Nottingham Forest came from behind to beat bottom of the table Luton Town to move 5 points within the second automatic promotion spot with a game in hand, that game ahead is on Wednesday Night against Reading at The City Ground.
The prospect of that gap being 2 points is quite remarkable when you consider it was as big as 14 points in December when Forest were in the midst of a traditional slump during that month. However, unlike previous seasons, the slump has not continued post-Christmas – Forest winning 4 and drawing 1 since then. Along with second-placed Leeds going through another traditional slump in form has meant Forest are not out of the automatic promotion contention.
However, if they are to achieve this target they will have to improve performances, today’s match was another example of Forest not dominating the play but finding a way to win. They started slowly and allowed Luton early possession and pressure which led to Luton taking a deserved lead through Harry Cornick after 23 minutes. The goal came from the area where Luton were looking most dangerous, with a cross from the left-hand side from Potts.
The first half was a physical battle in midfield which Luton were largely winning, however, when Forest’s Ben Watson won one of these battles, Luton complained it was a foul but Forest played on and a superb cross-field pass from Yuri Ribero found Joe Lolley who ran at his full-back and fired a shot which was not handled by Luton keeper Simon Sluga, who should have done a lot better.
Forest improved massively after the half time break being on the front for much of it, the pressure told when Lolley scored with a fantastic strike into the top corner from outside the box after Watson’s good pass found him on the right-wing from where he cut inside before finishing. Lolley was a constant threat in the second half, running past players every time he got the ball. He created more chances to extend the lead and put the game beyond doubt but efforts from Tiago Silva and Sammy Ameobi went just wide.
Luton came slightly back into it in the last 10 minutes but Forest won a penalty with just minutes remaining when Silva’s free-kick struck Sonny Bradley’s hand in the wall. Lewis Grabban converted to get grab his 15th goal of the season to secure the 3 points.
Everyone connected with Nottingham Forest knows they are after a new striker, Lewis Grabban is a top striker at Championship level but he needs someone else to help him. If Grabban were to get injured Forest have nobody else to call upon and it is far too much to ask him to play every single match.
As for who will come in, there are many options from proven goal scorers to hungry youngsters. If Forest try to bring in another top-class striker then there will be stumbling blocks. Dwight Gayle, for example, has been the name on many fans lips, but would he be willing to join knowing he will still have to fight off competition from Grabban for a starting place?
Would Forest be willing to pay what would be a hefty transfer fee (Reports claim only bids above £15m would tempt Newcastle United into doing business) and wages? and finally, Are Newcastle willing to sell? Another player who the same questions can be asked about is Che Adams. Both these players have the undoubted quality and are not getting the game time they want at their Premiership clubs, therefore if the above questions can be positively answered then Forest would have excellent options upfront.
Another option and the perhaps more realistic one is for someone that can do a job as a clear second choice striker who understands Grabban is the main man. They won’t have the same quality as Gayle or Adams but be of sufficient quality to take some of the pressure off him. Lukas Jutkiewicz is someone that falls into this category and would give Forest a different sort of striker to Grabban. Glenn Murray is another name being mentioned, but will there be any substance to these rumours?
A 3rd option would be to look at Youngsters from the premier league, with Eddie Nketiah a name that stands out. He has been on loan at Leeds from Arsenal and impressed when appeared but has found game time-limited and the loan cut short. The 20-year-old is said to be wanted by a host of clubs and the Reds are ranked as second favourites to capture him with Sky Bet (3/1), behind Bristol City (5/2).
Rhian Brewster from Liverpool would be another good option. Forest are said to have been eyeing up promising Chelsea youngster Billy Gilmour. According to London Football News, the Reds and Championship rivals Leeds “have been tracking the best players in Chelsea’s development side, for which Gilmour has caught the eye since being signed from Glasgow Rangers”. Forest do have their own youngsters including one who has done well on loan in League 1 and 2 in Tyler Walker. If Forest fail to bring in their number 1 targets then Walker has to be considered.
Lyle Taylor has been in fine form for Charlton since their return to the Championship, bagging five goals in his seven appearances so far this season. Taylor’s contract at Charlton expires at the end of the season, and the Addicks are hoping they can convince their star striker to remain at the club to fend off interest from elsewhere. Forest are joined by Premier League trio Burnley, Sheffield United and Norwich City to show an interest in the striker, along with Championship duo Brentford and Bristol City.
Forest are set to rekindle their interest in long-term transfer target Lawrence Shankland, according to reports. The Reds were extensively linked with the striker in the summer before he joined Dundee United.
Given that Forest’s Owner Evangelos Marinakis also owns Olympiacos there is bound to be speculation of business between the two clubs. Belgian striker Hugo Cuypers the 22-year-old is on loan at French second division club Ajaccio from Olympiacos. According to Greek media outlet SDNA, the Reds have been impressed by the Under-19 international’s blistering start to the French league season, and are considering a move in January.
