Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Five goal thriller as Tricky Trees see off Hornets

Striker crisis? What striker crisis?!!

All the talk in the build up to Saturday's game was a scarcity of firepower in the Forest squad but in what must have been one of the most entertaining games at the City Ground for many years (since the Paul Hart era at least) Calderwood's charges looked pacy, creative and dangerous and emerged victorious from a hotly contested five goal thriller.

With a hungry-for-goals and impressively mature Robert Earnshaw leading an attack that was at its best when involving the wonderful wizardry of loanee Lee Martin Forest posed a bucketful of problems for Boothroyd's promotion hopefuls.

The rip roaring contest was enhanced by some smart attacking from the away team who posed a continuous threat thanks to the scheming inventive play from Tommy Smith and ex-City Ground loan signing Will Hoskins behind Grzegorz Rasiak and towards the end fellow giant Tamas Priskin.

The excitement kick-started with a wonderful long range goal from the mercurial Martin which was perfectly curled beyond the despairing Poom. Watford hit back with an opportunistic poke home from Smith but Earnshaw restored the advantage when he latched on to Moussi's superb through ball to fire home his first league goal in the Garibaldi. It was chief tormentor Smith who equalised for the Hornets, ghosted onto Doyley's low cross but fit again sub Nathan Tyson was in the right place at the right time to poke home the winner after Earnshaw's brilliant free kick struck an upright.

If every City Ground game this season can be this exciting (and this succesful) it's going to be a hell of a season!

Player ratings -

Paul Smith - 7
Made a great save in the build up to his namesake's first goal and was unfortunate not to smother his follow up attempt. The distribution from goal kicks needs working on but that is not just incumbent on Smudger - sometimes I feel full backs and midfielders should drop deep and receive the ball to help start passing attacking play because of a lack of aerial options.

Luke Chambers - 5
Almost rescued his rating with a good late saving tackle but is still off the Championship pace. Unsteady in the air and not assured on the ball he looks to have found the step up difficult and is no longer able to attack as effectively as last year.

Julian Bennett - 7
Offered an outlet on the left when going forward and although was troubled by a tricky Hornets attack gave a typically committed display.

Ian Breckin - 8
The club skipper stepped into the side effortlessly and while less stylish on the ball than Wilson did all the 'bread and butter' defending well.

Wes Morgan -8
Strong stuff again from Wes who seemed to relish the battle with beanpole Rasiak.

James Perch - 8
I'm racking my brains to think of a mistake he made in midfield. Tackling was top drawer and played a countless number of simple but effective short passes as well as one wonderfully weighted one that Tyson nearly converted into a fourth goal. Last year Julian Bennett went from zero at the start of the season to player of the year, it's too early to say Perch will do that but he's certainly looking like a surprise package. Up yours boo boys!!

Guy Moussi - 7
Occasionally sloppy when trying to over elaborate but Moussi was once again an immense presence in the middle of the park. Played a great ball for the second goal and spreads the play delightfully.

Chris Cohen - 6
Was off colour in the first half and looked as though he was struggling to keep up with the frenetic pace. Put too many passes astray and was not forceful enough in the tackle to win enough of the ball but got better as the game wore on and cannot be faulted for his workrate and ability to play neat balls out of tight situations.

Garath McCleary - 6
It has been a massive step up from non league to the Championship and it showed with a few heavy touches at times. He does show plenty of signs of promise however and will use this experience to continue his development. Worked hard and deserves to be perservered with ahead of Arron Davies who looked lost when given his opportunity against Reading.

Lee Martin - 8
Looks a fabulous talent and CC would do well to start begging Ferguson now for a permanent deal. Ran at the defence and twisted and turned to carve a host of openings. In the second half should have perhaps manufactured another goal from one of three attacks involving himself and Earnshaw but with his glorious goal and tireless running was a key factor in the eventual victory.

Robert Earnshaw - 8
Was bought to pounce on any chances going in the box and showed his predatory prowess by racing onto Moussi's through ball to fire home ahead of the onrushing Poom. Has also impressed with his maturity in acting as a senior figure in this young side and was unlucky not to score a second after his curling free kick hit the post.

Opposition -
Poom, Doyley, Sadler, Bromby, DeMerit, McAnuff (Hoskins), Eustace, Williamson (Francis), Harley (Priskin), Smith, Rasiak.

Bootroyd's men contributed to a thrilling encounter on Trentside and will be disappointed to go away empty handed after twice clawing their way back into the game.

The way this league is it is hard to say how good a victory against Watford is. Last year they were firmly in the promotion mix but after a summer of changes at Vicarage Road some have predicted more of a struggle this time around - only time will tell if they are right but they came to the City Ground having not conceded a goal, something not to be forgotten when assessing how potent the Forest attack was.

