Thanks to Forest fan Sean Hockett for helping us preview Tuesday night’s clash at the Madejski Stadium.
How is the season going so far for Forest?
Pretty much as I’d hoped, to be honest. We’ve won seven, we’ve lost seven. I know we’re only one point off the play-off places, but that’s just a pipe dream for this season. As I wrote when you kindly asked me for a season preview piece, I have no expectation beyond mid-table mediocrity this time round.
I’ve seen all our games so far this season and we’re steadily improving. The Hull game on Saturday was the first time we looked like we were gelling as a team for prolonged periods of the game. So I’m very happy with how we’re progressing.
You appointed Mark Warburton as manager back in March - is he proving to be the right man for the job?
Yes, I think so. His teams play nice football and Forest - traditionally - play nice football. I think he’s a great fit for the club. His teams have always been a bit suspect in the defensive third of the field and that’s proving to be so at Forest too. Some fans have been somewhat frustrated with some of our performances this season as well as some of his substitution decisions, but he’s been pretty forthright in his thoughts on local radio recently that they’re in it for the long-haul.
I think the club are trying to break that modern mould of knee-jerk reactions to poor periods during the season, where the only fix is a change of manager. He’s settled in well and long may it continue.
What’s going right for Forest right now?
The overall attitude of the club. Their efforts towards inclusion - whether that’s the community in general, LGBT matters or the Ladies team. They’re putting things in place - appointing the right people - to heal a club that was severely broken.
Insofar as on-the-pitch matters are concerned, I think it’s our general attitude to playing football the way we as Forest fans expect it to be played. Developing a team spirit among all the staff and players - from the academy level upwards - to make Nottingham Forest a club to be proud of.
And what could be going better?
Well, we could be better defensively speaking. Individually against Hull we were very good. In fact Joe Worrall had an outstanding game - and is having a very good season in my opinion - and Jordan Smith made another couple of vital saves. But we always look like we might concede.
I’d like to see us show a bit more strength at the back. We have no shortage of courage - Worrall and Eric Lichaj have put themselves on the line in making last-ditch efforts to stop shots, but at times we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be in that position in the first place.
What do you make of Reading at the moment?
I’ll be honest and say I never really look at other teams in the league until we’re about to play them. Cleary, the coverage of your manager having a bit of a tough time can’t be overlooked, but to see you 20th in the table is something of a surprise given how well you did last season.
We’ve played you six times since 2010 and have only won once. The Madejski isn’t a happy hunting ground for us, so league position aside, I’m still cautious about our visit on Tuesday.
Is there anyone you're particularly worried about facing?
Ex-Forest players. So in your case, Gunter and McCleary. They always seem to raise their game. Also, Liam Kelly looks like he’s having a good start to the season - four goals in eight games in all competitions - so I’ll be keeping an eye on him too.
How do you see the match going? And what will the score be?
Well, the Hull game aside, we’ve been pretty slow out of the traps in most matches this season. If you let us play and get into the game, you may find it a bit of a tough one. We like to keep possession and build the play.
There are some fans that aren’t too happy with the square passing across the back and in midfield, but there was such a passage of play against Hull - 19 passes if I’m correct - which ended with us hitting the crossbar. That’s exactly what Warburton is trying the instil in this team. But we’re always susceptible to conceding, so I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we keep a clean sheet.
As for the score? Well if you offered me a draw I’d take your hand off, but if you pressure me for a prediction, I’ll go 2-1 to Forest.
Thanks again to Sean, who tweets from @Sean_a_h.
He also makes fantastic sport-inspired drawings, which you can find on Instagram @seans_simple_art