Get well soon Brian Roberts..

This is only a quick post to wish a speedy recovery to Forest fan Brian Roberts who suffered a stroke this week.

A Red for 55 years who had trials with the club as a youngster is battling this horrible illness. Sending best wishes and positive vibes your way, Brian, and I’m sure fellow Reds fans will be doing the same.

Thoughts to his nearest and dearest too who are rallying to help him recover.

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Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Forest preview..

I was looking at my schedule over the coming days and with Christmas threatening to break into full swing I probably don’t have time for my customary Thursday preview, or the increasingly customary last-minute Friday preview… so I’d better go for the ludicrously early Wednesday evening preview I’m thinking!

What could be excellent news is that Simon Cox is champing at the bit to return from injury well ahead of schedule.  Given the struggle we’ve had in creating lots of chances, his industrious work-rate would be much welcomed assuming it isn’t a step too far in his recovery curve.

Just having him as an option from the bench would be a huge bonus that I for one wasn’t expecting!  Having been granted a week off in the sun to recuperate he’s returned to the club in much better shape than expected.  A huge boost.

Brighton defy any kind of pattern – they started the season with a defeat to Swindon in the Cup, then followed it up losing to Hull, drew with Cardiff anf then won five on the bounce.  Then failed to win in six,  leading into an unbeaten November – with Peterborough, Huddersfield and Bristol City defeated, Leeds, Wolves and Bolton drawn with.

Right, things are picking up then yes?  Well no, they lost 3-0 to fierce rivals Palace at the start of December, and then another trip to London saw them only muster a draw with Charlton.  Earlier in the season they’ve clumped wins or lack-of-wins together so maybe that bodes well for us – or then again, maybe it doesn’t!

With the likes of Majewski and potentially Cox on the mend from their injuries we could see some pack reshuffling from O’Driscoll.  From a Brighton perspective Adam El-Abd – who is apparently a Forest fan – came through a comeback from injury against Charlton and should be fit enough to line up against us.

I’d like to feel optimistic about this one but have a nagging doubt – although we saw a much improved level of performance against Burnley in the second half, we still look susceptible to being nullified but a hard-working and industrious side which is what we’ve seen from the Seagulls in the past – it makes me sense an afternoon of frustration from a Forest perspective.

Hopefully we will find a way to impose ourselves and forge opportunities to net some goals whilst keeping it tight at the back, but – as ever – it ain’t going to be easy!

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:

Camp
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.

Forest vs. Burnley preview..

Right, let’s try that again shall we?  Two bad results behind us, and an opportunity to improve our trajectory with the visit of Sean Dyche’s Burnley side.  Oh, and it’s kids for a quid.

Bugger!

On the less over-reactive tack, we are still just four points adrift of the play-offs, whilst the Clarets are sitting in mid-table having just drawn with fellow Lancastrians Blackburn Rovers.  Of course, sitting in mid-table in reality means that they’re just a point below us – which rather underlines how tight this league is still (and of course, why further defeats would be a bad thing as we’d soon start to tumble down it!).

So, injuries – Daniel Ayala isn’t injured any more, but was ill for our last game – he’s now not ill, so presuming he’s not subsequently got himself injured again he could be available.  We are, however, without the services of Simon Cox, Raddy Majewski, Jermaine Jenas and Greg Halford all of whom are unavailable.  Our visitors are just missing defender Ben Mee.

Burnley have been quite mixed-bag-ish in their results of late – in six games they’ve drawn two, lost two and won two – there’s not even a home or away pattern, one of each result possibility occurred at home, and one of each away!  They show we aren’t the only side to lose at Ipswich though, and also suffered a home defeat to Charlton – with wins over Leeds and Hull, draws with Barnsley and Blackburn in their most recent games.

On paper you’d not worry too much, but of course (a) we’ve thought that before of late and (b) they might well be thinking that looking at our recent form.  With one-up-front-at-home-gate played out on Matchtalk, Twitter and other places online it will be interesting to see how Sean O’Driscoll plays this one.

Whilst I don’t subscribe to suggestions I’ve seen stating that the owners will be starting to breathe down his neck if he doesn’t get a favourable result, he will be I’m sure putting a degree of pressure on himself to oversee a turnaround in our fortunes.  A big factor in that will be how well we cope with Charlie Austin – the striker has snagged 21 goals this season already, 18 in the league.

