David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Darius Henderson’

Forest seek upturn in fortunes

Friday, April 19th, 2013

With the end of the Championship season in sight, the competitiveness of the division has come to the fore. 14 points separate the play-offs from the relegation places and teams have begun to experience ‘squeaky bum time.’ Just ask Nottingham Forest.

A month ago, Forest occupied fifth place in the table having secured an impressive 2-1 win away to Hull City, which was their sixth win in a row. That run hauled them up from mid-table into the play-off places and it seemed that they could go on and cement their place in the top six.

However, after a run of three draws and two defeats since that win at the KC Stadium, Billy Davies’ men have slipped to eighth, one point adrift of sixth-placed Leicester City. It has been a frustrating few weeks for all connected with the club. After the Hull game, some fans were dreaming of automatic promotion, even if back then that seemed a tall order. The season is hanging in the balance and the aim is to reclaim a top six place.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why Forest’s form has dipped recently. Perhaps they have been sussed out by other teams, maybe a bit of complacency has set in or the players could be feeling fatigued. Billy Davies believes that the latter is playing a part. This week he claimed that the players are mentally fatigued, following a season of upheaval at The City Ground which has seen three different managers at the helm.

Davies, through working with the players several days a week, is certainly the best judge of how they are both mentally and physically. What is important though, is that the manager can get a final push from the squad and guide them back to winning ways, starting with Saturday’s home game against Barnsley.

There has been a spark missing from Forest’s recent performances when compared to the displays they were putting in during the run of six consecutive victories. The personnel and formation have largely been the same throughout, but the results have changed.  The Reds have developed a habit of conceding goals first, putting themselves in a position where they have to come from behind to take something from games.

Against Brighton & Hove Albion, Forest were the better side in the first half but allowed the visitors to take the lead early in the second period. After equalising through substitute Lewis McGugan with seven minutes remaining, Will Buckley went straight down the other end to put Brighton back ahead, but thanks to an injury-time error from Seagulls goalkeeper Casper Ankergren, when he allowed Henri Lansbury’s shot to go through his legs, Forest salvaged a dramatic late point and kept their unbeaten record under Davies intact.

It was a similar story on Easter Monday against Burnley at Turf Moor, a place Forest struggle to get anything from. The Reds looked certain to lose following Junior Stanisalas’ 68th minute goal, but with the final kick of the game McGugan slotted home a 96th minute penalty to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat.

After the international break, Forest hosted Blackpool at The City Ground and again they had to come from behind to take a point. The visitors set up to frustrate Forest and get men behind the ball, which worked as Ludovic Sylvestre put them 1-0 ahead against the run of play in the first half. Despite continued pressure throughout the game, Forest needed another penalty from super sub McGugan to secure a 1-1 draw, the sixth game in a row in which he scored, most of them after coming off the bench.

That draw extended Forest’s unbeaten run to ten matches since Billy Davies’ return as boss, but it would eventually come to an end a week later against Cardiff City.

Forest travelled to South Wales feeling confident that they could upset the league leaders and they more than held their own in the first half, causing the home side problems. However the Reds couldn’t capitalise, with Darius Henderson missing a good opportunity from six yards out and Lewis McGugan’s effort being ruled out for offside.

Before the break, Forest found themselves harshly reduced to ten men after Henderson was shown a red card for a stray arm on Cardiff’s Heidar Helguson. Replays showed that an arm was out, but there was no intent from the Forest striker and the offence was a yellow card at worst. Cardiff capitalised on their extra man advantage in the second half to win the game 3-0. They have since gone on to secure promotion into the Premier League and look odds on to win the division, so on reflection there’s no shame in losing to the best side in the league.

On Tuesday evening Forest travelled to Middlesbrough, a side who have seen their promotion hopes fade after a terrible run of form since the New Year. However, Forest put in a lacklustre display and were beaten 1-0, dropping down to eighth place in the table. Despite a late fightback, which saw Chris Cohen nearly score an equaliser, the Reds came away with nothing and as a result, are a point adrift of the play-offs with three games remaining.

