Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Preview: Sheffield Wednesday v Forest

Billy Davies takes his revitalised Forest side to Hillsborough on Saturday with the fans in buoyant mood for an absolutely vital clash with Sheffield Wednesday. Recent events have caused confidence to once again rear it's ugly head around the Garibaldi, however on closer inspection The Owls may not be the pushover that could be imagined from their league position of 19th.

On paper we could have been forgiven for thinking this was - if there is such a thing in The Championship - one of the easier away games. Wednesday have been floundering in the depths all season, sinking into relative obscurity for a club of their size.
A glance at the form guide should dissolve any feelings of overconfidence. Wednesday have collected 25 points from the last 12 games, outshining Forest's 15, indeed only Watford and Cardiff can match The Owls form. For a team fighting relegation this is outstanding. Dave Jones was frustrated earlier in the season with his team's defending, since then he's sculpted a finely oiled machine that stops the opposition playing.

Owls fans seem quietly confident in their team' ability to smother and fight their way through games, claiming their side to be solid, without playing too much constructive football. At home they appear happy to concede possession and stifle, soaking up pressure and punishing the opposition when they overstretch. During the last 12 games their home possession has been only 47%, which seems very low for the third best performing team in the league. When you discount their unusual game against Brighton, a 3-1 victory in which the Seagulls were down to ten men for a full hour, their possession statistics for this period drop to 44.6%! They manage a respectable 49.6% when away from home - clearly Dave Jones has his team deliberately concede possession at Hillsborough.
Should The Owls, true to form, cede possession to Forest, we're in for an interesting and illuminating game. Wednesday are very good at what they do - they have proven so during the last few months. Ignoring table positions, you would have to make them strong favourites for this game. According to the form guide, their home form is far superior to our away form. They are unbeaten in 7 games - their results are more suited to a team fighting for automatic promotion. If Forest can win on Saturday we'll know their recent sparkling form was no honeymoon period. 
The change under Billy Davies has been remarkable. He's not yet been able to make our defence look sturdy, however coming forward the Garibaldi are unrecognisable. Billy's diamond formation has brought the best out of Raddy Majewski and allows our full backs to get forward. With the Andy Reid and Adlene Guedioura directing offensive proceedings, Forest will have no shortage of attacking options. A tough defensive team such as Sheffield Wednesday will provide the acid test we've all been waiting for. On Sunday morning, we'll know whether Forest have a chance of promotion this season.
A glance at the fixtures of Forest's closest rivals for the last playoff place leaves little room for points to be dropped at Hillsborough. With the exception of Middlesbrough, all of our rivals have a good chance to win. Brighton play Huddersfield (we all saw how The Terriers cope with passing, attacking football), Leeds are at home against a Millwall side still relatively toothless after losing Henderson & Wood, Bolton travel to Barnsley, and Blackburn are at home to bottom side Peterborough. It's not inconceivable that all of those results will go against us. Even 'boro have a chance now that they have top boy Scott McDonald back from injury. If Blackburn win heavily we could possibly drop to a depressing 11th - such is the nature of The Championship.
So Forest have a massive game this weekend, probably the biggest game of the season - but arguably every game will be bigger than the last while we still have promotion hopes. The trip to Sheffield will be no easy affair however, against a team geared to repress attacking flair - Forest's strength. Their side includes ex-Forest man David Prutton, who Wednesday fans seem impressed with - Prutts is said to be a major player in their defensive gameplan, hopefully this former Tricky won't come back to haunt us. Our opponents are not just a defensive obstacle - they have a sting in their tale in the form of Leroy Lita, of whom their fans appear quietly confident. This all adds up to a difficult task but one Forest should not be daunted with considering the magic Billy Davies has worked so far - if we're good enough for promotion we'll come out with a necessary three points.
Cheers to the Sheffield Wednesday fans I queried on Owlsonline, and genuine thanks for reading. Feel free to leave me a note to say whether you enjoyed this article, or even whether you found it boring, annoying or poorly written, and follow me on Twitter for notification of new articles.

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