Martin O’Neill picked up his first win as Nottingham Forest manager yesterday afternoon at the City Ground.
The Reds comfortably saw off struggling Wigan Athletic by a 3-1 scoreline. Joe Lolley gave the Reds the lead after just 20 minutes, but Josh Windass levelled for the away side just before half-time.
However, the Latics were unable to hang on for a point in the second-half. Matty Cash and Adlene Guédioura both got themselves on the scoresheet as O’Neill’s side picked up a priceless three points.
Despite this being only their second win in nine league matches, the Reds are now just four points off the play-offs. Could this be the start of an upturn in form?
A testing period awaits
It’s easy to get carried away after any win in the Championship. Especially when the Reds’ last win was all the way back on New Year’s Day. However, there are certainly tougher tests to come for O’Neill’s side in the coming weeks.
After a disappointing defeat to Bristol City last weekend, another poor result against the Latics would’ve put instant pressure on O’Neill. However, now that yesterday’s game has been dealt with, he can focus on the forthcoming games.
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If Forest are serious about getting back into promotion contention, it’s the run of games throughout February which could now prove pivotal.
To begin with, the Reds face a trip to face Garry Monk’s Birmingham City side. The Blues are certainly a tough nut to crack at St Andrew’s and will provide a far tougher test than Wigan.
Forest then return to the City Ground to face Brentford on 9 February. Having lost their last four home games against the Bees, they could also be a difficult obstacle. However, they aren’t quite the same animal as they have been, and this is another winnable fixture.
West Brom and Derby fixtures bound to test the Reds
After that, the Reds are away at West Brom in midweek. This will arguably be O’Neill’s toughest match up to this point. The Baggies are in the hunt for automatic promotion and have an array of attacking talent.
However, they have dropped a considerable amount of points at the Hawthorns in recent weeks. The likes of Brentford, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday have all been able to come away with a point.
If Forest could go there and achieve the same, it would be a good result.
Depending on how the Reds have performed in the previous three fixtures, an away game at Preston on 16 February could provide a perfect opportunity to pick up a win before the big match.
Preston certainly aren’t a bad side, shown by the fact they won at the City Ground back in December. However, if O’Neill’s side have ambitions of making the play-offs, they have to come away from this sort of match with a result.
If they can, it will set them up perfectly for the latest instalment of the East Midlands Derby the following Monday. The Reds will have the opportunity to close the gap on Frank Lampard’s Derby County side and boost their play-off hopes.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Reds fare in the next month. If they are still within touching distance of the play-offs, then they will have a great chance to push-on and keep their promotion hopes alive in the remainder of the season.