Bristol City are up next for Forest on Wednesday and they’re a side that always gives us a tough game that’s for sure. In the last 10 meetings between the two sides, I had to go back to 2017 to see our last win and we’ve only managed a meagre 6 goals during those games. It feels like Gary Johnson’s team will have to conjure up a now or never performance to revive their play-off chances.
It will be interesting to see if Samba Sow gets any game time if he is indeed fit. He’s going to need wrapping up in cotton wool between now and the end of the season but you’d think if he was going to feature at Derby – he would need some minutes in his legs. Ben Watson came through 80 odd minutes on Sunday but we’ll still need to be careful with him too. Other than that, there shouldn’t be too many concerns on a personnel front. Forest simply have to get their heads down and crack on where they left off on Sunday against Huddersfield. As Sabri has said ‘it’s the money time’. We haven’t back up enough encouraging wins this season and so everything crossed we can manage it tomorrow.
I caught up with Robins fab Alfie House to gather his thoughts on Bristol City following the restart.
How have you found the restart behind closed doors as a purist and how would you summarise City’s opening games?
Obviously, it isn’t perfect behind closed doors and it seems like a lot of games lose their intensity quite quickly without the fans, but I’m just grateful to have football back after so long to be honest. One thing I would say is that I’d be really gutted to miss out on a live play-off experience as a result, as four groups of Championship fans inevitably will, but thankfully supporting City I don’t think I need to worry about that. If I had to summarise our opening two games, it would quite simply be ‘shambolic’.
In terms of the wider season, how have City faired under Lee Johnson? From an outsider perspective; it feels like you are under-achieving given last season’s improving City side.
Something should be said for the fact that we’ve had serious long-term injuries to all three of our biggest summer signings (Kalas, Da Silva and Afobe) as well as a few of our top players going out the door the other way, yet still Johnson managed to keep us within serious contention of the top six – despite poor form going into the lockdown period. It does feel a bit like Johnson selects his team via a tombola though, and after more than three years at the club it’s clear that he doesn’t know his best team or even what formation he wants to play. Fan favourite striker Afobe played the whole Wednesday game out on the left-wing for some reason, and attacking midfielder Kasey Palmer didn’t even get on the pitch in a 2-1 home loss, with LJ bringing on substitute right-back Zak Vyner as the final roll of the dice instead… There’s a distinct lack of identity that has cost us in the two returning games and could well cost us our whole season if it’s not sorted immediately.
What should Forest expect from this City side on Wednesday in terms of style of play? Which players do we need to keep an eye on?
Based on the hurt that Sunday’s loss to Sheffield Wednesday caused, there has to be some kind of reaction and you could well feel the force of that. I don’t expect us to start playing amazing free-flowing football, we haven’t consistently played that for a while, but I think Palmer might finally get a game and I expect to see some moments of quality from him. Nicolas Eliasson is also getting hatsful of assists despite being a relatively one-dimensional player and not getting as many minutes as he’d like, expect dangerous cross after cross into the box from him.
What are your thoughts on ex-Red Jamie Patterson? He never fulfilled his potential at The City Ground but showed glimpses of his talent. He was a bit of fans’ favourite until his loan move to Derby earlier in the season.
Yeah, it’s more of the same from Paterson to be honest, his moments of magic have won us a lot of games single-handedly since he joined, and even on a couple of occasions since this January. However, he is in and out of the team (Johnson tombola again) and doesn’t always consistently deliver as has been the case throughout his career. On his best days, he’s a match-winner and on his worst, I really wish he wasn’t playing, but his quality means he’s worth a gamble.
If there was a Forest player you could have at Bristol – past or present player – who would it be and why?
I’m sure you’ve probably had this answer a number of times this season, but Joe Lolley for me is an unbelievable talent. I know he won your Player of the Year award the season he joined, he plays pretty much every game and, when I’ve seen him, looks extremely dangerous. Eight goals and eight assists this season isn’t bad for a winger at all. If I could be really greedy and have a past player too, I think it’s safe to say a prime Peter Shilton would put an end to all of our recent goalkeeper problems.
What are your hopes and predictions for Wednesday’s game?
As I said, I do think (hope) there will be a reaction from City – if you saw our last two games, you’d know it can’t get any worse for us. I think there is no doubt that Forest will finish well above us this season, but on the day I’m going to suggest we sneak a draw. We can’t defend at the moment so I expect us to leak a couple goals, and with the abundance of quality attackers we’ve got – Wells, Afobe, Diedhou and Weimann as just our striker options alone – I reckon a 2-2 draw could be fitting.
Many thanks to Alfie for his thoughts, they are very much appreciated at Munich and Madrid.