Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Wat's Next

It had to happen eventually. After a start to the season of 11 matches unbeaten, Nottingham Forest finally succumbed to their first defeat, going down 2-1 away at Cardiff City on Saturday. The league schedule doesn't allow much time for dwelling on your sorrows though, and what better way to bounce back than to put one over on the current league leaders - Watford - in their own back yard?

If that's to happen though, Forest will have to play better than they have in recent matches. Not that the performance against Cardiff was totally abject - it wasn't; but a strong start and finish unfortunately sandwiched a lacklustre middle and a short spell of defensive lapses resulted in conceding two goals, a handicap which ultimately proved insurmountable.

For the second match in succession, Forest are facing a team who may be buoyed by 'new manager syndrome,' though at Watford this season that seems to be a weekly occurrence. Current incumbent Slavisa Jokanivic is their ninety-second fourth gaffer of the season, replacing Billy McKinlay, who in turn replaced Oscar Garcia, who in.......well, you get the picture.

Still, this state of constant off-the-field flux doesn't seem to have overly harmed the on-the-field performances, as an impressive 3-0 away at Sheffield Wednesday last time out saw the Hornets replace Norwich City at the Championship summit.

As always in this league, the opposition will present a stern test, with the striking duo of Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra up there with the finest in the division. The Czech forward, in his second loan period at Vicarage Road, was a real thorn in Forest's side during his first spell and the likes of Michael Mancienne and Kelvin Wilson will have their hands full for sure. With players of the quality of Almen Abdi and Ikechi Anya in their lineup as well, Watford can offer more than just Deeney and Vydra as a threat.

Forest will be missing the suspended Henri Lansbury, with the midfielder having picked up his fifth booking of the season (yes, already) against the RedBluebirds on Saturday. Hopefully the enforced absence will provide a wake-up call though, as so far this season, Lansbury hasn't yet hit the heights we know he's capable of. At least (barring any warm-up-related calamities) David Vaughan will be able to take his place. One would also imagine that Britt Assombalonga, who Watford released a few seasons ago, will be motivated to show his former employers just what they're missing.

Whether or not Stuart Pearce decides to play Matt Fryatt in support of Britt tonight, or go for more midfield solidity, remains to be seen. Whatever the team, this will be yet another stern test of Forest's promotion credentials. Win, and Saturday's reverse will be little more than an unpleasant memory; but lose again and the gap to Watford would be six points. Not insurmountable of course, but more than would be desired. I'm sure Pearce will be up for the challenge - let's hope the players are too.

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