Story so far...
We’re almost half-way through the season and 13th placed Nottingham Forest are currently sat in a no-man's land; 10 points outside the playoffs and 12 clear of the drop zone, Forest are seemingly stuck in limbo. If truth be told, inconsistencies are costing Forest a chance of the playoffs and it feels as though this team is a few players short of being a true contender for promotion.
At home Forest have been excellent, winning seven of their 12 home games so far this season - including victories over Boro, Sheffield United and Norwich City; however, on the road it’s been a different story.
Their campaign started reasonably well with three wins from their opening four games as well as an impressive Carabao Cup victoryat St James Park in August. Five defeats in September left Forest struggling, though they did win at the Stadium of Light 1-0 thanks to a Daryl Murphy goal. October was again inconsistent and to add insult to injury Forest lost against rivals Derby County.
November was much the same as October - Forest won two games and lost two. So far this month Forest have won one, drawn one and lost two. Hit and miss sums up Forest’s season quite nicely.
Last time out...
Lee Bullen took charge of Sheffield Wednesday for the first time on boxing day, taking his team to the City Ground to play Forest. Adam Reach scored a screamer early on and Wednesday never looked back. Jordan Rhodes scored a penalty before half-time and Lucas Joao sealed the win with a goal on 65 minutes. More disappointment for Forest.
Forest did dominate possession, though Wednesday clearly came with a plan to soak pressure up and hit the home side on the counter. Mark Warburton was frustrated with his side’s performance and bemoaned that they could not send the large home crowd happy.
Barrie McKay has been very impressive for Forest this season since Mark Warburton brought him to the side from his former club Rangers in the summer. The Scotland midfielder has five goals and seven assists this season and has shown that Rangers may have let him go on the cheap for a fee of £500,000. Sunderland must be wary.
Warburton had an undistinguished playing career where he spent the majority of his time playing non-league football. He made the decision in the early 2000’s to focus on his coaching career, so he quit his job as a trader and began making the first steps into the world of football management.
In 2013 Warburton landed himself the position of Brentford manager and guided the team to promotion from League One in his first season. It was then announced during the next season that Warburton would leave at the end of the season, but not before he guided the team to the Play-Offs and their eventual defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough.
Warburton took the Rangers job for the 2015-16 season, and guided them to a Scottish Cup final, and promotion back to the SPL. A disappointing SPL season followed, and Warburton eventually left in March with Rangers well out of the title picture.
He then landed at Forest, where he had to keep the team in the division. He did achieve that goal with no time to spare, a final day 3-0 win at home to Ipswich sealed Forest’s Championship membership for another season.
Darren Bond is officiating his third Sunderland game of the season this weekend. He first took charge of our Carabao Cup victory over Carlisle back in August and he then officiated our home defeat to Bristol City.
Bond officated Forest earlier this month in their 4-2 defeat to Ipswich Town.
In 23 games Bond has given out 83 yellow cards and two reds.
Nottingham Forest fans will be concerned going into this weekend’s game that they are heading towards another season of Championship mediocrity. They have lost four of their last six games, leaving them well off the playoff places.
Subsequently, after the 3-0 dismantling at home to Sheffield Wednesday last time out, Forest will be desperately seeking a victory against Sunderland - one that could be vital if they are to have any hope of keeping pace with the top six in the division.
Sunderland will need to wary of Forest’s possession football and exciting wing play. At the Stadium of Light earlier this season Forest were able to keep the game tight and exploit a Sunderland defensive error to seal victory late on. This time around it would not be a surprise to see Forest attack more and try to exploit a Sunderland defence that shipped three goals in their last game.
If Sunderland are to get a positive result against Forest it could be largely to do with how the hosts play. Chris Coleman should be aiming to keep the game tight to frustrate a home crowd that will likely be on their team’s back should they fail to dominate proceedings, especially after their Boxing Day humbling.
With Lewis Grabban missing for Sunderland it will be interesting to see how Coleman lines his team up. Forest should welcome back former Sunderland players David Vaughan and Daryl Murphy back into the squad for the game - they have both been struggling for fitness.