Blackpool come into this game after beating Crystal Palace - not an insignificant achievement. New Manager Paul Ince struggled to get his first win, but has only lost twice in his 8 games in charge, after tightening up Blackpool's defence - they have conceded only 6 under his leadership, compared to the previous 8 games when they let in 13. This is despite The Seasiders coming under fire from more attempts at their goal, especially away from home, where they allow more than 13 attempts per game (compared to 7 under Michael Appleton, and just over 10 per game under Ian Holloway). This is due to Ince getting more men behind the ball when under attack. They sit a bit deep for my liking, but to be fair it's worked so far. More on this in the key battles section, below.
Blackpool have suffered from a disastrous set of circumstances this season. They were amid the promotion favourites but have been hit by several problems. Fans of The Tangerines are scathing about their chairman Karl Oysten, blaming him for a lack of progressive thinking and hinting he doesn't release funding. They also lost a very good manager in Ian Holloway, have shuffled blindly through several sucessors, and seem to have encountered problems with want-away players. All this combined with a passing team that have to play on a pitch resembling Forest Boffin's vegetable patch (those carrots still aren't in by the way) have led to a disappointing season.
Ince likes to play with two defensive midfielders and two wide players (see the expected teams and formations, left. Click to enlarge). After studying their latest games, we at Forest Boffin expect them to stick nine players behind the ball and defend, hoping to utilise the abundant pace in their side to catch Forest on the counter attack. Tom Ince will be a constant threat, peeling off to the wing and carrying the ball towards the penalty box. I've been assured that "Ince can produce something out of nothing but if Forest double up on him, he can be ineffectual" - Seasider, from the Back Henry Street forum - however this is slightly concerning as our formation makes it difficult to double up on a winger - especially so if we're being his on the counter attack - Blackpool will look to do this constantly.
All of Blackpool's managers this season have attempted to utilise the pace of Ince, Delfounso and Phillips which is no surprise. This has tended to lead to a less patient approach to attacking, interesting to compare with what Forest have been doing. At times this season, especially under Sean O'Driscol, some fans have been frustrated at Forest "fannying around with it" - yet analysis of both team's attempts on goal for the season show the patient approach has worked better (see right). Blackpool have made far more efforts to score, with more accuracy. Their lightning attack has struck before their opposition can prepare a defence. However, the evidence, as well as a glance at the league table, suggests that Forest's patient, consolidatory approach is more effective, as The Garibaldi have needed less attempts to score, and indeed scored more goals. Thankfully Billy Davies has continued this patient approach, which leads us onto the key battles section.
Key Battle: Darlow v Gilks. We believe this game will be won and lost during the duel between the two goalkeepers and their opposite midfielders shooting from range. Both sides have totally different approaches to attacking, but ultimately will aim to do the same thing - get the ball to the edge of the area and test the keeper (see diagram, below).
As illustrated above, at home especially, Forest like to push their opponents back into their own penalty area, stretch and squeeze them, and patiently wait until space appears in front of the box, where someone will be waiting to have a shot. As soon as that space appears, the race is on to quickly pass to this player, who is able to shoot before defenders can close the gap (see the goals vs Ipswich, Brighton & Wolves, and also our article on Forest's attacking tactics.).
Blackpool take a counter attacking approach, where they put most players behind the ball (where Forest want them) and use the pace of their forward players to counter attack. Often Tom Ince finds himself roving forward, attracting the attention of the panicking defenders and either shooting or passing to other players in space (such as Matt Phillips). Whichever goalkeeper copes best with these long range shots will probably win the game for their team.
Both Forest and Blackpool will play in a way that suits their opponents - The Tangerines will love the space that sometimes appears in front of our full-backs, and the way we set up camp in our opponents half, our pitch will also help their game. However Forest are the team in form, and the amount of players a team puts behind the ball does not seem to have hindered them - the gaps always appear. As much as Forest will struggle to contain Tom Ince, Matt Gilks (who has hurt The Trickies before) will once again be busy. This game will show where both teams are and possibly be indicative of where they'll finish the season - Blackpool fans, players and staff are constantly using their pitch as a reason for their disappointing position: here is the ideal opportunity to prove that one way or the other. And if Forest can get another win, well, they will surely be playoff bound.
Thanks to the Blackpool fans from the forum www.backhenrystreet.co.uk and thanks or reading. Most of all, COYR!