David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Henri Lansbury’

A season of ups and downs

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Nottingham-Forest-FC-Pictures-Wallpaper3-640x480Nottingham Forest’s 2013-14 season was one of contrasting fortunes. It began with hopes of promotion and for the most part, it looked as if those hopes could come true, but it ultimately ended with a whimper and thoughts of what might have been.

The watershed moment in the campaign came on February 16, when Forest slumped to a disappointing, if somewhat unfortunate 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Ahead of that match at Bramall Lane, optimism was high. The Reds were fifth in the Championship, six points adrift of second-placed Burnley with a game in hand and they had an eight-point cushion on seventh place.

Furthermore, they had gone their last 16 games unbeaten in all competitions, which fuelled expectation among Forest fans that the team could overcome their League One opponents to reach the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time since 1996.

Forest took the lead through Jamie Paterson, but a mistake from Dorus de Vries allowed United to equalise, before a dubious Chris Porter penalty and breakaway goal gave Nigel Clough’s side the victory.

The draw for the next round, which had taken place during the match, pitted Forest against either Charlton or Sheffield Wednesday if they had come through their fifth-round clash, which had only raised the hope further. The Reds had been given their best chance of reaching the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in 23 years.

However, the manner in which hope soon turned to disappointment on that Sunday afternoon was mirrored during the remainder of the season.

Manager Billy Davies was robbed of several first-choice players through injury, with Andy Reid, Henri Lansbury, Chris Cohen, Jack Hobbs, Kelvin Wilson, Eric Lichaj and David Vaughan all sidelined at the same time.

The Reds followed up their FA Cup exit with a credible 2-2 draw against league leaders Leicester City, in a match where Forest could feel aggrieved that they did not emerge with a victory. However, the extent of the injury crisis was exposed in the next two games, as Forest lost 2-1 at Burnley then 4-1 at home to Wigan Athletic.

A defeat and two draws followed, before Forest endured an embarrassing 5-0 defeat at rivals Derby County. Steve McClaren came back to haunt his former employers as his promotion-chasing side tore the Reds apart, which spelled the end for Davies’ second stint at The City Ground.

The Scot was sacked less than 48 hours after that defeat at Pride Park, with many Reds fans feeling that it was the right time for him to go. He was hailed as a returning hero when he was re-appointed manager in February 2013, but his ‘them against us’ attitude got the better of him and turned out to be a factor in his dismissal.

He imposed a media blackout and alienated many individuals who he felt had wronged him during his first spell in charge. On the football side he did have to cope without eight of his best players but despite this, performances were still not up to scratch, culminating in that forgettable afternoon at Pride Park. This, coupled with the off-field distractions proved to be the final straw.

Academy manager Gary Brazil was placed in temporary charge of the side until the end of the season, but he could not inspire a change in fortunes. Forest were still in contention for the playoff places when he took over, but the team failed to win their first five matches under his stewardship and slipped further down the table.

Forest looked like a side devoid of confidence and direction during Brazil’s first few matches in charge. However, back-to-back victories against Birmingham and Leeds followed, which moved them to within two points of sixth-placed Reading with two games of the season remaining.

Improved displays in those two wins restored some optimism to the Forest ranks, but their playoff dreams were ended as they succumbed to a 4-1 defeat at Bournemouth with another poor performance. Then, on the final day of the season, Forest fans watched Brighton secure their place in the playoffs thanks to a late 2-1 victory over the Reds at the City Ground, following another lacklustre performance from Brazil’s side.

Two wins from their last 15 matches of the season saw Forest drop from fifth place to their final position of 11th, and it was a relief when the campaign finally came to an end.

Brazil was exposed as being out of his depth tactically, but one positive from his short tenure is the emergence of young talent in the side. Ben Osborn was given his chance in the first-team and has not looked out of place, while Josh Rees and Jack Blake have bright futures ahead of them.

At the beginning of April, Forest announced that club legend Stuart Pearce would be returning as the new manager from July 1. The former left-back is a hero amongst the Forest faithful and his impending arrival gives us much to look forward to ahead of next season.

Despite choosing to not taking charge until the summer due to other commitments, Pearce has already begun to stamp his authority at the City Ground, with as many as 10 players expected to leave the club in the coming weeks. Guy Moussi and Marcus Tudgay have already confirmed their departures, Matt Derbyshire, Ishmael Miller, Jonathan Greening, Simon Gillett and Gonzalo Jara will reportedly not be offered new deals, while Lee Peltier, Rafik Djebbour and Kevin Gomis will return to their parent clubs following loan spells.

