After hitting four past Barnsley, Nottingham Forest moved back into the top six — before Hull beat Bristol City in the late kick-off. Nick Miller from Football 365 offers a fan’s eye view from Oakwell.

Oakwell is what many people would describe as a ‘proper ground’. The more unkind might call it ‘a bit of a sh*thole’. I’m somewhere in the middle, but that’s possibly because the visiting fans don’t have to sit in the corrugated hell-hole down one side, that at first glance looks fashioned from the leftovers from a budget cowshed.

Still, hidden just behind a hill of terraced houses, it’s a ‘proper’ ground in a ‘proper’ northern town for a ‘proper’ club, and it’s preferable to the flat-pack soul vacuums that our other East Midlands friends call home. The Barnsley masses weren’t exactly out in force for this visit of the most glorious Nottingham Forest, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for with a terribly polite near-silence, allowing the visiting supporters’ ditties to fill the Yorkshire air unopposed. Very kind of them.

The game started with me feeling very uneasy about the prospect of Greg Halford in the middle of defence. The peripatetic Halford hasn’t been the disaster that I feared he would be after signing in the summer, but I’d really rather keep him away from the most delicate part of Forest’s defence. Still, there he was, in the absence of Norwich Borrow #1 Daniel Ayala, with Norwich Borrow #2 Elliott Ward only on the bench; but not before he displayed his broad frame in the pre-game warm-up. If the size of a defender is an indicator of his quality, then we’ve got a good ‘un here.

My fears about the heart of the defence were realised midway through the first-half, after Forest nearly put together a few decent moves, and Billy Sharp missed a startlingly easy header.

The phrase ‘cult hero’ is one I tend to shy away from, because more often than not it just means a player isn’t terribly good, tries hard and occasionally comes up with something brilliant. However, that perfectly sums up Marlon Harewood, ‘leading’ the ‘attack’ for Barnsley. The day started with a rather heart-warming reception for the old boy, the Forest fans greeting Marlon like an old pal. However, two shanked shots and one kicked-the-ground dribbler later, his treatment had gone from bonhomie to Australian cricketer-style mental disintegration – Marlon looked like he had demons. Which made it all the more inevitable that he would score, neatly rounding Lee Camp after Danny Collins and Halford had drifted apart like a couple who’ve been together too long, leaving large tracts of Oakwell free for Harewood to roam. After that, he reverted to type, but for the sake of sentiment I’ll blame that on the non-existent service from his teammates.

Forest’s first, scored by Halford, was an entirely surreal goal as viewed from the other end of the ground, largely because it wasn’t at all clear what had happened. As his fairly weak shot from the edge of the area crept in past a prone Ben Alnwick, it looked like the shot had either taken a heavy deflection, or the Barnsley keeper had suffered an existential crisis in the middle of his own area and decided to have a lie down. As it turned out, the former was the case.

I’m pals with a Barnsley fan. He’s a big chap who, after the recent birth of his first child, is presumably rather sleep-deprived at the moment, so with that in mind I won’t be mentioning their defending for Simon Cox’s goal that put Forest into the lead, lest he take his weariness out on my face. Cox converted after Billy Sharp’s shot was saved, with four Tykes defenders casually observing the Irish forward’s tap-in like some old boys standing idly around in the park, waiting for their dogs to do their business.

Whatever words I use to praise Chris Cohen, they won’t be enough. Having him back is like an old friend returning from a very long trip that you thought they may not come home from. He’s just the sort of man that your mother would be absolutely delighted if you brought home with you. And if I know nothing else about mothers, it’s that they value unflagging work rate, fine tackling ability and a penchant for a spectacular goal above all other qualities. And what a goal his was, with the Barnsley defence rather obligingly giving him plenty of time to pick out the top corner.

The second-half began with Forest in confident mood, knocking the ball around in the manner of a team 3-1 ahead away from home, attacking with some bite and intent, but alas that didn’t last terribly long. One of the more baffling and frustrating aspects to this season for Forest has been the tendency for the side to, for an unspecified period in the second-half, go fuzzy and almost invite the opposition back into the game. It has cost points (the midweek draw at Blackpool being the most recent example) or just make us fans bloody nervous when no nerves should surface. The encouraging thing is that while this mental block did pop up again at Oakwell, a shrewd substitution and a bit of slick passing killed off the Barnsley comeback before it could do any damage to either the scoreline or our nerves.

I have been heard to refer to the signing of Jermaine Jenas as ‘The Most Pointless Loan In The History Of Football’, given he became the ninth central midfielder on Forest’s books when he arrived from Spurs. Still, it was easy to see why Sean O’Driscoll wants to keep him around after his introduction in this game. Jenas brought a touch of calm and class to a midfield that was sometimes becoming worryingly out-passed and out-fought, and his wonderful, dinked finish wasn’t done justice by the TV cameras. It really was a thing of joy, and it was impossible not to feel all warm and fuzzy inside as Jenas, a Nottingham lad, put the game beyond any doubt.

The afternoon was capped by a good laugh, provided by the chap behind me who commented that Simon Gillett was ‘like our Paul Scholes’. A bit strong, I think. The same man might want to change his opticians, because he misidentified players throughout. ‘That’s Cox, isn’t it? No, wait, it’s Sharp.’ At one point he even wondered why we were bringing Jonathan Greening on, as Jenas went through his stretches on the sidelines.

So a thoroughly convincing win, four different goalscorers and, perhaps, more importantly a sign that O’Driscoll is ironing out the problems with his still-gelling side. It’s too early to get really optimistic, but we could be witnessing the first months of something pretty special here.

Oh, one thing though. We’re going to have to ditch the ‘E-I-E-I-E-I-O’ song, because ‘O’Driscoll is our king’ simply doesn’t scan. We either lose the chant or the manager, and I’m quite happy with the latter right now, thank you.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @NickMillerF365

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