With a well earned point against Villa in the bag and the unbeaten record still intact, Newcastle should be in confident mood heading into Tuesdays Carling Cup tie.
Although Newcastle may feel they should have taken all three points I think the performance itself was very pleasing and should have a positive effect on the team going forward.
Despite grinding out some great results so far we witnessed a different Newcastle play against Villa, dare I say the one we were told about in pre-season, a good footballing side. We cut out the long ball tactics, got the ball down and played smart, simple, clever football from the back with our midfield having much more influence than in previous games.
We also showed that away from home when playing like that we have the personnel to be able to dictate play rather than absorbing pressure and trying to nick goals on the counter.
Even though the end product could have been better at times there are a lot of pluses to take from Villa Park for both the team and individual players.
I would expect there will be a few changes for Forest in order to keep us fresh for Blackburn, but like the Scunthorpe match I imagine there will still be a good blend of 1st team players starting.
Forest come into the game having failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five and have lost their last three, the latest being a 2 – 1 home defeat to Derby County.
They do look shaky defensively and can definitely be got at if put under pressure but Newcastle do need to be careful not to read too much into their recent poor form and take them lightly as a result.
Although they are on a three game losing streak and are conceding, they have had the majority of possession and chances in all but one of their games this season and do possess a goal threat.
For that reason the only change I would like to see defensively would be maybe Ferguson for Ryan Taylor. He put in a great performance for the reserves this week, albeit from the left wing, but is more than capable of playing left back as we seen at the tail end of last season.
In midfield I think Gabriel Obertan needs to start and be told to prove he is worth the regular starting spot. Even though he improved second half against Villa he was probably our only poor performer on the day.
I think Gutierrez deserves a night off to recharge the batteries. I have not been his biggest fan in the past but credit where it is due he has put everything into his performances so far and I think it would be wise to let him have a break when you can afford to.
Sylvain Marveaux would be the obvious replacement and he has looked very tidy in the two recent sub appearances. He seems to be a smart player who keeps it simple and picks the right passes. I think it would do his confidence the world of good going forward to give him ninety minutes.
Also think it may put a bit of pressure on Obertan to prove his worth too. With Hatem Ben Arfa coming back and Jonas being an ever present, there is one position in the starting line-up still up for grabs, and Obertan and Marveaux are the two in direct competition for the spot.
Central midfield is a tough one. Although it is normally a match I would like to see Cheik Tiote miss to eliminate the risk of a yellow I think he may need to play to improve on sharpness further and iron out a few mistakes from an otherwise much improved performance against Villa.
Yohan Cabaye is another that you might like to rest normally but it is the type of game he could really boss and further improve his partnership with Tiote. The obvious replacement if either are rested would be Dan Gosling for me, who had a superb performance for the reserves against Norwich, although I think that Danny Guthrie may be given the nod ahead of him.
Up front I would personally go with Demba Ba on his own with Gosling sitting behind, if Tiote and Cabaye do play or Guthrie comes in. It would also mean that if Ben Arfa is to get a half hour or so we would not have to change system to accommodate him mid-match. In saying that I do think Pardew will go with two up front. I can see it being Ba and Lovenkrands.
All just guesswork really. Regardless of the side that starts I would expect to see a very different performance to the Scunthorpe tie with Newcastle looking to push on with the same style as we played against Villa.
The performance has given me much more confidence in our chances of getting two good results in the next week but the first step is not taking Forest for granted. A good win and another dominant performance would set us up nicely for the Blackburn game at the weekend.