Cardiff City will welcome Nottingham Forest to Cardiff City Stadium this Good Friday. The Bluebirds are looking to push their way into a play-off spot while Forest are looking to put more room between them and the relegation places.
The Bluebirds returned to winning ways in their game as they beat bitter rivals Swansea thanks to an Aden Flint header. It was the Bluebirds fist win after a run of three without one, however, Cardiff have only lost once since the arrival of Mick McCarthy. Forest are without a win in six with three draws and three defeats.
The sides have met twice this season with City winning in the reverse league meeting and Forest winning in an FA Cup third round tie. Cardiff have won eight out of the last ten league meetings between the sides.
Curtis Nelson and Perry Ng have recovered from injuries and could feature on Friday. Lee Tomlin, meanwhile, suffered a setback prior to a under 23’s games this week which will delay his return. Jordi Osei-Tutu is back in training, but will not play a part at the weekend.
For Forest defender Joe Worrall is still suffering from a rib injury and is a doubt for the trip to Cardiff. Former Cardiff man Harry Arter is still out with a calf injury. Joe Lolley is also likely out for the season, and Gaeten Bong is another who is a doubt for the trip to Wales.
“The only points in my mind at the moment are in the next game and trying to win that. It is such an unpredictable league this season, with performances and those teams that can beat any team on any given day.
“So many of the results show that and it is very difficult, you don’t know how that run in will be. You look at the teams towards the bottom of the table and any team is capable of putting together a decent run.
“We want to finish the season as well as we can and, at any stage of the season, there are always influences that can affect your thinking. There are players that over a short period of time put some better thoughts into your mind or change your mind about them.
“Also, we would rather go into the start of next season after a decent end to the season. Although there is a gap in between, you can psychologically have that little bit of momentum.”
FA Cup third round weekend sees this all Championship tie at the City Ground. Forest have only beaten Cardiff twice since 2012 with the Bluebirds winning ten times. Cardiff won 2-0 when the sides met in Nottingham earlier in the season with Kieffer Moore scoring both goals. Home advantage hasn’t been such a factor this season and Forest will be glad of that as Cardiff have won on their last six visits to Nottingham.
For Forest Luke Freeman is close to a return to the side after two months out. Chris Hughton could use this game to rest some key players. Cyrus Christie, Yuri Ribeiro, Samba Sow and Lewis Grabban among those who may miss this one.
Cardiff have a centre half problem Sean Morrison went off early against Wycombe. Aden Flint has returned to Cardiff from Sheffield Wednesday but is injured. Filip Benkovic has returned to Leicester City and Sol Bamba also carrying an injury. Lee Tomlin is still not ready as is on-loan Jordi Osei-Tutu. Kieffer Moore is still out with a hamstring tear.
“This competition has a special place for me, as a player, a coach and as a manager. The feel of the cup is always there, we all know the circumstances this season are very different to other seasons because of no supporters and a different general feel, but whenever the FA Cup comes around there is that little spark and that is through everybody.
“For them, I think they will want to get back to winning ways. I don’t know what team they will put out but my thoughts are that they will go strong. They had their last league game that was called off so I anticipate they will go strong.
“We are probably, with regards to form, going into it a bit different, but we all know that in one-off games that can go quickly out of the window. We have a strong reason for wanting to win the game and so have they.”
SinceI last wrote about Nottingham Forest quite a lot has changed, not at least their manager, new signings departures, and a new style of play. All of these were done with the right intentions and looked like positive changes at the time, and still yet maybe, but have resulted in a poor start to the season which leaves Forest languishing towards the wrong end of the table.
The managerial change was half expected as Sabri Lamouchi’s positive spell in charge declined dramatically towards the end of last season and even more so with 4 defeats to start the new campaign. Sabri had brought positivity and hope back to Forest Fans and left with a message of thank you from the fans. His replacement’s record in the Championship is second to none and I believe his availability and willingness to take the job contributed to the change. It seems like Chris Hughton must have been in discussions with Forest for a while before the change as it was announced almost immediately after Lamouchi’s departure.
