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Nottingham Forest preview and pub guide: Can Karanka crack promotion?

Nottingham Forest preview and pub guide: Can Karanka crack promotion?
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Nottingham Forest were the Championship’s big spenders this summer as they aim to return to the Premier League for the first time since 1999.

They brought in 13 new players during the close season, including record signing Joao Carvalho, with the midfielder costing a reported £13m from Benfica, former Brentford striker Lewis Grabban from Bournemouth and goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon from Watford, both for undisclosed fees, experienced defender Michael Dawson, who started his career at Forest, on a free from Hull, and midfielder Jack Colback on a season-long loan from Newcastle.

Their total outlay on players was said to be in the region of £25m, according to reports.

This is a 12th consecutive season in this division for Forest, who were one of the founder members of the Premier League in 1992, but since being relegated from the top flight have also spent three seasons in League One.

In the last 11 years, they have only made the play-offs twice – losing to Blackpool 6-4 on aggregate in the semi-finals in 2010 after finishing third and then 3-1 to Swansea at the same stage the following season after coming sixth.

Apart from an eighth-placed finish in 2012/13, they have finished in the bottom half of the table in every other season bar one.

They are unbeaten so far this season but have made a slow start, with one win and four draws.

They were held 1-1 by both Bristol City on the opening day and then at home to West Brom three days later, before getting off the mark with a 1-0 win over Reading.

A pair of 2-2 draws at Wigan and with Birmingham, where they hit back from 2-0 down with two goals in the final 15 minutes last Saturday, have followed to leave them 13th in the table going into this weekend’s matches.

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They pulled off one of the upsets of the round in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, when they beat Newcastle United 3-1 after an extraordinary finish.

Forest led 1-0 going into six minutes of injury-time but Newcastle then equalised. The match seemed set for penalties before Forest struck twice more to wrap up a thrilling 3-1 win.

Their reward is a third round tie against Stoke.

In the first round, they won a nail-biting penalty shoot-out 10-9 against Bury after a 1-1 draw.


Aitor Karanka replaced former Bees boss Mark Warburton as Nottingham Forest manager in January.

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He first became known to fans in England when he took charge of Middlesbrough in November 2013.

He was in charge of Boro for nearly three-and-a-half years – leading them back to the Premier League as Championship runners-up in 2016, a year after losing in the play-off final to Norwich, having beaten us in the semi-finals.

He previously worked as Real Madrid’s assistant manager to Jose Mourinho but left the club in 2013 after the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti.

He spent virtually all of his playing career in Spain with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid before ending it with a brief spell playing in the USA for Colorado Rapids.

Karanka, a defender, also won one full cap for Spain and 14 at Under-21 level, and played for his country at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.


Brentford have had the upper hand in the eight Championship meetings with Forest over the past four seasons with six victories.

The 3-0 triumph at the City Ground in April 2016 was arguably the most important as it started a march away from the lower reaches of the table after fears that we were going to be dragged into an end-of-season relegation scrap.

Championship results in detail

2014/15 – (A) W 3-1 (Toral, Gray, Pritchard (pen)); (H) D 2-2 (Gray, Jota)

2015/16 – (H) W 2-1 (Canos, Hofmann); (A) W 3-0 (Vibe, Yennaris, Canos)

2016/17 – (H) W 1-0 (Hogan); (A) W 3-2 (Vibe (2), Jota)

2017/18 – (H) L 3-4 (Egan, Bjelland, Maupay); (A) W 1-0 (Dalsgaard)

Last season’s 4-3 win for Forest at Griffin Park was the highest scoring of the series. John Egan put us ahead but Forest debutant Andreas Bouchalakis scored two screamers either side of a Daryl Murphy strike to move the visitors into a 3-1 lead.

Andreas Bjelland gave us hope with his only goal in Brentford colours, but Kieran Dowell restored Forest’s two-goal advantage before Neal Maupay replied with his first Bees strike in stoppage-time.

Brentford gained revenge on a foggy Tuesday night in April as Henrik Dalsgaard scored his first Bees goal to wrap up a 1-0 win that kept alive our hopes of a play-off place.


BBC Radio Nottingham’s sports presenter Robin Chipperfield tells us why Forest are putting everything behind a promotion bid this season, how the new signings have gelled and how Aitor Karanka’s tactics have changed since his Middlesbrough days.

Q – Forest seem to have splashed the cash during the close season in an all-out bid for promotion in a bit of a change of policy – what was the thinking behind this?

A – I get the impression that the hierarchy feel there was an opportunity this season. That, with a manager who knows what it takes to reach the top six, and a Championship that has fewer “big hitters” this campaign, there’s a better chance of finishing in the top six.

All three sides that came down from the Premier League appear to have an issue or two, so I don’t think any of them are nailed on for a top six finish in the way that some sides have been before when relegated from the top flight.

Q – How have the new signings settled in and who has made an impact so far?

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A – When you make a lot of new signings, they’re not all going to come off. And that’s true with Forest – so far, but still very early days.

Gil Dias put in an eye-catching performance in Wednesday’s win over Newcastle, while Michael Hefele was an influential figure alongside the resurgent Danny Fox at centre-back. Joao Carvalho seems to be growing into the role, and exhibits real classy moments. If he can add some consistency, he’d take some stopping in this division.

Q – What does this mean for the procession of youngsters into the first team – is it still happening to a lesser extent or is their path now more or less blocked?

A -The pathway isn’t blocked, but the youngsters have certainly had some barriers placed in their way. Some Forest fans were annoyed by the recent move of Ben Brereton to Blackburn, as they felt his path to the first team had been blocked.

At the time of writing, centre half Joe Worrall looks set to join Rangers, but I’d expect him to come back a better player next season. Having said that, there’s still room in the squad for young players – Matty Cash continues to catch the eye after a thundering start to the season, and Ben Osborn is not left out of the side very often.

Q – Presumably the expectations at the start of the campaign were for promotion after all the outlay – how likely is it that Aitor Karanka will be given plenty of time to deliver this after a slow start?

A – Promotion is definitely the aim – those at the top, and Karanka have been clear about that. I think if they slip a long way away from the top six, the likeable Spaniard would be under pressure. But to be honest, I don’t see that happening. He’s a man who oozes control.

Q – What style of play should we expect to see from Forest on Saturday?

A – I’m sure they’ll attack. After his time at ‘Boro, Karanka had a reputation as a defensive coach. We’ve not really seen that at Forest on the whole. He plays three attacking midfielders behind a main striker, and they seem to have licence to be as creative as possible. And the full-backs have the ability and desire to push forward too – they’re quite good to watch!

Q – Finally can you give me a possible Forest starting line-up and formation?

A – This has become more difficult in the wake of the win over Newcastle, but I’d go for (in a 4-2-3-1 formation) Pantilimon – Byram/Darikwa (depending on Byram fitness) Fox, Hefele, Robinson – Colback, Bridcutt – Cash, Carvalho, Lolley/Dias (depending on Lolley fitness) – Murphy/Grabban (depending on Grabban fitness).

What I would say is, Karanka has plenty of options – don’t be surprised if that side is five or six players different come Saturday!




For Nottingham Forest fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for it’s four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

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Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.

Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.

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Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford, although because of strike action there is only one train an hour this Saturday.

This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube because of waiting times (the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 minutes on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from King’s Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Bear in mind that Euston mainline station is closed again this weekend.

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.



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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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