clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Match preview: Norwich v Forest

Big game. Massive. A whopper. In the words of our friend and yours, Norwich fan Daniel Brigham, a whopper with cheese, fries, and those little chilli-bite things you get...

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Nick Miller: This one's going to be a whopper and no mistake. I don't know quite what to make of Norwich at the moment. Obviously you've been brilliant since Neil took over, but one win in the last four including a defeat to Millwall...

Daniel Brigham: A whopper with cheese, fries, and those little chilli-bite things you get.

Norwich are hard to fathom at the moment. Won six on the bounce, including really impressive wins over Wolves, Watford and Ipswich, but have since stuttered. It was Wigan we lost to - 1-0 at home - and Millwall is our only victory in the last four. No coincidence that our dip has coincided with striker Lewis Grabban's injury, and he might be out for the rest of the season, which is a Major Loss. He was reborn under Alex Neil, and is our only striker who suits the quick-passing game Neil likes to play. Cameron Jerome is too lumpy for the system and Gary Hooper is too slow (although a lot of Championship teams would kill for that sort of depth...).

So I'm a bit anxious ahead of tomorrow's game as Forest appear to be reborn under Freedman, which is incredibly satisfactory for someone like myself who has utterly failed to warm to Stuart Pearce. What's Freedman changed?

NM: He's adopted the maverick policy of playing players in their proper position and kept dicking about to a minimum (apart from playing Michael Mancienne anywhere but centre-back). Crazy, but it seems to be working. He's also getting the best from people like Henri Lansbury, which is incredibly important since Britt Assombalonga's knee went kaboom. What's Neil changed from the glory days of Neil Adams?

DB: This maverick policy must be catching, because that's exactly what Neil has done. Put players where they are best at playing. Under Adams the players never really seemed to know their roles - for example both of our sitting midfielders, Alex Tettey and Bradley Johnson, would bomb forward together leaving huge gaps behind them. Now Tettey always sits, and he's been outstanding.

He's also a bit of a hard-ass dude. Utterly terrifying at times, but with a smirk never too far behind. After the Hudderfield game in midweek, when Huddersfield took the lead in injury time only for us to equalise in the 99th (ninety-ninth) minute, Neil sat in the dugout for 15 minutes talking to one of the other coaches while the players waited for them. Most managers would've been delighted with a point away from home in such circumstances, but he let the players stew and, when asked in the post-match interview what the last-minute goal meant to him, he replied "nothing". He's very demanding, so I expect a reaction against Forest...

Our clubs have the highest-ranked Scottish managers in English football now. Reckon they'll be facing each other in the play-offs?

NM: Ach, maybe. I think we're probably too far away, but the one thing in our favour is that we've still got to play you, Wolves, Brentford, Ipswich and Watford, so we at least have plenty of chances to make up the ground. As long as we don't have to play Derby in the playoffs...that would be too much for my little heart to take. I imagine you're having similar thoughts...

DB: Similarly, the thing that many Norwich fans have been dreading for the last few months is still a very real, very horrific possibility: facing Ipswich in the play-offs, and the whole of Norfolk and Suffolk will venture onto the steam locomotive and head to that fancy London Town. Of the teams around us we only have to play Middlesbrough in the run-in, while the rest of the top six appear to be facing each other on a weekly basis, so I'm still relatively confident we can get automatic - but a lot less confident than I was before Grabban got injured. Sounds like Forest can do Norwich a few favours over the next few weeks, aside from not beating us ...

NM: A few weeks ago I would've said you were nailed for automatic, but on such slender threads. Who in particular should we be scared of on Saturday?

DB: Wes Hoolahan is in the form of his life at the moment, usually drifting behind the striker, and has nine assists this season. Alex Tettey has been a machine in the holding midfield role, while Jonny Howson remains Norwich's most underrated threat. When he plays well in central midfield we attack with real incision. So, essentially, our midfield has been pretty scary recently. Seb Bassong has been brilliant since Alex Neil brought him back in from the cold (he fell out with Neil Adams and didn't feature once under him) but our defence has a habit of shooting itself in the foot, and then shooting itself in the other foot and then losing the gun. There will be blood.

From what I've seen of Forest recently, Antonio seems to be in outstanding form? Is most of your threat on the wings?

NM: Antonio has been ludicrous recently. His goal against Rotherham on Wednesday was remarkable, but against Charlton the other week he was almost as good. Which can actually become a problem; in that game our only plan was 'give the ball to Antonio', so by the second half they cottoned on, doubled up on him & he was knackered by about 70 mins. Still, I recommend your right-back packs an extra pair of pants. ‎Elsewhere, Ben Osborn is a wee gem in attacking midfield, while Gary Gardner has provided an ocean of calm sitting.

DB: Our right-back, Steven Whittaker, has gone through many pairs of pants this season. He went through a spell of passing the ball out of play on an all-too regular basis, almost as if he'd become the first footballer to suffer from the yips. He's been far better under Neil, though, but I fear he's going to have a long day against Antonio, especially as he's been pushing up a lot higher in recent weeks. I imagine Tettey will be drifting across to help out/get booked.

Got a feeling this is going to be a real cracker. Both teams desperate for a win, and both teams usually very happy to attack from the start. Norwich have done better at home this season against sides who come to play, and I can't see Forest sitting back?

NM: I think we might sit back, actually. In some away games he's played a 4-1-4-1 with Mancienne sitting in front of the defence, so that would make some sense to try stopping Hoolahan, at least. We've got a bit of pace with Antonio for a counter, so that might happen. Think it should be a cracker, too. How about a prediction...

DB: We often set up in a 4-1-4-1 too, and it wouldn't surprise me if we matched up. We've been frustrated a lot at home this season by teams that sit back; without Grabban we're not as fluid or an incisive up front.

So if you're right and Forest play cautiously, I'm going for a tight 1-1 with Cameron Jerome missing (another) sitter in the final minutes.

NM: It'll be tight, but I think you'll just win. Maybe 2-1.

Daniel is a freelance journalist covering football and cricket, and writes on Norwich for the Pink 'Un. You can follow him on Twitter - @dan_brigham