Sunday 15 April 2012

A Disappointing End. 15.04.12

I've been milling over this decision for the past month but as I'm now four games behind (Brighton, Bristol City, Peterborough and Blackpool), the time has come to draw a close on the blog.

It has been a good first experience for me and it's been something that despite the results, I've enjoyed doing. However, other factors have taken priority and the decision was made to end this particular blog.

Ultimately, it wasn't helped with the fact that the blog wasn't getting the audience figures I would have hoped for and there are better and more efficient NFFC blogs out there.

For those who have been reading it, I thank you and I hope you've enjoyed it. If the blog was ever to be restarted, I hope I could count on your readership once more.

I must point you in the direction of my new blog - - a blog all about the West Midlands Olympic hopefuls. This blog, although will only last until the summer Oympics, has much more potential and is much more beneficial to me in regard to the aims of my career.

So, that's that. But thanks once again for reading and keep reading the new blog.


Thursday 22 March 2012

NFFC vs Derby County 13.03.12

It's that time of year again. When my University deadlines are approaching at a ridiculous rate, I have society restraints flying at me left, right and centre and Forest seem to be playing at home every time they play, either that or I'm able to go and watch the away game. The latter being the case this time around. 

I had to miss the earlier fixture between the two sides due to being at a Channel Four open day. It says a lot about my passion for this fixture, that I genuinely contemplated missing the career opportunity just to see the match. Whatever team you support, you will know the feeling of when a good ol' rivalry is approaching. Forest vs Derby is the game that I always look for when the fixtures first appear. 

The away day was then postponed so this game felt like it had been a long time coming. Such a shame that by the final whistle, it was a huge anti-climax. 

I fancied our chances. Derby had had their annual decline after showing promising early signs and we were beginning to show that we had the fight to stay in this division. 

But despite a sell out crowd, a tenacious atmosphere and fighting talks from both camps, the game simply never got going. A boring, drab affair that wasn't worth the £32 I spent.

Overall, as much as it pains me to say it, the game probably went the way it should have done. Derby were better on the ball, played the nicer football and controlled more of the game. We were simply overwhelmed by the occasion.

But let them enjoy this, we took six points last season and look how quickly that has come and gone! Beating Derby isn't the priority this season, making sure we are still in the same division to play them next season is far more important.

We missed Higginbotham hugely but when have I not said that? He marshalls the defence brilliantly and we need to get him and keep him fit.

Although both the team and the individual performances were not good enough - and the main reason why I won't be doing players ratings due to repeating myself - the shift that Blackstock and Tudgay put in up top must be commended. The service to them was dreadful all night but the pair of them never stopped running. Just a shame that 'Tuds' was a tad too over enthusiastic and got himself a one match ban.

There have been rumours flying round regarding Luke Varney, (although I hear that one has fallen through. Sad state of affairs when we can't even get a striker from a club that is begging money, saying that, I do feel like it's a blessing in disguise) Robbie Earnshaw who I would welcome back and think the rest of the CG would too or Ricardo Fuller who's name was banded around in January with wages being an issue. Unfortunately, I can't see how that's any different this time around.

Also a mention for the chants from the minority of Derby supporters at the end. Yes it was shameful and it was disgusting but let's not give them the attention. Instead, let's commend Blackstock and Tyson for stating how they felt on twitter while the Derby owners should be applauded for quickly coming out and stating their position. It was all handled rather smoothly.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing though. A week on and we go and score 7 away at Leeds, a day before Brian Clough's birthday. If Carlsberg did football results!

Simply incredible scoreline and what's more, the team showed real fight and passion to win it. Going behind early on before being pegged back at 3-3, we could have crumbled. But we didn't and I would have happily paid the £34 quid to go and watch that!

I expect a big crowd for the visit of high flying Brighton and expect it to be a very tough game. But if we can remain undefeated, we are giving ourselves a real chance of confirming survival long before those final day nerves.

No arrogance yet though, I'm still expecting plenty more twists and turns!

Thursday 15 March 2012

NFFC vs Millwall 10.03.11

Well I am a bit behind aren't I?!
Apologies for this, too many jobs to do not enough time.

Let's go back to Saturday 10th March and the superb victroy over Millwall. Following the dismal performance in midweek, it was essential that the lads delivered, which they did, securing a 3-1 victory and move a step closer to safety.

Take nothing away from the victory, Millwall were a side that were enjoying a decent run of form and had put a nice gap between the bottom three and themselves. They would have fancied their chances when they arrived at the City Ground, no doubt about that.

But there were two major differences in my view.