Forest have completed the permanent signing of left-back Danny Fox from Southampton following his loan spell, while David Vaughan will also make his loan move permanent during the summer.

This week Pearce held a meeting with every employee of the club, which was also attended by chairman and owner Fawaz Al Hasawi. In the meeting, Pearce expressed his desire to see Forest to emulate the achievements of Leicester and Burnley; this season’s promoted sides, by performing to high standards both on and off the pitch.

He may not have officially taken charge yet, but the early signs from Pearce are encouraging. He understands the football club, knows what the fans want to see and will be as determined as anyone to bring success back to Forest. There have been some reservations over his record in the management, though, following an average spell as Manchester City boss and six years as England Under-21 manager.

However, he has said all the right things since being confirmed as Forest’s new boss, speaking about playing football in the right way, building a strong team spirit and giving promising youth players a chance. Those who have questioned his credentials should look to the likes of Sean Dyche and Malky Mackay, who had never guided sides to promotion from the Championship before doing so at Burnley at Cardiff respectively. Pearce might not have a proven record at this level, but being back at Forest could inspire him to deliver success.

Pearce inherits the foundations of a very good squad, but the expected departures of 10 players will mean that he will have the opportunity to make new signings. Forest have been crying out for a clinical striker for years and the incoming manager has confirmed that a striker is at the top of his shopping list. The Reds drew 17 of their 46 league games this season, and it is clear that a lack of cutting edge played a role in their failure to finish in a playoff position or higher.

By the time the new the season starts the likes of Reid, Lansbury, Hobbs, Wilson and Cohen will be back to full fitness, which will only strengthen the team further. Forest are not far away from being a real force at this level and if Pearce can get the best out of the current crop of players they will definitely be in the promotion picture next season.

After a promising, but ultimately disappointing campaign for Forest, there is plenty to look forward to ahead of next season. The arrival of Stuart Pearce will lift the club and the mood of supporters as the Reds look to return to the top flight. 20 years ago Pearce captained Forest to promotion to the Premier League. Imagine how great it would be if he was to repeat that feat as a manager.

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

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

The Billy Davies effect

Friday, March 29th, 2013

When Billy Davies returned as Nottingham Forest manager at the start of February, few would have predicted the impact he has had at the club after a few weeks at the helm.

One draw and six straight wins from his first seven games in charge represent a dramatic turnaround in the club’s fortunes. The Scot began his second spell in charge with Forest 13th in the table and six points adrift of the playoff places. The unbeaten run that’s followed has moved the Reds up to fifth place, one point ahead of seventh placed Brighton & Hove Albion, who they face at The City Ground on Saturday.

When Alex McLeish left Forest on February 5th after just 40 days in charge, the club’s season looked as good as over. The former Aston Villa and Birmingham City boss had struggled to make an impact at Forest, winning only one of his seven games in charge and struggling to get the players performing to their full potential. The Reds had fallen away from the top six as a result.

Billy Davies has come in and got the team firing. He has not made any additions to the squad or made any noises about wishing to add to it, as he was prone to doing during his previous spell as boss, but he has managed to get a talented squad performing to their best, which the results back up.

After a 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers in his first match in charge – which arguably should have ended in a victory for Forest but for Adam Bogdan’s excellent performance in the Bolton goal – Davies’ first win came as Forest thrashed Huddersfield Town 6-1. Radoslaw Majewski netted a first half hat-trick against the Yorkshire side and then carried that goalscoring form into the following matches.

The midfielder netted in Forest’s next two games, the 2-0 win over Charlton Athletic and a 1-0 televised victory at Sheffield Wednesday. His improvement in form under Davies earned him a recall to the Poland national team, playing in their World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine and San Marino.

Another midfielder who has improved since Davies’ arrival is Henri Lansbury. The £1 million summer signing from Arsenal had initially struggled to make an impact at Forest due to injury, but since regaining full fitness and being given regular gametime by Davies he has put in some impressive performances. He netted the second goal at Charlton and also scored twice to help Forest beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 on March 9th, a result which took Forest into the playoff places.

