Nottingham Forest v Derby: Tight derby tussle forecast for Monday

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) takes a look at Monday night's East Midlands derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby at the City Ground.

Nottingham Forest v Derby | Monday 25th February 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

This is a game that I look forward to every season, and it is good to see that both teams have a shot at winning promotion this time around. That adds even more spice to this rivalry encounter and picking the most likely winner remains a hard task indeed. The City Ground is the scene on Monday night, in what will be the final offering in the latest round of Sky Bet Championship fixtures.

We’ll start with the hosts Nottingham Forest, who have now had six games under the management of returning hero Martin O’Neill. Two wins, two draws and two defeats in that period suggests some consistency issues, but it’d be fair to say that he has now settled back into new surroundings. He continues to make changes to his side, both in personnel and system, but they’ll take heart from a three-game unbeaten run, which could’ve easily returned in three victories instead of one win and a draw.

Derby, on the flip side, produced a rather timid display to say the least at home to Millwall on Wednesday, where they went down to a poor 1-0 home setback. Considering they drew away to lowly Ipswich in the league game prior to that, they’re certainly five points lesser than what Frank Lampard would have targeted. The FA Cup at least is no longer a ‘distraction’ for the Rams after Premier League Brighton knocked them out of the weekend. All focus is now purely on a play-off spot.

These games are often tight

Call it the East Midlands Derby, call it the A52 Derby, no matter what you call it, this game is often quite a tactical affair. It is one neither side wants to lose, and the 0-0 draw in the earlier season encounter was a perfect reflection of that. This has been a regular fixture since 2008, with meetings taking place every year since then. We can therefore get a good guide on what type of matches we should expect.

The last two have ended 0-0, whilst only three of the previous eleven would have seen both teams to score pay out. Certainly clashes at the City Ground tend to be even more closer than when played at Pride Park, where Derby at least have a couple of big wins in this round of games.

Five of the last six in Nottingham we could class as ‘tight’, with the 2-2 draw in 2017 being the exception. 0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 1-0 and 0-1 being the other results.

Even taking the league form of these two into account this season, they don’t always produce goals. For all that Derby have been applauded for their attacking play at times this season, Nottingham Forest have actually scored three more goals, although they have played a game extra.

Both teams witness an average of exactly 2.50 goals per game. This reduces to 2.30 for Forest home battles, whilst Derby on the road it slightly increases to 2.60, but the last three has ended below 2.5.

With this often being a close game, we picture a similar outcome, especially as both are battling for promotion. This is probably the perfect game for Derby to respond in following the shock Millwall loss, but they’re clearly in a sticky patch. Forest have looked bright in recent weeks, but they’ll show Derby respect.

Under 2.5 Goals pays 89/100 (Marathon).

First 45 to be a battle

With this more likely to be a close encounter, we do see this one being a bit of a slow-burner in terms of goals. As mentioned, with Derby lacking bite in the Millwall game, Lampard might want them to become a little harder to beat. Their recent away record has been a disappointment. This is another area where they have lacked consistency. They’ve at least drew their last two away at Preston and Ipswich in the Championship, but the performances left a lot to be desired.

It has also been very noticeable across the season that Nottingham Forest open up much more in the second half of games. This is reflected by the amount of goals for and against in the second half, compared to what is produced in the opening 45.

Overall, they score 65% and concede 66% of their goals following the second half restart. Focusing purely at home, they concede 80% of their goals in the second half. Derby actually have scored more in the first half, but let in more in the second. Also, the most popular half time score in Forest half games is 0-0, which has occurred on seven occasions.

Also, we can’t forget the fact that this contest brings about two of the tighter defences in the league, which may actually surprise some people. Derby has conceded one goal less than Forest, but only four other teams have conceded more goals than these two have. Those are Middlesbrough, Bristol City, Sheffield United and Leeds United.

As touched upon earlier, this is one game none wants to lose, and not conceding the first goal is of particular importance. Derby are yet to lose when scoring first, whilst it has only happened once for Forest this season.

Half Time Draw is nicely priced at 15/13 (RedZone) and the Second Half to be the Highest Scoring Half is available at 11/10 (Paddy Power)

Tunisian to leave his mark

It is nice to see Bet365 price up the player card markets for this game. It is traditionally a fixture where the referee is kept busy and Monday is unlikely to be any exception. We believe there is some value to be had on a certain player picking up at least a booking.

Nottingham Forest have picked up more cards than any other Championship team at this moment in time. They therefore sit at the bottom of the fair play table. They’ve got 77 bookings to their name. Derby on the other hand aren’t too far behind on 66, but they’ve only had the one red card as things stand.

We cannot rule out the prospect of another red in this game. The last time these met at the City Ground, Tom Huddlestone was given his marching orders after collecting a second booking in the last few minutes.

One of the first thing O’Neill did as Forest boss was to bring in central defender Yohan Benalouane from his former club Leicester City. With Michael Dawson, Tobias Figueiredo and Michael Hefele out injured, it has meant the 31-year-old has been thrown straight into the side. He has played five times, being booked in his first two and then receiving two in the same game within the third. He has been at the club for about a month and has already served a ban.

With this being a big rivalry, he may want to warm himself to the crowd by producing a few strong challenges.

11/8 (Bet365) on Yohan Benalouane to be Shown A Card looks a great shout at 11/8.

Best Bets

Nottingham Forest v Derby – Under 2.5 Goals (89/100 Marathon)

Nottingham Forest v Derby – Half Time Draw (15/13 RedZone)

Nottingham Forest v Derby – Second Half to be the Highest Scoring Half (11/10 Paddy Power)

Nottingham Forest v Derby – Yohan Benalouane To Be Shown A Card (11/8 Bet365)

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