‘Not quite so easy on the eye, but much more easier on the heart’ – that’s my mates reaction to Forest’s victory over Ipswich at the weekend, not his latest Rock City romance.
After taking part in the whirlwind that was Villa Park last Wednesday, a visit from the league’s bottom side was the ideal fixture for Karanka’s men to settle down and get back to business.
This naivety I should have grown out of by now, after years of assuming results only to be disappointed with a 1-0 loss to Oldham Athletic – but this is a different Forest side now, a ruthless, professional one.
Despite being forced into changing Tobias Figueredo for Michael Hefele, we returned to looking solid at the back and continued our threat going forward.
Lewis Grabban’s brace, helped continue his tremendous run of form, whilst Carvalho seems to be adapting more in more to the English game – finding space to find killer passes, even with Ipswich defending so compact.
The Tractor Boys obviously came with intention, to block out the threat from wide players, Joe Lolley and Gil Dias – and by block, I mean scythe at their limbs at every opportunity.
Still though, their patience and continued running, caused all sorts of problems for Paul Lambert’s men – as the full-backs added an extra dimension to Forest’s game, Tendayi Darikwa was involved in both of the goals of course.
It always seemed secure for Aitor Karanka’s side, as a toothless and to be frank, hopeless Ipswich were disposed of clinically even before the second half had begun.
Now unbeaten in seven league matches, Nottingham Forest will play at the City Ground for the second week in a row as they take on Preston North End.
Another side, who find themselves at the wrong end of the Championship table.
Predicted Forest XI – Pantilimon, Darikwa, Hefele, Robinson, Osborn, Yacob, Colback, Cash, Carvalho, Lolley, Grabban.
After looking if anything too stocked in the defensive areas of the team, Forest are now scraping the barrel with injuries to Fox and Dawson, adding to the suspension of Figueredo.
With Karanka unlikely to change formation, Robinson will most likely slot in at centre back, where he has played previously – Ben Osborn should make his first return to the starting eleven since Norwich.
The rest of the side should stay unchanged, with goals either threatening or coming from every angle of attack.
Colback and Yacob continue to look a solid partnership, while the three behind Lewis Grabban look to be firing on all cylinders in their positions – Gil Dias’ positive performance on Saturday however, does heat up the competition for the role of right winger.
After a terrific season last year which saw Preston North End finish only two points outside of the play-off’s, all has not quite gone to plan for Alex Neill’s men this time around.
Currently in 18th place, the Lilywhites’ sluggish start to the campaign has left them distant from staking another top six push and instead, looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
The Lancashire sides last run out, was a 3-0 loss away at Birmingham City, ending an unbeaten run of nine games.
Previous starting XI (4-2-3-1) – (GK) Declan Rudd, (RB) Darnell Fisher, (CB) Jordan Storey, (CB) Paul Huntington, (LB) Josh Earl, (RCM) Paul Gallagher, (LCM) Ryan Ledson, (LAM) Brandon Barker, (CAM) Alan Browne, (RAM) Tom Barkhuizen, (CF) Louis Moult
Whilst many teams will come and adapt their style of play to frustrate Forest at the City Ground, Preston already exercise a rigid, counter attacking style.
Long balls will often be lofted into target man, Louis Moult which will then be the catalyst for a break neck Preston attack – which has proved invaluable for them this season.
Expect high pressing from Moult and the pacey Barkhuizen, who will be forcing a mistake from the Reds backline, whilst close attention will need to be paid to Alan Browne, who has been in stellar form for Alex Neill’s side this season.
Defensively however, Preston are undoubtedly very vulnerable, particularly from wide areas – shipping the second highest amount of goals in the league this season.
This fixture is of course the eve of the most crucial game so far this term, against our Direby down the road – a win at home, will of course keep the momentum of this good run going, but will also give the squad further confidence when facing Lampard’s men a week on Monday.
Three points are again expected against a team low on confidence, as an assured display against Ipswich, should see us over the line.
Picture Credit: Nottingham Forest