Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest meet in both sides final fixture before Christmas.
Both sides have had mixed form going into the game although Huddersfield may well be the more confident. The Terriers have shown signs of recovery over recent weeks, following the inevitable dip of form after Preston ended their unbeaten streak. A late victory at Charlton was followed by a draw at Wigan and Danny Cowley and his players will be hoping to pick up 3 points that may just move them away from the relegation zone.
Forest haven’t won in 4, drawing two and losing two including a 4-0 mauling suffered at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday last time out. Nevertheless, they find themselves just outside of the playoffs and will hoping to be in and around there come May.
Huddersfield go into the game with a bare thread squad, manager Danny Cowley speaking on numerous occasions about how his squad is unbalanced and he will look to plug the gaps come January. However, until then he has to make do with what he has. He is boosted by the return of the experienced Danny Simpson whose inclusion allows Juninho Bacuna to affect play further forward.
Forrest have a large Portuguese contingent with their main dangerman being number 10 Joao Carvalho, a Benfica academy graduate whose low centre of gravity and eye for a pass can cause opposition defences huge issues. However, he has been labelled a luxury player and missing when the going gets tough.
Danny Cowley’s first 11 for the game is filled with experience as Simpson, Hogg, Kachunga, Schindler, Mounie and Stankovic all have over 100 games at the top level across Europe. Despite this, their bench is made up of academy graduates with only Josh Koroma having played professional games before this season.
Forest line up without their star player Carvalho who only makes the bench, but still have a very strong side. Lewis Grabban is an experienced marksman at this level even managing double figures in a dire Sunderland side not too long ago. Ex-town player Joe Lolley will be familiar and will also cause issues. Winger Tiago Silva is highly rated by both the club and fans alike and will bring a different challenge when compared to most other wingers at this level.
The result for me all depends on which Nottingham forest side turns up. Forest are one of the most inconsistent sides in the championship and could turn up and batter town, or like last week they could concede and crumble and be hit for 4 again. If Town stick to the game plan Cowley sets they will have a good chance of getting the 3 points heading into Christmas and a big 6 pointer away at resurgent Middlesbrough. Who knows, if they play well Cowley might give them the 25th off.
Pre match it became evident how many fans Forest had brought with the queue for the away section as long as I have seen it, ultimately filling the whole of the abzorb stand
Town should have gone in front early on, Bacuna with an inviting free kick which Mounie just couldn’t keep down but he should have scored.
After this however Forest took the ascendancy with Grabban and Sammy Ameobi both going close, Ameobi getting to the by-line on numerous occasions and teeing up Grabban who either spurned the chance or was denied. Ameobi came the closest to breaking the deadlock, firing just wide across Grabara’s goal twice.
It was Town however who took the lead after a corner which Forest failed to deal with. Mounie’s header was volleyed by Chelsea loanee Trevor Chalobah, the Forest block falling straight to Schindler who hit it true into the corner to spark pandemonium around the John Smiths stadium. It was his 2nd goal of the season following his goal at Barnsley at the end of October.
After a physical first half, both the first team coaches found themselves in a heated dispute, Cowley appearing to gesture to Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi to sit down which seemed to antagonise him and a fracas ensued.
Into the 2nd half and Town got off to the perfect start, Grant’s deep corner was met by Mounie who kept his header down and gave Samba in the Forest goal no chance. On his 3rd start of the season Mounie looked a constant threat and deserved his first goal since he notched against Wolves in February
Karlan grant then went close twice. The first shot going just wide of Samba’s top right-hand post. The second was after a great one two between him and Bacuna before Towns number 7 cut it back to him and he forced a great point blank save from Samba.
Forest got a way back into the game out of the blue following a corner which looked like it was too short, but Joe Worrall made a smart late run from the edge of the box arriving at the front post to head in unopposed. It was smart thinking and a great header from a player who hadn’t scored in 2 years prior.
From then on in Forest pushed and Town struggled to get out. They went close on a few occasions, former Town winger Joe Lolley having two good shots but found Kamil Grabara equal to them. Forests best chance came from Matty Cash who creeped in round the back post for a diving header, the ball destined for the bottom corner but Grabara denied him with his feet. From the resulting corner Forest came close again, centre half Tobias Figueredo heading wide despite teammate Ryan Yates being in a better position to score.
Ultimately it was too little too late for Forest whose promotion hopes take a dent even though they could and should have taken something from the game. For Town it moves them 6 points clear of the relegation zone and continues their recent revival. It’s a boxing day trip to Middlesbrough for Town and Hull away for Forest.
Forest manager Lamouchi spoke in his press conference about how his team need to start quicker and that he felt his side deserved a point. He spoke about how his side should have been ahead but allowing it to go to 2-0 meant a mammoth task ahead. “
Danny Cowley in his press conference focused on the difficulty of the win “if we had found the 3rd we would have had a calm end to the game. Game turns on its head when they score. Players chose to hang in. We gave the ball up too easily and allowed them to mount attack after attack”.
On Forest’s physical approach “They lost 4-0 last time and they came here to kick us, and we decided to fight back. I was disappointed and felt a lack of respect. I was just trying to sort it out, asking him (Lamouchi) to manage his staff, we were all having a go. (referring to the scuffle at the end) I was breaking it up, I was in a relieved mood and I wasn’t ready to fight.
On his players, “We stood up for ourselves and I’m proud of the players. That’s got to be the youngest bench in Town history, only had 11 fit first team players. You’ve got to have minerals and only the fittest survive. Nobody is coming here and steamrolling us”.
On the goals, “we finally scored from a corner. Me and Nicky used to have a red folder of routines at Lincoln and we scored about 40% of our goals at Lincoln from set pieces. We’ve worked on them and it paid off. We got the routine right, we got Mounie free and Schindler smashes it in the postage stamp”.