Article produced by Christian Brown
Looking at the sport news round-ups last night and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Nottingham Forest hadn’t played. You had to dig pretty deep to find news of our 2-2 draw with Swansea City, which not only derailed the Welsh side’s play-off chances but almost confirmed our slot in the end of season lottery. Maybe the press have stopped caring since Wayne Rooney FC can’t qualify, who knows!
In any case, it was a job well done for Forest given the circumstances. The remit – as always in football, but especially now the stakes are so high – was to win and failing that, get a point. As a result of our draw, we are now five points clear of seventh-placed Millwall with six points left on offer. Like I said in the aftermath of the match, whereas before it was fingernails, we now have one hand on top of the mountain.
However, the job is not yet done. While this team is very different from Forest sides in years gone by (although not 100% exempt), we have become accustomed to the fact that we have a tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, so until we cross the dotted line and mathematically secure our slot, there will be no celebrations from me. I’m even refraining from going in too hard on Derby County, despite the fact we will finish above them for the first time in seven years.
Frankly, finishing above them isn’t enough and it means nothing unless we secure a top-six spot. Hopefully, this can be done in our next match against Barnsley, so we can relax for our final game at home to Stoke City and not have to concern ourselves with how Millwall or Cardiff City are doing
Rather interestingly though – and this has been the case all season – we are still very much under the radar going into the ‘money time’, as Sabri Lamouchi described it recently. All the press attention so far has been on either a) how blistering Brentford have been, b) how impressive Fulham have been, c) the race for sixth or d) whether West Brom hold second or choke. Absolutely nobody is mentioning us or our form.
It’s perhaps easy to see why. Since the restart, we’ve won just two of our seven games. The flipside to that is that we’ve only lost one, but look a little deeper into the draws and you’ll see that with a few tweaks, we stand just as good a chance as anybody should we make the top six.
The Sheffield Wednesday away game was our first game in four months and an insanely tired Tobias Figueiredo had a momentary lapse in the 93rd minute from a corner, just after Alfa Semedo missed a header. Against Derby, a moment of reckless stupidity from Joe Worrall – otherwise one of our best players this season – cost us three points in the 97th minute, in a game we’d otherwise controlled beautifully. You can blame Brice Samba all you like for flapping at the free-kick, but he should never have been put into that position, to begin with.
The Preston North End away game meanwhile, was a battle in a game we’d normally struggle in. All they did was smack it long to Jayden Stockley, see where the ball ended up and kick us up into the air – see also, Millwall at home, but swap Stockley with Matt Smith. However, we’d clearly learnt from our Millwall experience as we stood toe to toe with them and fully deserved our point, refusing to be intimidated by their physicality and being sharp on the counter.
Then we move onto Swansea on Wednesday. Twice we went behind – the second to some of the worst officiating I have ever seen at this level, adding further to a book of terrible refereeing decisions we’ve been subjected to in the last few years – but twice we came back. We even started zipping it about in the second half as well, which was a welcome sight. It takes huge character to come back from a goal down, let alone to do it twice and against a side in good nick.
By the time the play-offs start – should we get there – you’d like to think Figueiredo would be both match fit and match sharp enough to last 90 minutes plus whatever stoppages we get thrown to not suffer a lapse like that so late on. You’d like to think Worrall would’ve learnt from a mistake we know as a Forest fan himself would have cut him to his core. Throw these learning curves in with the grit we displayed at Preston and the desire and determination at home to Swansea and suddenly, whisper it quietly, we have a side who have largely ironed out their failings.
Should we make the play-offs, we have absolutely no-one to fear but ourselves. We beat Cardiff away without Samba Sow, we’ve played Brentford twice this season and won twice, taking two clean sheets in the process and yes, the recent match against Fulham was abysmal, but the away game was sensational as we ran out 2-1 winners in West London.
Even if West Bromwich Albion drop into the top six, but for an Aro Muric howler at home, we draw. But for Keith Stroud’s ‘refereeing’ away, we win. If Millwall make it, as I said earlier, we’ve learnt from that devastating 3-0 defeat and showed it against Preston. If Swansea get in, we’ve taken four points from them. As for a Leeds United implosion? Well, we’ve taken four points off them, too.
We are so, so nearly there now and should we make it, well. To quote a rather famous someone associated with the club, “I hope anybody’s not stupid enough to write us off.” Let’s just get there first though, reds.