If Nottingham Forest have faith they can win at Derby, says former defender Danny Higginbotham


Nottingham Forest can claim the bragging rights in the East Midlands derby, if they have faith in their football approach under Mark Warburton.

That is the message from Danny Higginbotham, the former defender who has played for both the Reds and Derby.

Higginbotham believes Warburton’s side will dominate possession at Pride Park – and that Gary Rowett will set Derby up to play almost like an away side, by looking to hurt Forest on the break.

And the experienced former Manchester United, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Sheffield United and Chester player believes the outcome of what is certain to be a fiercely contested clash could be decided, very simply, by whoever scores the first goal.

“Forest have only failed to score in one game all season and I think Derby will allow Forest to dominate possession and then look to play on the counter-attack themselves,” said Higginbotham, who made six appearances for Forest during a loan spell in the second half of the 2011/12 season.

Derby manager Gary Rowett

“When I have seen Forest play, they don’t tend to change their style of play. They will be open, they will play the risk and reward game. They will create a lot of chances but they will also leave themselves open at times. But that front four interchange works really well.

“The first goal will be key, because if Forest score first, Derby would have to come out and go after them. That would suit Forest. But if Derby score first, then Derby could sit back and play on the counter-attack, which is the way they like to play. So the first goal will be crucial.”

Having played in the fixture himself – and in other local derby games all around the country – Higginbotham knows what to expect on Sunday afternoon.

“It will be interesting tactically, because Forest have a manager in Wartburton who has his style of play and will stick by it,” he said.

“Then you have a manager in Rowett who, has set up his side to be defensively strong and largely playing on the counter-attack. You look at the Hull game, when they had their second lowest amount of possession of the season – but won 5-0.

“More often than not, Forest have been the team who have dominated possession in their games. In nine of their 11 games, they have had the most possession.

Danny Higginbotham in action for Nottingham Forest

“That tells you a lot about the way Warburton wants them to play and probably also about how this game is going to unfold. If it works, they can rip teams apart; they can take three or four players out of the game with one pass.

“If I was in Rowett’s shoes, I would let Forest have possession and try to hit them on the break, because they will be open to the counter-attack.”

Higginbotham says Forest must be disciplined and organised when it comes to how they defend, if they are to avoid getting hit on the break.

“If you are going to play with a back-four, you need two defensive midfielders to play this way or at least one full-back who will sit back, while the other pushes forward,” he said.

“Teams can get caught on the counter, because they commit so many men forward. Instead of your left-back being 30 or 40 yards from their own goal, they are 70 yards away and teams will set traps to exploit that.

“The only question mark is whether Derby’s fans will remain patient, if they do allow Forest to dominate possession. That is my take on things, from the outside looking in.

Nottingham Forest manager Mark Warburton and Derby County boss Gary Rowett were all smiles before last season’s derby at the City Ground

“Forest will dominate possession and it would not surprise me to see Derby sit back for the opening 15 or 20 minutes. They won’t be passive, but they will let them have the ball in certain areas and then look to hurt them on the counter.

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“It is going to be interesting. You have to give Warburton great credit for the way he has Forest playing, while Rowett is an established manager himself at this level and he will know how important a win would be. He needs to end the run of draws, because they have a good squad.

“The last thing I am expecting is a 0-0.”



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