Luckily for Forest, other sides chasing top six places have faltered in recent weeks, hence why they find themselves just a point off the top six and three points adrift of fourth place. Crystal Palace have failed to win any of their last six games, Brighton have won one in five, while Leicester have just begun to get themselves out of a slump which saw them go nine games without victory.

Bolton Wanderers in seventh have embarked on a great run of form, at a similar time to Forest’s ten-game unbeaten streak, to become serious contenders for a play-off berth. They are currently ahead of Forest in the table by virtue of a better goal difference, which shows how tight the race for the play-offs has become.

All Forest can do now is focus on themselves and ensure that they take enough points from their final three games to secure a top six place. After Saturday’s game against Barnsley, they face a tricky trip to Millwall before hosting Leicester on the final day of the season, in what could potentially be a winner takes all clash.

Forest’s squad is lacking out-and-out wingers, which is why Davies has favoured a 4-4-2 diamond formation, which gets the best out of Andy Reid, Henri Lansbury, Radoslaw Majewski and Adlene Guedioura in the middle of the park. However this formation has seen goals dry up for the strikers, with Darius Henderson the only frontman to score since Davies’ return to the club.

The way Forest are set up to play allows their attacking midfielders to push on and have goalscoring chances. The strikers are required to work hard to create space and play the ball into them, which goes some way to explaining why the club’s frontmen are not hitting the back of the net regularly, whether it is Henderson, Dexter Blackstock, Simon Cox or Billy Sharp playing up front.

Up until recently Forest were not short of goals or an attacking threat, but it is difficult for them to change things without proper wingers playing down either flank. Had there been quick wide players in the squad, then the strikers would have scored more goals by now. At the moment, Forest have to make the best of the players they possess, which they did well during their unbeaten run

Despite the disappointment of dropping out of the top six, Forest’s current position is far from disastrous. The pressure is now on the teams above them to stay in the play-off places, while the pressure has been taken off Forest. Now they are one of the chasing pack, Forest can hopefully play with a bit more freedom and regain the kind of form which had taken them into the promotion picture in the first place.

Saturday’s game against Barnsley has taken on a greater significance as it presents a good opportunity to claim three points. The Tykes are fighting to avoid relegation and will provide tough opposition, but any side with serious hopes of reaching the play-offs have to beat struggling sides on their home turf. The playoff places have changed hands so often in recent weeks, so a victory may be enough to take Forest back into them.

I believe that Forest will overhaul the teams above them and finish in the top six, but what happens beyond that is harder to predict. There is a lot of quality in the squad, but I fear that their shortcomings may be found out in the pressure cooker of play-off football.

When you consider that the club was fighting relegation 12 months ago, or that it was languishing in mid-table when Davies took over, to be in with a shout of the play-offs with three games remaining is an excellent achievement. There is of course some disappointment at seeing them drop out of the top six in the past week, but there is still much to play for.

If Nottingham Forest do secure themselves a play-off spot, it will no doubt add further drama to an already eventful season.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up’s Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

There’s life after Hendo

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Darius Henderson has been a big player for Millwall over the last 18 months; however, I feel there is life after the forward dubbed ‘The Hulk.’

Since joining the club at the start of the 2011/12 season Henderson has played his part in keeping the Lions in the Championship and helping us compete in the race for a play-off spot.

Last season the former Sheffield United frontman was Millwall’s top scorer with 15 goals in 31 league appearances for Millwall, six of those goals being in hat-trick performances away to Leicester City and Barnsley respectively. Of the 15 goals Henderson scored, only five goals were either the opening or winning goal. Take the two hat-ticks away and its 11 goals and three being the opening or winning goals.

I am in no way knocking his contribution during his tenure at the club, when he was fit and playing, he was almost unplayable. Leicester and Burnley found that out.

The issue I had with Henderson was his injury record, something that was flagged up from the start when he joined the club back in 2011. When he wasn’t injured and he was playing, invariably he would play well and give is all – a real Millwall-type player.

His goal per game ratio is impressive too, considering the number of games played. 26 goals in 56 games in all competitions tells its own story, working out at under a goal every three games. In the 74 league games Millwall have played since Darius Henderson arrived at the club, he has scored 22 goals in the 51 he has played and still missed 23 games, that’s half a season!