Lewis McGugan has also upped his game since being reunited with Billy Davies. He has had to settle with coming off the bench but he has made an impact, scoring against Wolves and also netting the winning goals against Ipswich and Hull City. McGugan is a naturally gifted player, who has often been criticised for his attitude and application in the past. He enjoyed his best campaign under Davies in the 2010-11 season and even his teammates took to Twitter to joke that “dad” had come back to look after him.

McGugan’s strike at Hull was significant, as it secured victory for Forest against a genuine promotion contender. Despite going unbeaten for six games and winning five of them prior to the game, some observers had argued that Davies’ Forest were yet to face a side at the top end of the table and that the real test would come at the KC Stadium on March 16th.

George Boyd, whose proposed deadline day move to Forest was reportedly cancelled due to a failed eye exam, opened the scoring for Hull and celebrated in front of the Forest fans by mimicking wearing glasses with his fingers. Despite this setback, Forest dug in and equalised through Darius Henderson early in the second half. With six minutes remaining McGugan latched onto Billy Sharp’s pass to fire home and secure an impressive 2-1 win against Steve Bruce’s second-placed outfit. The result will have made the clubs around Forest in the table stand up and take notice.

The team as a whole have improved under Davies’ guidance, which is a key factor behind Forest’s rapid rise up the table. The defence have stopped leaking goals and look far tougher to break down, the midfield is creating chances and the strikers, whilst not scoring many themselves, are working tirelessly to keep hold of the ball and create space for the attacking midfielders to utilise.

Chris Cohen has done well at left-back since being moved there by Davies. Cohen has spent the majority of his six-year Forest career playing in midfield, filling it at left-back on occasion, but he has adapted to the role in the past seven games admirably. Cohen always plays with great energy and it is this which allows him to bomb forward to support the attack, but also means he can get back to perform defensive duties when required.

During the side’s unbeaten run Darius Henderson is the only striker to have found the net, but the work-rate of the frontmen – whether it is Henderson, Dexter Blackstock, Simon Cox or Billy Sharp – have provided ample opportunities for the midfielders to score.

The Forest squad is lacking a winger or two who can provide pace and width, so Davies has opted for a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Adlene Guedioura anchoring, Lansbury and Majewski ahead of him and Andy Reid playing behind the front two. This setup has got the best out of the midfielders currently at the club and allowed Forest to enjoy good spells of possession during games. Forest are playing some attractive passing football, much like they did during Davies’ previous tenure as boss.

Off the field, several changes have taken place in the past month. John Pemberton departed his role as performance development coach following Davies’ arrival as expected, while press officer Fraser Nicholson and other staff members have also lost their jobs. The club are yet to comment on these departures, presumably for legal reasons, but it looks like these exits are part of the restructuring of the club behind the scenes.

One positive move has been to bring back Ian McParland as the club’s Under-21 coach. McParland left Forest in 2007 after spending a decade at the club as coach, which included a spell as joint-caretaker manager in 2006. He was a popular figure at the City Ground and it is good to see him return. Hopefully in his new role he can help many of the club’s young players bridge the gap between the Academy and first-team in the future.

In recent years several clubs in the Championship have picked up form late in the campaign and gone on to win promotion, most notably Reading, Blackpool and Swansea City. Forest have put themselves in a great position to do something similar with their run of form, but considering where the club was at the beginning of February, to be fifth in the table as it stands is a tremendous achievement from the manager and players. The big task now facing them is to stay in the top six.

Forest will equal a club record of seven straight league victories – set in 1922 – if they beat fellow promotion contenders Brighton at the City Ground on Saturday afternoon. A bumper crowd is expected for the match, which could prove pivotal in deciding where the Reds finish this season. Victory would pull them further away from Gus Poyet’s side, who will no doubt provide stern opposition, while defeat would continue to leave the race for the playoffs wide open.

However, with confidence high on Trentside there’s no reason why Forest can’t collect all three points and equal that 91-year-old club record in the process.

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

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

Patience is key

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

In the aftermath of Nottingham Forest’s 2-1 defeat to Hull on Saturday, certain sections of the Forest support were not afraid to show their frustration and boo the team off the field.

When Sean O’Driscoll was appointed manager in July, there was great optimism at what he could do at the City Ground. Four months and 20 league games down the line, there are some Reds fans (a minority on forums and social media I must add) who believe he should go. Even some players were this week subjected to abuse by so-called ‘fans’ on Twitter.

