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Lancashire Red: Sweet Dilemmas

18 January 2014

A quadruple ‘F’ warning, I think I can feel coming on. Fun For Forest Fans, just as the season starts hotting up. There were two Reds fans I had to inform they’d missed a treat today, along with a Rovers fan friend of mine who’d declined an offer of a lift to the game and ultimately glad she never bothered! Having sat out the cup game against The Hammers, yet still pointing out we needed to save score lines like that for the league, today was pretty much that kind of day where someone was going to be on the receiving end of something big. Prior to today, the only comfortable win this season so far was the 3-0 beating of The Trotters (and look what happened to them today), and of the quartet of home fixtures to look forward to this was – on paper at least – considered the toughest. And with good reason, considering Blackburn’s recent run of form (Wednesday’s cup game at City excepted), the likely inclusion of a prolific striker of the calibre we seek (more of which later), and our injury-hit squad subject to another severe test with more enforced changes. What with Lascelles suspended plus Hobbs and Lichaj injured, the back line looked more than a tad makeshift, with Mr Versatile (Halford) relinquishing striker duties to fill in alongside Collins working his way back to the form enjoyed before he was injured in the autumn.

‘We must be at our best,’ said King Billy.  And we were, pretty much. Wow, was it fun!

Fixture
The Championship, Saturday 18th January 2014, KO 1500hrs
Nottingham Forest 4 – 1 Blackburn Rovers
Venue
The City Ground
Weather/Conditions

Dry with gentle breeze blowing straight at Trent End; murky half-light right from kick-off.
Away fans

About 1300, some hundred-odd of them with little sense of timing, still taking their seats as the game kicked off.
Timekeeping
Punctual kick-off! So punctual in fact, that the whistle went whilst Mull of Kintyre/City Ground chant was still in mid-flow. Previously unheard of.
The Match
Then just as the home support began to get restless the game took another direction when a brilliant run by Pato, literally dancing past three defenders in succession, put the game beyond doubt. A truly fabulous goal to cap another MOTM performance. After this it was time to enjoy us toy with a wilting Blackburn, see Vaughan and Mackie depart to standing ovations and jeer off Chris Taylor, clearly the villain of the day and making way for David Dunn who surely must be collecting his bus pass any day now. Rovers’ changes were clearly ill-considered as Dann then had to come off, leaving his side down to ten men for the last few minutes, time enough for Reid to celebrate his new contract in front of his fans with an injury time 20-yarder into the top corner which was easily the icing on the cake. Job done. Delirious fans. Happy manager.
Looking good. Only the game then took an interesting turn when a series of failed clearances from a long throw allowed Rovers to pull one back three minutes later. Thankfully we don’t concede many of these nowadays, unlike a couple of years ago, though this was clearly against the run of play when Marshall unleashed a fine bending shot from 20 yards and beyond Darlow’s despairing dive. Yet it was not until the start of the second half that Rovers entered their best spell of the game in which we struggled to get the ball out of our half. Their intention was shown with the introduction of their prize asset Jordan Rhodes just on the hour mark, though he as good as walked straight into Collins’ superglue-lined pocket and combined with the lack of service from anyone in a Rovers shirt he might as well have stayed on the bench.
20 minutes later and we were two up – another penalty, no less. The last time I can recall us getting two pens in one game – certainly at home – was that encounter with Preston 14 years ago when their lack of discipline saw them throw away an early advantage and finish the game with nine men, resulting in referee Barry Knight being something of a protected species thereafter in these parts. Pato’s dainty footwork had completely fooled Henley into a lunge, and there was no doubt whatsoever about this one. Lansbury lifted this one straight down the middle, though it could have been interesting had he missed since Taylor was clearly encroaching in the D, and since he’d already been booked might well have found himself well on his way back to Ewood Park by HT.
Apart from one brief spell in the opening exchanges when a dangerous-looking cross sailed across Darlow’s goal to be met by no-one, the first half was pretty much all Forest. It was pretty high-tempo stuff right from the off with some excellent crisp passing, especially in midfield where a resurgent Vaughan had the home support launching into chants of ‘sign him up!’ The game was only 15 minutes old when Lansbury running at pace onto a long forward ball went down in a challenge with Hanley. Penalty. I’ve seen the replay and I have to admit we were lucky with the decision, though I guess we may have been due one of those to go our way after being denied a couple of months ago. Rovers’ lack of protest at the decision was more than compensated by attempted gamesmanship by the hairy monster of Chris Taylor, for which he was rightly booked. Lansbury struck the ball low with some venom, which is a good job really since Eastwood got to it, only for the sheer pace to send it into the bottom corner. Still, it was no more than we deserved, even though the game was young, and with the well-taken chances by Vaughan (excellent today) and Cox we may well have been in front already. Halford (today deputising for Lascelles at the back) also had a shot, but his lack of experience as a striker was evident, sending the ball from 20 yards into the Bridgford Upper, much to the amusement of those fans watching in the lower section.
Highlights
Another display of dazzling football by Forest, especially during the first and last 20 minutes of the game, made all the more enjoyable by having so many goals to show for it – at last!
Lowlights

