A lively pre-season friendly saw Forest and County share the spoils. James Bolton reports from Meadow Lane.
Forest lined up with a 4-3-3 formation, with Jamaal Lascelles celebrating his new long-term deal at the club with a start in central defence. Robbie Findley, David McGoldrick and Marcus Tudgay were the three pronged attack.
County started brighter, forcing a couple of early corners, but they were unable to capitalise. Forest on the other hand were clinical in burying their first opportunity after 10 minutes.
A neat passing move down the right-hand side involving Greg Halford and Lewis McGugan culminated in Findley being fed through on goal. The pacey American was able to hold off his defender before squaring the ball to McGoldrick who slotted home into the empty net.
Five minutes later and Forest doubled their lead. Guy Moussi played a perfectly weighted ball into Findley, who drew the challenge from ex-Forest man Hamza Bencherif and a penalty was given. Bencherif clearly won the ball, but did dive in from behind so may consider himself unfortunate to have given away the spot kick. McGugan made no mistake in converting, firing past Bartosz Bialkowski.
What started as a 4-3-3 formation was becoming a 4-4-2, with Findley occupying the wide right role. Notts had brief spells of possession, but weren’t able to worry Lee Camp; Jeff Hughes had their best effort, curling over from range.
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Forest were extremely comfortable on the ball, enjoying patient possession frequently consisting of over a dozen passes. There was no desire to punt long, as players were happy to wait to work an opening.
The lively McGoldrick then picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, a run and shimmy worked a shooting opportunity and Bialkowski parried unconvincingly away for corner.
The first half was a bit of a non-contest. Forest looked by far the classier outfit, keeping possession well and defending soundly against a pretty blunt and lacklustre County attack. McGoldrick and Findley looked sprightly up front and Halford was able to foray forward regularly, getting into some great positions.
At half-time, Forest made four changes with Karl Darlow, Kieron Fenton, Simon Gillett and Matt Derbyshire replacing Camp, Danny Collins, Halford and Findley.
Just a few minutes into the second half and Forest worked a golden opportunity to put the game out of sight. Derbyshire cut the ball back across the box, Tudgay dummied leaving McGoldrick to run onto the loose ball, but his effort was straight at Bialkowski. Jonathan Greening then fired over from the rebound.
With a patched up back four (Gillett-Lascelles-Moloney-Fenton) County began to get back into the game. Neal Bishop fired way over from a Hughes cut back.
Fenton then almost capped off his arrival in spectacular fashion. A poor clearance from Bialkowski fell to the young defender who, just inside the County half, went for goal. The Polish goalkeepers’ blushes were spared, as the ball sailed just wide.
Moments later, County pegged a goal back. Derbyshire gave away a free-kick 25 yards from goal and winger Alan Judge, who is well known for his long range efforts, curled home brilliantly past Darlow.
Darlow then stopped it being two goals in as many minutes, as he made a spectacular low save from Manny Smith, a summer signing on a free following his release from Walsall.
On 56 minutes, County drew level. Some tentative defending in the Forest box meant Yoann Arquin was able to pounce on the loose ball and fire low and hard across Darlow. It was an assured finish and County had taken advantage of mismatched Forest back line.
Unsurprisingly, the two goals lifted the host and Forest were unable to recapture the intensity they had in the first half. Andy Reid, Franck Moussa and Adlene Guedioura replaced McGugan, Greening and McGoldrick with 25 minutes left, but were unable to make a substantial impact.
Fenton played well out of position at left-back, making lots of commanding runs down the flank and into the County box, but other than that, Forest’s second-half performance was lacking rhythm. This was probably down to the amount of substitutions, but that is often the way with pre-season friendlies.
The first-half was very encouraging. We looked solid, in control, passed the ball well on the floor and weren’t threatened by an admittedly average Notts County side. Sean O’Driscoll describes himself as ‘a process man, not an outcome man’, so this game will no doubt have been valuable for him in determining what works and what doesn’t ahead of the new season.
Forest’s final pre-season game takes place at the City Ground on Friday night against Premier League West Bromwich Albion, before they kick off in their first competitive game away at Fleetwood Town in the Capital One Cup on Monday.
A final note to those who attended the game; Forest fans actually outnumbered the Notts fans in their own ground — 4,143 to 3,789.