Short termism is rife in football – just ask Roberto Di Matteo – but calling for the head of a manager so soon after hiring him is surprising to say the least.

Forest are currently 10th in the Championship, four points off the play-offs with 29 points from 20 games, a decent start for O’Driscoll as Reds boss. He inherited a threadbare squad upon taking the job and has brought in 14 new players, either permanently or on loan, just to have a side capable of competing this season. Things could be much worse.

The club is still stabilising after the events of last season, which saw Steve McClaren depart as manager, Steve Cotterill appointed in his place, chairman Nigel Doughty withdrawing his funding from the club before tragically passing away in January and Forest narrowly avoiding the drop into League One.

The Al-Hasawi family purchased the club during the summer and have brought some form of stability back behind the scenes. They are ambitious people and the plan is for Forest to reach the Premier League within the next few years.

Some of O’Driscoll’s signings have caught the eye, most notably Henri Lansbury, Simon Cox plus loanees Billy Sharp, Jermaine Jenas and Alan Hutton. There is a quality in the squad, but this does not mean Forest should be instantly top of the league and cruising to promotion as some seem to think.

O’Driscoll had to assemble a squad quickly and barely had a pre-season to get them prepared, and it shows. Forest have been excellent at times, most notably in games against Huddersfield and Charlton where they passed the opposition off the park. They have also been equally lacklustre, with last Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat away at struggling Ipswich a case in point.

Injuries and suspensions have seen Forest struggle to field a consistent starting eleven, with the likes of Radi Majewski, Sam Hutchinson, Daniel Ayala, Jenas and Cox all currently on the treatment table. Hutton and Elliott Ward have both been brought in on loan until the New Year to cover injuries in the back four, where O’Driscoll has been forced to chop and change throughout the season.

It is hard for a side to gain consistency when they cannot field a settled side, especially in defence. Having said that, Forest’s defensive record is far from being the worst in the division, so once key personnel are back to full fitness the side could concede even fewer goals.

Sean O’Driscoll is a manager known for getting his sides playing attractive, passing football and there have been signs of that so far this season. However he has been criticised by some for not adhering to ‘the Forest way’ of playing the game, with small pockets of fans jeering the players during Saturday’s defeat to Hull, prompting this response from the manager:

“Everyone wants the team to do well, I appreciate that. But there were times in the first half when the players were listening to the crowd and we started playing balls that we should not have been playing.

“I keep getting told we should be playing the Forest way. But the Forest way is to keep the ball. We were trying to keep the ball and we were getting booed.  What is the Forest way then?’ Do they want us to bang it forward? Because if we did that, they would be asking why we were not playing on the floor. ”

It will take time for O’Driscoll’s football philosophy to fully get through to the Forest players as they are coached to make the right decisions with and without the ball. It took time for his methods to get across to his Doncaster Rovers players, something which Glen Wilson explains in this piece for The Two Unfortunates. There were some bad performances in the early stages of his Rovers tenure, but once things clicked his team were not only successful but a joy to watch too.

This is the start of a whole new era for Forest under new ownership and new management, so I’m not expecting miracles straight away. As long as there are signs that the club is making progress on the field then I’m satisfied.

The January transfer window may be the time when Forest decide stick or twist, they could potentially bring in a few more players and have a tilt at promotion depending on their league position when the window opens. The squad is still lacking a wide player or two and more cover in defence, which is understandable given the speed with which it had to be assembled during the summer.

A play-off finish or higher would be an excellent achievement, but if Forest were to end up where they are now then it will represent some form of progress and be a good position upon which to build next season.

Most importantly, Sean O’Driscoll needs to be given time to mould the team in his image. There have been signs already of how good Forest could be and the vast majority of supporters are behind him. Fans pay their money and are entitled to air their feelings as they wish, but it is frustrating to see some of them hurling abuse at the players and manager. A bit of patience would not go amiss.

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

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

A decent start all round

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Following Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 victory over Bristol City on the opening day of the campaign, Reds manager Sean O’Driscoll was asked by the local media how he felt about his team’s ‘good start to the season.’ O’Driscoll responded by saying one game does not represent a ‘start.’ Instead, we should see how the club are doing after ten games.

Having now played those ten games in the Championship, the international break has provided an opportunity to assess how the side is shaping up under new management.

