Saturday, 28 February 2009

Following from afar

As i've discussed on this blog before, away days when you're not at the game can be even more tense than when you're at the game. Today i'll post my thoughts and feelings as another important match pans out for the Tricky Trees.

Free Forest World trial - check. Sky Sports News - check. Fans forums/official website - check. Mobile phone poised for texts from friend at the game - check.

Here goes then -

1423 - TEAM NEWS - Smith, Chambers, Lynch, Wilson, Morgan, Anderson, Moussi, McGugan, Cohen, Tyson, Earnshaw. Subs - Gamble, Breckin, Heath, Thornhill, McCleary.

Interesting line-up from Billy - all eyes will be on Moussi to see whether he can cope with first team football after a long spell on the sidelines. I have to say Lynch fills me with fear, as does Chambers. Tyson's pace should be a threat and I'm always more confident with Earnie up top. It'll be a minor miracle if we get anything against Reading (it feels like we always lose there doesn't it?) but here's hoping for a rabbit out of Billy's hat.

1449 - Reading line up - Federici, Rosenior, Duberry, Pearce, Armstrong, Kebe, Matejovsky, Gunnarsson, Stephen Hunt, Doyle, Noel Hunt. Subs - Hahnemann, Cisse, Lita, Harper, Tabb.

Reading are struggling for results a little but that's a strong line up and we've had a horrible knack of handing teams an easy way back to form. All of their bench would surely start for us which is a worry.

1459 - Colin Fray says it's a 451 with Tyson and Anderson wide. Hopefully Moussi will free the shackles from McGugan and Cohen. John McGovern - "It looks well-balanced on paper".

1502 Kick off - Come on you reds! (Well we're in black today but you know what I mean....)

1503 - There will be a nervous eye on the rivals today and it's not a good start. Wolves 0 Plymouth 1.

1504 - Kebe misses a good early chance. Fray - "He should've buried it."

1506 - MK Dons 0 Lestoh 1. Hate to say it but they've made us look stupid this season by easing towards promotion. Hope we're still around to play them next year in this league.

1508 - Ex-red Gunnarsson (you remember the non-descript failed Scimeca replacement that actually looked decent in the Prem for the Royals!!) misses a free header. Sounds as though we need to settle down.

1509 - Snap-shot from Anderson first attempt from Billy's boys.

1511 - Free kick against Lynch - is that man an accident waiting to happen or what?! Fk and corner luckily come to nothing.

1514 - The picture gets worse in the league. Saints 1 Cardiff 0.

1515 - Doesn't sound good for Tys - holding his groin apparently. We really can't afford injuries, hope he can shake it off.

1516 - Fray - "Feels like Forest have been given a real old workng over in these first 15 minutes." Need to ride out the storm and hope their lack of goals and pressure from recent results starts to play on them.

1519 - Reading appeal for penalties for handball and a 'foul' but nothing given. Phew!

1520 - Tyson's going to 'give it a couple of minutes'. With three games this week we desperately need all the options we can muster, especially with Earnie half-fit and Garner out of favour or 'injured'.

1521 - Fray says we're being pulled all over the place. Tense times. Save from Smith from Rosenior. Hanging on already! Could be a long old afternoon.

1523 - Good run from Anderson to relieve the pressure and positive news from Norwich. They're 1 down to Cov.

1526 - Watford 1 Palace 0. More bad news. Looking like we could really do with something here but it's sounding increasingly unlikely that will happen! Need to ride out the storm and nick something. A McG fk or a bundled in corner would be nice. In fact a shot would be good at the moment!

1530 - Fray - "Morgan's everywhere". It's a one-man defence by the sounds of things. Need a herculean effort from Wes here.

1531 - Salako - "Reading should be leading". Earnie can't make the most of an opportunity. It'll be a day of picking up the scraps for him today and he won't have Tys to help now. He's had to go off. McCleary comes on though and he has looked a big threat recently. Barnsley 1 QPR 0. Yet more bad news on the score front.

1534 - Quick corner from Stephen Hunt nearly catches us out. More nailbiting moments!

1535 - First corner for Forest. Wide from Wes but forces another corner. Anderson straight to their keeper though. Really can't afford to waste any opportunities like that.

