Bet of the Day: Nottingham Forest to win at Stoke in Championship clash

14th September 2021

Nottingham Forest were once a regular fixture in the top flight of English football, and even won the European Cup twice in consecutive years as the 70s became the 80s. The club hit a decline just as the First Division became the Premier League, suffering relegation in the final season under Brian Clough, and although there was some yo-yoing over the following six seasons, another fall from the top flight in 1999 has been followed by two decades outside the elite. The latest manager to seek a way back in, Sabri Lamouchi, has started the season well, and could lift the Tricky Trees to first place in the Championship this evening with a win over Stoke City.

As roadblocks go, the Potters are currently more an empty milk carton than a burning truck – separated from the bottom spot in the division only by a Huddersfield side that discovered a losing habit in the Premier League and found that they kind of liked it. Eight games into the campaign, Nathan Jones’ side have just two points to their name, a winless run that started last season now standing at fourteen consecutive outings. Defeat here may not represent the last straw for Jones’ short time in the Potteries, but it might be worth him bringing a few boxes tonight to make the whole desk-clearing thing easier.

Stoke in a tailspin

During the course of a ten-year stay in the Premier League, Stoke had developed a reputation for being an opponent that was hard to play against, picking up results under Tony Pulis through resolute organisation and a directness in attack that may have been unpleasant to watch but was all the more ugly to defend against. Under Mark Hughes they began to play a more expansive game and still finished well up the table until 2018, when the spell broke, the club fell into the bottom three, and Hughes was replaced by football’s version of the Grim Reaper, Paul Lambert. Sure enough, they were relegated, and they did not bounce back under Lambert’s replacement Garry Rowett. Jones was installed in January after a fine stint with Luton Town.

It’s safe to say that the transition has been bumpy, and while Jones left the Hatters in League One he now finds himself looking up at his old club, who are 21st in the Championship under his fellow Jones, Graeme. This shoddy start to the season has come down to the fact that Stoke are neither as thrilling in attack as Hughes’ version nor as obstinate at the back as Pulis’. They are as good at losing as Lambert’s sides, but this has proven to be more of a curse than a blessing points-wise. For some reason, William Hill have the hosts as favourites here. Forest are a very handy 9/4 with that bookie, which is a bet worth taking.

Can Forest end 21 years of hurt?

There are adult human beings who have lived their entire lives without ever having existed alongside a Nottingham Forest team playing Premier League football. Their parents tell them of the Clough era, the consecutive European triumphs, and the production line that brought Stuart Pearce, Des Walker, Franz Carr and others to national attention. These admittedly young adults look at the side that has rarely threatened to even look like getting promoted, and say “Them? How?” – but under Lamouchi, there are the beginnings of some hope that Forest could return to the top flight.

The resurgence is due in no small part to a defence that is one of the stingiest in the division, conceding just six goals through the first eight games. Only Leeds and Swansea have been meaner, and they are the first- and second-placed sides in the Championship. Clean sheets have been maintained against Swansea, Barnsley and Birmingham, and it’s not hard to see a fourth being added here against Stoke’s underproductive attack. Paddy Power have very fair odds of 8/11 for “No” in the “Both Teams To Score” category, and a goalless defeat seems the most likely outcome for the hosts tonight.

Grabban to add to scoring tally?

One of the happiest people at the City Ground since the installation of Lamouchi has been Lewis Grabban. Under previous manager Martin O’Neill, he scored twice in fourteen games and struggled under a style of play which prioritised set-pieces. Since the arrival of the former French international, Grabban has top-scored for the club in the 2018-19 season, and is off to a fast start in this campaign with four in the first eight games. In a side set up to feed him with through-balls – much more in keeping with his pace- and movement-based approach to the game – he’s flourishing as a lone striker.

Against a Stoke side that is conceding more than twice a game on average, Grabban will fancy his chances of adding to his tally for the season, possibly nicking more than one goal. He’s certainly worth backing at 9/2 with Ladbrokes to score the opener here, and if he can notch early on then there is a real chance that it will be a long night for Stoke – particularly their defence and their under-fire boss.

Bets of the Day

Forest to win (William Hill, 9/4); “No” for Both Teams to Score (Paddy Power, 8/11); Lewis Grabban FGS (Ladbrokes, 9/2)

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