Forest currently sit 12th in the league, three points off the top six with three wins, five draws and two defeats to their name. Having been in the manager’s job a matter of months and brought in twelve new players, O’Driscoll can be pleased with the work he’s doing and the start the team has made.

Forest enjoyed the longest unbeaten run in the division of six games, which was only brought to an end thanks to a 2-1 defeat against Neil Warnock’s Leeds at Elland Road. In the three games prior to that loss, Forest showed signs of how good they potentially could be, but also displayed the traits of a side which is still gelling.

A 2-1 home success over promoted Charlton saw Forest take the game to their opponents, dominating possession and playing some neat passing football, with Lewis McGugan’s free kick giving the Reds the lead and Chelsea loanee Sam Hutchinson scoring his first senior goal to double the advantage. A late Charlton response made for a nervy finish but Forest got the job done to move up to third in the table.

Birmingham City then visited the City Ground and set their stall out to frustrate Forest, with a disciplined display which prevented the Reds from replicating their successful passing football on show against Charlton. City went 2-0 ahead in the second half and it looked as if O’Driscoll would be tasting defeat for the first time as Forest manager. However a stirring fightback, including a brilliant individual goal from Simon Cox, saw Forest rescue a 2-2 draw.

Forest also had to come from behind in their next fixture away at Crystal Palace, where Dexter Blackstock’s late goal earned a valuable point following a battling display. O’Driscoll reverted to a 5-3-2 formation and Forest struggled to get going with Palace the better side. Frustration got the better of Adlene Guedioura, who was sent off for kicking out at an opponent, meaning Forest had to come from behind with ten men, which they did to secure a 1-1 draw and preserve their unbeaten run.

It was a similar story at Leeds, where Forest’s lacklustre first half display saw them two goals down at the break, a lack of cohesion going forward and some shaky defending gifting Leeds the initiative. Despite an improved second half from the Reds, with Dexter Blackstock scoring once more, they left themselves with too much to do and the unbeaten run was over.

The following Sunday saw the East Midlands Derby against rivals Derby County at the City Ground. The game is well-known for being a full-blooded encounter and the Sky cameras were there hoping to see something similar. Derby’s gameplan was to disrupt Forest with rough-house tactics and it paid off, helped by some poor refereeing by Robert Madley. The official allowed several late, robust Derby tackles to go unpunished in the first half before brandishing the first yellow to Forest’s Andy Reid.

Just forty seconds into the second half Dexter Blackstock, who had been on the receiving end of many of those bad challenges, rose with Richard Keogh for an aerial challenge. Blackstock’s elbow accidentally made contact with Keogh’s face but Madley deemed it worthy of a straight red card and Forest were down to ten men.

Derby began to get on top thanks to their numerical advantage and eventually won 1-0 with a Craig Bryson goal. The defeat on home soil was difficult to take for Forest fans, especially as the team struggled to create many chances against Nigel Clough’s robust side.

However things picked up in the final two games before the international break. Blackburn Rovers arrived on Trentside for a Tuesday night fixture and were fortunate to go away with a point, as Forest put in a much improved display. Steve Kean had recently left Rovers as manager but they are a team boasting considerable Premier League experience, plus plenty of goals with Jordan Rhodes and Nuno Gomes up front. Despite this Forest were much the better side, passing the ball around confidently and carving out several goalscoring opportunities, the best going to Billy Sharp who fired into the side netting from close range.

Four days later Forest travelled to Peterborough United, where their record has been good in recent years. They continued that thanks to an excellent solo goal from Andy Reid, who picked the ball up in his own half, carried it forward before hitting an angled shot into the far top corner from the edge of the penalty area. Forest were again the better side and had a second goal chalked off, with the ball being deemed to have gone out of play before Jermaine Jenas tapped home. The 1-0 success was enough to lift the Reds into the top half and make up for the Derby disappointment.

Forest’s squad has been strengthened even further in recent weeks, with striker Billy Sharp arriving on a deadline day loan deal from Southampton and former Reds midfielder Jermaine Jenas arriving from Tottenham on a month’s loan.

The signing of Sharp, who in recent seasons has been a prolific scorer at Championship level with Doncaster Rovers and Southampton, was a real statement of intent from Forest. The frontman knows O’Driscoll well from their days at Rovers and provides another option up top. He is yet to get off the mark in a Red shirt, but once he does his confidence will grow and more goals will come. It was surprising to see Saints let him go following their promotion to the Premier League, so Sharp will be out to prove a point during his stay at the City Ground.