The first was the correct team selection. All 11 men playing in positions that they were comfortable with and the team were balanced and as a result, played some lovely, fluid football.

Secondly, the City Ground faithful were in excellent voice. The whole ground, backed the lads on the pitch for the duration of the game and it helped massively. I haven't been right about many things this season, but I will claim victory on this particular matter. Back the lads and be positive and they will work hard for you.

Even as Henderson got one back for Millwall, the crowd didn't get on their back and we soon got our reward when Reidy stepped up and unleashed a beautiful effort into the top right hand corner.

My oh my, did he deserve it! It was a simply superb individual performance and his ability and class was there for all to see. When the Irishman is on form such as that, the hope is that he can play week in week out. Unfortunately, with his age and stature, he can't. It's a huge shame, but it's just not plausible.

Despite Reid deservedly taking the plaudits, there were a couple of other brilliant performances. Dexter Blackstock continually puts in a shift up front and unless he scores, no-one seems to notice. He was fantastic and caused problems all afternoon for Millwall's defence.

Danny Higginbotham was also magnificent. He may as well have the captaincy with the way he leads on the pitch. He is vocal, passionate and motivated. Everything you need from a centre-half. He also popped up with a fantastic goal. Make no mistake about it, that is a tough technique to swivel on the volley.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a perfect performance and our luck was definitely in. Millwall hit the woodwork three times if I counted correctly so there were still many issues. But we should enjoy the win and more importantly, enjoy the five point gap that has now opened up.

On a seperate note, I heard rumours that the reason Tudgay and Anderson were dropped on Tuesday night was because the pair of them started a fight with Robbie Findley. I pray that this is just hearsay. As soon as the team begins to turn on each other, then it really is game over. Cotterill must manage the situation delicately and carefully and I think the punishment of dropping them both was the correct decision.

Camp - Was called into action a few times but stood up to the challenge and did well. No silly mistakes or anything to be accounted for. Solid. 7/10
Gunter - Playing in the correct decision and had a much better display than in recent. Still gets caught out from time to time but it was very much improved. 7/10
Chambers - Probably the weakest of the back four. It just hasn't happened for Chambo this season and I can only think of the captaincy being the reason. Too much of a burden? 6/10
Higginbotham - Was superb in all areas of his game. Calm, controlled, self assured. Fantastic loan signing. Just fitness being the issue now. 9/10
Cunningham -  Has worked out well that he regains fitness just as Elokobi injures himself. Solid game from the left back. Committed and passionate, offers a good attacking outlet as well. 8/10
McCleary - I've said it before that his recent good form will mean oppositions will aim to keep him quiet by using more than one man to mark him. He has to be able to improve his game to beat this. Very quiet second half but took his goal well. 7/10
Guedioura - The problem with the Wolves loanee is that he's set the bar so high in his first couple of games. He wasn't poor on any level, just not as good as we've seen recently. Plenty of energy and enthuasism as always though. 7/10
Moussi - I've said it before and I'll say it again, Moussi is like an excitable dog. Fiesty, passionate, tenacious, he's fantastic in the middle of the park. But you cannot help but get nervous when hes trying to help the defence. There were a couple of dodgy challenges in and around the penalty area which could have really shot us in the foot. 7/10
Reid - Man of the match. Simply controlled the game from start to finish and outclassed the other 21 players around him. Wonderful goal as well. Just wish he'd stick to his wing! 10/10
Tudgay - Our little workhorse. What he lacks in ability he definitely makes up for in passion and energy. He was no different on Sat, chasing lost causes and being a general nuisance. Needs to be finding the net soon though. 7/10
Blackstock - Worked incredibly hard and took a few bumps and bruises for the cause. Looked a lot more confident after his recent goals and will be a vital part of the team as we aim to avoid relegation. 8/10
Wootton -  Came on in the midfield and looked comfortable. If one part of the negotiations was to play Wootton for a certain amount of time, he could certainly do a job in the middle of the park. 7/10
Miller - Not enough time to make an impact but its nice to see the big man fit again. Always causes problems and held the ball up well to waste the time away. If he can begin finding the net, he'll be back in the starting 11 in no time. 6/10

Onto Tuesday night then. When it was first postponed, I think we all imagined that we'd be on the end of a spanking. Now, we've won a few games, they've had their annual slide..who knows?

It's always a good occasion!

Saturday 10 March 2012

NFFC vs Doncaster Rovers 06.03.12

It's amazing how quickly the enthusiasm disappears following a disgraceful performance such as the one I witnessed on Tuesday night.

