Promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest host relegation-threatened Huddersfield at the City Ground on Sunday. Mark O'Haire analyses the odds.
"Forest have scored before half-time just five times at the City Ground this season, whilst Huddersfield have notched after the interval in 11/15 (73%) games as guests under Cowley."
Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield
Sunday June 28, 14:15
Nottingham Forest below-par on return
Nottingham Forest were denied a vital three points in their quest for a top-six Championship finish last weekend as Sheffield Wednesday notched a late equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw. Joe Lolley had earlier surged into the Owls penalty area and produced a smart finish to give the Tricky Trees an advantage they eventually surrendered in stoppage-time.
Forest were second-best after breaking the deadlock, ceding possession to their hosts and rarely threatening to add to their tally. Lolley's strike was one of few genuine chances for Sabri Lamouchi's side; Reds midfielder Brennan Johnson, on his first league start, earlier had an opportunity to put top scorer Lewis Grabban in for an open goal, but was foiled.
Indeed, Forest had goalkeeper Brice Samba to thank for staying ahead as long as they did and Lamouchi suggested post-match his side are still a way off top gear, saying: "After three months we know we are not ready at all, we need some games, and of course it's the small details." Key central midfielders Ben Watson and Samba Sow remain doubtful for Sunday.
Huddersfield suffer damaging defeat
Huddersfield suffered a damaging 2-0 home defeat to fellow relegation scrappers Wigan last Saturday, a result that's plunged the Terriers down to within one point of the dreaded drop zone. Town conceded a goal in each half and could not find a way past the Latics despite a close-range Christopher Schindler header and powerful Harry Toffolo shot going close.
Terriers boss Danny Cowley described the delayed end-of-season run-in as a 'mini season' ahead of the restart, but his players failed to find anywhere close to their best efforts in a deeply disappointing display in which Town's defensive frailties were once again exposed. Despite boasting 70% possession, Huddersfield lost the shots on-target count 5-1 as hosts.
Cowley said: "We're bitterly disappointed with the levels of our performance. We wanted to play with power and aggression and intensity and we didn't do that. We wanted to be dynamic and we weren't." Town started with Karlan Grant up top as both Fraizer Campbell and Steve Mounie were ruled out with injury - the latter pair remain doubtful for Sunday.
Forest's poor City Ground form
Forest have won just one of their last seven league games against Huddersfield (W1-D1-L5) - a 2-0 triumph in the last such meeting at the City Ground in April 2017. However, that victory is one of six the Tricky Trees have earned in their past eight head-to-head contests with the Terriers in Nottingham (W6-D0-L2) dating back to 2000.
Only West Brom (five) have lost fewer Championship games than Nottingham Forest (nine) this term but the Tricky Trees [2.20] haven't always produced as hosts. The Reds boast the worst home record in the top-six (W8-D4-L6) and have toiled when taking on the division's lesser lights, returning W4-D3-L3 here against bottom-half dwellers under Sabri Lamouchi.
Just three clubs have collected fewer points on the road than Huddersfield [3.60] with the Terriers tallying only four triumphs on their travels (W4-D4-L10). Town's record improves slightly when viewing their return under Danny Cowley (W4-D3-L8), although the visitors have picked up just six points from a possible 33 at top-half teams this season (W1-D3-L7).
Before the break, Nottingham Forest have failed to score in each of their last three home Championship games, despite attempting 47 shots with an Expected Goal (xG) value of 3.50. With Lamouchi's side rarely cutting loose, plus their ability to limit opposition outfits - the Reds have kept 13 clean sheets - goals haven't always been prevalent in Forest fixtures.
In contrast, Huddersfield's away days have produced plenty of goals - the Terriers have delivered Both Teams To Score in 10/15 (67%) road trips under Danny Cowley, failing to net just twice and keeping three clean sheets. However, the Expected Goals (xG) average in those 15 encounters sits at just 2.30, suggesting goalmouth action isn't quite so frequent.
Sunday's showdown is tricky to second-guess but backing the second-half to be the Highest Scoring Half at 2.10 might be a wise solution for a slice of interest. Forest have scored before half-time just five times at the City Ground this season, whilst Huddersfield have notched after the interval in 11/15 (73%) of their games as guests under Cowley.
Mark's 2019/20 Profit/Loss
Staked: 140.00 pts
Returned: 157.57 pts
P/L: +17.57 pts