If you go down in the woods today, you could be in for a surprise – Ipswich and Forest have had contrasting campaigns so far, but don’t assume this game will go with the form-book.
Town know too well the pain of Championship playoff heartbreak when you`ve finished just below the automatic promotion places. Nottingham Forest are the latest side to experience this disappointment, losing to Blackpool despite finishing 3rd, 9pts ahead of the Tangerines. Since then, things haven`t gone so well; this campaign has seen just 3 wins so far for Billy Davies’ side, currently occupying 13th place – not what many had expected.
However, don`t be lulled into a false sense of security. Believe it or not, Forest are only 3pts worse off than they were this time last year, when a similarly poor start was followed by their impressive rise up the table. That was helped in no small part by an astonishing run without defeat at the City Ground, where the East Midlands side went 18 Championship matches unbeaten and dropped just 4 points between Blackpool’s victorious visits in September 2009 and May 2010. Indeed, aside from defeats against Ian Holloway’s side, Forest have not lost to any other team at home in over a year – including 6 matches this season. What their underwhelming start boils down to is something Town are all too familiar with: too many draws. 7 out of 12 in fact, which is more than any other Championship side.
What this does show however is Ipswich will have their work cut out if they are to return to winning ways at the City Ground. It has been a week to forget for Roy Keane’s team, suffering two successive 2-1 defeats to Coventry and Watford. The slip leaves Town 5 places and 2pts ahead of Forest, so a third straight defeat would see them leapfrogged by the hosts. Having suffered their second-heaviest defeat of last season in their last visit to Nottingham in April, travelling supporters can only pray they aren’t in for a repeat.
After a poor week for Ipswich, Roy Keane has highlighted the areas that his team must improve upon if they are to maintain the early pressure on the playoff places thie season. The problems were all too evident in the last two matches, particularly Tuesday night’s trip to Watford.
‘First of all, when you go away from home you have to make sure you are difficult to beat. We need to cut out the silly goals we have been conceding lately’, Keane told the Ipswich Official Website. ‘We’ve got to be more clinical in front of goal as well. At the start of the season, we were not creating that many chances but we were taking them. Against Coventry we had 20 shooting opportunities but scored one goal.’
‘You can criticise the strikers but we also need to be a bit better with the service into them. We also need goals from other areas of the park. David Norris has done well in that respect but there is nothing stopping the others chipping in.’
Sounds like there is room for improvement all over the field then! But these comments are unlikely to impress fans much – knowing the problems is one thing, but solving them is quite another, and the combination of poor finishing with sloppy defending was Town’s undoing for much of last season. An improvement is definitely needed, and quick.
Nottingham Forest Team News:
Billy Davies will need to decide how he is to fill the defensive gap left by Ryan Bertrand. The left-back received his fifth booking of the season in their last game against Middlesbrough and will sit out Saturday’s match through suspension. Joel Lynch or perhaps Chris Cohen may therefore be utilised in this position for the visit of Town. The hosts will also be without injured frontmen Nathan Tyson and Norwich’s favourite extra-terrestrial, Robbie Earnshaw(!)
Player to watch: Lewis McGugan
Forest have struggled with injuries to their forward players this season, so it is probably just as well that they have uncovered a goalscoring presence further back. Lewis McGugan has managed to find the net six times in his last seven outings including the midweek win over Middlesbrough, making him Forest’s top goalscorer so far this season ahead of even Dexter Blackstock. It is the kind of threat from midfield that Town have benefitted from this season in the form of David Norris, so Keane’s team will need to be wary when they come up against it at the City Ground on Saturday.
Ipswich Town Team News:
Marton Fulop is still rated doubtful having missed the trip to Watford with a back problem. Brian Murphy will most likely continue in goal therefore following a strong performance at Vicarage Road in which he was very unfortunate to find himself beaten twice. Keane is likely to change things in defence where Tommy Smith in particular struggled at Watford, perhaps bringing him back into the middle in place of Damien Delaney. Connor Wickham and Carlos Edwards are pushing for starting positions having shone after coming on from the bench on Tuesday, while a similarly impressive performance from fellow substitute Ronan Murray may lead him to feature again at some point at the City Ground.
Player to watch: Carlos Edwards
With Forest missing their regular left back, we’ve gone for Carlos Edwards as our potential Man to Watch for this game. The Trinidad midfielder was one of the stars of Town’s early success this season, and came off the bench against Watford to play a vital role in the build-up to David Norris’ goal. His performance on Tuesday could earn him back his place in the starting lineup, and if he can put on the kind of show he did earlier in the campaign, he could hopefully exploit Forest’s weakened full-back position… much like Watford did to Town in midweek!
FLC – (3rd) Nottingham Forest 3-0 Ipswich (13th)
10 April 2010
Nottingham Forest: Chambers 47, Moussi 57, Earnshaw 76
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Chambers (Perch 61), Morgan, Wilson, Gunter, Anderson (Majewski 75), Cohen, Moussi, Earnshaw, Tyson (Boyd 81), Blackstock
Ipswich: B Murphy, Delaney (Smith 54), McAuley, Leadbitter, Norris, Peters, Colback (Edwards 53), O’Connor, Walters, D Murphy, Wickham (D Healy 68)
I’m travelling up to Nottingham for this one, so having been distinctly unimpressed with our displays in the last two matches, I will not be happy if this ends up being another 3 points dropped! I was also at the City Ground when we were trounced in April, so my optimism is not exactly sky high as things stand! Nonetheless, the team has surprised me at times this season and we are certainly capable of getting a result, so anything can happen. With Forest’s home record and our dodgy recent form though, I just don’t think it will go our way!
Prediction: We could be getting found out, y’know. Let’s just hope we can turn it around soon… Forest 2-0 Ipswich.
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