Thursday, 7 January 2016

2015/16 half term report

Since we're sort of half way through the campaign - and league action has paused for the FA Cup - now seems as good a time as any to assess how well things are going for Dougie Freedman in 2015/16.

Having played just over half of the matches we sit firmly in mid table obscurity in the Championship, 10 points below the play-off places, 10 points off the relegation zone, sitting snugly by the fire with pipe, slippers and a +1 goal difference in 14th.

It hasn't been a cosy ride though has it? If any of us have learned anything while following Forest it's that we don't do things easily and that complacency is dangerous.

August was dominated by the transfer sagas of Michail Antonio and Henri Lansbury and it can't have been easy for Freedman to operate knowing that he might have to pull a rabbit from a hat at very short notice. Then, after back to back away wins, September and October turned into one long winless slog as Dougie tried to find the right formula. Since then the story has been more positive with an eight match streak that, while a little less ambitious away from home, has got the results needed to steer us into the aforementioned obscurity zone.

Here's some of my highs and lows

Best game

No much competition here is there? Not only was the against-the-odds win against Derby a great result for a then under pressure Freedman, but it was also our best performance of the season.

Worst game

Brentford away. Having been the better side for much of the game we came back from a goal down and should've been pushing for a winner as time wore on. Instead we panicked and imploded in injury time. The defeat saw us slip to two points off the relegation zone and threatened to kill the post-Derby feelgood factor. Luckily it now looks like a blip, and Freedman used this low point as a wake up call and help fashion an eight-game unbeaten run.

Best player

Take a bow David Vaughan. With Andy Reid continuing to struggle with injury, Vaughan stepped up to the 'experienced player with a touch of class' role with aplomb. He's been right at the heart of everything, tackling, passing and pressing his heart out. He also scored a corker of a goal against Bolton. Here it is...

Dorus De Vries and Eric Lichaj deserve honourable mentions here too.

Worst player

I's not fair to stick the knife in to the much maligned Danny Fox is it? I feel for him really. He used to be a decent player and desperately needs a move while he still has time for a fresh start. The fact he can't get in at left back ahead of Michael Mancienne is a huge sign for all concerned that his time is up.

Best signing

Given the constraints of the embargo, Dougie deserves praise for some decent business. Daniel Pinillos proved an astute find and was settling nicely into to life as first choice left back until he was struck down by injury. Ryan Mendes has brought pace and trickeryy - even if he is frustrating at times - while Nelson Oliveira is the top scorer at the club with 6 goals and is finding his feet in the Championship.

Worst signing

Kyle Ebecilio just never got to the pace of the game did he? His injury even came by stretching for a tackle because he was struggling to keep up. To be fair to him, it's probably the worst place on the park to be trying to acclimatise to the game, there's no time and nowhere to hide. It sounds like he'll be dispatched back to Holland, or 'doing a Lars' as it probably should be known.

I'm still waiting for some more end product from Jamie Ward too. His excellent set up for Dexter away at Birminghan aside, he's spent too much time arguing and firing shots over from distance for my liking. He could - and should - be the difference in turning away draws into wins if he can improve in the second half of the season.


Given the state of the Championship - with 9 managerial casualties so far - it's something of an achievement for Dougie to still be in charge. That's especially so given the pressure he was under during an eight game winless run. He'll pulled out a superb performance against Derby and has successfully steered us clear of the dogfight (for now at least) by countering the bad run with an eight game unbeaten run. He's not been afraid to shuffle his pack to cope with back to back games or the threat posed by different sides and should be applauded for calm stewardship through choppy waters - both on and off the field. The cushion he's built ought to allow the much maligned 'handbrake' to come off a little more, away from home especially, while Oliver Burke and Tyler Walker probably ought to see a little more of the action to further their development. The grumbles, such as they are, are minor and he now prepares to juggle the budget once again in the January transfer market.


So, where does all this leave us compared to the start of the season? I predicted a 10th place finish to Seat Pitch before a ball was kicked and the general consensus seemed to be 8th to 12th. We lost Antonio after that, taking a huge goal threat out of the team, but we're not far off the pre-season 'par'. My ambition for the season remains unchanged really. Aim for the top 10 if possible, play some decent football, compete in every match and build a side that can be successful at this level. I'd like to finish 2015/16 having at least 8 starters in place for next year to minimise the work needed in the summer and meaning we can hit the ground running next year. This season has to lay down the foundations for next, it can't be wasted.

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