On the back of an undeserved 3-0 defeat at the hands of Steve Cotterill’s recently jilted Portsmouth, the international break is hoped to have been the perfect tonic for the new gaffer to catch his breath and really get to grips with his Nottingham Forest squad in preparation for the rest of the marathon Championship season. With Chris Gunter and Man City loanee Greg Cunningham being the only two players in our current crop to get anywhere near a sniff of international football over the past two weeks – the rest of the squad has been left to focus on any areas of weakness, and to put them right on the training field.
With Cotterill’s start at the club going better than most could have imagined, the loss to Portsmouth seemed like a routine blip in the road after what we’d achieved in recent weeks since his arrival. Add the 3 goals conceded to our previous total and you are left with an outrageous 27 in 16 games, which on the face of it screams relegation form. The manager has been quick to act though, bringing in Greg Cunningham on loan from Citeh, whilst moving Luke Chambers to right back and bringing in Joel Lynch to work alongside Wes Morgan in the centre (plus the addition of Clint Hill for a few games) forming a back four who have conceded only 5 of said 27 goals.
So with cause for optimism in our newly structured back four, what can we expect from the arrival of Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town this Saturday afternoon? Though my most treasured memories of Paul Jewell are of him helping Derby County to achieve a record lowest points total in the Premier League back in 2007-08, he now looks to have got his managerial career back on course with the Tractor Boys.
Add the 3 goals conceded to our previous total and you are left with an outrageous 27 in 16 games, which on the face of it screams relegation form.
Currently sitting in 15th position firmly looking down on us, Ipswich have had a marginally better start to their season. Despite only winning 6 out of 15 games played and starting today on the back of a 3 game losing streak, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels - a 0-1 victory against promotion favourites West Ham at Upton Park shows a well organised team that can be a distinct threat away from home. A brief look at their squad uncovers plenty of talent with bounds of Championship experience. The main threats undoubtedly being the goal machine Michael Chopra, and the knowledgeable journeyman Lee Bowyer in midfield who scored at Upton Park to knock Big Sam off his perch.
However a quick look back at our most recent head to head encounters reveals that Nottingham Forest have managed to come out on top in the last 3 games - including two wins last season – 0-1 away at Portman road and 2-0 at The City Ground. The home leg highlighted for Lewis McGugan’s world-class free kick, which rightly earned goal of the season.
Although unlikely to factor in today’s game, the news of imminent returns from injury for Dexter Blackstock, Garath McCleary and Paul Anderson, give us more reasons to be positive. Our lack of width has been a sore point within our attacking play so far this season, a problem that will hopefully curtail with Anderson’s return. Our tally of 15 goals scored this season points to our other key area of weakness, and though Marcus Tudgay looks to have recovered some of the form that saw him score 49 league goals for Sheffield Wednesday – he really could do with a convincing strike partner in the form of Ishmael Miller, Robbie Findlay or Matt Derbyshire - this lack of potency up front should provide ample opportunity for Dexter Blackstock to stake his claim after 12 months on the sidelines.
The further gelling between manager and players over the international break should help us find our feet and aid our progression up the league – though in reality we just need to hold onto the confidence that has been instilled since Cotterill’s arrival. Now that he has had a good chance to really see the task that is set out before him, today’s game gives us a good opportunity to build on what we have already achieved and get our home form back on track.
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