Sunday, 3 March 2013

Preview: Forest v Ipswich Town

After another fantastic win at in-form Sheffield Wednesday, Forest welcome The Tractor Boys to the city ground as expectation is rising faster than blood-pressure in the playoffs.

Unlucky Forest are once again up against a resurgent team - another relegation scrapping side who happen to have improved in time for their game against the Garibaldi. There are similarities to be drawn between Billy Davies and Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy, as both have rescued struggling clubs and made them unrecognisable, despite retaining mostly the same players. Like the last fixture, on paper Forest should be beating Ipswich easily, however Forest Boffin suspects it won't be that easy.

The Tractor boys have have been deservedly accused of brittleness over the past few years, their old manager Paul Jewell labelling them "mentally weak". They have thrown away leads consistently, crumbling 13 times over the past two seasons after scoring first (compared with Forest's 3 times). They have let in a disproportionate amount of goals in the last 10 minutes, 21% of goals conceded last season (Forest: 11%) and 24% this team (Forest 15%). They clearly have encountered problems standing up to pressure, with Ex-Forest Luke Chambers admitting there had been a "fear factor" at Portman Road. McCarthy has changed all that, transforming their timid defence into one of the league's sturdiest. Whether the Suffolk Jitters are lurking just around the corner we don't know - yet.
Analysis of Ipswich's results this season betrays their defensive problems but indicates an overwhelming improvement under McCarthy. They are conceding far less goals, 1.27 per game, which is still slightly high, but much better than the 2 goals per game managed under Jewell. Their mental weakness is highlighted in their reactions to going a goal down (and even their reaction to scoring themselves), see pie charts left. After going a goal up, on average they have held onto the lead 59% of the time, not too far behind Forest, but upon their opponents fighting back they have utterly capitulated a worrying 29% of the time! See the difference since McCarthy has been at Ipswich.
The stats also show that, once they concede first, they are unlikely to mount a recovery, losing in over two thirds of these games - this is a problem their new manager has been unable to solve, The City Ground does not appear to be the place to turn this around either, as the statistics show that once Forest have scored first, they have not lost on a single occasion this season. All things considered, it would seem likely that whoever scored the first goal on Tuesday night will win the game, as both teams are currently very good at protecting a lead, proven by the above illustration.
Ipswich fans are confident in their new-found defensive strength, but bemoan their lack of creativity. It appears they will prove a tough nut to crack but offer little threat coming forward save for the occasional punt towards Michael Chopra, who will be doing his best to draw fouls. I've been told by Ipswich fans that their best chance of scoring is through a set piece. 
They seem to rate young defender Tommy Smith as their brightest talent, who will be a threat from corners. He will play in a defence containing Luke Chambers, who is receiving mixed reviews, varying from the complimentary ("Chambers is solid, he's flourished a bit under the coaching of MM") to the more realistic ("Chambers has been erratic, sometimes very good, at others abysmal"). Forest loanee David McGoldrick has been playing deeper than during his prolific spell at Coventry, but is not available.
Ipswich's last game was an impressive win against Leicester, the only goal of the game gifted to them by Wes Morgan during a very rare lapse of talent. The impeccably honest McCarthy later admitted The Foxes deserved to win that game, but this proves the danger of teams like Ipswich - they are capable of beating teams dropping their standards even slightly.

As for Forest's impressive win against Sheffield Wednesday, as predicted in the last Forest Boffin preview, The Owls surrendered possession, giving Forest 58% of the ball, and proved as difficult to break down as expected - only a fantastic piece of play from the mercurial Andy Reid, the superb Simon Cox and a calm finish from Raddy Majewski breached their stubborn defences. Forest were clearly the better team, however it was one of those games we would have lost during more desperate times. The most impressive thing was the way Forest defended as Wednesday pressed for an equaliser. It was a hard working, disciplined performance, one which Davies will be looking to replicate on Tuesday.
The Reds do have some defensive problems to cope with however - Greg Halford is serving the final game of his ban, and with Daniel Ayala and Sam Hutchinson not yet fit enough, the Trickies are short of centre backs. Danny Collins was being fed energy tablets during the Sheffield Wednesday game and was visibly exhausted, so Forest Boffin is expecting Jamal Lasclles to play at least some part - maybe he'll even start?
A steely glare at our promotion rival's fixtures shows Brighton and Middlesbrough playing away to teams at the foot of the table, with Burnley hosting lowly Barnsley - we should expect these three teams to win, although there is always a surprise as Blackburn proved against Peterborough on Saturday, disastrously losing 3-2. It is therefor important we don't slip up, however we won't just be playing to keep up as four more of our rivals play each other, with Leicester facing Leeds, and Bolton hosting Blackburn.
Ultimately, there are no easy games in The Championship, but if we want to get into the playoffs, we must win games like Ipswich at home. This is, however, exactly the kind of match you end up losing - bang in form, having just won two away from home, playing some beautiful stuff, confident... just starting to believe... BANG! BRICK WALL! It's football, it happens regularly. The first goal will be vital as both teams have demonstrated their ability to defend a lead. Ipswich's recent form advises caution, but we at Forest Boffin can't help wondering, since Forest are playing so well, we can't help suspecting Chambers et al have one last disaster to get out of the way before they become a truly reliable defensive outfit. Another Raddy hat-trick? It would be nice.
Thanks for reading, thanks to the Ipswich fans from for their thoughts, and COYR!

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