Leicester City vs. Forest preview..

A trip down Fosse Way for the Reds to high-flying-but-stuttering-a-bit Leicester City should prove an interesting encounter.  After an excellent October we came crashing back to Earth with a bit of a shoeing at home to Millwall, but have gained back some respect points with a dominant showing over Middlesbrough – which brought back questions over our conversion rate of chances created.

Leicester had ascended to the top of the table but subsequently have found things a little tougher – they managed to halt a mini-losing run with a draw up at Bolton in midweek having lost their previous two games against Crystal Palace and Watford.  So whilst a number of places separate us in the league, we’re just four points behind the Foxes.

More pressingly, we’ve found ourselves a point behind Derby as well – which needs remedying as soon as possible!

On the team front we’ll be missing Sam Hutchinson thanks to his knee injury, who has Daniel Ayala and Raddy Majewski to keep him company on the sidelines.  Whether Jermaine Jenas has recovered sufficiently from his foot injury is something that Sean will decide later.  Leicester are missing St Ledger and Vardy through injury and new signing Keane is a doubt.  Whitbread is available following suspension.

A glance at the history books shows a pretty close record between us – Leicester have the edge though, with 39 wins over us through the years to our 37.   It’d be nice to redress the balance a bit!  With both sides looking to get back into winning ways it’s a tough one to call – but well, we never seem to do particularly well at the Walkers Stadium (alright, the ‘King Power’ stadium!).

The other thing that I noticed was the referee, Anthony Taylor.  I’ve had some very cross words about him before (here and here), so let’s hope that in the intervening years he’s learned a little more about his job!  Mind you, we won back on 1st January 2008 despite his best efforts – so maybe perversely it’s a good omen?

Must admit I don’t hold out much hope for this one – Leicester are a solid side and will prove a challenge, and obviously with the fixture having considerable significance at their end of the A46 it might give the home side that greater sense of urgency.  Hopefully Sean can pull something out the bag and get us a much needed three points, though!

Oh, and the other thing worth point out is after the Leicester City bugler has finished playing the Last Post they are planning a silence for Remembrance Day – whether that will be well communicated to the fans or not tends to be hit and miss, so try to keep it in mind and let’s try to mitigate for any fans inadvertently appearing to be disrespectful.

Forest vs. Millwall preview..

Back to the City Ground having seen out a most excellent October, Forest will almost certainly be looking to bank three points from visitors Millwall at the weekend.  Of course, the Lions might well have something to say about that, who travel north on the back of handing out a 4-0 drubbing to Simon Grayson’s Huddersfield side.

On the team front we’ve a mixed bag of positives and negatives – the great news is that Jermaine Jenas has extended his loan with us from Tottenham for a couple more months, and Adlene Guedioura returns from his suspension.  Less positive is the continued unavailability of Sam Hutchinson, Henri Lansbury and Marcus Tudgay – and of course now Greg Halford too who serves a game suspension having picked up his fifth booking of the season at Barnsley.

This of course opens the door for Elliott Ward to make his starting debut for us in defence.  As for Millwall, they are without Alan Dunne through suspension and Paul Robinson through injury.  One perhaps to watch for them is winger James Henry who you might well have forgotten had about 3 minutes as a Forest player in 2006-07!

So, whilst we’re on a good run of form so are Millwall – whilst we’re starting to sniff around the periphery of the playoffs the Lions could launch themselves into the top ten with a positive result at the City Ground.  Both of us are unbeaten in five, with Forest having the edge by winning three of ’em with our visitors winning two of theirs.

On paper we should be looking to get the win in a game like this at home, but despite our recent upturn in form and some positive performances I can’t quite let myself be too optimistic just yet.  Perhaps it’s all those years of assorted incompetence affecting my ability to trust – but Sean O’Driscoll alluded to it after the Barnsley game – we’re not quite there yet – and our defensive lapses worry me.

That said, going forward we’ve been looking dangerous and we are starting to convert our opportunities into goals – be it through good fortune (Halford’s shank) or excellent passing and finishing (Cox’s lovely through-ball to Jenas and his subsequent lob).  This is promising, because we’ve evolved from not-creating through creating-and-missing to creating-and-scoring – this is a much needed step.