Watford showed some smart attacking play and appear on paper to have a side that should be able to compete with the league's best. They seemed keen on long throws but I felt these actually negated some of their attacking momentum and they appeared more dangerous with quick throws near the end of the game which caught the Forest back line napping.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Hornets test for CC and the boys

Watford roll into town tomorrow to provide the next test of Calderwood's Reds' credentials at the City Ground. All the build up seems to be focused on whether CC will stick (with roughly the side that tasted defeat in Wales last week) or twist (by adding in a returning Tyson or Cole). Given the Scot's propensity for caution it strikes me that Tyson will possibly only feature from the bench - and a quick burst of his pacy direct play may just be what's needed to unlock a tough looking defence in a solid Watford side.

Some predict that Bootroyd's side will struggle this term after losing star players such as Danny Shittu, Darius Henderson and Nathan Ellington in the transfer window. The signs were also poor after going on an appalling run at the back of last season which saw their fantastic early season sparkle fizzle out.

However they still have quality players for this level with Tommy Smith and Jobi McAnuff likely to create problems, veterans Mart Poom, John Eustace and Damien Francis providing the know-how and the signing of Gregorz Rasiak adding to their goal threat.

It's not a game to take lightly and the loss of Lewis McGugan will be difficult to make up for. I think CC will once again try to pack the midfield to try and dominate the game and hope that we can carve openings for Earnshaw to pounce on. I predict the line up will be (in the usual 433/451 formation) -





With - Thornhill, Roberts, Breckin, Newbold, Tyson (or Sinclair) warming the bench

There's no reason why that line up can't pose a threat and the move to the centre could benefit Cohen become more involved in the play but once again the passing and build up will need to be accurate and we can't afford to let Earnshaw become isolated.

I fear the game could be a tough 1-1 but let's hope the Hornets are sent packing empty handed to kick start the season with a first win......

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Match day in exile

The only thing more nerve racking then being at the game is not being at the game it seems! Whenever not following the Tricky Trees at the City Ground or around the country on their travels a tense day awaits.

Living as I do outside of the Radio Nottingham range and too tight to spalsh out on Forest World my match day fix is fed by Jeff Stelling and the gang on Sky Sports News, various websites on the laptop and texts from a friend who has braved the trip to deepest darkest south Wales.

Here's how the day panned out for me -

14.20 - Official Forest site reports the line up as Smith, Chambers, Bennett, Wilson, Morgan, Moussi, Perch, McGugan, Cohen, Martin, Earnshaw with Roberts, Breckin, McCleary, Thornhill, Newbold. New boy Martin in for injured Davies - frustrating to see that we get someone in only for another to join the long treatment room list. Still looks light up top - the midfield will have to repeat last weeks success. Hopefully Earnshaw can add to his midweek brace against Morecambe.

14.30 - A check back shows the Swans are lining up as follows - De Vries, Williams, Painter, Monk, Bodde, Britton, Pratley, Gower, Collins, Butler, Scotland. Subs - Rangel, Gomez, Brandy, Pintado, Bauza. There's certainly some talent there and we shouldn't forget that Swansea were the runaway champions last year, 10 points above us.

14.32 - My mate texts me to say he has Chambers and McGugan in the sweep, he might fancy his chances on set pieces....

14.38 - Just read on the BBC website that Leicester will face Hartlepool away in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Thank god we haven't got that to contend with this year!

14.41 - Arsenal beat West Brom 1-0, maybe it's just me but I would love to go to the Emirates. Fingers crossed for the FA Cup perhaps.

14.59 - Right i'm all set and ready to go. Sky Sports News (SSN) is on, i've got the official site, BBC, Evening Post text commentary and Vital Forest all open, my mobiles poised for any texts come on uuuuuuuu reds!

15.11 - 1-0 down. Own goal from Smith. Sounds a bit unlucky, Britton hit the post and cannoned in off Smith according to SSN. This is going to be a big test now....

15.26 - Text commentaries are rubbish aren't they? Great if you want to know about attacking or defensive throw ins being taken but terrible for interesting information. Moussi's been booked and they've had 59% of the possession. Can we play the sort of football away that we did at home? Do we need more of a presence up front in these tough games? Come on Forest!

15.37 - EQUALISER!! SSN says Swansea were carving us apart but against the run of play we're back in the game! Sounds as though De Vries missed a cross from Martin and James Perch poked home! What was he doing in the box??! Who cares!! Poacher Perch! Uuuuuuuuu reds!