Admittedly, its that time of year again when University deadlines are piling up as well as extra-curricular activities reaching a crescendo, I haven't had much time to write the entry. But make no mistake about it, I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to write this.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't thinking that after seven points from the last nine, we were safe from relegation. Far from it actually. I'm fully aware there will be plenty more twists or turns between now and end of the season. But it was such an opportunity missed. We had the opportunity to be seven points clear. SEVEN. But a lack of passion, motivational and tactics by the looks of things meant we were outplayed in every area of the pitch by the bottom team in the division.

I'm not a boo boy. But for those who did boo them, had every right to. The performance was a disgrace.

I've no doubts that the negativity around the City Ground is affecting the team. Hence why we have a better away record. But our big games that we have left are at home. We must be picking up points at the City Ground.

In the space of 10 minutes, I did lose all the enthusiasm I had previously had. The news of Donny signing Freddie Piquionne filtered through (and I still have no idea how they managed to pull that off) and the news that Chris Gunter was right wing. I began the night slating the selection and why are we continuously put round pegs in square holes. Chris Gunter is a right back. He is a defender. Well so I thought anyway...

The Welshman had a nightmare and I will now not pussyfoot around him. I appreciate he's an international but Wales must be a lot better at stopping crosses than Forest are. Because Gunter can simply not defend them and was hugely at fault for the second goal as he failed to mark the man at the back post.

He was also at fault for the first goal, giving the ball away but no-one saw Piquionne's strike coming, that was Premiership class.

The news of Lacelles going out on loan is good news. He deserves some first team experience and it implies Higginbotham is fit which is excellent news for all concerned.

Blackstock took his goal well and he should be bubbling with confidence. Findley on the other hand, is having serious problems. Cotterill wouldn't divulge on the radio but there is clearly something wrong. I struggle to feel sorry for the American though, he's a striker and must score goals. If he has personal problems, take some time off. Don't bring your personal problems to your profession.

Man of the match for me was Elokobi and his injury was a great shame. I hope its not as serious as first thought. However, it has been timed well with the return of Cunningham who looked to be chomping at the bit to get back involved and I was impressed with him before he got injured.

Other than Elokobi, McCleary and Blackstock, I struggle to remember any playter who performed with any pride or passion. Its not worth doing the players rating because I'd simply be repeating myself.

As for today, I'm not expecting much. Millwall have made a real fight of it of late and have been making some real strides in the league. I don't want to sound like a miserable bugger, but theres not much I can do about that at the moment. After Tuesday's performance, we've taken about 8 steps back.

It needs to be one hell of a performance to improve spirits at the City Ground today and I just can't see it happening.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

NFFC vs Coventry City 18.02.12

Well this is new.

I've got so used to writing the same old negative drivel over the past few months, that the concept of actually writing about a victory has somewhat stumped me a little bit.

Let's start at the beginning...WE WON.

It's time to enjoy it as well. It's been such a long time since I can remember travelling home, listening to Radio Nottingham before sitting in front of my tv with my curry and being in a good mood due to the performance I'd seen just a few hours earlier.

It wasn't a great performance. It was a game that screamed relegation battle. Nerves were clear to see all over the pitch and no-one seemed willing to take the game by the scruff of the neck. It most definitely wasn't one for the neutral. 

But who cares?! Three huge points. Don't get me wrong, I won't start rambling now about how we're safe and that is a result that will turn our season around, but there's no need to simply cast it to one side. I'm fully aware and I'm sure the team are as well that the fight has simply just begun.

As a team, we were professional, patient and pro-active and grabbed our biggest win of the season. 

The icing on the cake was moving out of the relegation zone. I predicted in my last post that we could be out of the relegation zone on Saturday evening so I'm claiming a correct guess on that issue. Admittedly, I didn't envisage Portsmouth's 10 point deduction, although there were murmerings it could happen.

Nobody likes to see administration occur, but I must admit my sympathy with the football club is waning. I've read and heard reports this week that have stated the PFC continued to spend as though they were in the Premier League the last time they were in administration. It's not exactly a surprise, it has happened again then and they've only got themselves to blame. However, I do feel sorry for Michael Appleton and the squad but I fully expect them to get out of trouble. They don't deserve to be a League One club and it will only add to their long list of problems.

Do we dare look up the table? I'd say it's now three teams from six. I wouldn't expect Peterborough on 37 points to be dragged into it. But with a game in hand on Bristol City and only three points behind Millwall, I can't help but feel optimistic that we can successfully chase these two teams and drag them into the mire. Especially with the visit of Doncaster and Millwall to the City Ground in the next couple of weeks, we could really give ourselves a chance of survival by the end of March. It's a massive month.

For those at the Brittania Stadium on Thursday night saw a goal they would be unlikely to forget for a long, long time. For those at the City Ground on Saturday, were also treated to one of those special goals.

Gareth McCleary really has been a revelation this year and it's pivitol we stay up and keep him in the squad as other clubs are beginning to sit up and take notice of him. His goal was simply incredible. To pick up the ball in his own half and run 40- 50 yards with not one player getting close to him was amazing. The finish looks soft but at speed, he has picked his spot and just rolled it into the corner. Cotterill has received his fair amount of stick but he must be applauded for his man management of the winger, he has come on leaps and bounds.

As for Chambers' comments after the game, you won't be surprised to hear I agree with him. Enough pussyfooting around the fans and the media-and this is coming from a sports journalist-speak the truth, tell us what you really think. Luke Chambers did that on Saturday evening. As captain of the football club, he is well within his right to do so and I concurred with everything he said.

To boo them off at half time was a disgrace and to boo the substitute of McCleary made matters even worse. Chambers stated 'we didn't want to win the game, we know we just needed to.'

Credit to the players proffessionalism but fans who don't get behind the lads should stay at home. I can guarantee the teams that survive the drop this year, will be the teams with the fans who become the 12th man. It wasn't that long ago that Billy Davies pleaded with the fans to stop booing? What happened? Results improved and we survived relegation. Coincidence? I think not.

I appreciate you've spent money to come and see the game but it simply wasn't necessary on Saturday and Chambo was well within his rights to say so. I hope it's shocked a lot of you into realising how much you are damaging the club.

In addition to this, I have come across a Forest fan on twitter who goes by the name of @pissingred and he is a dream to follow. Says it how it is on all matters Forest with a huge amount of common sense. It's nice to know there are fans out there with a concept of reality. On the subject of twitter, please feel free to follow @michaelredford1 for more of my views! Shameless plug. Apologies.

Camp- Had very little to do but distributed well and did what he needed to. Solid display. 8/10
Wootton- Not a good game and rightly substituted at half time. Spell on the sidelines needed before he's ready to come back into the side. 4/10
Chambers- Bit clumsy and too eager at times. Defended well though and read the game well. Too many long balls but probably not his fault. 7/10
Higginbotham- My man of the match. Another brilliant display from the Stoke loanee, lead the line well, won everything in the air and was strong in the challenge. A brilliant acquisition. 9/10
Elokobi-  Another decent display from the left back. Happy to be on the ball and moved it nicely. Kept things calm and very little danger came from the right flank from Coventry. 8/10
Gunter- Not a right midfielder. Round pegs in square holes. Much much assured when dropped back to his normal position of right back and offered a good attacking threat as well. Still poor in the air. 7/10
Moussi- Same old Mou to be honest. Strong, athletic, fiesty with the odd bit of clumsiness. He's in there to do the dirty stuff and win the ball, let Guedioura do the rest! 7/10
Guedioura- Coventry had done their homework and clamped down on Guedioura from the first moment. Still managed to get on the ball and produced some sublime balls out to the wing with some nice touches in the middle of the park as well. Not afraid to get his kness dirty either. 8/10
Reid- Our prayers have been answered and the midfielder got the nod to start. In 90 minutes, does have a tendency to go missing and doesn't stick to his left wing meaning we rarely had an option out wide. But his experience and ability is vital and his vision for Findley's goal was almost poetic. If he's in the side, we do appear to score goals. Carry on Reidy! 8/10
McCleary- Struggled first half as a 'supporting striker' and looked a bit lost. Moved on to the left wing and he soon started to flourish. His goal was simply stunning. First name on the team sheet. 9/10
Tudgay- Had the odd chance and did want to be on the ball but was struggling to keep the ball when he was up top on his own. Will feel hard done by that he was substituted but think he was still struggling with an illness. 6/10
Findley- Got a lot of stick and pleased to see him answer his critics with a well taken goal. His first touch is appalling and needs drastic work but when he has the ball and running at defenders, he's a lethan weapon to have in the side. Hopefully the goal will give him some confidence. 7/10
Blackstock- His contribution seems to go unnnoticed at times. Dex ran his heart out for 45 minutes and should be applauded for it. Made a big contribution and Coventry's defence struggled to contain the big man. Just needs a goal. 8/10
Greening -  We all had a little groan when number 14 went up on the board but fair play to Greening, he came on and added a lot of fight and passion into the team. Possible double footed challenge that went unnoticed but he was fighting for his place and he has certainly thrown his name into the hat. 7/10

So away to Birmingham on Saturday. A really, really, tough game. But a win can do wonders for confidence and the longer we can stay in the game at St Andrews, the more belief we will have that we can snatch something. All the curses have gone, we've won at home, scored home and away and have kept a clean sheet. It's all positive. It won't be easy but we'll see what happens.