Just as we’ve been improving in that direction I do think we need further focus on keeping the ball out of our net.  It will come though, we are – as has oft been said – somewhat of a work-in-progress, and if that progress is moving in the right direction then I for one am happy to do my best to enjoy the ride from the stands.

If Millwall come to play it could be a very interesting open game with goals in it, but if they come to close up shop then we could be in for a frustrating afternoon – and lots of parents with bored children (with it being a kids for a quid match).

Barnsley vs. Forest preview..

“Young man! There’s no need to feel down!”

Ah, Barnsley.  That place we can never seem to get a win!  My first away trip to watch Forest in the league was to Oakwell, I think we lost 1-0 – my abiding memory of the day were the home fans singing the Hovis song to us interspersed with yells of ‘Scabs’.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen us get three points up there.

The only other thing of note I can think of was their club crest always inexplicably reminds me of The Village People.  I do think it could be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of a Red Indian Chief, a Motorbike Cop and a Cowboy.

Barnsley are 17th in the table, and on paper you’d fancy your chances on a trip to play them – but of course, we’ve got our record there to consider too.  With Ayala likely to miss out due to a hamstring injury our defence will be reshuffled – Hutchinson is still injured so it seems likely Moloney will come in and Halford will move to central defence.

Sean O’Driscoll did hint at the possibility of loaning in another defender to try to cover the lack of numbers at the back, although he’ll need to get a wriggle on to do so in time for the match.  Adlene Guedioura is unavailable in midfield as he completes his latest suspension.  The home side are looking short on firepower up front – Craig Davies is injured and Mido is unfit, and manager Keith Hill is hoping to bolster his strikeforce before the game with a signing.

Forest are unbeaten in a few games now – four to be precise.  In our last six we’ve won two, drawn two and lost the latter two.   Barnsley are unbeaten in their last two games but did taste defeat in both games before that.  Their last game at home was a decent point against Palace on Tuesday night – their home game prior to that saw them lose to struggling Peterborough.

The biggest stumbling block for this game for us might be the man in the middle – remember Kevin Friend anyone?  I was wondering why his name was lodged in my mind – he once disallowed a perfectly good Earnie goal for us against, of all people, Barnsley at Oakwell – but the main cause of consternation was his part in that horrific trip to Oldham where we lost 5-0.  Admittedly he wasn’t to blame for how awful we were – but he did send off Sammy Clingan for no reason at all!

Not that I hold a grudge or anything, you understand.

On paper, definitely winnable.  In practice?  Well it’s always more complicated than that isn’t it?  I’m hoping as ever for us to approach the game positively and play to our strengths which seems to be the case more often now we’re building a decent run of results and the resultant confidence that goes with that, but the Tykes are going to prove awkward opponents nonetheless.

Forest vs. Cardiff City preview..

Apologies for the radio silence – unforeseen circumstances, hopefully resolved now.  Anyway, we played Peterborough away and won thanks to a superb Andy Reid goal – but still we’re finding goals hard to come by, I’d love to see us score a tap in or three!

This weekend we welcome the league leaders to the City Ground.  Cardiff City are rebranded this year as, erm, the Redbirds presumably this year on the whim of their Malaysian owners – although with this obviously clashing with our colours we’ll see them in their more familiar blue strip on Saturday.  Whatever colour they are in, they represent a significant challenge.

Malky Mackay’s side are top of the pile, a point clear and have won their last three games.

Our internationals have had no problems upon their return, whilst Lansbury, Jenas and Hutchinson have taken part in light training but remain doubts for the game.  Tuds is back in full training following his hernia operation but again, will be a doubt.  Dex is serving the last game of his suspension for his ridiculous red card.

As for them, Bellamy faces a late fitness test as he recovers from a knee injury, whilst recent injury victims Mutch and Smith will be available to travel.

Recent form and strength might seem to favour the visitors – indeed, looking at our historical record against the Welsh side would suggest they have something of a hoodoo over us – they’ve beaten us 21 times over the years to our 13 times over them.  So you could say we owe them one!