Jermaine Jenas is another signing which has surprised and excited the fans in equal measure. The former England international, who is regarded as one of the best academy products Forest have ever produced, made his Reds breakthrough during the 2001-02 season as an eighteen year old, before being sold to Newcastle for £5 million in 2002. Since then he ‘s been a Premier League regular with Newcastle, Tottenham and Aston Villa whilst making 21 England appearances.

He brings undoubted quality to a midfield which is already blessed with options, but Jenas himself said he would only drop down to the Championship to rejoin Forest. He received a warm reception as he came off the bench to made his second bow as a Forest player in the 0-0 draw with Blackburn and it’s good to have him back, even if it is just for one month.

On Saturday table-topping Cardiff City come to The City Ground, looking to extend their impressive start to the campaign. The match will be a stern test for this Forest side and a good measure of where they are. Three days later they face a trip to Blackpool who are also aiming for promotion this season, but who have fallen away from the leaders in recent weeks. Last year Forest won 2-1 at Bloomfield Road and a similar result this time around will give the team confidence that they are capable of challenging at the right end of the table.

Over the international break the likes of Henri Lansbury and Billy Sharp have had two more weeks to find their feet at the club, which will hopefully stand them in good stead for the four games coming up in the next fortnight.

Sean O’Driscoll has a selection headache in midfield with Lansbury, Jenas, Lewis McGugan, Chris Cohen, Adlene Guedioura, Guy Moussi and Simon Gillett vying for central roles, along with Andy Reid. Forest boast the third meanest defence in the league with ten goals conceded. Despite some criticisms from certain sections of the support, Dan Harding and Daniel Ayala are steadily improving with each match. Greg Halford, Danny Collins and Sam Hutchinson have all impressed with their displays so far and there is a sense that this part of the team will only get better as the season progresses.

Simon Cox has also impressed up front, having scored some spectacular goals and been willing to work hard for the team. With Sharp, Dexter Blackstock and Marcus Tudgay also in the squad, there are plenty of striking options for the manager to pick from.

Overall it has been a good start from Forest, with signs that the team are moving in the right direction. The new owners, the Al-Hasawi family have said all the right things and seem willing to give Sean O’Driscoll the time to build the team he wants. With twelve new signings and a new manager in place, most Forest supporters would have been happy with a mid-table finish before the season began. The team looks capable of reaching that target but if they can find some consistency, they may even better it.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

So far so good….

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

When appointed Nottingham Forest manager on July 19th, Sean O’Driscoll had a big task on his hands to get the club ready for a new campaign. Having inherited an imbalanced squad with one senior defender on the books, he had to bring in eight new players to have a team capable of competing in the Championship. Six weeks down the line Forest have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season and played some good football in the process, which is a job well done by O’Driscoll and all concerned – so far.

After last year’s largely forgettable campaign there is a feel good factor returning at the City Ground thanks to the quick turnaround since the end of last season, when the club was looking for new owners, had a manager in place who divided the fans and saw several first-team players leave for nothing as their contracts expired.

Since the Al-Hasawi family completed their takeover of the club in July, they have said the right things and look to have a long-term plan they wish to see through. Despite talk of an ‘iconic’ name replacing Steve Cotterill following his sacking as Forest manager, the Al-Hasawi’s gave the job to O’Driscoll, which is already looking a shrewd move.

Backed by the new owners, O’Driscoll addressed the problems in defence by bringing in Danny Collins, Greg Halford, Dan Harding plus Daniel Ayala and Sam Hutchinson on loan. He also moved to bring back fan favourite Adlene Guedioura on a permanent deal alongside Simon Gillett and striker Simon Cox.

It is the speed with which Forest concluded their transfer business that is pleasing. We have been told by the Al-Hasawi’s that there is money to spend, but O’Driscoll has not broken the bank to bring in new faces.

On the pitch Forest overcame a spirited Fleetwood Town 1-0 in the first round of the Capital One Cup before league action got underway with a home meeting against Bristol City, which also ended 1-0 to the Reds thanks to an Adlene Guedioura strike midway through the second half. It was Forest’s first goal and first win on an opening day since 2006.

Sean O’Driscoll’s teams are well known for an attractive style of play and there were signs of that during the Bristol match, Forest putting together some good moves which were pleasing on the eye.

