Jekyll and Hyde Midlands sides Forest and Birmingham face off
Only Brighton and Hove Albion and Charlton Athletic have recorded more Championship draws than Nottingham Forest during the first half of the season.
Coral offer odds of 12/5 for Stuart Pearce’s side to share the spoils for the fourth time in five matches, as improving Birmingham City visit the City Ground.
Blues gaffer Gary Rowett played for most of Forest’s local rivals, apart from neighbours Notts County and Mansfield Town. A former Derby County and Leicester City defender, his City side are 10/3 outsiders to record an away win, having snatched a late victory in the reverse fixture at St Andrew’s back in November.
Consistency is now the issue for Birmingham, not where three points will come from. They followed up beating 10-man Reds at the end of November by losing at basement club Blackpool, though Rowett’s predecessor Lee Clark would have been admittedly desperate to inflict a defeat on the club that sacked him.
Next the Blues hit Reading for six, a result that cost Nigel Adkins his job; then edged to victory at Huddersfield, but were handsomely thrashed by Derby County last time out. Which Birmingham will turn up by the banks of the Trent?
Pearce’s Forest may be odds-on 17/20 favourites to win this Midlands match-up, but have shown a similar inability to string results together. They were excellent in beating Norwich City and Wolves back-to-back on either side of the last international break, but have failed to record a victory since.
There has been a lot of chopping and changing in terms of personnel and systems under ‘Psycho’, but the fanbase that worshipped one of Brian Clough’s great captains remain resolutely loyal to their icon.
Britt Assombalonga went from hero to villain in the reverse fixture, scoring what looked like being an equaliser before being sent off for deliberate handball, and thus conceding a penalty converted by Paul Caddis.
DR Congo-born striker Assombalonga is Forest’s leading marksman, and forms a key attacking trio with Michail Antonio and Matty Fryatt for Pearce. Although he’s failed to score since that red card, why not back Assombalonga to make amends here and net anytime at 11/8?
Fellow frontman Fryatt, who grabbed the opener in the Reds’ last home game (5/1 to score first again), is better value in the same market at 9/5. Odds for Antonio, meanwhile, are even tastier at 2/1.
Rowett’s system seems to be getting the best out of wide players David Cotterill and bright young thing Demarai Gray. Considering the former has three in his last five, punters could well be tempted to take 4/1 on Cotterill scoring again here anytime.
Gray’s first-half hat-trick against Reading, meanwhile, propelled him into the spotlight, and this tricky, emerging talent can be backed at 10/3 in the anytime market.
What Rowett needs is more from his strikers, so summer signing Clayton Donaldson should be looking to end a five-game goal drought here. He is 23/10 to do that anytime here.
The unpredictability of both Forest and Birmingham makes us inclined to recommend a score draw, with 1-1 a tempting 11/2 shout.