I suppose the international break came at a less than ideal time for both sides in terms of momentum – but with suspensions making our injuries all the more frustrating, it might just have benefited us more.  That said, it’s hard to not look at Cardiff’s squad list and not find it a pretty daunting prospect, and that’s not to disparage our own lads.

Hopefully we should see a game set up for some football, which will be the first time in a while.  We’ve responded fairly bleakly to more agricultural visitors to the City Ground of late, so I’m hoping to see a side try to come and match football with football more and give us the opportunity to hopefully start getting back to what we’re good at.  Still struggling to predict a win for us, though.  Tough game.

Forest vs. Blackburn Rovers preview..

After the disappointment of Sunday we could probably do without Rovers turning up at the City Ground a few days later.  The Lancashire side have yet to lose on their travels, and have finally parted company with the much maligned Steve Kean.  Their first game without him saw them get a draw against Charlton at the Valley.

From having almost too much choice Forest start to look a little light on options – Blackstock and Guedioura are banned thanks to red cards, and Simon Cox has amassed enough bookings already in order to get himself suspended for a match, whilst Marcus Tudgay is out after double hernia surgery and Sam Hutchinson remains a doubt with his injury to the knee.

So it would seem we are suddenly might light on options up front – a great opportunity for Billy Sharp to hopefully start banging in the goals, and of course a potential for Jermaine Jenas to make his second Forest debut.  I harbour a hope that we might also see a resurrection of Raddy Majewski to the first team to add a bit of much needed craft and guile to our midfield.

Rovers, on the other hand, have no fresh injury or suspension worries – the mysterious half-time substitution of Gael Givet at Charlton was apparently ‘neither tactical nor due to injury’ according to Eric Black.  Longer term injury victims are Leon Best and Markus Olsson – there’s a chance that Colin Kazim-Richards might have recovered from injury to feature.

It will prove a tricky fixture, I fear – I must admit having seen us struggle to create much by the way of meaningful chances against Leeds and Derby it would seem a tough ask to expect better against Blackburn, who I think will prove a better team than those two.  An interesting dilemma for Sean O’Driscoll to ponder – whilst it’s still too early to be looking at league tables, we are undoubtedly heading to the wrong end of it at present.

Anyway, whilst I must confess to not hugely looking forward to the prospect, I am looking forward to the chance to see John McGovern at The Approach on 11th October.  He’s doing the usual ‘Evening with..’ type night as an opportunity to plug his new autobiography.  If you’ve never spent time in John’s company then you really should, how often can you say you’ve had a chinwag with a double European Cup winning captain?

Details for the event are here should you fancy grabbing a ticket – just £15 will get you in and a signed copy of John’s book.

The other thing I wanted to plug was the fantastic challenge being undertaken by Forest fan Rowan Staszkiewicz,  who is going to be running from the City Ground to various Forest away matches throughout the season, starting with the Peterborough vs Forest match on the 4th October. He’s supporting Prostate Cancer UK because of the partnership the charity has with the Football League, and also the Alzheimer’s Society.

Running. 55 miles. That’s incredible.  If you’d like to sponsor Rowan then you can do so here.  I shall be doing so shortly, a really brave challenge for two fantastic causes.  Best of luck to you, Rowan!

Forest vs. Derby County preview..

In case anybody hadn’t noticed, there’s a football match this weekend.  It’s that football match – the one that we like to look out for when the fixtures are announced.  Of course, it being preview day has been rather overshadowed by the loan signing of Jermaine Jenas from Spurs.  The perpetually injured midfielder has been deemed surplus to requirements at White Hart Lane so joins us for a month.

The romanticist in me likes the idea – but of course, he typically occupies a position on the pitch where we’re quite well stocked.  However, I suppose the argument at Sean O’Driscoll would use would be if he’s fit to play, then he adds a rather higher calibre of skill to some of our existing options, and of course Guedioura has gone and got himself suspended.  Despite my slight confusion, a big welcome back to Jermaine.

So, Derby.  We are both in the indifferent bracket of form – they sit a couple of points behind us, and we both lost in our last games.  Our form is quite similar, both only winning a couple of games at home so far – Derby have lost two and drawn one on their travels.  Of course, looking at form when contemplating this fixture would be a fool’s forecast.