The Reds travelled north to face newly-promoted Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday and picked up where they left off against City, enjoying most of the possession for two thirds of the game, dominating their opponents in an impressive display of composed, passing football. Cox put Forest ahead in the second half and it should have been more, but Forest were to be punished for failing to take their chances when Jordan Rhodes converted a last minute penalty to salvage a point for the hosts.

A trip to relegated Bolton Wanderers on Friday was on paper Forest’s most difficult match of their opening three fixtures and a good chance to test themselves against a team boasting Premier League quality.

For the opening thirty minutes, Forest looked more like the side relegated from the top flight as they passed the ball around with confidence and didn’t give Bolton a sniff. Lewis McGugan gave the Reds the lead with a brilliant long-range drive which flew in off the bar from 25 yards out, but Bolton rallied and in the last fifteen minutes of the half got themselves back into the game.

Despite what looked like a two handed push by Kevin Davies on Danny Collins, Chris Eagles fired in an equaliser after Davies’ header came back out off the post with Collins on the floor. Davies then helped Bolton take the lead early in the second period as he seized on Greg Halford’s hesitance in defence to square for Marvin Sordell, who made it 2-1 with a guided finish off the far post.

Forest rode out the pressure and got themselves a deserved equaliser ten minutes later when Cox controlled Dexter Blackstock’s flick-on and laid the ball perfectly to Andy Reid, who curled it in off the inside of the post for 2-2. Both sides had their chances to win it, but the draw was a fair result and a good one for O’Driscoll’s side.

The draw puts Forest eighth in the Championship table with five points on the board and much to be optimistic about. O’Driscoll deserves much credit for getting the side performing and getting a new backline to settle quickly.

Danny Collins has had the captain’s armband and has been comfortable in the role, putting in some commanding displays. Greg Halford alongside him has been solid and his ability to play in the middle of defence or at full back is valuable. Harding, despite conceding that penalty at Huddersfield, has performed well at left-back while Brendan Moloney has also caught the eye with some good displays on the right hand side of the back four. Having been understudy to Chris Gunter for the last few years, he has a chance of making the position his own following the Welshman’s move to Reading.

Simon Gillett has impressed in midfield, doing the kind of job Paul McKenna used to before his move to Hull – sitting in front of the defence, breaking up the play, hassling opponents and starting attacks by passing the ball onto the more creative players in the side. O’Driscoll managed Gillett at Doncaster and it’s easy to see why he rates him.

Lewis McGugan has started all four games in league and cup, with O’Driscoll giving the talented midfielder a chance to impress. He has done well so far and his goal at Bolton was another spectacular strike to add to his collection, but he has blown hot and cold in recent years. Hopefully a new manager will get him producing his best consistently, because the talent is there.

Despite having numerous strikers at the club, Forest paid £2 million to bring Simon Cox in from West Brom and he has already looked a great signing. He works hard off the ball, is a good team player and has shown he can find the back of the net. The Ireland international has been involved in three of Forest’s four league goals so far, scoring with a clinical finish at Huddersfield and setting up two – including Guedioura’s with his first touch in a Red shirt against Bristol City. He will be a big presence in this Forest side throughout the season.

The slight concern in the squad is a lack of width on the right hand side of midfield following the exits of Paul Anderson and Garath McCleary during the summer, so there may be a new addition there. Today Forest made it nine summer signings with the purchase of Henri Lansbury on a four year deal from Arsenal for £1 million.

The 21-year-old is a talented midfielder who can play through the centre or on the right and knows all about winning promotion from the Championship, having done so with Norwich and West Ham in the last two seasons during loan spells. The deal could rise to over £2 million should Forest achieve promotion in the next two years. Having been schooled at Arsenal he is the kind of player who will fit in with Sean O’Driscoll’s style of play and is a signing that has already got fans excited.

It has been an encouraging first week to the campaign and gives Reds supporters much to look forward to as the season goes on. The team is a work in progress but given the way new players have settled in and the style in which Forest are beginning to play, they will be a match for most sides in the Championship.

O’Driscoll is a manager who likes to get on with the job quietly which is exactly what Forest need after the year they’ve had. In his post match interviews he’s been reserved but honest in his assessment of the team and how things are progressing.

There will be the inevitable ups and downs as is so often the case during a 46 game campaign, but the signs are there that this side will continue to improve as they play together more, which is an exciting prospect.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and Nottingham Forest blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis