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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Forest


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to seal promotion to the Premier League when they entertain in-form Championship rivals Nottingham Forest on Tuesday (7pm kick-off).

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to seal promotion to the Premier League when they entertain in-form Championship rivals Nottingham Forest on Tuesday (7pm kick-off).

The Cherries maintained a three-point lead in the second automatic promotion berth thanks to a 3-0 win at Blackburn on Saturday, although Forest kept the heat on with a 5-1 victory over Swansea.

Forest arrive at Vitality Stadium having climbed from the foot of the Championship to third since the appointment of Steve Cooper as manager in September.

Cooper, who led Swansea to back-to-back play-offs in the Championship, has revived the fortunes of the Reds since replacing Chris Hughton, who was at the helm when the Cherries won at the City Ground for the first time in their history in August.

Forest have lost just five of the 36 league games that Cooper has been in charge of and also reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, exiting at the hands of Liverpool having seen off Premier League Arsenal and Leicester.

On their travels, Forest have beaten Huddersfield, Barnsley, Birmingham, Bristol City, Swansea, Millwall, Blackburn, Blackpool, Peterborough and Fulham, boasting the third-best away record in the Championship.

Former Cherries players Steve Cook, Sam Surridge, Lewis Grabban, Harry Arter and Lyle Taylor are all on the books at the City Ground – with Cook and Surridge, who scored a hat-trick on Saturday, expected to feature against Scott Parker’s team.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Sarah Clapson who covers the fortunes of Forest for Nottingham Live and the Nottingham Post. 


Ground: The City Ground

Nickname: The Reds

Head coach: Steve Cooper (appointed September 2021)

Club captain: Lewis Grabban (pictured above)

Current league position: Third

Leading goalscorer 2021/22: Brennan Johnson (16 in all competitions)

Last game: Nottingham Forest 5-1 Swansea City

afcb.co.ukAn easy one to start with – how have Forest fared since the teams met in August?

SC: Very differently and a lot has changed since then. Steve Cooper replaced Chris Hughton as manager in September and has had a huge impact.

He has completely transformed the club, changed the fortunes and got the team playing a different way and a different style. They have shot up the table since then. It’s all change and it’s exciting now.

Before he came in, the season had a very different look about it. It was more about Forest trying to stay clear of the bottom end of the table, whereas now, they are pushing for promotion.

It’s all positive and there is a lot more of a buzz about the place than there was earlier in the season.  

afcb.co.ukWhat would you say have been the main differences under Steve Cooper (pictured above)?

SC: He’s instilled belief in the whole squad and his man-management skills are superb. He’s got players believing in him, in themselves and what they are trying to achieve. You can see that on the pitch.

They don’t go into games with any kind of fear or thinking they need to play for a point or just avoid defeat. They go into every game now wanting to win and it doesn’t matter who they are playing.

They’ve got a good record away from home. They always go into games confident and I think that’s the biggest change since the start of the season when the mood was very low.

He’s boosted the dressing room and it’s made a massive difference. He’s got them playing good, attacking football.

Before he came in, they had quite a defensive mindset. Now, they look to get on the front foot in games and it’s made a difference in terms of results.

afcb.co.ukHaving climbed from bottom to third, what’s the mood among the fans?

SC: Fans are starting to dare to dream but nobody is getting carried away. Everyone is very conscious of what happened a couple of seasons ago when Forest missed out on the play-offs on the final day.

They have had play-off heartbreak in the past so nobody is getting ahead of themselves. But the manager has given that sense of belief to the fans as much as he has to the players.

They are looking upwards and are excited about what the final couple of games may hold and what they could possibly do, if not this season then next season.

There is real hope and optimism around the club which is something they haven’t had for quite a long time.

afcb.co.ukHow has Steve Cook (pictured above) settled in?

SC: Very well. He came in and settled straight in. He looks like he’s been here for a lot longer than he actually has, you forget he only arrived in January.

He’s struck up a good relationship with Joe Worrall and Scott McKenna as a back three and also shown he can play in a back four.

He looks comfortable on the ball, he’s good at trying to get Forest going forward and bringing it out from the back.

Defensively, he’s been pretty solid as well. Apart from giving away one penalty, he hasn’t done too much wrong. He’s made some good blocks and made a positive impression.

He has been a really good signing and comes across as a really good character as well. The fans have picked up on that and have really taken to him.

His experience and knowhow can make a big difference. He’s been there and done it which is something Forest can definitely draw on.

afcb.co.ukWho is Forest’s one to watch?

SC: Djed Spence (pictured above). He’s been brilliant ever since he came in on loan from Middlesbrough and has just got better as the season has gone.

He’s so exciting to watch, he gets fans out of their seats, he’s got pace and he can set up chances.

He scored a brilliant goal against QPR a few weeks ago which was an absolute stunner so he’s got that in his locker as well.

Defensively, he’s still got a bit of work to do but he has made progress. He still needs to learn when to track back and help more but he’s definitely got a huge future ahead of him.

He’s got a lot of big clubs watching him and I’ve got no doubts he will go on to achieve big things.

afcb.co.ukWho is Forest’s rising star?

SC: Brennan Johnson (pictured above). He’s a young player with a long way to go in the game and has been brilliant this season. You can see he’s got a fantastic career ahead of him if he continues on this same path.

He’s so dangerous and opposition defenders really struggle to deal with him. He’s got so much potential.

He’s scored 16 goals this season, he’s got plenty of assists, he’s exciting and he gets fans on the edge of their seats and makes things happen.

In the absence of Lewis Grabban, Forest could have struggled but he’s shown he can step up and contribute while he’s injured. He’s great to watch and is a star in the making.

afcb.co.ukAre any other key players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

SC: Lewis Grabban is going to miss the rest of the season with a hamstring problem. Keinan Davis is also out with a hamstring injury and Max Lowe has a groin problem.

afcb.co.ukHow do you see the game panning out and what’s your score prediction?

SC: I think it’s going to be really tense and really nervy and probably quite close because there is so much riding on it and so much at stake.

Forest tend to approach most games in the same manner in that they want to get on the front foot and will always try to win.

Against Fulham last week, they showed they can win in different ways. They didn’t have a lot of the ball which is something the manager doesn’t like. He likes them to have a bit more possession.

I’m not sure that’s going to pan out the same at Bournemouth either, I’m sure they will have to be resolute like they were at Fulham, stand firm defensively and take their chances, if and when they come.

I think it’s going to be a really nerve-racking affair and will be down to which team has the mental strength to deal best with the pressure and tension.

I’m going to sit on the fence and go with a 1-1 draw. 

You can follow Sarah on Twitter – @Sarah_Clapson

Officials: Stuart Attwell (referee), Dan Cook (assistant), Daniel Robathan (assistant), Gavin Ward (fourth official).

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