I’m lucky enough to number a few Derby fans amongst my friends – and having gleaned information from them it seems we are more similar than we’d care to admit.  The direct style we’ve become accustomed too from our neighbours seems to be making way for attempts to get the ball on the deck with a much more lightweight looking line-up going forward – having said that, many goals are coming from setpieces.

Must admit, I’ve been a bit haphazard at catching the Football League Show much this season – but when I’ve caught it and Derby have scored they seem to specialise at the set-piece into the box, a defender steamrollering through the box and scoring a header. I’m hoping that the referee is on the ball for this, particularly given Dex had a perfectly decent goal ruled out up at Elland Road, yet some of the goals I’ve seen have involved Derby players getting piggy backs from defenders!

It would be refreshing to face a team that doesn’t try to stifle us in midfield, I’m dubious that will happen as both sides will be probably initially focused on being cautious – probably.  This fixture has a habit of being eventful – I’ll be honest, whilst there’s a certain buzz to that kind of thing, I think it’s high time we actually saw the sides try to have a decent game of football for a change instead of all the playground antics!

The other tidbit my friend gave me was that youngster Coutts looks a dangerous prospect on the right – which is a bit of a worry, as we have looked vulnerable down our left side – and guilty of not stopping crosses coming in.  So perhaps advise for whoever lines up at left back would be to put him into the Brian Clough Stand as soon as possible.  Aside from this I’ve gleaned very little except that – like us – they are very prone to defensive lapses.

As for us, the Jenas factor is an interesting one – to be here on a short term loan presumably means he’s here to play, so we should probably expect to see him in some shape or form come Sunday.  When predicting our own line-up, approach, formation or anything is a difficulty then predicting the outcome of a match between that and another similarly unpredictable side seems futile.

Throw in the ‘local derby’ factor and well – I’ve no idea.  We both have a propensity this season to ship goals, but oddly I’ve got a feeling this will be a low scoring affair.  Certainly those players that remain from last season’s debacle a little over a year ago owe us a performance, and I’m sure Sean O’Driscoll will be at pains to underline to those that have arrived since how important this fixture is.

Luckily for me I’ve quite a busy schedule between now and then, hence the slightly-earlier-than-normal preview because I’m not sure I’ll find the time tomorrow, which means I won’t have too much time to ruminate and get nervous about the fixture.  But the ol’ nerves are starting to tingle a little, there really is no other fixture like this as far as I’m concerned.

Leeds United vs. Forest preview..

Some degree of repeat of last year’s antics at Elland Road would be rather nice, but seemingly quite unlikely.  That game was a rare highlight under the charge of Steve Cotterill last year as the Reds ran riot to register a memorable 3-7 scoreline much to our own surprise as much as anything.  I’m sure our hosts will be keen to avoid that kind of outcome again, and will be keen to dish out some revenge whilst they’re at it.

The Reds of course remain unbeaten – their last two outings have seen them come from behind to snatch points, one deserved at home to Birmingham, and one definitely a case of smash-and-grab (albeit a lovely goal) away at Palace.  Leeds have succumbed to defeat in their last two games away at Cardiff and at home midweek to Hull City – so will be eager to make amends and get some points on the board.

We await news on the extent of the injury that brought Hutchinson off the pitch at Selhurst Park midweek, and Adlene Guedioura will miss the match as he begins his three game suspension for his silly red card – so one thing is certain, there’ll be no repeats of his epic piledriver in this game last season, and obviously with Garath McCleary having moved on too we are going to have to look elsewhere for goals!

Leeds are without striker Ross McCormack, which is good news for us, and have injury concerns over Adam Drury and Luciano Becchio – but both have a good chance to playing. David Norris and Paul Green are also unavailable to Leeds boss Neil Warnock.

Whilst we’re rapidly becoming draw specialists, certainly on the road, Leeds have only shared to spoils once in their six games so far, which sees them firmly in mid-table (for what a League Table is worth after six games).  Also like us, they’ve only kept one clean sheet this season in the league – and it was on the opening day too – so maybe that does point to a high scoring game between us.