1537 - 7th corner for Reading comes to nothing. Hurry up half time!

1539 - McCleary with a jinking run and fires over with half chance. Garath really is starting to get the hang of this league, could be a real threat for us on the counter.

1541 - Billy in trouble. Upset at their ball boys being 'selective' with how quickly they pass the ball back to throw-in takers! You tell em Billy!

1542 - Earnie with another half-chance shot over the top. A few tentative moments of danger for us but Reading go back up and earn a corner. Cue yet more tension!

1544 - McGovern - "It's a little bit sad that they're using ball boys to get an advantage." Everyone in this league is cynical and will take every advantage they can get. It's about we wised up and joined the party if you asked me. Barns 1 Qpr 1 now.

1545 - Swans 1 Charlton 0. That'll do nicely!

1547 - Barns 2 Qpr 1. Not great. 2 mins stoppage time in our game - come on that whistle.

1549 - Half time. And relax. For now anyway! Got better as the half has gone on by the sounds of things. Maybe we can pray on their anxiety in the second half?? Here's hoping.

I'm aware that i'm only going off impressions gleaned from the online commentary from mssrs Fray and McGovern but i've always found Radio Nottm's description of events better than most and that's all you can go on when you're not there. Going to be a tense second half.

1553 - Text from friend - "Not sure how we are level. We got better as it went on to be fair. Can't see us scoring though."

1606 - Here we go again - a tense second half awaits!

1607 - McCleary skips past two and whips in a cross from the byline. It's headed clear but shows where we can pose them problems. Give it to Garath!

1612 - Lynch getting grief for taking his time with a throw. Don't listen to 'em Joel, take as loooooong as you like!

1613 - Reading fans getting frustrated, let's hope that transfers to the players! Everyone getting very heated about throw-ins!

1615 - McGugan fires over the crossbar. Could do with putting in a half chance now while they're seemingly getting a bit nervy. Make it count Forest!

1617 - Not great news from elsewhere. Norwich and Charlton both equalise. The pressure increases.

1619 - Good save from Federici to tip over a Cohen effort. Chambers header from corner goes wide. Decent move by gthe sounds of things. We've got a foothold in this game now, just need to strike while we're ahead i feel because they will undoubtedly come back...

1621 - Jay Tabb replaces Jimmy Kebe. Always rated Tabb, let's hope he doesn't show his ability this afternoon.

1622 - Well well well! Lewis McGugan you beauty! 1-0 Forest! Just what we needed! I've been calling on Lewis to show his talent and sounds like he's done just that! Fantastic stuff. 61 minutes in. Let's keep the ball and keep our heads now please!

1625 - McGugan sounds like he's really got the bit between his teeth now and is running the show. Would love him to fashion an opening for Earnie...

1627 - Sounds as though the aggro caused by them trying to pull a fast one with multi-ball has played in our favour and fired Billy and the boys up. Fray warns us all that Lita is still on the bench for them. A sobering thought.

1631 - Earnie booked for time wasting. They're fans getting more and more wound up. So many teams have done this to us at the CG. Keep it up Forest.

1633 - Watford 2 Palace 0. Fray - "Moussi made a big difference in terms of shape" - Sounds as though Cohen, Anderson and McG are benefitting from him being behind them.

1636 - Salako says Reading throwing balls forward but we're holding firm. Any chance of praise for us?? Muppet.

1637 - Chris Armstrong off for Leroy Lita. Cisse on for Gunnarsson. Lots of firepower for Reading now. Not much left of my finger nails to bite!

1638 - Good news at Carrow Road - Daniel Fox puts the Sky Blues ahead.

1639 - McGugan causing more problems. Sounds like the sort of performance we've been craving from him.

1641 - 5th booking of the season for Wes. He'll be out for the Swansea game next Saturday which is disappointing. Especially considering he was so good against Jason Scotland last season.

1642 - McGugan off for Thornhill. Sensible possession football needed from him.

1645 - 6 minutes to go. No matter how well Fray says we're playing it isn't stopping me feel incredibly nervous! Come on you reds!