As long as we're not back in the bottom three, I'll be happy. I'm rather enjoying logging on to BBC Sport at the moment.

In other news, I think the sacking of Lee Clark and Martin Allen is a disgrace. Both managers were working towards their pre-season targets and both looked like achieving them. Huddesfield have appointed Simon Grayson and with a good record at that level, I expect Huddesfield to be promoted but I think they would have secured it with Lee Clark in charge. As for Notts, I hope the decision doesn't backfire on them. Unfortunately, I think it will. I don't think the appointment of Keith Curle will add much enthuasism either to the players or fans either.

Managers need to be given a chance and a lot more time. Success doesn't just happen overnight. Club Chairmen and Chief Executives need to have a serious look at their football clubs and what they are realistically expecting from the squad and the money they have available to them.

If Huddesfield and Notts County had done that, I would think Lee Clark and Martin Allen would still be in a job.

Sunday 12 February 2012

NFFC vs Watford 11.02.12

It was the performance that'd we been waiting four months for.

The performance we began to think might never materalise.

The performance where the team showed they wanted to fight to stay in this division.

The game in which Nottingham Forest looked solid and compact in cohesion with a nice attacking flair.

The sort of team we hadn't seen since the days of Billy Davies.

Yesterday, it arrived.

So why do we all feel so deflated and disappointed?

I don't think it's that hard to figure out. Everyone has looked at the fixtures and saw two home games against Watford and Coventry as the perfect opportunity to pick up 6 points and the majority of the people listening to the game or in the City Ground watching it, knew that we should have picked up 3 points yesterday. To rub salt into the wound, every team around us, failed to pick up a result that would enhance their chances of survival.

Coventry - lost
Doncaster - Didn't play
Bristol City - Lost
Millwall - Drew
Ipswich - Game abandoned.

It was a serious opportunity missed.

But let's just rewind to my last entry and that dismal performance against Burnley. We were all crying out for a bit of fight, passion and desire from the lads. They showed it in abundance yesterday and must be credited for it.

I cannot stress how brilliant it was to be sat in the Main Stand, see McClearly score a great goal, hear 'Chelsea Dagger' and see complete unity across all four stands. For the icing on the cake, I looked down to see Steve Cotterill celebrating harder than anyone else. It sent shivers down my spine.

Say what you like about the gaffer, he is as up for this as much as anybody.

It was interesting that Cotterill praised McCleary in midweek. No-one really saw it coming but we've all played football manager in the past and all realise how important a good bit of PR is for a player's performance.

But I don't think it was media spin and this is coming from a sceptic journalist. I think Cotterill genuinely believed McCleary has been a huge assest for us this season and should have featured earlier.

I completely agree. He's almost definitely one of the first names on the team sheet at the moment. His importance is only going to increase if he keeps popping up with goals like yesterday. If that's what a few complimentary words can do then keep praising him Steve!

We all know our biggest issue has been the failure to put the ball in the net. It was our failure yesterday. But to see McCleary essentially embarrass two players as he skipped past them and not be afraid to have a shot from 30 yards was fantastic to see and the winger got what he deserved.

I could go on and on about the missed opportunities. But quite frankly, everyone knows that Miller should have scored just minutes later,Gunter should have had at least three and Findley should have won the game for us late on. For once, Nottingham Forest fans, let's be positive. I haven't been able to talk about chances created for a long, long time. We were a dangerous attacking team yesterday and that is most definitely a step in the right direction.

I'm not getting ahead of myself. There were still a few things I raised my eyebrows out. Gunter on the right wing being one of them.

The loan signings we have brought in have transformed a under-equipped side to an almost over-equipped side. If I've counted correctly, I believe we have nine recognised defenders, eleven midfielders and seven strikers. What's more, the majority of those players can play a huge part in keeping this football in this division.

So why was there the need to put round pegs in square holes? I don't think Gunter's performances have been good enough lately, so drop him. Don't try and fit him in elsewhere. I know Anderson's and McGugan's performances have not been brilliant so I understand them being dropped but I'm not sure what else Andy Reid has to do to get himself a game.

It's clearly a difference of opinion in tactics. For me, I'd start him and get him to give his all for 65 minutes. Then change it round if he's struggling. Not give him ten minutes at the end. His experience and ability is vital and within two minutes of being on the pitch yesterday, he threaded a superb ball which USA should have converted. In addition to this, and I appreciated Gunter is a defender, but if we had Reid, Ando or McGugan at that back post yesterday, would we have won the game? I think so.

