Town End Season Away Against Relegation-Haunted Forest
Friday, 5th May 2017 21:29
Town visit Nottingham Forest for the final game of their disappointing 2016/17 season on Sunday looking for their first win at the City Ground since December 1999, a victory which could relegate the hosts (Sky Sports 3, from 11.30am, KO midday).
Former skipper Matt Holland netted the only goal when George Burley’s Blues defeated the Tricky Trees 1-0 on their way to the Premier League via the play-offs, but since then Town have gone 11 games without a win on Forest turf.
The home side go into Sunday’s match fourth from bottom but ahead of Blackburn, who are managed by Tony Mowbray, a member of that 1999/00 Town team which won at the City Ground, in 22nd by a goal difference of just one.
Rovers are at Brentford, while Birmingham, who play Bristol City away, are one place and two points above Forest with a significantly poorer goal difference.
Forest will be safe if they match Blackburn’s result as long as they don’t both win and there isn't a two-goal turnaround in the Lancastrians' favour.
Relegation back into League One, from which they escaped in 2007/08 after a three-year stay, would come after several seasons of sliding in the wrong direction under Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Al Hasawi, who took over in July 2012. Since then Forest have finished eighth, 11th, 14th and then 16th last season.
Current boss Mark Warburton is their 10th full-time or caretaker-manager since McCarthy took charge at Town in November 2012 - after turning down an interview at Forest the previous summer - having taken over midway through March.
Asked whether he would have sympathy for the one-time Brentford and Rangers boss should the Blues see his side into League One, McCarthy said: “No more than I feel for all the others. And it’s not a great deal because they wouldn’t be offering me any sympathy.
“They’d be like, ‘It’s unlucky, Mick’s gone down, he hasn’t spent of money…’. They wouldn’t give a flying one if that happened. They wouldn’t, just as long as it’s not them. And I feel exactly the same. There’s no sympathy coming from me.”
Despite the Blues having nothing left to play for, aside from which position between 15th and 18th they finish, and the game being live on Sky, Town will take a travelling army likely to be approaching 1,500 to the City Ground.
“We’ve had a wonderful away support this season,” McCarthy added. “We’ve had great support all the time and I’ve been to two supporters’ functions over the last week and they’ve been great.
“I think I’ve said before in the past that I’ve been quite humbled by the feeling towards us. It’s been tough but they’re still supporting us.”
Despite last week’s 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, McCarthy is unlikely to stray too far from the team which had previously beaten Burton and Newcastle over Easter.
Bartosz Bialkowski will be in goal with Jordan Spence at right-back and Myles Kenlock at left-back with skipper Luke Chambers - fresh from signing his new two-year contract - and Christophe Berra - who could be playing his last game for the club - at the heart of the defence.
In midfield, Cole Skuse will probably be joined by Emyr Huws and Grant Ward. Danny Rowe is likely to come into the side for the injured Tom Lawrence, but probably on the right of the three-man attack with Freddie Sears moving to the left.
Former Forest striker David McGoldrick is a doubt with a neck problem but will start if fit with Brett Pitman his likely deputy if the Nottingham-born frontman fails to make it.
For Forest, Danny Fox, Zach Clough and Jack Hobbs are all doubts for a game which will be played in front of a sell-out home crowd at the City Ground.
Forest boss Warburton says his players need to relish the pressure they will be under: “We look forward to the challenge and we have to respond accordingly. We trained well today and will look to deliver a performance.
“It’s very important to stay in the division. We're aware of the significance of the game and we are focused on getting a result.
“You have to be aware of other results but the focus will be on us; the game can change so quickly so we have to look at ourselves.
“Our job is to prepare the team and make sure they see it as a positive challenge. There'll be a big crowd and they need to enjoy it.
“You enjoy fighting for cups and promotion, but not relegation. I hope this is a first and last time for us being down here.
“There'll be a good atmosphere on Sunday and the fans will feel all the ups and downs of the day. We need them behind us.
“The supporters are passionate and so are the players. They recognise their responsibilities and they have to enjoy that pressure.
“You have to start games fast and if you don't, the opposition will. Ipswich will come here looking to win so let's see how it goes.”
He believes the club can move in the right direction if they confirm their Championship status: “If we can stay up there is lots to be optimistic about. The potential here is enormous with the great young players coming through.”
Blues captain Chambers joined Town on a Bosman free transfer after departing the City Ground in the summer of 2012 and was targeted by his old club on deadline day in January.
Striker McGoldrick signed on loan from Forest in January 2013 before putting pen to paper on a permanent deal the following summer.
Blues loanee Jonny Williams, who has been ruled out for the season with a hamstring injury and has now returned to Crystal Palace, was on loan at the City Ground between September and January last season, scoring one goal in four starts and six sub appearances.
Currently out-of-favour Forest keeper Stephen Henderson was on loan with the Blues from West Ham twice in the 2012/13 season making 24 appearances. He moved to the City Ground last summer but has made only 14 starts and one sub appearance.
Historically, Forest very much have the upper hand, winning 35 of the games between the two sides (32 in the league), with 18 (17) ending in draws and Town winning 21 (20).
In November at Portman Road, two Britt Assombalonga goals, the first after 17 seconds, the fastest in the Championship this season, and the second in first-half injury time, saw Forest to a 2-0 victory over the Blues, their first away win of the season.
Town huffed and puffed as they looked for a way back into the game in the second half but never seriously threatened a resolute Forest backline.
Last time teams met at the City Ground in October 2015, former Town midfielder Liam Trotter - who was on loan from Bolton Wanderers - denied his old club their first win on Forest territory since 1999 deep into injury time with a debut goal as the Blues and Forest drew 1-1. Earlier, sub Jonny Parr’s 74th minute goal had given Town the lead.
Pre-match, the Broken Wheelbarrow at Notts County’s Meadow Lane will be open from 10am until kick-off to Town fans only. There will be a full bar available, as well as snack food. The bar is situated on Meadow Lane, next to the club shop and ticket office.
Sunday’s referee is Andy Davies from Hampshire, who has shown 134 yellow cards and four red in 37 games so far this season.
Davies’s most recent Town match was the 3-0 home victory over Wigan last month, in which he booked Kenlock, Ward, Toumani Diagouraga and two Latics.
He also refereed the 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield in January in which he booked Berra, Bru, Lawrence, Jonathan Douglas, Paul Digby and no home players.
Davies has only taken charge of two other Town matches, both of which ended goalless and both of which saw the opposition reduced to 10 men.
He officiated in the 0-0 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in September last year, in which he showed eight yellow cards, two of them and then a red to Seagulls midfielder Dale Stephens. Chambers, Douglas, Lawrence and Josh Emmanuel were the Town players cautioned.
Prior to that, he took control of the 0-0 home draw with Huddersfield in October 2015 when he red-carded Terriers striker James Vaughan for a second bookable offence in the final minute.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Chambers (c), Kenlock, Emmanuel, Spence, Berra, T Smith, Digby, Skuse, Huws, Dozzell, Douglas, Bru, Ward, Rowe, McGoldrick, Sears, Pitman, Samuel, Moore.
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