A player linked with a move in the opposite direction is Joao Carvalho, Forest’s record signing was a key player under previous manager Aitor Karanka providing many assists and the odd goal and became a fans favourite. Since Karanka’s departure, he has not been the same player, bar one outstanding performance against Middlesbrough. Martin O’Neil and Sabri Lamouchi have both opted to play 3 deeper midfielders with no room for a proper number 10 such as Carvalho. This has led to speculation that the reds will cash in, however, they should keep their record signing as he still has massive potential and not forgetting he missed all of pre-season which is massively important.
Tottenham’s poor start to the season has resulted in Mauricio Pochettino losing his job. It was not long ago that Pochettino was one of the most admired and sought after managers in the business, yet now he has been sacked by Spurs despite being heavily linked with the Real Madrid managers’ position in the summer – following his success in guiding The Lilywhites to the Champions League Final. His achievements speak for themselves; when he took over Spurs were a Top 4 outsider, he turned them into the closest challengers to Liverpool, Man City and Leicester for the premiership title. All whilst developing young players and playing attractive attacking football. It comes as no surprise to me that he is already being linked with another top job as Bayern Munich are reportedly interested as are Real Madrid once more.
What went wrong?
Tottenham’s success was considered more remarkable due to the fact Lucas was their only signing over 2 transfer windows. But this created a togetherness and team spirit which were key elements in reaching the illusive Champions League final. This summer this changed with money being spent on new players, existing players linked with moves away and Pochettino himself linked with other clubs. Bringing players in with the aim of building on what he had already done was what it seemed Spurs needed. But with players like Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld seemingly seeking moves away it all added up to less cohesion and team spirit than beforehand.
Tottenham became one of my favourite sides to watch under his management and I fear this could change under the new man in control. José Mourinho is renowned for defensive football or “parking the bus” as it has been referred to as and this is the complete opposite of Pochettino. He likes 2 defensive midfielders whose prime focus is to protect the back 4; this could result in Eric Dier being brought back into the team in place of Harry Winks – despite his recent success in the International break for England. His wide players in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation need to track back which for me casts further doubts on Eriksen’s future at the club. However one thing that Mourinho always seems to do is win trophies and that is the one thing Spurs under Poch didn’t do, so the question is whilst they might not be as entertaining or attacking if they win a trophy will this be forgiven?
Do you think Mourinho is a good replacement for Pochettino?
Nottingham Forest made it 3 consecutive east-midlands derby wins for the first time since 1990, by beating the Rams 1-0 at the City Ground. The win also means it is 8 consecutive visits and 7 years since Derby’s last win in Nottingham and keeps Forest in the Top 6 whilst Derby stay in the bottom half of the league table.
The goal came following a mistake by Derby right back Jaden Bogle, when a loose pass across his defensive line went straight to Grabban who smartly finished first time into the bottom corner. Grabban spoke about the goal:
“I had a little glance at where the keeper was and it looked like he hadn’t covered the near post so I just tried to aim for that and fortunately it went in.” He added: “The main thing was that we got the win. It was good for the fans, so I’m very happy. Their support gives us that little bit of a boost.”
In scoring, Grabban upped his tally for the season to seven, meaning he has now scored 80 times in the EFL since the start of the 2013-14 campaign, four more than any other player.
The match started evenly amid a raucous atmosphere at The City Ground and it was Forest keeper Brice Samba who was the first keeper called into action, doing well to keep out Tom Lawrence’s shot from inside the penalty area following a good run by Bogle. Lawrence was unsurprisingly constantly jeered by the home faithful following the drink driving scandal, however, he was probably Derby’s main threat and handled the reception well. That was until a second-half challenge on Yuri Ribeiro which he saw yellow.
It was extremely competitive, with both sides fighting for the ball and putting in committed challenges. Bogle and Ben Watson were both shown yellow cards for fouls on halfway, whilst Ryan Yates was somewhat fortunate not to be added to the list of booking’s following a challenge on Clarke, who had to be replaced.
Forest were effective in pressing the Derby backline and won the ball high up the pitch a few times, possibly leading to the goal. Forest’s best efforts in the first half both came from winger Sammy Ameobi who shot twice from the left-hand corner of the penalty area to force Derby Keeper Roos into decent saves.
The second half started with The Reds firmly in the ascendancy, applying plenty of pressure on the Derby goal. Several crosses were fizzed into the area, with only glancing headers from a Derby defender keeping the ball away from danger. It was just before the hour-mark when Derby were their own worst enemy in making the costly mistake which gave Forest the lead.
Forest sensed they could put the game beyond doubt as Derby were on the ropes following the mistake, but couldn’t find the second goal. Derby came back into the game towards the end and the closest they came to an equaliser was when Jack Marriott had a sniff of goal, but The Reds defended resolutely to hold onto their one-goal lead and claim a brilliant victory against their arch-rivals.
Man of the match
Tiago Silva – The Portuguese midfielder put in an outstanding performance, he had great energy, tenacity and put in some great tackles. Along with that, he showed his skill with some lovely touches to beat opposition players. When Silva was signed from Benfica in the summer many forest fans assumer he would an alternative to fellow Portuguese playmaker João Carvalho, however, he has shown he is a more all-round midfielder than João.
