We’re Nottingham Forest…unbeaten away

Posted by on Jan 9, 2010 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Billy Davies is beginning to stretch credibility with the insistence that his Forest side aren’t yet ready to challenge for promotion, as the Reds sent out another clear statement of intent by brushing aside the much fancied Baggies 3-1 in last night’s Sky televised clash at the Hawthorns.

Sky’s broadcast team had certainly taken notice of Forest’s recent run, devoting nearly all of the pre-match build up to Davies and giving the shortest of interviews to Robert Di Matteo, perhaps a touch unfair considering his side have been a fixture near the table’s summit all season. But this was an occasion on which I was happy to put aside my usual bugbears with the ‘insight’ of Peter Beagrie and be thankful of avoiding the big freeze as I positioned myself on the sofa.

As a Forest fan, it’s testament to the past decade that I still approach every game fearing the worst – three years being humbled in League One does that to your confidence. But times are changing, and Davies’ squad approached the game on the back of a 16-match unbeaten league run, boasting the only unbeaten away record in all four divisions, and on the brink of a club record for consecutive clean sheets.

That resilience was apparent throughout as the Reds’ midfield, marshalled by Paul McKenna and bolstered by the return of the combative Guy Moussi, gave the Baggies’ creative forces no room for the brand of free-flowing football that has seen them rack up the Championship’s highest goal tally. Instead it was the visitors who attacked in numbers, with Paul Anderson, Chris Cohen and Raddy Majewski frequently bursting forward to support the tireless running of Dexter Blackstock.

Blackstock’s bundled first half strike was followed after the break by a thumping volley by Majewski, and Cohen added the third to cap a ten-pass counter attack. An increasingly forlorn Di Matteo threw on Roman Bednar, Robert Koren and Ismael Miller in hope of inspiring an unlikely comeback, but although Bednar finally breached Lee Camp’s goal, the damage had been done as Forest leapfrogged their hosts into 2nd for the first time this season.

Much has been made of Forest’s spending in the summer, with the implication often being that the fees paid somehow detract from Billy Davies’ achievements in turning the club around. But fortunes have been spent in the past to little effect – just ask any Forest fan about David Platt. Davies has identified the right players and assembled a tight-knit squad that lends itself to a number of formations, as shown by the success of his five-man midfield last night.

For Di Matteo, this was one of those nights on which almost nothing went right, with the likes of Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt shackled, and Gabriel Tamas enduring a torrid debut at centre-back. His side next travel to Newcastle hoping for an immediate reprieve in front of the Sky cameras. It might be fanciful to suggest that automatic promotion is now a three-way scrap, but on last night’s evidence, it won’t be a straightforward march for West Brom either.

The Two Unfortunates
The non-partisan website with an eye on the Football League

4 Comments

  1. Lloyd
    January 9, 2010

    Forest certainly have a bit of the Dowie's Palace / Bothroyd's Watford / Brown's Hull / Coyle's Burnley about them. Ok, it's a cliche, but winning is habit-forming, and on current form you're going up. Newcastle aren't there yet, and the Albion seem to be replicating Cardiff in their ability to implode.

    I know it was a while ago, but I thought Forest were average at Plymouth (where the run started!) and a recent report on Watford's BHaPPY thought the same. Maybe that's more to do with Billy Davies's universal unpopularity? The future looks bright, however, and you've a decent enough run in. No doubt another £1m signing will be made before the end of the month, too.

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  2. Lanterne Rouge
    January 9, 2010

    An impressive result indeed – our occasional commenter and Baggies fan “Jarvo” said Forest looked very strong with Jonas Olsson looking uncomfortable for the first time this season against Dexter Blackstock.

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  3. Frank Heaven
    January 10, 2010

    There's been a lot of hysterical reaction on the WBA messageboards, but I'm not sure how much should be read into the result.
    Sure, Forest were very impressive. Their five man midfield stifled Albion's creativity and they worked tirelessly throughout. McKenna was especially impressive.
    Having said that, the 'bundled' first goal came after Albion had edged the opening exchanges. And if a team playing 4-5-1 away from home nicks a goal early, they are very difficult to break down – and dangerous on the break.
    The second goal was a superb finish, the third a swift counterattack. Albion never looked like getting back into it after that, despite Bednar's goal.
    But the match stats show six shots each on target and possession split roughly down the middle – so I don't think the game was as one-sided as the scoreline might have suggested.
    Forest look certain to be in the top three come May. Albion need to learn from Billy Davies' tactical nous and his players' hunger if they're to stay up there. The game at Newcastle suddenly takes on even greater significance.

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  4. Nick P
    January 11, 2010

    Forest were indeed nothing special at Plymouth and by the sounds of it narrowly escaped at Watford (cracking reflexes on the goal line from Nicky Shorey…). But in both games they kept clean sheets and Davies would argue that this justifies his 'horses for courses' approach to each game. They've been equally able to contain the more robust and direct sides (Watford, Sheffield Utd, Palace) and play with flair against others who prefer open football themselves (Cardiff, West Brom, Doncaster).

    As for Friday, I don't think the stats paint an accurate picture of Forest's dominance for the first hour. Between the first and third goals they continued to move the ball around and attack with intent, rather than merely trying to contain Albion.

    It's definitely not all doom and gloom for West Brom though, they looked much better with Koren and Miller on the pitch – if Miller can stay fit I'd expect them to pick up from their current lull fairly quickly – flashes of a young Stan Collymore in his brief cameo.

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