I reminicised in my last post about the impact of the last set of loan signings and how it kickstarted our fight against relegation a couple of years ago. I couldn't see this current set of loan signings having the same effect. I won't confirm or deny whether I was right of wrong but the early signs suggest they might just be what we need.

On a seperate note, I'd like to offer my condolences to the Doughty family. To hear of his passing was terrible news and such a huge shame. It just was the next dramatic turn in NFFC's season.

As the tributes poured in, I learnt what a great man he was. There aren't many people in today's world who could recieve compliment after compliment like Nigel did. Furthermore, we all know what he did for NFFC. Not only did he save our club, he transformed it with a legacy to boot. What a shame the final few months he worked for this club were overshadowed by discrepencies and even as fellow fans hurled abuse at him, he behaved with great dignity as he stood down.

I didn't sign the condolences book yesterday. I didn't feel it was my place to. I hate to admit it was probably due to my own stubborn personality. As I saw fan after fan queue up to sign it, I couldn't help but wonder how many of them were screaming for his departure just a few months ago. These aren't fans of the football club. Not like Doughty was. I, for one, didn't want to place my name along with those who have ridiculed him for so long. He didn't deserve the majority of the abuse he got and I hope the stress of it all didn't accumulate to his death.

I offer my sincere apologies on here and hope he rests in peace.

Camp- Looked a lot more secure with a new look back four in front of him and tried to move the ball quickly with improved distribution. At fault for the goal? Possibly bad positioning. 7/10
Wootton- Really impressed with this debutant. Easy to tell he's had an excellent football foundation. Strong in the challenge and comfortable on the ball. Looks to be an excellent addition. 8/10
Chambers- Won the aerial challenges all day long and rarely looked troubled. But switched off for the goal. Disappointing. Probably the weakest of the back four, says it all. 7/10
Higginbotham- Assertive and assured, this was a great debut. No need to give him the captain's armband, he led all afternoon without it. Very little got past him all afternoon. 9/10
Elokobi- First half he was on fire. Not only defended with power and determination but produced some fantastic passes, both short and long to keep the ball. A couple of clumsy errors but likely to be down to lack of match practice. 8/10
Gunter- Tough afternoon for the Welshman. Not completely new to the position and caused problems down the right wing. If only he could have scored. A much better performance than recent weeks though. 8/10
Moussi- He's like a an exciteable dog that you can't keep quiet. Energetic in all areas of the pitch and was a vital part of the team yesterday as he ended attacks and pressured Watford into bad decisions. Still a bit clumsy though, the same way an excitable dog would knock over a vase at home, if you get my drift. 8/10
Guedioura- Man of the match. If the Frenchman performs like this every week, I cannot wait. His range of passing, his vision, his energy, dominance, I could go on. Absoutely superb performance. McGugan has something to aspire to with this guy around. 10/10
McCleary- Inspired performance from the winger and Watford couldn't get close to him all afternoon. Says it all that everytime he picked up the ball, he was closed down by three men at all times; yet still managed to produce a cross. Deserved his goal. 10/10
Miller- Worked hard but the partnership with Harewood didn't work. Should have scored on a couple of occasions as well. Lacking in confidence? possibly. But the money we're paying him, he needs to start scoring and he needs to start doing it soon. 6/10
Harewood- Had an impressive first half with some neat touches and quick thinking. But soon appeared very lazy. Wouldn't come to the ball and failed to do the simple stuff as the match drove on. 7/10
Findley- Will always be remembered for the miss right at the death. Lack of match practice cost him and I bet he puts them away in training all week. Not sure how many more chances he'll get. 6/10
Blackstock- Doesn't work when he comes on as a sub. Struggles to get involved and get straight into the speed of play. Needs a goal for confidence. 6/10
Reid- Only got five minutes at the end but in that short time, he managed to set a great opoortunity up and had plenty of useful touches on the ball. Still not entirely sure why he isn't involved from the start. 8/10

So it's a point and we've moved up a place. Now, let's keep looking up and the way the results can go, a five point gap can be demolished in no time. Who knows, if we take six points from the next two games, we could be out of the relegation zone this time next week and we'll all be wondering what we were scared about!

Okay, so maybe that's a tad too far. But for the first time in a long time, the optimism has seeped back in and although I don't expect anything from a very tough trip to Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, I will be a lot more willing to keep my eye on the score.

Although, with it being Valentine's day, I imagine the girlfriend will have something to say about that...