The nature of forest’s signings were along the lines of Hughton type players, by this I mean experienced quality championship players. Anthony Knockaert was the only official signing made by Chris but the likes of Luke Freeman, Harry Arter, and Cyrus Christie fit this mould. Knockaert is in my opinion a top Championship winger whose delivery cannot be beaten at this level and Houghton got the best out of him at Brighton. He also tried to bring in Kamil Grosicki, a player forest have been linked with ever since January, however, after a long wait they discovered last Thursday that the deal was completed marginally past the 5 pm transfer window deadline. When you look at the squad it’s very strong and the strongest I’ve seen at Forest for about 10 years.
So what’s gone wrong?
Firstly there was a massive hangover from the failure of getting into the playoffs when it seemed certain they would. Then came the uncertainty over the manager’s future during the break and then big changes to the playing and coaching staff. I think the squad has changed too much over the summer break, last season was based on a tight-knit group in which Ben Watson, Thiago Silva, and Matt Cash played a big part. Loosing these 3 is a big blow, their replacements of Jack Colback, Luke Freeman, and Cryus Christie have been good, but the team spirit and togetherness takes time. When you add 13 new players to a squad with a good spirit you risk changing the togetherness and getting a squad that is too big and not everyone feels involved. I would have much preferred to have kept as much of the same squad together as possible and adding extra bits of quality. For example, the signings of Cafu and Fouad Bachirou in particular seem unnecessary.
There has also been a change in the style of play to get used to, Lamouchi stated he wanted to add more creativity and attacking options to the side which he did by bringing in Freeman and Lyle Taylor. But to achieve this a less compact defensive was attempted and this ultimately failed and cost him his job.Hughton is adopting a similar approach with the team playing much higher up the pitch and trying to control possession more than last season. This is ultimately the style of play fans want to see however it will take time to change and perhaps a more pragmatic approach is needed to get results on the board to build confidence.
Games are staring to come along quickly as the Championship rolls on. Readings good form continues as they lead the table. Bristol City remain second but there are just four points between them and 14th placed Huddersfield.
East Midlands Derby
Friday night saw the East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby County. It was the 108th meeting of the long time rivals.
The two side were up for this game, Lyle Taylor shot forcing a good save from David Marshall. Marshall’s opposite number Brice Samba was also tested in the first half. Graeme Shinnies curling shot met by the diving hand of the Forest Keeper.
It was Derby who scored first after 30 minutes. Martyn Waghorn’s with a free kick the self-isolating Wayne Rooney would be proud to claim. Waghorn lifted the ball over wall and it clipped the inside of the bar to go in the net.
Derby thought they had won it when some clever footwork from Tom Lawrence allowed him to slide a ball into Jozwiak who found the net. Jozwiak wheeled off in celebration but the assistant’s flag was up. Waghorn in an offside position was deemed to be interfering with play.
Forest Manager Chris Hughton told BBC Radio Nottingham:
“I wasn’t too happy with the first half performance. I thought we needed to be better on the ball and our movement needed to be better against a team who were happy to defend in a really good shape”.
After seeing his side second goal ruled out Phillip Cocu told BBC Radio Derby:
“I don’t see any offside. The goalkeeper reaches for the corner where the shot goes, so the view is not blocked. The frustration is quite big here”.
Reading Go Five Clear
Championships leaders Reading won their sixth game of season clinically beating Rotherham 3-0. Reading took the lead towards the end of the first half though Yakou Meite.
The striker doubled the home side lead on 74 minutes, with an overhead kick. From a corner he control the ball with his chest before performing an overhead kick into the top corner of the net. A good win was finished in stoppage time with a Lucas Joao penalty.
Reading manager Veljko Paunovicsaid:
“What we saw in our team was the consistency of getting the job done, doing your job for the team. You also have to be patient, have a strong mentality and not get frustrated if our game plan is not working. And don’t ever give up”.
Rotherham drop to 18th place and manager Paul Warne told BBC Radio Sheffield:
“We were away from home against top of the league and had lots of possession in the first half and we were the only side that played on the front foot. We passed the ball really well without creating enough clear cut chances and obviously for them to score the first time they were in our box was a massive sucker punch”.
Mepham Saves a Point
Late drama as Chris Mepham’s 94th minute goal saved a point for Bournemouth. Watford had lead since the 12 minute from Stipe Perrica’s first goal for the club.
Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly was lucky to only see a yellow card for his poor challenge after just two minutes. Lunging in late on Ismaila Sarr catching the Watford player above the knee.
Watford’s goal came after Sarr’s ball across the box from the right was met a sliding Perrica who simply directed the ball into the net. Ismaila Sarr had the chance to make it too but his shot was stopped by a strong right hand from Asmir Begovic.
Begovic kept his in it again saving from Quina before quickly pushing the ball away from Pedro. Bournemouth pressed for an equaliser but found resilient Watford defencing and a in form Ben Forster.
Josh king saw his late header turned over the bar by Forster. However Bournemouth got their reward from the corner. Forster punched the ball away but the return ball in the box was turned in by Mepham.
The draw means Watford stay in 3rd and Bournemouth 4th.
There were away wins For Blackburn (4-0 v Coventry), Luton (1-0 v Sheffield Wednesday) and Preston (2-1 v Huddersfield) on Saturday.
Coventry were reduced to 10 men after 14 minutes with Michael Rose receiving a straight red for a push in the box. Adam Armstrong scored from the spot. Armstrong got a second after 49 minutes getting on the end of Brereton’s though ball. Harvey Elliott made it three on 62 minutes assisted again from Brereton. Rovers wrapped up a fine display with a fourth on 88 minutes from Sam Gallagher.
Sheffield Wednesday remain bottom after a 1-0 home defeat to Luton. Wednesday’s Joost van Aken saw red for a reckless high challenge. The hatters took advantage of the extra man to get the win with Pelly Ruddock scoring on 74 minutes.
While they can’t win at home Preston are still unbeaten on the road. Frazier Campbell’s 8th minute goal gave Huddersfield a half time lead. A curling effort from Alan Browne levelled the game on 51 minutes. Just two minutes later Browne found the net again. This time looping a soft punch from the keeper back into the goal. Naby Sarr got a red card for pulling down Riis Jakobsen.
Stoke up to 8th
Stoke stormed into a 3-0 lead after an hour. A free head for Steven Fletcher after nine minutes, was followed by a James McClean low shot into the near post. On the hour mark Tyrese Campbell made it three cutting inside to the edge of the box and curling a shot into the far corner. Brentford pulled two back thanks to sub Marcus Forss but Stoke held on to take their unbeaten run to seven games.
Norwich got their third straight league win after beating pointless Wycombe 2-1 at Carrow Road. Timo Pukki gave Norwich the lead early on. Scot Kashket got the goal that got Wycombe level after some poor Norwich defending. Wycombe may have thought they had their first championship point but there was late drama. Mario Vrancic 91st minute free kick went straight into the top corner with the Wycombe wall seamingly rooted to the floor. Adam Idah was shown a red card for appearing to push Joe Jacobson to the floor.
Middlesbrough left Cardiff with a point on Neil Warnock’s first visit to Cardiff City Stadium since leaving the Bluebirds. It was a classic Warnock display from Boro’ who set out early to slow the game and frustrate Cardiff. The visitors took the lead with George Saville’s header lopped in the Cardiff goal. Cardiff took the game to Boro in the second half but could not find the final touch. Their hard work did get them level with Sheyi Ojo second goal since signing from Liverpool.
Jamal Lowe smashed in on 51 minutes to give Swansea the lead at Ashton Gate. It was his second goal for Swansea. Putting it in off his left foot turning towards goal. Bristol City equalised from a Nahki Wells penalty. Conner Roberts judged to have brought down Semenyo Antoine just inside the area. A soft penalty but dispatched down the middle with power from Wells. The result sees Bristol City remain in second and Swansea in 6th.
At The Den two goals in two minutes at the end of the first half saw Millwall and Barnsley share the points. Alex Mowatt stunning volley from the edge of the area gave Barnsley the lead. Just a minute later Jake Cooper rose above everyone else to head home for Millwall.
A goalless draw at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium as QPR met Birmingham City. Scott Hogan did find the net for City but was ruled offside. QPR are 16th while Brimingham are 17th.
The championship rolls on to Tuesday and Wednesday again this week with Blackburn hosting leaders Reading and Bournemouth v Bristol City as the stand out games.