15.40 - The goal is described like this on text commentary - Cross by Lee Martin (Nottm Forest), goal by James Perch (Nottm Forest) right-footed (low centre of goal) from centre of penalty area (6 yards).Swansea 1-1 Nottm Forest. Assist (cross) by Lee Martin (Nottm Forest) from right wing. Precise and unimaginative but it's good news at least!

15.51 - SSN finally confirms it's half time at the Liberty Stadium. Queue chance for a quick comfort break and chance to relax for a short while.

15.53 - Text from my mate - "They should've been out of sight. Only got going in the last 15 mins." Hopefully we'll come out stronger second half after getting the goal.

15.58 - Reading, Sheff Utd, Southampton, Watford all winning, no away sides ahead in the Championship. I'd take this now to be honest.

16.03 - Another text "Earnshaw not had a kick. Needs help up top." Always was going to be a problem with the injury crisis and this line up. Let's hope he can pounce on something out of the blue...

16.12 - SSN reporter says Swansea playing much the better football but still all square. Could be a long half. A scrappy smash and grab would be fantastic......

16.14 - Hat trick for Billy Sharp at the Blunts. Unfortunately I reckon they will be strong this year. Norwich losing - shame eh Sammy!

16.32 - 2-1 Swansea. Smith saves a penalty from Bodde who scores the rebound. Has CC got anything up his sleeve to rescue a point? Surely worth a burst of McCleary.

16.40 - Still no sign of a sub on the text commentaries. We've reached the heady heights of 45% possession though apparently. Come on Forest, let's nick something...

16.42 - SSN says Earnshaw looking exposed and we're struggling, Swans well worth their lead. Doesn't sound good.....

16.46 - McCleary on, come on Forest, we need to finish with a flourish.

16.48 - 3-1 Swansea, must be game over now. Pintado. To be fair sounds like we've been totally outplayed.

16.56 - SSN confirms the result. A 3-1 defeat.

Well, it's torture trying to exact as much information as you can from text commentaries and SSN updates, especially when things aren't going your way.

Sounds from all accounts as though we were outplayed and deserved to lose. They'll be plenty more tough trips in store in this league (the next one's at Wolves) and we'll need to carry a bit more threat and nous to compete I fear but it's still early days yet and we need to pick ourselves up and get ready for the Hornets at home next Saturday...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Promising signs....

Sunday's opening 0-0 draw with recently relegated Reading helped cement the optimistic feel on the banks of the Trent, albeit tinged with the slight disappointment that the Reds domination of the proceedings didn't bring just reward with three points.

A frantic start brought a half chance for Chris Cohen and long range efforts from the imperious Guy Moussi and hard working Rob Earnshaw. Reading also showed early glimpses of their own threat with accurate balls over the top giving Leroy Lita and Kevin Doyle the chance to showcase their pacy promise.

Their threat was nullified thanks to some excellent defensive play with a typical early crunching tackle from Bennett setting the tone and Wes and Kelvin oozing class throughout an assured 90 minutes.

Perch and Moussi's tireless running helped wrestle control of the game for the Tricky Trees, and Calderwood's charges largely stayed on top without ever really creating many chances.

Overall a stalemate was indicative of the lack of a spark to unlock the solid Reading back line and in the end a respectable point was only gained thanks to a jaw dropping save from Smith to deny Doyle's goal bound header.

Returning players should help to turn these performances into winning ones - but length of time key players are out for should cause concern enough for CC to delve into the loan market.

Player ratings -

Paul Smith - 8
One shockingly bad punch was more than made up for by a stunning save to tip a Doyle header onto the post in the second half. Needs to be more accurate with his distribution given the lack of aerial power up front.

Luke Chambers - 6
A couple of slips towards the end and the odd moment of untidy play were worrying and mistakes such as those cannot be made at this level. Was close to getting onto the end of a couple of set pieces to carry on last season's good goalscoring form.

Julian Bennett - 7
Showed his intent with an excellent sliding tackle on Leroy Lita early on in the game and put in the odd decent ball into the area during occasional forays into opposition territory.

Wes Morgan - 9
Strong, positionally superb and excellent in the air Wes rose to the challenge posed by Doyle and Lita. He was often too strong for the diminuitive pair and managed to keep them largely quiet throughout.

Kelvin Wilson - 8
Towards the end of last season suffered from sloppy lapses in concentration but seemed to rise to the challenge of stepping up a level. Cool, calm and classy.

Guy Moussi - 9
Already a fans favourite and it's easy to see why after one of the most impressive debuts at the City Ground for some time. Strong, good in possession and always available for a pass - the team built off his excellent and energetic showing. Looks to have a powerful shot and wasn't afraid to try something different in the final third to try and unlock the defence. Looks a wonderful find from Friio.