Saturday 4 February 2012

NFFC vs Burnley 31.1.12

I won't make any excuses for the lateness regarding this entry. I simply have been putting it off.

When I started this blog back in August, never did I think I would be writing such depressing and negative material, week by week.

It's no secret that my enthuasism for writing this blog is seeping away, but not quite as fast as the enthusiasm and belief is seeping away for many of the 23,000 fans who saw Tuesday night's performance.

Those of you who have read my previous entries will know that I've kept the faith. ''We just needed a break. We just need some luck. THEN our fortunes will change.'' Remember all that optimism?

Well, at the risk of having humble pie firmly shoved in my mouth, I concede defeat. As I meandered down the steps and away from the ground following the final whistle, it was the first time that I couldn't see an escape for us. 

Everyone is making a fight of it and for one reason or another, we simply aren't. If it wasn't for a late revival at Blackpool, we'd be sitting bottom of the Championship and what makes things worse is, we'd deserve to be there. 

It wasn't a dreadful team performance, for certain periods of the game, we controlled it. But it isn't good enough and it doesn't take a fanatic fan to realise that if you're conceding goals down one end and struggling to score at the other, it's going to equal a very miserable season.

That's exactly what's happened.

For a team that is lacking confidence, and that most certainly applies to us, the longer you can stay in a game, the better. So to concede after 2 minutes just made Tuesday night an even tougher battle than it already was.

It may sound like an obvious statement but all the fans' shoulders dropped, negativity oozed round the ground and the players looked disinterested. Not brilliant when you still have 88 minutes of football to be played.

In fairness, we came back into it immedately. Ishmael Miller should have done better and I'll never know how Moussi missed.

The penalty decision was comical. I praised McCleary for tracking back and making the tackle, next thing I know, he's thrown a foot out and it's a penalty. Game over. Or so we thought?

Jay Rodriguez slips, misses and we're still in it. Although no-one admitted it, we all felt it, a change in luck. Even Lynchy punched the air and shouted motivational messages to his team mates.

Or not.

Just eight minutes later, we hand the game over to the opposition. Another cross and another header. It was the type of goals we conceded under McClaren, something that we had cleared up and have now started doing again.

I won't place blame on Lacelles. In fairness to the debutant, I thought he did a stirling job. But i've said before crosses from the right flank are a huge danger when our right back, just cannot win and sometimes looks to even refuse to challenge an aerial ball. Most times we get away with it as Morgan or Chambo expect it but Lacelles is inexperienced and Gunter did not help him out one iota.

The mention of Morgan brings me nicely on to the infamous transfer deadline day. For as long as I can remember, we have never been a 'busy' club surrounding last minute transfers. But we saw the departure of Wes for a £1m and the arrival of Wolves midfielder Adlene Guedioura.

Firstly, I was gutted to see Wes go. He was such a vital part of NFFC and has matured into a brilliant defender at Championship level. He had a few hiccups along the way, dare I mention Yeovil in the play offs and that dreadful attempt at a backpass, but he has been a servant to this club and I was disappointed to see him leave.

However, the more I researched the subject, the more my disappointment turned to frustration.

As I'm sure most of you know, Wes was offered a contract, not just money but first team football and the chance to give his all and become a potential hero should he play a part in saving us from relegation. OR he was offered a contract with more money, but the odd substitute appearance from the bench and a basic offer that implied 'When we have to get people off the wage bill due to Financial Fair Play, we'll need you then, cos you're a bit cheaper see?' Morgan apparently saw that as appealing.

I take my hat off to Clark and Cotterill. They kept the fans in the loop and risked the financial situation getting worse by potentially keeping a defender who could leave for nothing in the summer. Their faith was thrown back in their face by a supposed Nottingham lad who couldn't wait to jump ship. Well done for getting a £1m for the defender. I don't think we could have expected much more. Also, the money we earnt has apparently already been spent on clearing up the Harewood and Cunningham deal while also offering new deals to Chambo, McCleary and Ando.

Then there was the departure of Bamford. Another rant is on its way.

A young lad who has come up through the ranks, who Forest have nurtured and show huge deal of faith in and now the striker is reaping the rewards following his exploits in the FA Youth Cup.

Yet, rumour of Chelsea sniffing around him makes Bamford think he's ready for the big time. I'd be interested to know, how much of it was Bamford jnr and how much was controlled by Bamford's agent, his dad.

Do they know that the last Chelsea youth product was John Terry? Bamford is already 18. Although that may seem young, you look towards Arsenal starlets such as Theo Walcott who made his Arsenal debut at 17 and Oxlade-Chamberlain who made his debut at 18. Daniel Sturridge at Chelsea began to make his impression in a loan spell at Bolton where he had just turned 20.