As mentioned previously, only five of Henderson’s goals last season were either opening or winning goals, this season that statistic stands are five. So overall, even though Henderson has scored 22 goals, only ten have been ones that are influential in a game. Now I know all goals are, the point is he has scored the majority of his goals when the team are winning or are comfortable.

We will miss Henderson’s physicality up front and his unequivocal knack of winning headers and flicking the ball on, along with holding up play for others to join in. That is something that needs to be addressed going forward when a replacement is found. Henderson can and will be replaced.

When fit and available, he is a top player to have at your club. He will be a loss to Millwall, but he is not the be all and end all of our goal scoring or our season by any means.

Millwall still have a great chance of reaching the play-offs with the position the team are in and the tradition of the club to finish a season strongly and, if I may, going back to the important goals relativity – Andy Keogh has scored more important goals than Henderson.

We have a player in Keogh who on his day is Premier League player, he oozes class and his touch and technique are something that might be taken for granted from our fans. He scored seven in 20 games last season after his January move from Wolverhampton Wanderers and this term has netted six times in 22 games this term, including the audacious chipped penalty at the Reebok Stadium against Bolton Wanderers on January 12th.

Of the ten goals Andy Keogh got last season, seven were either the opening or winning goal and four goals that have proved vital this season. That’s 11 of Keogh’s 16 league goals which have been influential.  Keogh is still a player that can win games, with or without Henderson.

We ultimately stayed in the Championship last season without Darius Henderson. Keogh scored the goals to keep us up in the final seven games – along with Harry Kane, the player that replaced the injured Henderson. In the grand scheme of things, Millwall are stronger with Andy Keogh, but we would be weaker without Henderson.

It will be a loss but something we will get over. We got over Steve Morison and Neil Harris going, we will get over Chris Wood and Henderson leaving. We did it last season in a vital stage of the season when Hendo was injured; we can do it again, as long as the right replacement is bought in. That player must complement our main forward option in Keogh.

The season is still alive and kicking and the timing isn’t the best, I hope I’m proved right and Millwall replace Henderson to be striker heavy rather than striker light for the remainder of the season and finish strongly as I believe we can.

Best of luck to Henderson at Forest, if they wrap him in cotton wool, they have a player who on his day is unplayable. Let’s hope that day isn’t Saturday 27th April 2013.

Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger

Jay tweets at @jay_taylor18

Winds of change sweep through Forest

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Nottingham Forest have had quite an eventful start to 2013, off the field at least. The past four weeks have seen a new manager arrive, three senior figures at the club relieved of their duties and the Reds’ first-choice goalkeeper released from his contract.

It had all been going so swimmingly since the Al-Hasawi family completed their takeover of the club last summer. They appointed the progressive Sean O’Driscoll as manager and funded the arrivals of 14 new players. They expressed their desire for the club to reach the Premier League, but were willing to give O’Driscoll the time to build a squad capable of promotion, or so it seemed.

Forest outclassed Neil Warnock’s Leeds United in a 4-2 Boxing Day victory at the City Ground to move within one point of the play-off spots in the Championship. However, a few hours after one of Forest’s best performances under O’Driscoll, the manager was sacked after just four months in the job.

This news was met with criticism from a large section of Forest supporters. O’Driscoll is well-known for getting his sides to play attractive passing football and seemed the right man for the job. Upon taking the role in July he was forced to hastily build a squad ready for the new season, with Forest having narrowly avoided relegation to League One the previous campaign.

The team had performed inconsistently during his tenure – understandably so with the number of new playing personnel added in the summer – and it was taking time for his footballing ethos to get across to the players, but it was nevertheless a shock when he was shown the door.

The following day Alex McLeish was appointed as Forest manager, a move again met with criticism from the Reds faithful. He arrived with a reputation for playing cagey, defensive football and with his recent struggle as Aston Villa manager fresh in the memory. On the surface it was hardly an appointment to inspire the fans.

