Welcome to the latest from the banks of the River Trent. Our season is finally underway and I am really enjoying the save. I have remained true to my favoured formation 4-3-3 or 4-1-2-2-1 whichever way you interpret the shape. It’s taken me an age to get in to the season probably spending the most time ever in Pre Season laying down the foundations of what I hope will be a long stay in Nottingham. I wrote a brief post about our Pre-Season here if you want to take a look.
The Championship 2019-2020
The bookmakers have us at 8-1 to win the League predicting that we will finish in 8th place. So let’s see if we can defy the odds and put together a promotion charge.
An undefeated opening month of the season started with a top performance in our opening game at the City Ground with a 2-0 win against West Bromwich Albion who are one of the fancied clubs to be pushing for promotion come the end of the season. Goals from Lewis Grabban and Brennan Johnson in the second half was enough to take all three points against Slaven Bilic’s men.
If the opening game win was something to shout about then the trip to Ellend Road to face Bielsa’s fancied Leeds United had the travelling Garibaldi Reds talking wax lyrical about our 3-1 win with all three of out goals coming in a stunning opening thirty minutes from Sammy Ameobi and a double from Lewis Grabban to stun our Yorkshire hosts.
Midweek Carabao Cup 1st round action gave me the opportunity to rotate our starting XI against Accrington Stanley at the Crown Ground. The League One side pushed us all the way with us needing a penalty shootout win to take us in to the next round after a 2-2 draw in the regulation 90 minutes. Our goals were made in Portugal with both on loan Benfica winger Jota and Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Rafa Mir both opening their accounts for the club.
We dropped our first points of the season at the City Ground when Birmingham City rolled in to town and battled us in to a 0-0 draw. Pep Clotet’s side played their part in a thoroughly entertaining goalless draw with Jude Bellingham and Fran Villalba starring for the Blues.
We got back to winning ways when we travelled to the Valley to face Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic side who won promotion from League One last season. Goals coming from Tiago Silva and Tobias Figueiredo in a 2-0 win. Another two Portuguese players on the scoresheet reminiscent to Wolverhampton Wanderers and their Portuguese warriors.
We stayed South for our visit to Craven Cottage on the banks of the Thames where we faced Scott Parker’s bookies favourites Fulham FC. A real test for us but my boys were outstanding from back to front we looked solid and forced a 1-0 win thanks to a John Bostock goal in the 34th minute. We also kept our 4th clean sheet in 5 league games so a solid start all round.
Back home on Trentside the first of two home games would see Gerhard Struber bring his Barnsley side in to Robin Hood country for the Carabao Cup 2nd round which after just 10 minutes wished he had not bothered after Samba Sow in the 7th minute and a double in the 9th and 10th minutes from ‘Uncle’ Albert Adomah was enough to give us a 3-1 win to send the Tykes back to South Yorkshire ending their aspirations of advancing any further in the cup.
In the last game of the month Alex Neil would bring his Preston North End to the City Ground and only had a 2nd half goal to celebrate as we beat the Lileywhites 2-1 with goals from Joe Lolley and Claudio Yacob that rounds off a very good first month to the season in which we have won 5 games and drawn 1 whilst keeping 4 clean sheets in the league.
A 1-0 home win in Wales against Steve Coopers Swansea would be the highlight of a poor month ahead but we celebrated this victory with a Joe Lolley goal that keeps us on top of the Championship. Our 2nd meeting in a month against Barnsley at the City Ground ended in a 0-0 draw after we dominated our South Yorkshire visitors but to no avail leaving the City Ground faithful frustrated.
Premier League Burnley came to Nottingham for the Carabao Cup 3rd round and inflicted our first defeat upon us under my watch in a game that saw a rotated side dominated from start to finish by Sean Dyche’s Clarets. It’s a reality check for us and a reminder that the Premier League will be a tough place for us if we get there.
