City boss Paul Lambert was under few illusions this weekend as his newly-promoted Canary outfit headed to the City Ground, Nottingham.
This would be a real test of their Championship credentials; this probably wasn’t Scunthorpe (a).
“I always say no games are easy in this league,” admitted Lambert, reaching firmly for his straight bat.
That said, some games are easier than others. And under Billy Davies, Forest will be a tough nut to crack in their own back yard.
“It will be a tough game, they will have the crowd behind them,” admitted the Canary chief. “We will have good support behind us as well. It will be a tough game that is for sure. We will go to do what we have to do, and hopefully come away with something.”
The manager’s biggest decision team-wise is likely to come at centre-half. Following the arrival of Leon Barnett on a five-month loan deal, he now has the option of throwing the athletic 24-year-old straight into the fray.
It is something he is clearly pondering after Barnett was handed a rare run-out for the Baggies in the Carling Cup.
“He played the other night for West Brom so I don’t have any problems throwing him in. He trained yesterday, he played with Elliott (Ward) at Coventry, so I don’t have any problems with that,” said Lambert, fresh from revealing that Michael Nelson’s nasty ankle knock would sideline him for “two months”.
With Zak Whitbread also unavailable with a calf injury, Lambert will be keen to bed in a new, solid centre-half pairing for the autumn as soon as possible.
Jens Berthel Askou got more game-time under his belt in the Carling Cup exit at Ewood Park, but the Dane is, of course, on his own long haul back from serious injury.
Hence Lambert’s conundrum. The fact that Barnett and Ward played alongside eachother at the Ricoh Stadium, Coventry, last season might favour the newly-arrived Baggies defender.
“Jens hasn’t played much either, because of Michael and Wardy playing well together, so he did fine the other night – his first game for a while. But I’ll decide tomorrow who plays,” said Lambert, speaking at yesterday’s pre-match Press conference at Colney.
Just having a choice to make was a start; minus Nelson and Whitbread and with both Gary Doherty and David Stephens having left in the summer, Lambert wasn’t over-loaded with options.
“We needed cover to come in with Michael out,” he admitted. “And Leon is a quality player who has played Premier League football as well as having solid experience at Championship level, so I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring him in.”
Meanwhile Davies insisted that he was making no special plans for ex-Forest star Grant Holt, who bagged 24 goals for the Reds in his spell at the City Ground.
The Canary skipper already has three to his name this term, but the Forest chief told the Nottingham Evening Post that there would be no special measures for the 29-year-old on his return.
“We don’t work that way,” said Davies. “What we try to do is get the best out of our own players.
“We know that if we can get our own players performing well, we don’t need to single out anyone in the opposition.
“We know they will have more than one good player and several different threats – and we will do our homework to make sure we are prepared.
“We will focus on making sure that we are doing everything we can to cause them as many problems as possible.”