However, it became clear that the Al-Hasawi’s priorities had changed over the last few months and promotion this season was now the goal. McLeish has proven success at this level, having guided Birmingham City to promotion in 2009, so for that reason it is clear to see why the Kuwaiti owners opted for the 53-year-old Scot.

His reign got off to a slow start, with a 2-2 home draw against Crystal Palace thanks to Billy Sharp’s last-minute equaliser followed by a 3-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers. A week later, Forest were embarassed in the third round of the FA Cup by League One Oldham Athletic, with the Latics running out deserved 3-2 winners.

McLeish finally picked up his first Forest win at the fourth attempt as the Reds defeated Peterborough 2-1 at the City Ground to gain some ground on the top six, but the week prior to the match had been dominated by stories surrounding the future of goalkeeper Lee Camp.

Two days before the game, it was reported that McLeish had told Camp he could leave the club amid interest from Premier League sides Reading and Norwich City. Camp had been first choice since arriving from QPR in 2009 but he was criticised for some poor performances over the last 18 months, his form becoming patchy after Forest blocked a move to Swansea City in 2010.

With Camp free to find another club, Forest were linked with moves for former England goalkeepers Paul Robinson and Robert Green, but these failed to materialise and Camp’s deputy Karl Darlow was handed his full League debut against Peterborough.

Four days after that game, it was announced that Forest Chief Executive Mark Arthur, Head of Recruitment Keith Burt and club ambassador Frank Clark had all parted company with the club.

The axing of three senior club figures in one fell swoop raised eyebrows, but perhaps this was the Al-Hasawi’s finally stamping their mark on the club. Had they made these moves straight after their takeover, they would have been criticised for ‘rocking the boat’ too soon. Having been owners for a few months, perhaps they are now in a better position to bring in their own people.

Arthur had bore the brunt of criticism from a section of Forest fans who felt he had made poor decisions in the running of the club, particularly under the chairmanship of Nigel Doughty. One famous Arthur PR blunder was the “We’re serious about promotion, are you?” campaign ahead of the 2004-05 season. It was designed to justify a rise in season ticket prices to fund a promotion push ahead of a season which ultimately ended with Forest relegated to League One.

The timing of Keith Burt’s departure was surprising. To dispose of the club’s head of recruitment right in the middle of the January transfer window seemed a hasty decision, especially when Forest had transfer deals in the pipeline.

Frank Clark’s exit was arguably the most unexpected of all. The 69-year-old has a strong association with Forest, having won the European Cup as a player with the club in 1979. He also managed the club between 1993 and 1996 and acted as Chairman following the resignation of Nigel Doughty in 2011. Clark was working in an ambassadorial role before being placed on gardening leave, with local news outlets reporting that he had been told to ‘stay away’ from the club, which if true is a harsh way to treat such a well-liked figure.

On Saturday, Forest made the short trip down the A52 for the eagerly-anticipated meeting with local rivals Derby County. A good performance saw Forest earn a 1-1 draw at Pride Park, but it could have been more.

Forest performed well for the most part, taking the lead in the first half when Chris Cohen slotted home after miskicking his inital effort on goal, but sloppy play by Simon Gillett gave the ball to Derby forward Conor Sammon, who played in Jamie Ward for the equaliser early in the second period. Forest rallied, with Billy Sharp and Dexter Blackstock both going close to finding a winner but the point was a worthy return for a good showing in a fiercely competed local derby.

One of the biggest challenges facing McLeish is to get his squad performing consistently and pick up enough points to be in the promotion shake-up come the end of the season. With 18 games remaining Forest are currently 10th in the table, five points off the play-off spots

Forest possess a talented squad, with many players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet, so if McLeish can combine good passing football with some defensive steel then he will soon win over the doubters. The team’s defensive record is by no means the worst in the Championship, but it could be better and McLeish has begun to address this by bringing in Chile international Gonzalo Jara from West Brom and re-signing Elliot Ward from Norwich, both on loans until the end of the season.

Goalkeeper Darlow has looked assured during his first two Forest starts, particularly against Derby where he was unfazed by the intimidating atmosphere. He commanded his area, came for crosses and made saves when called upon. At the age of 22, he has the time and ability to become Forest number one for many years to come and it will be interesting to see how he develops with more games under his belt.

