So we're two games into the 2013/14 Sky Bet Championship season and we're already at a "must-win" game for Bolton Wanderers, this time away at promotion rivals and big-spenders Nottingham Forest.
Forest's pre-season campaign saw them go undefeated in seven games. Victories over Scottish Premier League side Hibernian was followed by away wins over Alex Baptiste's former side Mansfield Town as well as non-league Ilkeston. Forest then drew consecutive games against Chesterfield and Belgian side Royal Antwerp, 1-1 and 2-2 respectively. Forest would finish their preparations for the new season by beating Walsall at the Bescot and drawing 1-1 with Motherwell.
Backed by the wealthy Al-Hasawi family from Kuwait, who took over in 2012, Forest have been busy in the transfer market leading up to the start of the season, bringing in experience and quality in the form of Dutch goalkeeper Dorus De Vries from Wolverhampton Wanderers, Chilean wing-back Gonzalo Jara from West Bromwich Albion, American defender Eric Lichaj from Aston Villa, Moroccan winger Djamel Abdoun from Olympiacos, Scottish utility forward Jamie Mackie from Queen's Park Rangers and most recently re-signing their former defender Kelvin Wilson from SPL Champions Celtic for £2.5m. Players out include midfielders David McGoldrick to Ipswich Town and Lewis McGugan to Watford. Interestingly enough, both players moving to sides who will be aiming to compete with Nottingham Forest as the season progresses.
Forest have started the season well under returning manager and full-time Scotsman Billy Davies, with the influx of players helping them to a thus-far 100% record with wins at home to Huddersfield Town and away to Blackburn Rovers making this a very tough test for Dougie Freedman and his Bolton Wanderers side.
Our recent record against Forest has been good, with Wanderers being undefeated in the last five meetings (detailed below). In fact, our last defeat against them came in the Premier League in 1995 when an early season 2-3 away defeat contributed to Bolton being relegated that season. Overall we have a fairly even record with 31 wins and 30 defeats in 84 games.
Last five meetings:
17.10.2000 - Bolton Wanderers 0 v 0 Nottingham Forest
17.03.2001 - Nottingham Forest 0 v 2 Bolton Wanderers (Holdsworth, Farrelly)
08.10.2001 - Bolton Wanderers 1 v 0 Nottingham Forest (Wallace)
24.08.2012 - Bolton Wanderers 2 v 2 Nottingham Forest (Chris Eagles, Marvin Sordell)
16.02.2013 - Nottingham Forest 1 v 1 Bolton Wanderers (Craig Davies)
Reports from the local press following the weekend's game against Reading seem to indicate that Wanderers will again be without key midfielder Chris Eagles, meaning that barring injury in the week leading up to the game, we should line up with a similar formation and with the same personnel as drew one apiece with Reading.
Heart: Nottingham Forest 1-2 Bolton Wanderers (Jermaine Beckford x2)
Head: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Bolton Wanderers (Jermaine Beckford)
Make no bones about it, despite the narrow nature of Forest's league wins thus far this will be a tough test for the Whites. Forest's spending power has given them a leg-up on their divisional rivals and so we will need to be at our best to get something from the game. Even though we are only two games into the season this fixture carries a weight to it already and if we play our game as we know we can then there is no reason why we cannot come away with the win to get our season motoring.