The rest of their squad have only scored 14.

So now I’ve jinxed it – we’ll lose and Austin won’t score.  Ha!  Maybe not, but he’s a dangerous customer in this league for sure – so our defence will need to get a handle on him, and I don’t think they’ve been up against somebody quite so deadly on an individual level for some time.  I hope they’re feeling up to it, and that further up the field we forge a rather better link between our midfield and our own deadly marksmen.

Goalless draw?  Hey, don’t say I’m not an optimist!

Groundswell..

F*** you, you f***ing f***er! #nffc

F*** you, you f***ing f***er! #nffc

Is groundswell right?  Undercurrent maybe.  I’m not sure – but there’s a lot of disharmony about the place.  I’ve lamented before some of the less positive manifestations of the techno-literate football fan, and as I noted then, I’m tiptoeing the line of hypocrisy in critiquing it, but things seem to be coming to a head again on the ol’ #nffc hashtag of late.

Now I think it’s worth a quick reminder about where we’ve been as a club recently – when Nigel Doughty passed away we were on the brink of oblivion.  We’ve all been through the debates before about why that would be the case – certainly the late chairman’s own decisions played no small part in that – but regardless of why we were there, that’s where we were.

That was a matter of months ago.  Since then we’ve seen new owners arrive – undoubtedly in no small part thanks to the hard work of those left behind at the club trying to keep the ship from sinking.  They appointed Sean O’Driscoll and then oversaw a large influx of players, whilst cancelling the preseason preparations the departed Steve Cotterill had put in place.

So a new manager, a very different squad and no preseason.  That’s less than ideal preparation for a new season.  From my memory most of us seemed to be content that this was a season of transition, certainly that was my view.  An aim for a top ten finish perhaps with a sniff of sneaking into the playoffs – which is pretty much where we find ourselves now.

Hence finding this discord rather puzzling – or at least the thoughtless abusiveness from some quarters.  Sure, it’s fair to offer a critique of performances – the Ipswich and Hull games in my view were below acceptable (and in the case of the latter at odds with the manager’s comments), but people calling for his head?  Well that’s just silly.

Fellow bloggers Rish and Rahoul over at eighteensixtyfive have decided to put their website on ice in the midst of personal abuse and threats in response to their excellent posts and podcasts.  How on earth can we as a community of supporters stand by and be content that this is how a minority of Forest supporters choosing to portray themselves online?

Underpinning all this are the torrent of random crap so-called fans send to our players or even owners on Twitter.  Whether they really are Forest fans or other clubs’ supporters trolling is unclear – but it could be damaging.  Indeed, at least a couple of Reds players have been moved to delete their Twitter accounts in the last couple of days.

Increasingly I find myself rarely taking to the social media channels – a cursory search of the Forest ‘fan pages’ on Facebook, the #nffc hashtag on Twitter, or the numerous forums scattered around unearths an ugly broth of negativity, thoughtlessness or just plain abuse which isn’t helpful to anyone.

It’s a real shame – because there’s a place for different opinions and healthy debate, but it seems to get tainted by the chronic lack of ability some fans have to do this without resorting to a torrent of abuse (or ‘banter’ as seems to be the current buzz word for this) when presented with an alternative point of view.

Few of us are trained football managers or transfer negotiators – plus the subject we love so much doesn’t really have any right answers, so we ought really to be prepared for folks having very different views and accept that peaceably whilst putting our own counterpoints across.  If we can’t do that then we ought to shut up.

It’s a shame Rish and Rahoul have opted for the latter – I hope they’re back in action soon as I for one (and I’m sure many more) will miss their insightful views.  Again, I might run the risk of hypocrisy here – but it would be nice if we could have a think before we took to the Internet.

Dull Forest vs. Dull City..

https://i1.wp.com/www.nottinghamforest.co.uk/cms_images/player/billy-sharp-4340-346566_478x359.jpgNottingham 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:

Camp
Hutton    Ward    Collins    Harding
Gillett
Coppinger    Guedioura    Cohen    Reid
Sharp

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.

Forest vs. Hull City preview..

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

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

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

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

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

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