Reds make Foxes pay the penalty..

Wrong way, Kasper!

Leicester City – 2
Nottingham Forest – 2

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

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

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

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

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

Moloney    Ward    Collins    Halford
Cohen    Guedioura    Reid
Cox    Sharp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wasteful Reds left to settle with a point..

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

Nottingham Forest – 0
Middlesbrough – 0

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

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

Halford    Ward    Collins    Harding
Cohen    Guedioura    Reid
Cox    Sharp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cockneys vs. Zombies..

Nottingham Forest – 1
Millwall – 4

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

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

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

Moloney    Ward    Collins    Harding
Cohen    Majewski    Reid
Sharp    Cox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forest 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).

Forest awaken and sweep aside the Tykes..

He’s one of our own!

Barnsley – 1
Nottingham Forest – 4

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

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

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

Moloney    Halford    Collins     Harding
Cohen    Majewski    Reid
Sharp    Cox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!)