Face out-of-form Reading tonight
29 November ~ At a time of year when fans start wondering how their teams will cope when the injuries and suspensions start to kick in, Nottingham Forest's are finding out already. The Reds completed the first third of the season against Burnley with full-backs Eric Lichaj and Chris Cohen joining the five players already out injured. With a number of suspensions having previously been served for red cards and fifth bookings, it's just as well that Billy Davies has been able to add so many new players to the squad that disappointed for much of last season.
Forest are generally proving hard to beat this season but, like tonight's visitors Reading, they have drawn too many games to be in a position to challenge the three teams breaking away at the top of the Championship. On the face of it, Saturday's dominant performance in the 1-1 draw with leaders Burnley looks a decent result, but no team outshooting their opponents by 19 goal attempts to three should fail to win a game.
More frustrating than the result was the late loss of captain Cohen to a second season-ending cruciate ligament injury in a little over two years. Having reacted philosophically to the other injuries, fans are all but in mourning at the loss of the consistent and popular Cohen, admired as much for his evident love of the club as for his growing assurance since moving from midfield to left-back. In an act of selflessness (or possibly recklessness) worthy of Stuart Pearce, another fans' favourite to skipper the club from that position, Cohen even tried briefly to play on rather than leave the team a player short.
Fans now fear that the Reds' left flank will be vulnerable to counter-attacks from two old boys. Chris Gunter and Garath McCleary may not have had as much opportunity as they would have liked to show their Premier League credentials since leaving Trentside, but they are certainly capable players at this level. Meanwhile, former Forest loanee Billy Sharp is many fans' (if not Davies's) idea of the kind of goal-poacher who might put away a greater proportion of the chances created. If he is to come back and haunt the Reds it may have to be from the bench, though, having made only two appearances this season.
The Royals have only won one of their last seven games, one of which saw them somehow manage to concede five goals to a Sheffield Wednesday team that hadn't managed a win all season. Saturday's 0-0 draw at Blackburn saw them slip out of the play-off places. Forest's recent form is mixed and they haven't won – or scored more than once – at home since September. Another draw may be the likeliest outcome tonight. Richard Harrison