Nottingham Forest take on Aston Villa at the City Ground this evening in a game that could prove decisive in the race for a top-six finish.
The Reds will be aiming to make it five home wins in succession, whilst Dean Smith’s Villa will look to win their third consecutive game.
The reverse fixture finished 5-5 at Villa Park earlier in the campaign and everything points towards a quality night of football.
Ahead of the game Seat Pitch spoke with Villa supporter Gethin Jones.
He has been a season ticket holder at Villa Park for 21 years and gave us the lowdown on tonight’s opponents…
Seat Pitch: It was a superb result for you on Sunday. How big was that victory in the context of your season?
Gethin Jones: It was a huge win for us and came at a very good time. In terms of how big the victory is in the context of the season l would say more than anything it reflected the Villa team that we saw before the Jack Grealish and Axel Tuanzebe injuries, so it will be an immense boost to everyone at the club.
Of course, it gives us, as fans, a bit of hope heading into the run-in. I think many had already given up on the play-offs just a few weeks ago.
SP: You arrive at the City Ground having won the last two games, has Dean Smith finally turned your season around?
GJ: I would say it’s a bit too soon to say that after just two wins on the bounce, however, if we are to play as we have in those games for the remainder of the season, then of course we have a great chance.
SP: Where has it gone wrong for you this season? On paper the squad looks fantastic, so what’s happened?
GJ: I think it’s due to a number of things. Firstly, we got off to a very slow start under Steve Bruce. I think not only Steve himself was suffering from the play-off final hangover but also it was clear that the players lacked confidence.
Secondly, we lost a number of very influential players for us last season. John Terry, of course, being the main one but the likes of Robert Snodgrass and Lewis Grabban were also missed. That is the issue with building a team around loans, once they leave it completely alter the dynamics of the team.
Thirdly, and our biggest issue, is our defensive record. Under both Bruce and Smith we have failed to perform at the back and that is reflected in the number of goals conceded and the amount of different back four combinations we have had this season.
Finally, we have had rotten luck with injuries. We have missed a number of key players this season. The likes of Grealish, James Chester, Tuanzebe etc, have all been missing for a prolonged period of time.
SP: Jack Grealish looks to have matured, is he likely to depart this summer?
GJ: His future at the club is pretty uncertain. Dean Smith has said on a number of occasions that Jack has a long contract at the club and that he has a long future at the club, however, given our possible position with FFP, if the right offer comes along in the summer, it may be too good to turn down.
SP: Who is the Villa man we need to watch this evening?
GJ: Rather than going with the obvious choice that would be Grealish, I’ve gone with another man who has been extremely impressive since his arrival at Villa. That man is Tyrone Mings. He has been an absolute man mountain at the back in recent games especially against the Blues at the weekend. He has the ability to win the ball in the air but is also calm and composed in possession. We will be hoping he is on form again on Wednesday.
SP: What do you know about Nottingham Forest?
GJ: First and foremost, Nottingham Forest is a huge club. I understand this year has been a bit of a rollercoaster, which makes you quite similar to us. It does seem that Martin O’Neill has really steadied the ship in recent weeks though and you are blessed with a number of extremely good players that make the championship look easy; such as Joe Lolley and Jack Colback.
SP: Which of our current crop would you love to see in claret and blue?
GJ: It has to be Joe Lolley for me. Not only because he is a Villa fan but also for his sheer pace, ability to beat a man and his rocket of a left foot.
SP: Finally, what will the score be?