A 0-0 draw at Stoke City meant that we ended the month with just 1 goal scored in 4 games however we kept 3 clean sheets in our 3 league games. A dip in form but not a major disappointment but something to reflect on as we head back up the A50 from the Brittania stadium.
Something of a dilemma though is the form of Arjanet Muric our on loan keeper from Manchester City who saved 2 penalties this month to earn us the share of the points in both the Barnsley and Stoke games which makes it very difficult to give Brice Samba a run in goal.
Five Championship games scheduled for this month and we kicked off with a trip to Lancashire and Ewood Park to play Blackburn Rovers who are struggling in 8th place. It would however give us the chance to see Ben Brereton our former forward and Academy player who was sold to Rovers before me landing the job in Nottingham. The game itself saw a goal very early in the game to give Rovers the lead and then an equaliser courtesy of Alfa Semedo just four minutes from time to earn us a 1-1 draw.
The visit of high flying Brentford FC to the City Ground stirred the boys up to produce our best display of Silky Football to date beating Thomas Frank’s side 5-0 with four of the goals all coming in the first 45 minutes courtesy of Joe Lolley, João Carvalho, Matty Cash and Ben Watson who scored a fantastic free kick. Michael Dawson added a goal of his own in the second half to finish 5-0 winners that sends a message to to the rest of the league that we are serious contenders for a promotion party.
Now a journey to Wigan Athletic after the International break which incidentally saw Brennan Johnson get his first Welsh Cap. We made the journey and ended up being victorious running out eventual winners by a 4-2 scoreline which saw Joe Lolley get on the scoresheet twice with a goal in each half. The Portuguese duo of Joao Carvalho and Rafa Mir also found the back of the net. Carvalho is looking very sharp after returning from injury and long may it continue.
A disappointing 0-0 draw under the floodlights against Grant McCann’s Hull City followed. We had enough possession and chances to win the game but unfortunately we came up short giving the chasing pack chance to close the gap.
We ended the month with a top of the table clash on Trentside against Reading FC who are level on points with us in 2nd place. I was looking at an injury crisis in the right full back area with Darikwa out long term and both Jenkinson and Cash nursing injuries I turned to the Academy and brought Jordan Lawrence Gabriel in to the starting line up and he didn’t disappoint putting in a man of the match performance in a superb 3-0 win with a first half interception and through ball that led to Lewis Grabban open the scoring. Joe Lolley and Joe Worrall put the game to bed after Alfa Semedo had been red carded.
Top Of The Table Clash
Academy Star Shines
Jordan Lawrence Gabriel joined the academy here at Nottingham Forest back in 2015 after leaving Southend United. He came in to the side after injuries sidelined Darikwa, Cash and Jenkinson. The 21 year old showed his talent and potential with a man of the match performance on his 1st team debut at the City Ground.
Line Up v Reading
My favoured shape the 4-3-3 / 4-1-2-2-1 and a debut for Lawrence-Gabriel at right back. Carvalho playing in an advanced playmaker role is showing his quality in the middle of the park for us after returning from injury.
Table (End Of October 2019)
Well if you would have said after 14 games that we would top the table undefeated and with just 5 goals conceded I would have snapped your hand off. I do know however what this Division is like and I wont be taking anything for granted because we are just a quarter of the way through the season at this point.
A nostalgic trip down to Kenilworth Road to face bottom club Luton Town, the first of 5 Championship games this month ended in a 4-0 win for us with goals from Tiago Silva, Jota, Ben Watson and Rafa Mir. The game was sewn up by half time after a superb showing from our boys.
Nothing in the East Midlands stirs emotions up like the clash with Derby County and the first one of the season would be battled out on Trentside. Phillip Cocu is trying to develop his philosophy down the A52 not too different from my Ajax inspirecd philosophy. With the City Ground sold out we went in to battle and totally dominated our rivals and got our reward when Alfa Semedo put us 1-0 up in the 35th minute a lead which we took in to the half time break. Carvalho and Silva dominated the midfield and it never looked like Derby would score with 1 shot on goal from the opening 90 minutes and then in injury time or time added on Rafa Mir got our 2nd which was nothing short of what we deserved and a 2-0 win in my first derby.
