Following on from a typical Forest run of games after the last international break where we took maximum points from the trickier fixtures against Luton and Derby but failed to register any points against then struggling sides Wigan and Hull; I’m hoping that we’ll hit the ground running from the latest break. Whilst it’s some crumb of comfort as a supporter that there won’t be any further international breaks for some time now, some of the players might have that back to school feeling that another holiday will be a long way over the horizon.
There’s an awful lot to be positive about as a Forest fan right now (both on and off the pitch) and I’ve got the upmost confidence in Sabri Lamouchi that he can keep things ticking over. This time last year we were similarly placed until the wheels fell off under Aitor Karanka but with Michael Dawson on his way back and hopefully Samba Sow not too far behind either, fingers crossed we can really push on up to the Christmas fixture pile up. With the emergence of Tiago Silva in midfield and the continued excellent form of Brice Samba, Joe Worrall and Matty Cash in particular, it really does feel like its the second bite of a genuine promotion push.
The next run of fixtures over the coming weeks again look tricky, starting with a trip to Ashton Gate on Saturday. Bristol’s redeveloped stadium hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Forest so I’ll take a point all day long on Saturday (but a win would be lovely wouldn’t it?).One thing is for sure is that Forest won’t want a repeat of back to back defeats on their return and up against sides in and around the play off places, this feels like a true test of our automatic promotion credentials.
Bristol once again, under Lee Johnson, are well placed in The Championship and despite a really bit of bad luck in losing Benik Afobe for the foreseeable future, I’m certain they will have another big push this season. Bar Norwich, I thought Bristol were the best side to visit The City Ground in the previous campaign, beating Forest in the midst of a cracking run of form to well and truly put the dampeners on Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge. The boys in the red shirts running out to the Robin Hood theme song wasn’t a good start but the less said about that the better..
I feeling pretty optimistic at the moment and fancy that if we’re at the races, Forest can cause upset. With Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban back on form, I’m going to predict a 2-1 Forest win.
I caught up with Bristol fan Colin Bateman for his thoughts on his side, Forest and his predictions for Saturday for this weeks away Q&A.
City’s season seems to be shaping up in a similar position being there or thereabouts in the promotion chasing pack. How is your season shaping up at the quarter point (form, style, new signings)?
Once again, the close season saw City lose some prized assets: Adam Webster joined Brighton after one stellar season in the West Country for more than £20m, young England defender Lloyd Kelly went to Bournemouth for about half that fee and club stalwart Marlon Pack moved on to rivals Cardiff, much to the surprise of many.
But City again recruited well with Hungarian international Adam Nagy filling Pack’s position, three Chelsea players (defenders Tomas Kalas and Jay Dasilva and mercurial midfielder Kasey Palmer) all making their loan moves permanent. Around £8m was splashed on French teenage midfield dynamo Han-Noah Massengo and £2m brought goalkeeper David Bentley in from Brentford. City were still in credit from the summer’s trading when striker Benik Afobe joined on loan for the seaon from Stoke.
Afobe was seemingly the final piece in the jigsaw. The team had lacked a mobile striker for some time and a keen Afobe started the season impressively with three goals in five games – then he ruptured knee ligaments in training and the wobble started. Just three wins followed in the next nine games although City remained difficult to beat.
Dasilva, Kalas and Nagy also suffered long-term injuries, and the latter pair are only just making their comebacks. It has not helped that strong target man Famara Diedhou got himself a three-match ban for kicking a Charlton player, but he will be available to face Forest.
Throughout these injuries, City have remained resilient – two defeats this season – and they have hung on to a top six place, which gives the fans belief that when everyone is fit, they can make a genuine challenge for promotion provided they find a replacement for Afobe in the January window.
From looking in from afar, you seem to be a well run club, with a young manager that has been in place for some time now. With this stability off the pitch, could this be your season to make the push to the Premier League?
Anything less than a top-six finish for Bristol City this season will be regarded as a failure, not only by the board and the supporters, but probably by Lee Johnson’s management team also.
There has been steady progress season-on-season for the Robins for four years under Johnson and the steady stewardship of the Lansdown family, whose running of the club as wealthy local benefactors is the envy of many. Now, having just missed out on a play-off place last season, the club has big ambitions this season.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Bristol outfit? Which individual players do Forest fans need to be looking out for in the Bristol side?
Lee Johnson likes to play with three centre-backs, wing-backs and two strikers. At the back, Welsh veteran Ashley Williams has been a revelation since joining as a free agent. He partners Kalas and Taylor Moore or Nathan Baker.
Rowe, a free-signing from Doncaster, has filled in solidly at left wing-back in the absence of Dasilva, while Jack Hunt and Pedro Pereira, on loan from Benfica, share the right berth.
Club favourite Josh Brownhill runs midfield and is likely to partner Nagy and Callum O’Dowda, an Irish international, in the middle. Up front Austrian international Andreas Weimann is a class act at Championship level although he is not a prolific scorer. An ever-present in the league side, he is top-scorer this campaign with six goals. He will probably partner Diedhou or Marley Watkins, who is back in favour after a year kicking his heels.
Palmer, winger Niclas Eliasson and striker Antoine Semenyo (a teenager who caught Chelseas’s eye last season) are the most likely impact subs.
Johnson has drilled the side to be hard to beat and it usually works it socks off, but the lack of creativity makes it difficult for City to break down sides, especially if they come to Ashton Gate to frustrate: Middlesbrough and Wigan being two cases in point.
Forest have just come off the back of successive wins against Luton and Derby. What do you make of us this season and which players will you be most wary of when Saturday comes?
Forest’s progress this season under a head coach who was little known in this country has surprised me, and they seem to be playing an attractive brand of football. Keep the ball moving at pace, they you will trouble City, who can be a little flat-footed at the back.
Lewis Grabban always seems to cause City problems, while Joe Lolley is a player who will have to be watched. But above all, the City fans will want to see Albert Adomah, who was and always will be a huge favourite at the Gate (even if he nicks one on Saturday).
What’s your most memorable against Forest?
I get the feeling Forest win more than they lose against City, so successes for the Robins are to be treasured. I loved the one in October 2016 when we came back from one down at home to win 2-1 with Tammy Abraham and then your old boy Jamie Paterson nabbing the winner. Happy daze.
Predictions for Saturday?
I’m going to go with a 1-1 draw.
Many thanks to Colin for his insights, the thoughts of the opposing fans is very much appreciated on the Munich and Madrid blog.