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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
04/05: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 08/03/05, 7.45pm
Watford
versus
Nottingham Forest
 
Magnolia
By Matt Rowson

I'm not particularly big on decorating. I mean, I enjoy it now and again and can bring myself to take on maybe one room per year, something like that, and am more than happy to take on the requisite donkey work given a steady supply of Diet Coke and a CD player/radio but haven't got what you'd call a broad repertoire. Rip off wallpaper (bastard stuff), bit of Polyfilla at a push, sand down walls, wipe, paint. Sorted. Removing skirting boards when doing the living room during Euro 2004 was a breathtakingly adventurous escapade.

So the central question when it comes to doing a room is simply "what colour?" I like colour, at least a little bit. A bathroom in the old flat was a range of shades of blue. The study is a dark, bottle green. The hall in the old flat, an early venture and a little too adventurous perhaps, was a radioactive pale green that created a quite disturbing effect through the glass-paned front door if the hallway light was left on during the night.

Hiring Gary Megson as manager is the equivalent of covering your flat or house in magnolia. Unimaginative, unspectacular, almost lazy... and ultra-pragmatic. You know what you're going to get... 5-3-2, and clubbing the life out of any game of football that you happen to be caught up in until it rolls over and gives up. Cloughie - who once signed Megson as a player, but never played him - wouldn't have fancied it, but Forest are finally stringing some results together even if the performances themselves haven't done much to convince the watching support that a great escape is on the cards. Five league games without defeat and three away without conceding - culminating in a smash and grab first league away win of the season at Leicester on Saturday - do imply that the game isn't quite up.

Certain website analyses do suggest that despite their league position, some Forest fans are still stuck in 1979... the recruitment of David Friio is questioned on the basis that if he were any cop, Plymouth wouldn't have let him go to a side who are "Championship rivals (though it pains me to say it)". Hello? Have you looked at a league table recently? This is backed up with equally credible calls for the Forest chairman to "get serious" in the transfer market and "get his wallet out" over the summer...

The sales of Andy Reid and Michael Dawson to Spurs for a combined 8m has freed some cash for Megson to be able to refit the side... three players have been signed permanently and another on loan since the new manager took over in January, in addition to three signings and three loans taken out in the last two months of Kinnear's reign, with more arrivals in the offing. Peter Thorne, from the Cardiff fire-sale, is mooted, although a hamstring injury picked up in Saturday's win over Sheffield United could mean that he wouldn't be available on Tuesday anyway, whilst Cardiff teammate Jobi McAnuff and Rotherham keeper Mike Pollitt have also been mentioned.

The Pollitt rumour is a slightly surprising one, given that Paul Gerrard appears to have been one of Forest's more dependable performers this season. Deputy Barry Roche is injured at the mo, so Colin Doyle has been brought in on loan from Birmingham as cover.

At the back, the power trio in the centre is likely to consist of Andy Melville - signed from West Ham, thirty-six but getawayablewith in a three, Chris Doig, badly injured during our "Total Football" visit to the City Ground four and a half years ago and finally enjoying a run in the team, and Wes Morgan who is by all accounts the star of the show. The considerable bulk of Darren Moore, capable of blotting out the sunlight in a five man defence, would have been here as well but West Brom refused to sell. Irish international David Thompson is likely to be on the bench but Jon Olav Hjelde seems to be on his way and is training with Charlie Miller's club Brann Bergen in Norway.

Wing backs are John Curtis and Alan Rogers. Curtis, a man of many clubs who hasn't really established himself anywhere since leaving Old Trafford five years ago, has been signed from Pompey on a short term contract and is perhaps better suited to a conventional full back role. Rogers, who started the season particularly appallingly, appears to have got his finger out under the guidance of his new boss. Gregor Robertson is probably next in line on the left, although not terribly popular, whilst on the right Mathieu Louis-Jean has a hamstring injury whilst Andy Impey has vanished from consideration having not featured since Boxing Day.

Most of the creativity in midfield seems to come from Kris Commons, signed from Stoke over the summer - "stop Commons and you stop Forest" is one blunt assessment. Alongside him, two of Megson's new recruits - David Friio, always popular at Plymouth but not convincing his new supporters yet, and Daryl Powell. Powell seems a very odd signing. Having been released by local rivals Derby in the summer of 2002, he struggled to make an impact at Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday during brief spells the next season; he spent last season with Colorado Rapids but has been without a club since the summer. And is now straight into the Forest side, although perhaps understandably the thirty-four year old is struggling to make an impression. The chief midfield alternative is the aggressive Paul Evans, who does tend to do well against us; youngster James Perch, also used in defence, is talented but lightweight, and Eugen Bopp is still around but has played less than a half under the new regime. Eoin Jess, also thirty-four, is out with a thigh injury and hasn't played since November, whilst Adam Nowland (hamstring) and Kevin James have both struggled to make an impression since their arrival.

Up front, Forest seem to have a number of options although a few have been discounted by Marlon King joining Leeds for the rest of the season on loan and David Johnson, whose attitude has been questioned throughout the season, trying to mend some bridges in the reserves. This leaves the one-dimensional but effective captain Gareth Taylor alongside the unrefined energy of Scott Dobie, a 525,000 signing from financially challenged Millwall and another former charge of Megson's at West Brom. Neil Harris, who has never really recaptured his Millwall Division Three form in Division Two, should be on the bench but Jack Lester, re-signed from Sheffield United in November, is out with a knee injury.

The opinion that our season is over already was expressed in the pub before Saturday's game. Ticking that box, mentally, writes off the rest of the campaign and could be dangerous... the four sides above Rotherham all won at the weekend, and even if Cardiff do implode as seems possible, I'd rather have the two wins that RL assesses we need in the bag. But quite aside from that, the Coventry result was typical of the splurge that is the middle of this division. Reading haven't won in the League since they beat us on Boxing Day - that's eleven games - and they're still sixth. Quite simply, there aren't many consistently half-decent sides in this competition. There will be at least one side that isn't any better than us in the play-off spots come the end of the season, which strikes me as a bit of a shame - and perhaps a missed opportunity.