Forest head coach Sabri Lamouchi was delighted to claim victory in his second East Midlands derby of the season. Lamouchi was satisfied with his side’s second-half display which he believed was a marked improvement on the first 45 minutes. Speaking after the game, he said:
“It was a difficult, emotional game and maybe that is why we found it difficult in the first half. The second half was much better and fortunately, they made a mistake at the back and Grabbs produced another fantastic finish like the killer that he is. It was important for us to be compact, patient and focused and in the end, I think we deserved the victory because in the second half we went out for the three points. After the goal, I put more attacking players on the field to try and get that second goal but it wasn’t meant to be. It has been a good day, the perfect way to spend my birthday, and I am happy that our supporters could enjoy it too. When we play with this sort of attitude and character then we can always win games like this. We know we can still play better and control the ball better but it is important that we take three points when we don’t play at our best. It is a fantastic result and I’m happy because we’ve made our fans proud of the players. Now we can go into the international break with a positive mentality before we come back to play Bristol City.”
It doesn’t get any bigger than this for Nottingham Forest and Derby, in particular, the Fans, they look forward to it from the moment the fixtures are announced in pre-season.
No other match brings the anticipation, excitement, and nerves that this one does. A win will last long in the memory whilst a defeat will haunt you, it’s quite simply the biggest match of the season.
The sides have already met at the City Ground this season, just over 2 months ago Forest ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
How ever satisfying that night was, this will mean so much more as that night was almost 2 second-string sides.
Forest will more than likely still be without key trio Michael Dawson, Samba Sow and Alfa Semedo. The trio’s absence played a massive role in the recent defeats to Wigan and Hull City, Dawson was said to back in training this week, however a place in the team remains unlikely.
The return of Ryan Yates in midfield helped fill the void left by Sow and Semedo in last weekend’s win over Luton.
I would largely stick with that line up with only Jack Robinson coming in to provide extra defensive nous at left back for Yuri Ribeiro.
Tom Lawrence, who has endured a challenging couple of months after being convicted of drink-driving, netted two goals in Saturday’s Pride Park win over Middlesbrough, a fourth straight home success. He is a key man for Derby, but in my opinion he shouldn’t be available for selection following the drink-driving incident, which also involved teammate Mason Bennett and saw Captain Richard Keogh injured for the season and subsequently suspended by the club.
The Professional Footballers’ Association has said it will “robustly defend” Richard Keogh after his dismissal, the BBC has reported.
Lawrence and Bennett were both fined six weeks’ wages by the Rams and pleaded guilty to drink driving. “We will robustly defend our member because we feel he has been unfairly treated,” said a PFA spokesman.
Keogh, 33, suffered a knee injury in the crash on 24 September and will be out for around 15 months. His contract was due to expire in 2021.
It is understood Derby offered Keogh a revised deal on reduced wages. The player will appeal against Derby’s decision and the PFA have told him they will back him in that and any subsequent challenge to his dismissal because they do not view the treatment of Keogh as being in line with the action taken against Lawrence and Bennett.
In announcing Keogh’s dismissal, Derby said they would not comment further until the outcome of any appeal was known.
In any other professionalism if you are convicted of a serious crime your job would be at risk. The fact that Lawrence is a professional footballer, who is in the public eye and gets to play is sending out the wrong message.
Lawrence is set for unpleasant reception on Saturday but says Derby will be ready for the cauldron atmosphere awaiting them at – and is plotting to silence a sold-out City Ground.
“We all know how big this game is coming on Saturday so we will be ready for it.
“Yes, as expected,” the 25-year-old then said when asked about the vibrant Trentside atmosphere, saying his teammates know what’s needed to record a rare win in Nottingham.
The Rams are looking to claim a first win on Trentside since September 2012, and in the process dent Forest’s promotion hopes.
Forest got back to winning ways last weekend with a 2-1 success away at Luton, this was a vital victory following 2 successive defeats at Wigan and Home to Hull City as the last thing Forest would have wanted would have been to go into the Derby game on the back of three successive defeats.
Although, Forest defender Joe Worrall says, “On track? We were never off it” previous to these defeats Forest hadn’t lost in the league since the opening day of the season and they sit 5th in the table (with a game in hand due to the match against reading being postponed) and have an opportunity to close the gap on league leaders, West Bromwich Albion who are five points in front.
Derby are 10 places below, but only four points behind Forest.
Their home form has kept them in touch with the top six, however, on the road, things have been marked different for the Rams who haven’t tasted victory since the opening night at Huddersfield.
It is sure to be a heated encounter, as ever. A strong referee that won’t fall for any nonsense will be required, there will be some strong challenges and players trying to deceive the referee and it is vital he doesn’t lose control.
He can’t produce unnecessary cards or let players get away with anything early on.
Darren England will be the man in the middle for the match, he has officiated two Forest matches already this season, with the Reds suffering defeats on both occasions.
The pre-match build-up will be added to as Forest will pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in conflict ahead of the match at the City Ground.
Before kick-off, there will be a performance of the Last Post from the Military band, while both sets of players will be sporting the poppy on the front of their shirts for the game itself.