The Thursday Preview: Blackpool Vs Nottingham Forest
Speaking as a fan of a club that’s just been relegated, I am more than relieved to see the back of this season. It’s been an utterly forgettable campaign; one so full of misery that I’m physically struggling to muster the enthusiasm to log on to the messageboards and the like these days. What little interest I had left for 2009/2010 was effectively killed off by David Conn.
But it’s not over yet. Though most fans’ thoughts are now occupied by the retained and released, there’s still five games left to run in the Championship. The first of those is Blackpool’s home leg of their Play-Off Semi-Final against Nottingham Forest, which will be played on Saturday lunchtime in the absence of a Premiership game to fill Sky’s slot.
On form, it’s Blackpool who should go into the game as the favourites. An off-day at St James’ Park aside, the Seasiders are unbeaten since mid-March whereas Forest finished the regular season rather quietly, making use of their sizable squad in the meantime. Added to that, Blackpool overcame Forest for the second time this season in a 3-1 win at Bloomfield Road just three weeks ago.
All the right noises are being made by Ian Holloway who has well and truly put his East Midlands sally behind him. Speaking with real equanimity earlier this week, his references to a “fresh attitude” and “relaxed, attacking football” are just the sort of thing that will make Forest fans tremble.
In turn, Holloway’s counterpart Billy Davies has done his best to deflect pressure away from his side, although he couldn’t resist reverting to his one-eyed type in claiming that “third place should have got us up”. One doubts that he said as much when his Preston side finished 5th and 4th in the two seasons between 2004 and 2006.
This contest marks Billy Davies’ fourth play-off experience in six seasons. Given how the Scot is so well acquainted with the system, it would be no small surprise if the permanent signature of Radoslaw Majewski, confirmed yesterday, was timed to give the club a boost as it looks to further establish its claim on being the third best team in the division. One might suggest, too, that the gulf in support-levels between the two clubs might favour Forest, but that didn’t prove too useful in a memorable reverse demolition in the Reds’ previous play-off encounter.
While there are rumours that midfielder Chris Cohen may miss the game, Davies has few injury worries aside from whether to risk his captain Paul McKenna at some point over the two legs.
On the other hand, purple patch striker DJ Campbell has a 50/50 chance of making the game for Blackpool after damaging his elbow against Bristol City on the final day of the season. On a more positive note, Charlie Adam will be free to niggle once again after he avoided a 15th yellow card of the season in the same game, therefore reaching the point of amnesty.
In picking a favourite one veers towards Forest, who performed so well in another high pressure situation earlier this season, but after playing out a succession of end-of-season games in which the squad was rotated, have they run out of momentum? After losing Burnley and Hull from the Premiership, the national media might hope so; with the league becoming increasingly stagnant, wouldn’t they just love to write about a side like Blackpool and a man such as Ian Holloway next season?