As ever, a difficult one to call – Leeds have had a fair bit of personnel change, admittedly not as much as us, this season with the departure of a number of their players to Norwich – and of course we’re still very much finding out shape and best style of play (do remain unbeaten whilst doing so is an impressive feat!).  Cliché or not, this is one that could go either way I think.

Both defences seem to have had trouble keeping the ball out of the net and whilst Leeds are undoubtedly letting in too many goals, as are we, they are banging plenty in as well – they’ve yet to fail to score in a fixture this season, putting ten goals in so far compared to our nine – so should we manage to get our noses in front there’ll be nervousness in the ranks, and the same will be true for them if they score first.

The only other thing to note is the referee is Andy D’Urso – try as I might I can assign any specific howlers to him, but it is before 8am on Friday morning so that could be my brain not being up to the job, and his name is familiar – which is a bad sign normally for referees. Our last couple of trips to Elland Road have been eventful to say the least, let’s hope for a competent display from the man in the middle.

Who said I wasn’t optimistic!?

Crystal Palace vs. Forest preview..

After a tricky start to the season with three league defeats this was looking like a tasty trip, but Dougie Freedman’s side have enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in form of late with wins first against Sheffield Wednesday before the International Break and then followed up with a derby day win over Charlton at The Valley on Friday evening.

It makes them a team that so far has specialised in extremities – three defeats, two wins, no draws – contrast that with us, we are not-losing specialists with two wins, three draws and no defeats.  Sky Bet have us as slight favourites (6/4 vs 7/4) with odds of 23/10 being offered for the draw – so they’re expecting a winner on the night it would seem!

We’ve no fresh injury worries coming into this match – Simon Cox was the obvious weekend worry, but his performance from the bench to help us come back from 2-0 down to secure a point will have been heartening for Sean O’Driscoll, and continues the former West Brom striker’s record of either scoring or making a goal in every appearance he’s made for us.

I can never make my mind up about Crystal Palace – they looked destined to struggle, but seem to specialise in pulling the unexpected out of the bag.  Obviously any side including the much-coveted Wilfried Zaha  shouldn’t be written off, and the addition of (childish snigger) Goodwillie on loan from Blackburn should give them added potency up front.

So far SO’D has been resistant to wholesale tinkering, and I think that’s appropriate – although with a game in such quick succession with some players looking a little leggy against Birmingham I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few changes.  It would be surprising to not see Cox starting, probably in place of Blackstock, and perhaps Coppinger in place of Guedioura.

This is my first radio-bound match of the season – the Tuesday afternoon trek to South London was too much of a test of my resolve.  I am sad not to be going in some ways, but Selhurst Park really is the most awful place to get to at the best of times – and Tuesday night certainly isn’t one of those!  Best of luck to those of you travelling!

It would be nice to see us register three points on the road having been unlucky not to do so as yet, but as I’m sure the gaffer is aware, Palace ain’t going to be pushovers.

Forest vs. Birmingham City preview..

Feels like ages since we’ve played already, doesn’t it? In some ways I didn’t want to interrupt the momentum we’ve been building up so far this season.  On the flip-side, international players aside, it does give our relatively new squad time together with Sean O’Driscoll to hopefully iron out some of the creases in our performances so far.

Of course, the drawback for the break is the potential for injuries – and Simon Cox ending up requiring a scan is testament to this.  Although he apparently wants to play regardless, SO’D might prefer not to take the risk, particularly with the not inconsiderable option of fielding Billy Sharp in his place!  Dex withdrew from his game for Antigua & Barbuda but should be fit to face the Blues.

The other injury doubt for us of course Henri Lansbury who arrived at the City Ground from Arsenal with an ankle injury – so he might well be fit enough to feature in some as yet mysterious midfield combination.  I really struggle to second-guess who will play where at the moment, which adds to the excitement of getting back to the City Ground at the weekend.

Our visitors haven’t had the best of starts to the season – so far their only victory has come against similarly struggling Peterborough.  Lee Clark was probably grateful for some breathing space from football to regroup his squad – a squad that looks to me to be a bloody good one – and perhaps kick-start a season that will surely pick up at some stage for the West Midlanders.

