Nottingham Forest vs Cardiff | Sunday 12th September 2021, 14:30 | Sky Sports
The international break may have come at the right time for Nottingham Forest to regroup after a disastrous start. They welcome Cardiff and the Sky cameras to the City Ground, as they search for their first win of the season.
Chris Hughton has come under fire from the Forest faithful for his style of play and lack of results, which has left them languishing at the foot of the table. The transfer deadline passed with a few new faces for him to bed in, but Braian Ojeda and Mohamed Drager will miss the next three games due to self-isolation rules.
They’ll also be without Arsenal loanee Jordi Osei-Tutu following a recurrence of a hamstring injury, which means he won’t face the club he was on loan with last term. But Max Lowe looks to be in line to make his debut.
Cardiff slipped to their first league defeat of the campaign against Severnside rivals Bristol City two weeks ago, falling to an Andreas Weimann double.
Mick McCarthy’s side sits in ninth and will hold no fear after their solid start to the season. And they’ve been hard to beat on the road in 2021, the Bluebirds have played 14 away league games this year and have only lost once (W7, D6).
They’ve also enjoyed recent visits to Nottingham, winning their last six league games by the River Trent – most recently last September’s 2-0 victory, where Kieffer Moore netted a first-half brace.
The betting angles
I saw Forest a few weeks ago in their 1-0 defeat at Stoke. They were abysmal! It was rare they crossed the halfway line and when they did, they looked clueless about what to do with the ball.
That game saw them record just two shots (none on target) and an 0.11xG. That’s part of the reason why Forest have the worst expected goals for figure (3.2xG), and their pragmatic approach is behind the lack of chances created.
In contrast, only West Brom (13.0xG) and Fulham (11.3xG) have a better expected goals return than Cardiff’s 8.5xG.
Defensively, they both are doing well restricting their opponents. Cardiff has the third-best record of expected goals against (xGA) at 3.9xGA with Forest in fourth (4.7xGA). Only Fulham (2.7xGA) and Middlesbrough (3.4xGA) have been tighter.
So, putting angles together for this one did make me lean towards few goals. This Forest side is struggling, but they did show good resolve to battle to a point against east Midlands rivals Derby before the international break.
However, there’s a lot to like about this Cardiff side. Ryan Giles has excelled since his loan switch from Wolves, while Marlon Pack is thriving from a deep-lying position. And it helps there are goals all over the pitch. Central defender Aden Flint has bagged four in two games, making him the league’s joint-top scorer.
So, when I was researching this game, I was very tempted to run with Draw/Cardiff at 11/2 in the half-time/full-time with Bet Victor. This has the feel of being very tight and cagey, especially in the opening stages.
Let’s be honest, we’ve got two experienced managers who tend to be more tentative in their approaches. That’s highlighted by the fact that four of Cardiff’s five league games so far have been goalless at the break, giving that 11/2 some scope.
Yet I’m going with two main plays. Firstly, it’s hard to ignore the 10/11 quotes on Cardiff to score in the second half.
The Bluebirds have netted nine times in the league and all of them have come after the break. So, that’s a 100% strike-rate for second-half goals.
Given that all their goals have been after the break, then Cardiff’s highest-scoring half being the second could be an alternative angle. That’s 13/8 on Bet365 for those looking for a bigger price.
McCarthy’s men aren’t shot-shy either. They rank fourth for both shots (63) and shots on target (26), so will test this Forest defence in open play, as well as from set-pieces, when Flint and Sean Morrison come forward.
I did note the 2/1 on Flint having 2+ shots on Sky Bet as well. Despite being a defender, he’s registered 12 shots – the most of any player in blue. He had three v Blackpool, then four in both games against Peterborough and Millwall.
It was surprising to see Flint at a bigger price than Morrison for a shot on target with Sky Bet, given his goalscoring record. Flint looked the play out of the two in that market at 3/1 compared to the 6/4 on his defensive partner.
For the second bet, I’ll pose a question. What price would you back the player who has committed the most fouls in the league at?
Well, Bet365 are offering 5/1. That’s right, 5/1 on Marlon Pack to be carded. He’s committed 13 fouls, which is the most in the Championship.
Those figures might be bloated after giving away seven free-kicks against Peterborough, the game he did get cautioned. But he puts himself about. He made four tackles and gave away one foul in the defeat against Bristol City, so will roll up his sleeves.
If he needs to drift into the channels to cover, then Forest have two players who can draw fouls, and cards from opponents, in the exciting Brennan Johnson and Philip Zinckernagel.
The 5/1 price is just too hard to resist but might factor in that Dean Whitestone is the referee. He’s shown 14 yellows and 1 red in his five league games this season. While last term, he only issued 62 yellows and 3 reds in 33 games. So, he’s one of the more lenient officials on the Select Group 2 list.
That said, with a combative defensive midfielder in action up against some pacey and tricky attackers, if Forest attack, and that’s a big IF, then Pack could add to his rap sheet.
Holding midfielders have found themselves in hot water against Forest this season. Both Ben Sheaf and Gustavo Hamer were booked for Coventry, as was Stoke’s Sam Clucas. Derby’s three behind the frontman were all booked against Forest too.
Plus, the two league games at the City Ground this season have seen plenty of cards, including a red in each. So, I’m happy to take the price on the Pack card with all the evidence on show.