After the International break we headed for Ashton Gate, I hate that flipping bridge near Bristol especially when you are sat in traffic on it. Anyway Bristol City were waiting for us and they are on the back of 5 straight wins. It was a tough game but another one of our Portuguese players Tobias Figueiredo headed home the only goal of the game to give us a 1-0 win.
Loftus Road on a Wednesday night and a potential tricky game against ex Forest boss Mark Warburton’s Queens Park Rangers. We got off to the best possible start when the in form Joào Carvalho put us in front in the 8th minute but it was fellow Portuguese teammate Yuri Ribeiro who grabbed the headlines with a stunning strike to give us a 2-0 lead.
We added to the lead when Chema put us 3-0 up and then our hosts pulled a goal back and pushed for a second however they were leaving graps at the back and we punished them with a Joe Lolley solo goal 4-1. Warburton’s Ranger’s never stopped and got a second to make a game of it. I was not happy and yelled at the boys to concentrate.
Full back Carl Jenkinson popped up next to score our fifth of the game and round off a very good individual performance.
We kick start December off with the bad news that Lewis Grabban will be sidelined for 3 months at least whilst he receives specialist treatment. The news leaves us or should I say myself with a decision to make with just Rafa Mir and Zach Clough left in the 1st team squad to lead the line. Whilst Grabban as not been prolific for us this season his work rate and contribution as been first class with an average rating of well over 7 so far.
We are just a month away from the transfer window that we could look to bring somebody in either short term or a longer term option or do I put my trust in who we already have at the club. I think we may also have the option of recalling Tyler Walker from his loan spell at Lincoln City.
I decided to wait until the end of the month to make my decision and focused on our first game a trip to Millwall which is never an easy game in the New Den. We ended up coming away from the game with a 1-1 draw thanks to a Matty Cash goal on the stroke of half time.
Another draw followed this time at the City Ground against Middlesbrough 2-2 after we had thrown a 2 goal lead away after Jota had but us in the driving seat with a quick fire first half double but unfortunately Britt Assombalonga our former frontman had come back to haunt us.
Sheffield Wednesday who are draw specialists were the next team to rock up at the City Ground and we had Tiago Silva and Jota to thank for a solid 2-0 win in front of a near capacity crowd who are enjoying the football we are producing which as now taken us to our 22 game unbeaten run from the start of the season.
A goalless draw in the John Smith Stadium against our hosts Huddersfield Town not only gave Leeds Utd a chance to close the gap on us but it also got me thinking a little deeper about our forward options especially now that Zach Clough was also on the treatment table and Rafa Mir being our only fit option.
A Boxing day short trip to play Hull City ended in a solid 3-0 win Rafa Mir grabbing a brace in the second half adding to a Joe Lolley first half strike. 24 games and counting and with just one game left to play before the turn of the year we are sitting pretty at the top of the table.
So to the final game of 2019 the City Ground played host to Wigan Athletic who are under the guidance of Paul Cook who is doing a great job. Wigan gave us one hell of a game and it was our Portuguese contingent that saw us through to a 3-2 victory with goals coming by the way of a Jota double and a João Carvalho strike early in the second half.
I could not have wished for a better start to the job at Nottingham Forest and finishing the year at the top of the table undefeated after 25 games keeping 17 clean sheets along the way.
So Brexit is finally upon us and we have been updated on the decision to bring in a 17 foreign player limit that comes in to force in December 2020.
Well that wraps up this blog post that covers the first part of our season in the Championship. In the second half of the season we have an FA Cup 3rd round tie at Anfield against an old foe Liverpool. Our prime focus though will be set firmly on navigating our way out of the Championship and in to the Premier League.