Saturday, 17 August 2019

Nottingham Forest 3 v Birmingham City 0 - EFL Championship

Saturday 17th August 2019
SkyBet EFL Championship
at the City Ground
Nottingham Forest (2) 3
Joe Lolley 15, Lewis Grabban 22, Michael Dawson 65
Birmingham City (0) 0
Attendance: 27,281(inc. 1995 away fans)
Point & hope photo gallery: click HERE
Nottingham Forest:
Aro Muric, Matty Cash, Michael Dawson (C), Joe Worrall, Jack Robinson, Samba Sow (Albert Adomah 73), Ben Watson, Alfa Semedo (Tiago Silva 57), Joe Lolley, Sammy Ameobi (Rafa Mir 79), Lewis Grabban
Unused subs - Brice Samba (GK), Yuri Riberio, Tobias Figueiredo, Carl Jenkinson
Birmingham City:
Lee Camp, Maxime Colin, Marc Roberts, Harlee Dean (C), Kristian Pedersen, David Davis, Gary Gardner (Alvaro Gimenez 60’), Ivan Sunjic, Fran Vilalba, Dan Crowley (Steve Seddon 90), Lukas Jutkiewicz
Unused subs - David Stockdale, Wes Harding, Craig Gardner, Jake Clarke-Salter, Agustin Medina
A solitary Tiago Silva strike, was enough for Forest to see off a stubborn Fleetwood Town side on Tuesday night, in the EFL League Cup first round, in front of a home crowd of 7,432.
The reward for their efforts is a home tie against their East Midlands rivals, the team formerly known as 'Frank Lampard's Derby County'.
Pep Clotet's Blues had bowed out of the same competition the previous week at Portsmouth, but arrived at the City Ground, unbeaten in the Championship, having won at Brentford in their opening game, before playing out an entertaining 1-1 against Bristol City at St. Andrew's last weekend.
Sabri Lamouchi's side, for their part, lost at home to West Bromwich Albion in their first outing of the new season and drew 1-1 at Elland Road last weekend, after being a goal down against  Leeds United.
Having some points on board early on alleviates the pressure to chase results considerably... and it appeared today, that psychologically Blues had taken their foot off of the gas a little too much, whereby, the Reds found themselves in a position, even this early in the proceedings, that they needed to up the ante to get a first Championship win of the campaign under their belts this afternoon.
In the build-up to the game, earlier in the week, Clotet had spoken about who he considered to be Forest's main threats... and pinpointed: Joe Lolley, Lewis Grabban and Michael Dawson, the very same triumvirate of players who powered the hosts into an unassailable three-goal lead, against a lacklustre visiting side, who were well off the levels of performance that they had shown only a week ago against in the home game against Bristol City.
Truth be told, Birmingham dropped their guard this afternoon and were fortunate that Lolley, Samba Sow, Sammy Ameobi and Grabban were guilty of profligate finishing when they had other clear cut chances to really put Blues to the sword.
Lukas Jutkiewicz (who is urgently in need of a strike partner) went close twice, as the visitors started the game on the front foot, but Blues wilted once their hosts had opened the scoring and never really recovered.
Ben Watson and Lolley combined with each other at a set-piece, and the latter wasn't closed down quickly enough when Watson rolled a free-kick sideways to him outside the visitor's area in the fifteenth minute, and the former Blues youth team player drilled the opening goal past the former Reds keeper Lee Camp.
Seven minutes later Lolley was involved again, when he got free on the right, before picking out Grabban with a pinpoint delivery that he dispatched over Camp and into the net with a looping header.
The second half started at a more sedate pace, with Blues getting the ball forward more often, but drawing a blank in the final third.
A fifty-seventh-minute substitution by Lamouchi,, that saw Tiago Silva replace Alfa Semedo, which initially came as a surprise to a number of the home support, given Semedo's input into the game thus far; heralded a tactical switch to a 4-4-2 system, the benefits of which, were soon evident as Silva's left-wing corner was met by Dawson, who escaped his marker, if indeed he ever had one, and headed home at the near post.
Forest saw the remainder of the game out quite comfortably and maybe should have done better with at least two more chances.
Blues did put together a few passes, they were mainly from one side of the pitch to the other, rather than end to end.
Bit by bit, the foundations are being laid, but there's quite some way to go before they're the finished article... and today demonstrated where far more work still needs to be done.
However, though they're still a team in transition, but this was definitely an off day on their part.
Many of Blues newcomers arrived late in the day and haven't had the benefit of a lot of pre-season minutes together, to gel and become accustomed to Clotet's playing systems and tactics as of yet.
And though, to give this result some perspective: Birmingham had only lost once in ten previous Championship outings, they were very poor today and second-best by a considerable margin.
Credit where it's due, the best team won and both sides got what they deserved today.
Truth be told, the final outcome could've worse for Clotet's team.
Both teams are back in action in midweek, as the Championship campaign starts to pick up momentum, with Blues entertaining Barnsley on Tuesday, while Forest travel to Charlton Athletic the following night.
FT: Nottingham Forest 3 v Birmingham City 0