1646 - Half praise from Salako - esp for Moussi. Says we're hanging on. Danger from Doyle sniffed out from Wes.

1647 - Earnie taken off. Replaced by Breckin. Who's up front?!

1648 - Corner and attack snuffed out. McGovern - "Forest defending in numbers and defending well" - long may that continue!

1650 - Reading throwing everything at Forest now but another wave of attack is seen off. Come on that final whistle!

1652 - Big big pressure as we approach added on time. 5 minutes injury time given! Come on Forest!

1653 - Can't take much more of this. Header from Lita wide. Take your time with that goal kick Smithy! Plymouth have beaten Wolves 1-0. Saints win 1-0 vs Cardiff.

1655 - If anyone had any doubts where the Premier League trophy is heading today must confirm it - Liverpool lose 2-0 at Boro.

1656 - Breckin and Wes with towering headers. Come on. Must be over??

1656 - Thornhill booked for kicking the ball away. For goodness sake blow up!!!!

1657 - That's it! 3 points!! UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU reds!

Thank god for that!! I need a lie down!

I hold my hands up - I completely wrote us off this afternoon. Sounds as though we fully deserved it in the second half though. Plaudits to Davies and the players for a fantastic win.

Funny old day in the Championship with us Plymouth and Saints beating top 4 sides but their wins make this an even more valuable win.

If we can follow this up with the home games to come things will be looking a lot rosier on Trentside!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Needs Mouss-t

Ok, poor pun for a headline, but stick with me! Forest's midfield is quite clearly in desperate need of an injection of fresh energy and dynamism and, with signings proving harder to come by than decent headline puns, it seems Billy may well have to look within his own paper-thin squad for a solution to arrest the slide towards the dreaded drop zone.

Against Derby we needed cool heads, hard work, passion, tackles and sensible passing from the midfield to ensure Savage, Green, Commons et al didn't have the freedom to do their jobs. These quality were lacking from a disappointing derby-day showing that deflated the already concerned Tricky Tree faithful.

The midfield wasn't the only place where the battle was lost (Breckin's inability to handle Hulse cost us dear again) but it was the heart of the battle, and withold a foothold in the game it was always going to be tough to topple Cloughie's Sheep.

The Derby game was heartbreaking to lose but is not by any means a killer blow for our Championship credentials. The worrying thing was to see us fail to even show enough ability to scrap out a battle. As the run-in looms we must toughen up and scrap for every point in a bid to stumble over the finishing line to safety.

Both James Perch and Lewis McGugan looked in desperate need of a break on Saturday. To be fair neither were guaranteed starters last time out when we a league lower and it is a big ask for them to step up a level in quality and in their standing in the squad. Recently Lewis has had flashes of inspiration butis not producing enough quality to really damage the opposition while captain Perch struggled to make his presence felt in a performance where the team as a whole were woefully poor at snapping up the second balls.

Chris Cohen, lauded by some circles as our best player, was dreadful. It worries me that whenever asked to move to the middle of the park he struggles to make a mark and that came out again against D*rby. Off the pace, weak in the tackle, wayward passing and never able to harm the opposition going forward, Cohen was another cog in a midfield that was not at the races.

It blantantly needs shaking up and the only option at Billy's disposal looks like being Guy Moussi. Out for a long period through injury the summer signing is stepping up his progress and will soon be back in the first team picture.

The looming trip to Reading inevitably brings back memories of the season curtain raiser - where the Frenchmen stole the show with an all-action midfield debut. The type of display Davies' side is crying out for right now.

Whether Moussi can reach the heights of his early season form remains to be seen. His form did fade after the first few games and a long term injury may well have taken its toll. But if Forest are to re-discover form while giving McGugan, Perch, Cohen et al chance to re-charge their batteries the role of Moussi may be crucial.

He may not be fully fit or even fully acclimatised to life in English football but right now he's all we've got and he may well have to be be thrown in earlier than would normally be the case.

Let's just hope he's the right Guy for Billy (ok, that's worse than the headline, sorry!)

Other thoughts -

*McCleary looked a real danger again when he came on against the Sheep. For me he's the most likely midfielder to create a goal and has done more than enough to earn a starting berth.

