on them – McGoldrick (being roundly and largely unfairly criticised from sections of the crowd, some of our fans honestly baffle me with their negativity and downright idiocy considering where we’ve been in recent years and how things are looking this season!) and Reid both had chances but couldn’t beat the Wigan keeper.

Even a dismissal of Alcaraz for a second booking after a clumsy challenge on Moussi didn’t do enough to swing the tie in our favour.  McGoldrick brought a good save from Al-Habsi, but ultimately we didn’t really threaten the goal enough – which is where Wigan gave us a final lesson in countering with Miyaichi breaking down the left and finding McManaman who got past Collins and slotted the ball coolly in the net.

No doubt Wigan were worthy winners – which is perhaps a useful reminder, if any were needed, that we have some way to go before we’re the finished article.  It’s something a fair few of the fans around me could do with remembering at least.  I’m not one for simply smiling and cheering no matter what happens, but I really struggle to comprehend how some supporters reacted during and after the game.

It was a minority though, so I shall cease being wound up by it.  The bottom line is we played some nice stuff at times, but showed our naïvity too.  Then again, let’s remember that we changed a lot of personnel, take heart in seeing Chris Cohen on a pitch again – and look forward to seeing how Sean O’Driscoll and the squad take the lessons that Wigan dealt to us and apply them to our league campaign, starting on Saturday against Charlton.

Forgive the hasty report – I’ve got an early start tomorrow so wanted to get it done tonight rather than dragging it out!  I am disappointed we didn’t contest the game a bit more, but was kind of expecting it to be a struggle when I saw just how much Sean had tinkered with midfield.  Still looking forward to Saturday, and of course, we can concentrate on the league now (you have to say that, don’t you? 😉 ).

All in all, this is the day we’ll remember as the day we signed Henri Lansbury – we’ll probably brush this game under the carpet!