Mark Warburton’s Nottingham Forest take on Lee Johnson`s Bristol City at Ashton Gate in this afternoon`s Championship fixture.
Mark Warburton, gave his pre-match views on the trip to Ashton Gate at the usual Press conference:
‘All credit to Bristol and Lee, they had a tough time at the start of last season but he changed the squad, put his identity onto the team and they came through that. He has time to shape the squad and they have done really well this year.
Their work ethic is good, they are showing good quality in the final third and are a tough team to beat. They deserve to be up there, because they are a form team that are high on confidence – following some tremendous recent results and they will be pushing really hard for promotion.
It is a good stadium with a good surface and we are up for and look forward to the game. We have dropped some silly points but the squad is coming together nicely and we are showing more than glimpses of what we can do. We are getting there; we`ve shown we can mix it up and win ugly, we are 11th and it’s not quite Christmas yet with the busy festive games to come but I think we are taking shape.’
Bristol City Team News:
Lee Johnson will assess Korey Smith`s fitness to see if he can feature, otherwise, the Robin`s have doubts surrounding Ivan Lucic and Milan Djuric.
Callum O’Dowda, Eros Pisano, Jens Hegeler and Gary O’Neil are all expected to remain absent until 2018!
Player to watch: Jamie Paterson
The 25 year old attacking midfielder joined City in August 2016 after a spell with Forest that certainly had it`s ups & downs. With 5 goals in 21 appearances this season (6 in 27 last seaon), his current manager believes Paterson has matured and is now playing with a smile on his face.
After scoring the winner in this fixture last season, I`m really hoping that he isn`t similarly celebrating today – however, Forest`s defensive record is poor, so that former player curse could well be on the cards!
Nottingham Forest Team News:
Tendayi Darikwa, Jack Hobbs, Danny Fox and Chris Cohen all remain absent due to injury, although the latter pair are both back in full training.
David Vaughan and Armand Traore are both pushing to be involved in the squad, after sitting out last weekend`s home win, as Mark Warburton seeks to implement a plan for Forest to pick up something from their travels.
Player to watch: Joe Worrall
The 20 year old academy graduate scored his first goal for Forest (in 40 league appearances) last weekend, but then cancelled that out with an own goal to ensure a nervy finish.
The commanding centre back has certainly shown significant progress since Warburton`s arrival but today represents one of the toughest tests so far this season – so, an unlikely clean sheet would be a real achievement!
Match Facts & Stats
Johnson`s high flying Robins have amassed 40 points from 21 games, which sees them in 3rd place vying for an automatic place (w11, d7, l3) scoring 34 (Bobby Reid & Aden Flint have scored 16 of those) but conceding just 22.
With just 2 defeats in their last 10 games, they are certainly a form team – the only chink of light for Forest being those defeats came at home (against Leeds & Preston).
Last weekend`s home win against Bolton means that Forest are now 11th in the having earned 30 points from their 21 games (w10, d0, l11), scoring 31 but conceding a disappointing 35.
Warburton`s men are the very definition of a midtable side, with 5 wins and 5 defeats in their last 10 – but they are still the only team in the football league not to draw a game this season (a run that now stretches for 28 league games, if we include last season`s run in).
James Linington has been appointed as today`s Referee, his 23rd game in charge this season, the previous 22 games have yielded 71 yellow cards and 5 of the Red variety. Last season officiated 35 games, which saw him brandish urn of 146 yellows and 4 red cards.
Mr Linington will be assisted by Lee Venamore and Timothy Wood, with Robert Lewis as Fourth Official.
The Bookies have City as odds on favourites for a home win, which given that Forest have won just 1 in their last 6 away games (against Hull in October) and they have lost each of their last 3 visits to Ashton Gate seems a pretty safe bet.
Former red, David Prutton has this down as a home win too, so Forest will certainly need to beat the odds to get anything from this game – a point would be a fantastic return.
Next up, Forest face another tough looking away trip to Deepdale to take on Alex Neil`s Preston North End on Saturday, 23rd December, KO 3-00pm.