*Billy really must stop referring to himself in the third person in interviews. The only people I've heard do that before are WWE wrestlers. It doesn't quite work with a Glaswegian lilt...

*Ched Evans, Michael Tonge and Gary McSheffrey are the potential loanees linked with a move Trentside this week. They'd all be great but I refuse to get excited/expect a signing with this club ever again.

*Billy says the goal is to finish 4th bottom. Some fans say this is negative but lets face it we'd all take that now wouldn't we? Maybe he's being too honest but if that is where we end up i'll be celebrating just like at the end of the last campaign.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Derby day looms

Big games between local rivals often have a habit of getting over-hyped by fans - and that's exactly what I'm likely to do here! Maybe I'm getting carried away with the excitement and expectation that builds before a clash against the sheep botherers but this game certainly does feel like an important encounter between bitter rivals.

Some fans seem to be fearing that with Derby on the up and Forest faltering a defeat may well be on the cards. The air of trepidation surrounding the fixture is to be expected given the last few results but it's important to remember that if Billy's boys can muster a victory against the sheep it could be just the confidence boost we need as a team and a fanbase.

The game could both knock confidence down to the lows of the late Calderwood era or boost it back to the short Billy-honeymoon days. For that reason, hype or no hype, it's an extremely important game as the season heads into the all-important final phase.

The fact that Derby were victorious in the cup encounter here could both help and hinder Forest. If we take the lead there will undoubtedly be jitters among the players who let that two-goal lead slip and were painfully pipped to the win. The travelling mutton men will undoudbtedly remind them of that game if they need to be.

However, you would hope that those same players will want to wipe out the memories of that chilly midweek night and maybe that will motivate them to come out on top in a game that is much more important than the cup clash

Some fans are starting to look at Derby's resurgence and fear that Forest made a mistake no to snap up Nigel as manager. To me it seems to me to be far too early to assess which side chose most wisely back in January. Nigel is doing well now but it is premature to herald him as a success and you have to look at the respective bosses' starts in context.

Cloughie has inherited a squad that should never have been in the basement battle. Any side coming down from the Premier League should be challenging the top 6 and not flirting with the dreaded trapdoor. The hapless Paul Jewell was fortunately unable to get his team to capture form but the likes of Commons, Hulse, Barazite, Ellington, Connolly, Green etc are strong players. At the moment it could be argued that they are merely starting to perform as they should.

We have to admit it, on paper theirs is the stronger side. But that's not to say we are without hope. The verve and energy of the early stages of the cup game saw the Tricky Trees blow away their rivals - and showed that passion, energy and youthful exuberance can go along way, especially in the chaos of a derby game.

A timely ease to the injury situation would be most welcome - especially in Robert Earnshaw's case. His addition makes the team immensely more threatening and adds a cutting edge to a group of players that has seemed a little toothless recently. Without him we are a little short of firepower.

Judging from his post match comments after Ipswich Billy Davies seems to be losing patience with several of his squad. That seems understandable but unfortunately at the moment no-one can really be left out. Garner has looked uninspiring, Wilson lacklustre, McGugan mediocre and Thornhill un-threatening to name a few but all of these must be encouraged to re-find their form. Maybe the atmosphere and excitement of a Derby can be the occasion the current under-performers can feed on to find decent performances. Or maybe that is wishful thinking.

I would personally like to see McCleary brought in to the starting 11 to face the sheep. He may be rough and ready but his pacy, mazy dribbles do unsettle defences and we need his spark to take the game to them.

As I mentioned at the start the result could have a big impact either way. A defeat would add to the doom and gloom (which has been made worse by a lack of signings) but a win would erase that negativity. A draw may be useful but given the fact that some teams around us are picking up form and have games in hand a single point may not be enough, especially with the likes of Reading away to come.

Billy's Reds must treat this as an opportunity to re-find the optimism of a few games ago rather than a daunting test. If they seize that opportunity there will be more than a few smiles on faces of the City Ground faithful.

Before the cup game at Pride Park I said it was Billy's chance to make himself a hero here - right now there's something infinitely more important than folklore, at least in the short term, at stake. Points and confidence must be secured. Let battle commence....