Lansbury picking up his tenth booking will mean missing the next two games (good job one of those is a cup tie!) and of course Leicester, QPR and D3rby (courtesy of one P Bamford of all people) just had to win also today, didn’t they!
Hero

Today was one of those days when everyone bar none looked good. Two players stand out though: Paterson is proving something of a revelation, continuing where he left off last week and for his footwork to reward him with a fifth goal in three games; Another sublime performance by Darlow with several vital saves.
Zero

Certainly no-one in a Forest shirt. Rovers’ Chris Taylor probably gets this today for his petulant gamesmanship and generally skating on thin ice.
RefereeDarren Deadman – I know I’ve moaned about this ref in the past, but today he was excellent, and that’s not because he awarded us two spot kicks, however aggrieved Blackburn may have felt. Showed restraint with bookings, yet stamped on gamesmanship quickly by booking Taylor prior to the first penalty. Linesmen were a little dozy, mind.
Entertainment Value
8.5/10 – this game was a great advert for Championship football, and became more open as it progressed, even if it ceased to be a contest for the final quarter.

5 = Relegation fodder
4 = Flirting with danger
3 = Mid-table
2 = Playoffs
1 = Automatic
Promotion Rating
2 – Only because Leicester, D3rby and QPR all won, leaving us no nearer to 2nd spot, though if this run continues (and on today’s performance there’s no reason why it shouldn’t) it will be us who capitalises if/when our neighbours slip up, provided of course we can get something from the return matches against the aforementioned, as well as those vile denizens of Turf Moor.

That makes four home wins in a row, and there’s no reason why that run should not continue, so long as we’re not just raising our game against strong opposition then sitting back and ending up on our backsides – a timely reminder as the likes of Yeovil looms large.

So what next? With all the doubt surrounding Hobbs now past, and assurances from Fawaz well documented in today’s programme, those sought-after signings may yet materialise. The big dilemma of course is who will fit the bill. Are we really likely to capture someone of the calibre of Jordan Rhodes? I’d say it’s unlikely unless Blackburn et al are that desperate to sell, but on today’s evidence I can’t see Fawaz being remotely interested in shelling out the millions for a striker who looked very ordinary both times we’ve faced him this season, it doesn’t seem good business sense. It’s undeniable we need firepower, but not at the expense of what we currently have, particularly if the buzz factor prevails. I know it’s been said before, but I’d happily go for a certain person with a proven record for goal-poaching. He may not be the paciest of strikers, but he’s delivered the goods for us, the fans love him and once again he’s as good as without a club. Oh, and his name is Billy Sharp.

As an impending house move has ruled out my attending the cup tie against my current home town, Lancashire Red coverage will resume at the Yeovil fixture.

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