Forest fans love to see young players come through the ranks and break into the first team, so it is encouraging to see McLeish have faith in Darlow, especially after Lee Camp was finally released from his Forest contract this week.

Some good news followed Camp’s departure, with Dexter Blackstock putting pen to paper on a new four-and-a-half-year deal. There had been speculation over the striker’s future, so it is a boost to see the fans’ favourite commit his future to Forest. The club have also completed their third signing of the transfer window, with Darius Henderson joining from Millwall for an undisclosed fee. The 31-year-old striker provides a different option up front with his strength and physical presence and Forest know about what he can do after he scored in Millwall’s 4-1 win at the City Ground earlier this season.

McLeish has said he is looking to bring in a few more new faces before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month, with Birmingham winger Chris Burke linked with a move to Forest in the past week. The team is in need of more options out wide so it remains to be seen if a new winger is brought in. Forest did sign 22-year-old wideman Stephen McLaughlin from Derry City at the start of the month, but the Irishman is currently training with the club’s development squad and is not expected to make the step up to the first team yet.

If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that Forest need no more distractions as they aim for promotion in the final three months of the season. Hopefully things behind the scenes will settle from here, allowing Alex McLeish and the players to focus on reaching the Premier League.

A bit of stability is all we’re asking for!

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up’s Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

Millwall Win!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Yes, you read that right – Millwall have indeed won a game! It wasn’t your quintessential scruffy 1-0 smash and grab either, far from it. The result was well and truly deserved, and the performance was sublime – Millwall hadn’t won away all season, and hadn’t tasted victory since beating Nottingham Forest 2-0 at the Den on August 13th.

It is The Lions’ second win of the season, coincidently they have both come against former two England managers!

A hard fought point away to Middlesbrough and a point at home to Brighton were decent results against high flying opposition after the international break. A corner had seemingly been turned. If only slightly.After these matches it was a trip to big spending Leicester City on Saturday with even the most optimistic Lions fan struggling to see points to be gained, the eventual outcome was even harder to fathom. Prior to kick-off hearing the announcer name the Leicester starting eleven, most Lions fans questioned if their side would even get a point, but money cannot buy you everything!

A Darius Henderson hat-trick (I’m not making this up) was the icing on the cake in what was a perfect performance, the big target man got his first from the spot, and his second came just before halftime.

The second was crucial, going in at the break only one goal up would have been great, doubling the lead was deserved and needed. Leicester would have come out stronger in the second period had they been trailing by the one goal, and maybe pegged Millwall back. The second was an insurance.

A 2-0 lead isn’t a safe scoreline by any means, so when Liam Feeney’s 68th minute corner was headed in by Henderson to make it three and complete his treble, the game was safe.

To a man, Millwall performed like their nickname. Solid in defence, creative in midfield and clinical up front.

Compare that to the lacklustre performance from Sven’s men, and you would have thought the two teams were in the opposite situation.Leicester did assert pressure and press at 2-0 down, but the Millwall defence was impenetrable. £35,000-a-week man, Jermaine Beckford was subbed off at half time after, like he was for Leeds, non-existent against Millwall. Lloyd Dyer came on in his place and made more of an impact, but it wasn’ the Foxes’ day.

If Kenny Jackett is reading this (big fan! Keep it up!) signing Brian Howard on a permanent basis is key. He has calmness in abundance and is very creative on the ball, his experience is something the midfield have lacked this season. Against Leicester he won the penalty and dictated the direction of Millwall’s attack, he would certainly be a great addition to the squad.

Performance aside, the surprise of the day was the forgotten man, Jack Smith. All Millwall fans know how good the defender is, and barring the injuries he has had, should be a first team regular. After today’s performance, I think that will be the case. A right-back by trade and even an auxiliary centre-back, Smith found himself at left-back but played admirably. This has been somewhat of a problem position for Kenny Jackett this season, playing Tony Craig, Jordan Stewart and most recently Scott Barron in the position. In all honesty none have impressed, until today.

