Nottingham Forest will look to get back to winning ways when they take on Preston on Saturday at Deepdale.
Martin O’Neill was left frustrated in midweek as his side were denied victory late on at West Brom due to a controversial penalty decision. If they can replicate that performance against Preston, there’s no reason why they can’t pick up a result.
Overall though, the Reds have been relatively poor away from home recently. They haven’t won any of their last seven Championship away games. The last time they picked up three points on their travels was on 24 November against Hull.
They face a Preston side that are one of the most in-form sides in the division at the moment. Alex Neil certainly has them firing on all cylinders.
Preston are unbeaten in six in the Championship and have won four of those games.
Seat Pitch: You made a fairly inconsistent start to the season, did you always believe you’d be able to put a good run together?
Ben Stewart: I was really taken back by how poor we looked at the start of the season, especially after ending last season so well.
Nothing seemed to be going our way. Alex Neil couldn’t settle on his best eleven after a series of injuries and suspensions, which meant the team was chopped and changed every week.
We managed to pick back up again and after a promising January transfer window, signing the likes of Brad Potts and Jayden Stockley, we’ve looked back to our best. In fact, if the season had started on 1 October we’d currently be sat fourth in the Championship.
I had the feeling that if we had a full squad available we’d eventually rise back up the Championship and thankfully that’s what we’re now seeing.
SP: Norwich had only lost once away in the Championship all season before Wednesday night. Were you surprised by the result?
BS: With recent performances in mind, I was expecting us to give them a good game but I was stunned by how good we looked at times.
For me it was our best game so far this season, in the first half we pressed relentlessly from the front and deservedly took a two goal lead into half time. Alan Browne and Tom Barkhuizen were causing all sorts of problems for the Norwich back line.
The second half we managed the game well and thanks to some top saves from Declan Rudd, we closed the game out fairly comfortably.
SP: You are unbeaten in six in the Championship, winning four of those games. Did you see that coming and what would you put it down to?
BS: Having key players returning from injuries has been crucial for us. However, sorting out our defensive issues has been the key.
Introducing 21-year-old Jordan Storey, who was playing his football for Exeter in League Two last season, has been hugely influential in shaping our defensive outfit. He complements Ben Davies excellently. Having two centre-backs who are both comfortable on the ball has drastically improved our build-up play from the back.
As well as that, the signing of Brad Potts from Barnsley looks to be just what we were missing in midfield. He has already scored twice since joining in January. His driving runs forward and pace from midfield has already made him one of the first names on the team sheet.
SP: On the basis of your performance against Norwich, I presume we’re in for a tough game tomorrow, so who do we need to look out for?
BS: Alan Browne is the man of the moment. This season he’s been able to take his game to the next level, scoring 11 goals and producing four assists so far. Browne operates in the number 10 role and looks to set the tempo of our side. He does this by pressing from the front and advancing the play from midfield.
He always seems to produce something at Deepdale. Hopefully Saturday will be more of the same.
Ben Pearson is another to look out for, he will look to break up play in the middle and limit the space available for your attacking outlets.
SP: What are you expecting from Nottingham Forest?
BS: I’m not so sure. Under Martin O’Neill so far, you’ve seemed like a bit of a mixed bag. There’s certainly goals throughout your side.
Both sides will be looking to get on the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were quite a few goals in this one. Our squad has come on quite a bit since our last encounter at the City Ground. I’m hoping we continue this unbeaten run.
SP: Is there a player within our ranks that you would love to have in your team?
BS: In the summer I’d have loved a striker like Lewis Grabban. A top quality poacher in this league is perhaps what we’ve been missing at times. Most of our strikers have been quite injury prone so far this season. This has resulted in most of our goals coming from midfield.
Having a striker who could score over 20 goals would be a welcome addition for any side in the Championship.
SP: Finally, what do you think the score will be?
BS: I don’t think there’ll be much in it. I’m hoping that our intensity levels are the same as Wednesday. The concern is that fatigue will start to creep into our game.
If we do manage to maintain our current level of performance, we might be able to edge it. I’ll just back us for a 2-1 home victory.