The City Ground, Wednesday 25th February, 19:45
Nottingham Forest (Last Starting XI): Darlow; Lichai, Collins, Lascelles, Fox; Gardner, Burke, Lansbury, Osborn, Antonio; Blackstock
AFC Bournemouth (Last Starting XI): Boruc; Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels; Ritchie, Surman, MacDonald, Pugh; Kermorgant, Wilson
Match Odds (From William Hill): Nottingham Forest 15/8, Draw 13/5, AFC Bournemouth 13/10
- Nottingham Forest Form (Last 6 League Games): WDWWLL
- AFC Bournemouth Form (Last 6 League Games): LDDWWL
- When these sides met earlier in the season on the south coast, Forest won 2-1 to take them to the top of the table back in August.
- Bournemouth have never won at the City Ground in 6 attempts, however, Forest’s win earlier in the season was their first triumph in five attempts over the Cherries.
Since the departure of Stuart Pearce and the appointment of Dougie Freedman, Forest’s form has helped them climb back into the top half of the Championship. Their last outing saw them sweep aside Bolton Wanderers 4-1, claiming their third victory in their last four games and extending their unbeaten run since Freedman joined.
Freedman has been quoted this week stating “I want to make the City Ground a place where teams fear to come”. They have managed 14 goals in their first four games under the new manager, and despite the untimely injury of Britt Assombalonga who is expected to be out for 12 months, they are not struggling to find the net. Henri Lansbury has netted in his last 4 games, and Freedman says he has shown “maturity” since being made captain in place of the absence of the Chris Cohen.
Forest currently find themselves sitting in 9th position in the Championship, and a late playoff push looks a tall ask as they trail the last playoff place by 15 points. However, with 14 games left in the Reds’ season, they will look to continue their improved form and take advantage of any mistakes made by the teams above them in the table. With two away games coming up in the next week, a win against Bournemouth will continue their resurgence and give them real confidence for their upcoming fixtures.
Many expect Freedman to select the same side that dispatched of Bolton at the weekend, as Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Jack Hobbs are still expected to be sidelined. However, the free-scoring Reds are in a rich vein of form that an unchanged side will be music to the ears of many Forest supporters in tonight’s clash.
The Cherries’ automatic promotion aspirations have taken a real hit in the past couple of weeks. They are currently without a win in 3 games, and have slipped to fourth in the table, 4 points behind the automatic promotion places. Tommy Elphick, Bournemouth’s captain, has said that his side’s form is “just a blip” and are determined to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
Eddie Howe’s team will not be relishing a trip to one of the form sides in the league, however, Bournemouth still hold the best away record in the league, despite a 3-1 defeat to Brentford on Saturday. There are still 14 games left in what has been an enthralling season in the Championship, and there will undoubtedly be many more twists and turns. The Cherries still have to play Middlesbrough and Ipswich, and if they can find the kind of form that saw they had earlier in the year, they should still be considered one of the favourites for promotion to the Premier League.
Bournemouth could be without two of their most influential players this season, with Harry Arter suspended and Matt Ritchie facing a late fitness test to start tonight’s game. Howe has been criticised for not taking advantage of the loan transfer window, something other sides have utilised, but with a strong bench to call upon, they don’t appear to be in any rush to strengthen. Better news for them is the return of South African international Tokelo Rantie to full fitness.
Bournemouth, still without Harry Arter and Eunan O’Kane, may also look to name an unchanged starting line up. However, with Ritchie potentially not being fit for tonight’s game, they may look to Ryan Fraser, Junior Stanislas or Adam Smith to fill in. Tokelo Rantie returns from a shoulder injury and may be named on the bench.
Match Prediction: Nottingham Forest 2-2 AFC Bournemouth
In Freedman’s first four games in charge, 14 goals have been scored and 7 have been conceded. Bournemouth are the league’s joint top scorers, but rarely keep clean sheets. Therefore, I can definitely see there being goals in this game. This is definitely Freedman’s toughest test so far as Forest manager facing one of the best footballing sides in the league, but with Bournemouth without a win in 3 games, a draw is my prediction for tonight’s game.