Smith was coolness personified on the ball all afternoon, bringing it out from the back with composure. Solid in defence and showed purpose to get forward, he was arguably Millwall’s best full back who did his chances the world of good in what was a vintage performance. He plays so nonchalantly and I feel he is underrated.

Nothing was going to get past Millwall at the King Power stadium, it was the day of the underdog.

The win was long overdue and it was a performance to be proud of.

Leicester have the money, but that can’t buy team spirit and togetherness. A side of individuals or a crafted team? I know which I’d prefer!

In KJ we trust!

Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger

Jay tweets at @jay_taylor18

Who Needs Steve Morison?

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

After being sold to Norwich earlier in the transfer window, Lions fans could have been forgiven for thinking we wouldn’t score any goals. But in all honesty Steve Morison, so far, hasn’t been at all missed!

Instead, Lion’s fans are seeing the dawn of a new hero in SE16. Step up, Darius Henderson. The former Watford and Sheffield United target man has had a bright start in a Millwall shirt. Two goals in his first two games have helped Millwall up to fourth in the Championship; early days of course but an unbeaten start with plenty of positives.

Following a 2-2 draw on the opening day to play-off finalists Reading, manager Kenny Jackett bemoaned the lack of options on his bench. With Josh McQuoid injured and Shaun Batt still recovering from injury, attacking options were limited. 48 hours later and The Den boss brought in Leicester City forward Dany N’Guessan and he made an instant impact with the winner away to Plymouth in the Carling Cup.

Fast forward to Saturday and the failed England manager Steve McClaren arrived at the den with his Forest side that narrowly beat rivals Notts County on penalties in the League Cup during the week – prior to kick off, Millwall mascot Zampa the Lion paraded on the pitch with an umbrella to the amusement of many of the supporters in the ground.

In a game that the home side dominated, the win was just rewards for a determined performance against the not so Tricky Trees. For small spells in either half Forest kept the ball well, but in the final third there was no end product. The closest the visitor’s came was when USA international Robbie Findley hit the base of the post.

Seven minutes in and after heavy pressure from the off, the Lions broke the deadlock. James Henry whipped in a corner that was remarkably back heeled in from Henderson to the amazement of the Forest defence, and the goal scorer himself!

The second half, new signing N’Guessan came off the bench to pick up the ball in his own half and show great pace down the right wing to deliver a ball which fell into the path of Liam Trotter to stroke home from six yards to secure all three points.

Since joining Millwall, both N’Guessan and Henderson have shown signs of doing well at the club – both appear shrewd transfers, out of left-field from Kenny Jackett. If both can sustain fitness and form then both will prove to be very astute singings come later in the season.

Steve McClaren sarcastically thanked Millwall fans for the “fantastic welcome” he received on Saturday. McClaren, as well as every other manager, should know they will never get off lightly when they enter the Lion’s den. If come out the other side with a result, you know full well you have earned it.

Next up is newly promoted Peterborough, a team I know a little about. Being at university up there, I’ve had the opportunity to see a few of their Tuesday night fixtures. A win at home to Crystal Palace and then Stevenage in the Carling Cup gave the Posh the perfect start to the season. Darren Ferguson’s men fought bravely in a narrow 2-1 defeat to Blackpool last weekend for their first defeat of the season.

They are an organised team that score goals and create bundles of chances. With their gung-ho mentaility and strong centre back pairing of Gabby Zakuani and youngster Ryan Bennett, it will be a diffucult test for Kenny Jackett’s side.

The Posh are in a similar situation to us though, losing their top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith. An excellent player and a big loss. Having said that they don’t look like they have missed him so far, much like us with the sale of Morison.

Buoyed by promotion they will be looking to upset the Lions on their own patch. A few people I know, one in particular (you know who you are!) really want to beat us. I don’t fancy the stick I’ll get at uni if we lose, so it’s a must win for the Lions on Wednesday night! I predict a close game, but Millwall’s experience to shine through. A 2-1 win and another three precious points.

Every game in this division is difficult and we will have to be on our game again if we want to get more important early points on the board.

In KJ we trust!

Written by Jay Taylor, We Are Going Up’s Millwall blogger

Jay tweets at @jay_taylor18