Match report: Forest 0, West Brom 2
NOTTINGHAM Forest's dramatic, eventful and testing pre-season came to an end with a disjointed defeat at the hands of West Brom that suggested there is still work to do before they are ready for the challenges of a Championship season.
The Reds have witnessed a change in ownership and a change in management over the last few months, with Sean O'Driscoll left with only weeks to assemble a squad – and an entirely new back four – amid a period of remarkable adjustment.
So Forest can be excused the fractious, inconsistent performance they produced at the City Ground, as the Premier League side cruised to a comfortable 2-0 success, as Forest utilised virtually every member of their squad, along with a few trialists.
But, while their problems were understandable, O'Driscoll will still head to Fleetwood on Monday, knowing that the Capital One Cup tie may hold plenty of significance, as – almost regardless of the result – it will provide a final opportunity to hone his team for the visit of Bristol City next weekend.
Choose from 100's of Carpet, Vinyl & Laminate Floor and get any for Half Price. Simply print off this voucher and mention This is Nottingham when you arrange your free estimate.
Terms: One voucher per order. Can not be used with any other offer or discount. Voucher must be produced at time of sale. Don't miss out, this offer ends Thursday and will not be repeated.
Contact: 0115 8969583
Valid until: Thursday, May 23 2013
With that potentially testing trip to Fleetwood approaching, O'Driscoll had made it clear he was planning to manage his resources carefully at the City Ground, in their final friendly of the summer.
What was of most significance was that, in the first period, Forest opted to name what is almost certain to be their first-choice back four in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Daniel Ayala, who joined on a season long loan from Norwich earlier in the week, slotted into the centre of defence alongside Danny Collins, with Greg Halford on the right and Dan Harding on the left.
Given that it was the first time the quartet had stepped onto the pitch together, there was always bound to be a certain amount of rustiness in the Forest rear-guard.
But they will still not perhaps have expected to find themselves 2-0 down within the first 20 minutes, as the Premier League side demonstrated their ruthless streak.
There were only seven minutes on the clock before Karl Darlow, given a chance to hone his match fitness ahead of Lee Camp, found himself picking the ball out of the back of the net.
In truth, there was little the Forest back-four could have done to prevent the goal, with Youssouf Mulumbu allowed too much space to advance forward from midfield and let fly with a 25-yard shot that bent high into the corner of the net. Darlow, at full stretch, did manage to get a hand to the ball, but the shot carried too much power, and he was not able to keep it out.
Forest, playing a rough 4-4-2 with the familiar fluidity in midfield, almost managed to respond with an immediate reply, as David McGoldrick twice tested the reactions of Ben Foster. Firstly, the keeper did well to push away the striker's 20-yard shot.
But, when McGoldrick collected the rebound, Foster almost made a hash of things as the Forest man sent a second effort fizzing towards goal, with the ball looping up awkwardly of his chest before he managed to collect it.
On 18 minutes, Darlow found himself beaten again and this time the goal could be chalked up to defensive frailty.
The keeper himself will probably believe he might have done better with a driven shot from Zoltan Gera, that he only managed to parry into the path of Shane Long.
And, when the striker advanced purposefully into the box, Danny Collins dangled out a leg that Long was happy to tumble over, to secure a clumsily conceded penalty.
Long himself regained his feet to calmly send Darlow plunging to his left – and the ball darting to the right.
Forest could hardly have wished for a tougher test of their new look defence, with the pace and incisiveness of the West Brom front-line frequently leaving them stretched.
One notable absentee from the West Brom squad was that of Forest transfer target Simon Cox. The striker was not believed to be carrying an injury, although it was always unlikely that he would feature, as negotiations continue over a possible move to Nottingham for the 26-year-old.
The game had become a scrappy affair as the half wore on, with both sides struggling to craft out openings. Although Forest did almost test the Albion goal via a moment of fortune, as a Frank Moussa cross, following good work from the overlapping Halford, took a wicked deflection that tested the reactions of Foster.
Moussa, the former Leicester winger who remains on trial with Forest, then showed quick feet to carve out a shooting chance on the edge of the box, but lashed his effort well wide of the target.
Prior to the game, the suggestion had been that Forest were planning to change the entire team at half-time. But O'Driscoll, in fact, did not make a single substitution, instead challenging the same players to go out and prove they were better than they had demonstrated in the first 45 minutes.
And they began in positive fashion, with Moussa firing in a cross from the right that Blackstock attacked bravely with an attempted diving header, forcing Jonas Olsson to concede a corner, with a courageous header of his own.
McGugan then lashed his boot through a shot from 30 yards that, after pinballing through the Albion defence, required quick feet from Foster to smother.
Then came the expected mass changes, as everyone bar the back four and keeper Darlow were replaced by Forest in the 55th minute, with O'Driscoll giving his entire midfield and front line a new look.
Most notably it gave Forest fans their first chance for a look at Kuwaiti international Bader Al Mutawa, who slotted into an advanced position on the right side.
O'Driscoll was clearly determined to give his back four as many minutes as possible, as they played together for the first time. But, in the final 20 minutes, he brought on both Brendan Moloney and Jamaal Lascelles.
Trialists Andy Taylor, a 26-year-old former Blackburn, Tranmere and Sheffield United left back, and 18-year-old former Liverpool centre-half Matt Regan were also given the chance to impress.
Algerian international Adlene Guedioura let fly with a trademark effort from distance in injury time, which flew high of the target. But, in truth, Forest had rarely troubled the opposition goal.
Forest: Darlow, Halford (Moloney 71), Ayala (Regan 79), Collins (Lascelles 69), Harding (Taylor 74), Moussa (Al-Mutawa 55), McGugan (Greening 55), Moussi (Guedioura 55), Reid (Majewski 55), McGoldrick (Tudgay 55), Blackstock (Derbyshire 55).
WBA: Foster, Reid (Jara 69), Olsson (Dawson 62), Yacob (Hurst 81), Ridgewell (Jones 45), Morrison (Ghanassy 66), Long (Fortune 66), Mulumbu (Reyes 81), Gera (Brunt 69), McAuley (Tamas 62), Odemwingie. Subs: Myhill, Thorne.
Referee: David Coote