They are expected to be able to call upon captain and long term absentee Stephen Carr should they need to, as well as David Murphy who did have issues in their last game against the Posh but should be okay.  Looking at their squad, their start to the season belies where they will end up I’m thinking.

Butland in goal is quality, and has a solid defence infront of him as well.  Burke and Ambrose provide the potential for threat in midfield and former Reds striker Marlon “She Said No” King is sure to want to quieten the inevitable shitstorm he attracts from the home fans, and even if he doesn’t manage that then Lovenkrands ain’t no slouch at this level either.

Having said all that, we have our own elements of danger too – and I certainly hope that the squad and management are feeling confident to pick up where they left off.  Sean O’Driscoll will have conducted more than my half-arsed research of our opponents and put cunning plans in place to best utilise our squad to overcome them.

I’m quite excited – sooner or later we might experience a bit of burst-bubble syndrome, but let’s hope it’s not this weekend!

Forest vs. Charlton Athletic preview..

From one Athletic that call themselves Latics to another that call themselves Addicks, Forest are preparing for a home game this time against Charlton.  Having cantered to promotion from League One last season and – like us – enjoying an unbeaten start to life in the Championship, make no mistake – they’ll fancy a go at all three points.

They’ve recently added Riccardo Fuller to their ranks – and he’s in line to make his first appearance for Chris Powell’s side having missed out at the weekend where they drew 0-0 with Hull.  Of course, with the transfer window looming there could be both arrivals or departures for both sides before the game – but Forest are likely to give a debut to Henri Lansbury.

Certainly if this Charlton fan’s blog is in any way typical of their thinking, they don’t seem remotely fazed by us – indeed, I’d go so far as to say they are somewhat disparaging!  That said, in between the unnecessary waspishness there are some reasonable observations – whilst not taking into account the newness of our side and time needed to gel after a crap pre-season (and perhaps basing much of their views on the Wigan game where we certainly weren’t at our best).

As for not being merry with an 11th placed finish, obviously that Charlton fan didn’t keep much tabs on the shambles we were last season – I’d still be content with that now as we rebuild!  I’m not sure what ‘the Massives’ are that they reference – but certainly I’ve been taking an interest in Charlton as our next opponents, like I do most weeks!

So, Charlton enjoyed a pretty extensive pre-season to help continue the momentum of an excellent season in League One.  They’ll be looking to the likes of Southampton and Norwich who made the adjustment to the Championship look stupifyingly easy and attained promotion up again.  Early signs are good, as mentioned above, with them remaining unbeaten in the league.

The season opener in the Capital One Cup saw them out in the first round at the hands of Leyton Orient on penalties after drawing 1-1 in regulation time, but that blip aside they’ve picked up a couple of draws and a win, like us.  An opening day 1-1 with Birmingham at St. Andrews, a home victory of 2-1 over Leicester and a 0-0 draw with Hull city at home last weekend.

It’s a decent start against tricky opponents.  Cort, Kermogent and Bradley Wright-Phillips have all netted so far in the league, and they’ll of course be looking for goals from Fuller too as he embeds himself in the side.  As I write they’ve not got a preview up yet so I’m assuming there’s no injury worries for them – for us we have Tudgay struggling but otherwise we are okay.

Like all of our games it’s a difficult one to predict, particularly since our opponents are a bit of an unknown quantity – however they are on a good run and not to be underestimated.  If there’s one thing I’m confident of with Sean O’Driscoll in charge it’s that we won’t be underestimating anyone.

I’m looking forward to it and hoping that some of the more negative fans who came out of the woodwork for the cup game opt to either change their mindset or stay away.  Similarly I most certainly expect a better performance than we saw in spells against Wigan, I’m sure the boys are eager to put that result to bed with an impressive followup.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Mull of Kintyre goes up pre-match because it’s song that the Charlton fans adopted around the time they moved back to The Valley in the late 80’s.  Whilst it has had a resurgence of late with the pre-match routine, to my knowledge our lot have been singing it pretty much since it was released.