Date:Tuesday August 12 2008
Sunday's opening 0-0 draw with recently relegated Reading helped cement the optimistic feel on the banks of the Trent, albeit tinged with the slight disappointment that the Reds domination of the proceedings didn't bring just reward with three points.
A frantic start brought a half chance for Chris Cohen and long range efforts from the imperious Guy Moussi and hard working Rob Earnshaw. Reading also showed early glimpses of their own threat with accurate balls over the top giving Leroy Lita and Kevin Doyle the chance to showcase their pacy promise.
Their threat was nullified thanks to some excellent defensive play with a typical early crunching tackle from Bennett setting the tone and Wes and Kelvin oozing class throughout an assured 90 minutes.
Perch and Moussi's tireless running helped wrestle control of the game for the Tricky Trees, and Calderwood's charges largely stayed on top without ever really creating many chances.
Overall a stalemate was indicative of the lack of a spark to unlock the solid Reading back line and in the end a respectable point was only gained thanks to a jaw dropping save from Smith to deny Doyle's goal bound header.
Returning players should help to turn these performances into winning ones - but length of time key players are out for should cause concern enough for CC to delve into the loan market.
Paul Smith - 8
One shockingly bad punch was more than made up for by a stunning save to tip a Doyle header onto the post in the second half. Needs to be more accurate with his distribution given the lack of aerial power up front.
Luke Chambers - 6
A couple of slips towards the end and the odd moment of untidy play were worrying and mistakes such as those cannot be made at this level. Was close to getting onto the end of a couple of set pieces to carry on last season's good goalscoring form.
Julian Bennett - 7
Showed his intent with an excellent sliding tackle on Leroy Lita early on in the game and put in the odd decent ball into the area during occasional forays into opposition territory.
Wes Morgan - 9
Strong, positionally superb and excellent in the air Wes rose to the challenge posed by Doyle and Lita. He was often too strong for the diminutive pair and managed to keep them largely quiet throughout.
Kelvin Wilson - 8
Towards the end of last season suffered from sloppy lapses in concentration but seemed to rise to the challenge of stepping up a level. Cool, calm and classy.
Guy Moussi - 9
Already a fans favourite and it's easy to see why after one of the most impressive debuts at the City Ground for some time. Strong, good in possession and always available for a pass - the team built off his excellent and energetic showing. Looks to have a powerful shot and wasn't afraid to try something different in the final third to try and unlock the defence. Looks a wonderful find from Friio.
James Perch - 8
A bit of an unsung hero - Perch's excellent tracking back, accurate tackling, tireless closing down and fearless blocking were an integral part of the way the side were able to exert authority over Reading in midfield.
Lewis McGugan - 7
A few classy touches showed that Lewis has the ability to flourish in the Championship. Unfortunately not in the game as much as he might have been and was often forced into unnatural positions in a bid to fill the attacking void in the team.
Chris Cohen - 7
Improved as the game went on and battled manfully despite given the unenviable task of trying to provide the sides aerial threat from goal kicks and being asked to drift wide to create chances.
Arron Davies - 5
If the side were to pose the extra threat needed to conjure up a goal it needed to come from Davies but he sadly seemed to find the task beyond him. His rating is perhaps slightly harsh but reflects the fact that on too many occasions he was unable to beat players and do his job to open up opportunities for Earnshaw and as time wore on struggled to get into the game. The lack of options in this formation undoubtedly affected him but will need to do more to be a force at this level.
Rob Earnshaw - 7
Bright and ever alert, he made the best of a difficult situation. Got barely any change from the giant Sonko and solid Ingimarsson but did all he could to try and force half chances from the scraps he fed off.
Subs - Sinclair (for McGugan), McCleary (for Davies).
CC's lack of forward options affected his selection but he managed to come up with a line up that was strong and at times able to dominate a Reading side tipped to feature in the promotion shake up. The decision to send on Sinclair was strange and McCleary perhaps could have been used earlier to replace Davies, who ran out of ideas and legs. Will be pleased that his much vaunted League One defence kept a clean sheet in their first outing in this league and seems acutely aware of the need for someone to fill the gap left by the injuries to Cole, Garner, Tyson and Anderson.
Eye on the opposition:
Hahnemann, Rosenior, Hunt, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Kebe, Harper, Matejovsky (Cisse), Convey, Doyle, Lita.
Coppell's Royals might feel disappointed to have been largely second best in this encounter. The injury to Matejovsky couldn't have helped but in midfield they were overran by both the formation and performance of their Forest counterparts. Defensively Sonko and Ingimarsson looked very solid and Hunt was largely untroubled after slotting in to replace the departed Shorey. Doyle and Lita offer a pacy, if not physical, threat and should score plenty at this level. Could have snatched the win if Doyle had not been so superbly denied by Smith.
You can see more of t10's musings on his Blog. Just visit http://trentender.blogspot.com/
Date:Tuesday August 12 2008
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