Is Bamford going to be able to settle in, make his mark and break into the first team all in 18 months? I doubt it.

But he's bordering on being too old for the youth squad, but not good enough for the first team. He's a good striker but I just can't picture the MOTD highlights where the 4th Official holds up the board to signal Torres to be replaced by Bamford.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope he doesn't get lost in a squad rotation system where he fails to make the grade and goes from club to club trying to settle. I hope he is a success and that's not because of all the add on's we get from the contract!

As a Nottingham lad, I hope it proves to be a good deal. But I can't help but feel the timing and execution of it, is all wrong.

On a more positive note, there were rumours that a few clubs were interested in Chambers. However, the captain has said he had no intention of leaving and will discuss his future at the end of the season. For me, that's professionalism and he should be applauded for it.

But we did have three new arrivals. I was pleased with Guedioura, clearly lacking in match fitness but was energetic, positive and wasn't afraid to have a shot at goal. Although its frustrating to see it fly into row Z, when we see it fly into the net, we wont be complaining!

Always pleased with the arrival of a defender and certainly someone with not only just Premier League experience but East Midlands derby experience. That has to be a huge help. I hope he goes straight into the side and to boss proceedings.

As for Wootton, I must admit I know very little about him. From snippets of Man U fans, he can play right-back, or centre back and it was mentioned that he can play in the holding midfielder role. So, it seems like a good acquisition. However, a condition of the deal will be that he gets games and regular football so someone is being knocked out the side. Who? I'm not quite sure.

Camp- At fault for the goals? Probably not. Defence need to be doing more in front of Campy. Average performance. 6/10
Gunter- I feel he's let Lascelles down. Although Lynch must guide him, any issues from the right side must be conducted by Gunter. Didn't defend fantastically, and offered little threat going forward. Not a good evening. 4/10
Lascelles- Probably wasn't how he dreamt of his debut unfolding. But didn't appear to let it faze him, was strong in the challenge and dominant in the air. Bright for the future. 8/10
Lynch- Again, don't feel he did too much wrong. Won his defensive duties but can't do it all himself. Always shows passion and dedication to the cause. 7/10
Maloney- Dreadful, dreadful performance. Can't remember one tackle he won, a successful pass. Looked nervous all night. Not his position? It's not a dramatic change from right-back to left-back so shouldn't be an excuse. 2/10
McGugan- Went missing yet again. First half tried to get on the ball but after the second goal, forgot he was on the pitch. Rightly substituted. 5/10
Moussi- My Man of the Match. Energetic, fiesty with huge amounts of tenacity in the middle of the park. Still a bit clumsy but after tuesday's performance, he'd be first name on the team sheet. 9/10
McCleary- Had the left back in the palm of his hand all night. Skipped past him time after time. But decision making isn't quick enough and needs to learn when the time is right to take a player on and when the time is right just to swing the ball in. 8/10
Guedioura- As I said, worked hard and offered some energy in midfield. Couple of poor touches and bad decisions but almost certainly due to the fact he hasn't played for so long. Solid debut. 7/10
Anderson- Impressed with Ando. Looked to get on the ball and go forward. Always positive and decent delivery into the area. However, his lack of discipline in sticking to his wing meant we never had an option on the left flank and Moloney offered nothing. Also, defensively was nowhere near good enough as Burnley controlled the side of the pitch. 6/10
Miller- Tough night for him when he was technically playing up top on his own. Had the odd chance and ruffled a few feathers but nothing major. Will probably feel hard done by that he didn't get a chance to play with a striker alongside him. 7/10
Blackstock- Put himself about and won a few flicks. Seemed to be an understanding with Tudgay as well. Looked more threatening after he came on. 7/10
Tudgay- Similarly to above, Tudgay put in another workman-like shift. Not afraid to get stuck in and showed understanding with Dexter. 7/10
Reid-  Probably should have come on earlier for me. It might be his fitness but he should be starting for me. Has the ability to spot that through ball and his delivery from dead ball situations was excellent as well. 7/10

I remember when we were in our last relegation battle in the Championship and Billy Davies came in and brought a few loan signings in. One of them was Dexter Blackstock who popped up with a beautiful volley against Bristol City which signalled our fight and passion to save ourselves. The loan signings (and Davies admittedly) changed the atmosphere and mentality of the place.

There may be no Davies this time but it would be fantastic if the loan signings could come in and lift everyone. It's a lot to ask, but it's our last hope now.

So on to our next game...oh wait. Derby away. Bugger.

I'll be there. My optimism won't be.