James Perch - 8
A bit of an unsung hero - Perch's excellent tracking back, accurate tackling, tireless closing down and fearless blocking were an integral part of the way the side were able to exert authority over Reading in midfield.

Lewis McGugan - 7
A few classy touches showed that Lewis has the ability to flourish in the Championship. Unfortunately not in the game as much as he might have been and was often forced into unnatural positions in a bid to fill the attacking void in the team.

Chris Cohen - 7
Improved as the game went on and battled manfully despite given the unenviable task of trying to provide the sides aerial threat from goal kicks and being asked to drift wide to create chances.

Arron Davies - 5
If the side were to pose the extra threat needed to conjure up a goal it needed to come from Davies but he sadly seemed to find the task beyond him. His rating is perhaps slightly harsh but reflects the fact that on too many occasions he was unable to beat players and do his job to open up opprtunities for Earnshaw and as time wore on struggled to get into the game. The lack of options in this formation undoubtedly affected him but will need to do more to be a force at this level.

Rob Earnshaw - 7
Bright and ever alert, he made the best of a difficult situation. Got barely any change from the giant Sonko and solid Ingimarsson but did all he could to try and force half chances from the scraps he fed off.

Subs - Sinclair (for McGugan), McCleary (for Davies).

Manager watch - CC's lack of forward options affected his selection but he managed to come up with a line up that was strong and at times able to dominate a Reading side tipped to feature in the promotion shake up. The decision to send on Sinclair was strange and McCleary perhaps could have been used earlier to replace Davies, who ran out of ideas and legs. Will be pleased that his much vaunted League One defence kept a clean sheet in their first outing in this league and seems acutely aware of the need for someone to fill the gap left by the injuries to Cole, Garner, Tyson and Anderson.

Eye on the opposition -

Hahnemann, Rosenior, Hunt, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Kebe, Harper, Matejovsky (Cisse), Convey, Doyle, Lita.

Coppell's Royals might feel disappointed to have been largely second best in this encounter. The injury to Matejovsky couldn't have helped but in midfield they were overran by both the formation and performance of their Forest counterparts. Defensively Sonko and Ingimarsson looked very solid and Hunt was largely untroubled after slotting in to replace the departed Shorey. Doyle and Lita offer a pacy, if not physical, threat and should score plenty at this level. Could have snatched the win if Doyle had not been so superbly denied by Smith.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Eagerly anticipating the curtain raiser...

The league season is up and running with a bang and already the Tricky Trees faithful have had the demise of Jewell's sheep botherers to celebrate but tomorrow is finally the turn of the Calderwood's new-look charges to take centre stage.

The Sky cameras are in town for the first fixture against Reading - in recent times a portent of doom on the banks of the Trent. Let's hope that, like League One, we can put the TV hoodoo well and truly behind us now against Coppell's Royals.

Far more serious than the curse of the cameras will be the shortage of numbers up front. Rob Earnshaw looks set to plough a lonely furrow up front with potential partners dropping like flies as time has gone on. The pressure will be on Earnshaw to live up to his price tag and he will need those around him to provide accurate service to save his legs and play to his strengths.

If reports are accurate the Reds look set to take to the field as follows





It will ask a lot of the resurgant Davies and the up and coming Thornhill but it need not all be doom and gloom. Hopefully the feel-good factor from promotion can inspire a result against one of the leagues favourites and put all talk of TV jitters and striker shortages to the back of everyone's minds for the time being.

Come on you reds!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Watson the cards for this week.....

The internet rumour mongers are all predicting Ben Watson's arrival this week which would be a welcome addition in my book.

Central midfield is still lacking the presence and drive of a Championship class midfielder, especially given Calderwood's preference for three in the centre. Watson's shown himself to be one of this league's rising stars and he is seemingly the right age and right type of plyer to slot another vital piece into the Championship jigsaw on trentside.

However while Watson would be welcome the Notts County friendly surely highlights the need for a back up keeper too. An able deputy for Smith is an absolute must - firstly to push him to perform at his best and secondly to make sure we aren't left with untried and young keepers who don't appear ready for the challenge.

There are other areas where more depth is needed but, for the time being, it seems the likes of Heath, Thornhill, Sinclair, Reid will quite rightly be given their chance to act as cover.

As things stand my guess is next week will line up be -





Subs - Perch, Breckin, Thornhill, Sinclair, Roberts

It'd be nice to get Watson and a back up keeper into that reckoning by the time the Sky cameras roll into town a week today.