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Thursday, 25 January 2007

4111: Forest Battle Back From Dodgy


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by : Hugh Larkin

Across a 46 game League season it’s only to be expected that teams will hit a dip in form, even those at the top. Nottingham Forest hit a rough patch in December but its how a side comes back from these dips which marks their promotion credentials and Forest are recovering well so far.

Dodgy December saw Forest beaten by Bournemouth, Leyton Orient and Doncaster Rovers and as the first two sides were both lurking in the bottom four, these were serious setbacks. 2007 then began spectacularly for all the wrong reasons with a 5-0 pasting from promotion rivals Oldham Athletic.

Doubts about the team’s ability to stay the course were expressed but not for the first time Cup football offered a route back to confidence. Next up after Oldham were Premiership Charlton, a side even further down on their luck. A 2-0 victory went some way to restoring morale at the City Ground.

Even more important Forest were able to pull off a vital single goal victory over promotion rivals Yeovil a week later. With three away league games to follow including tough trips to Swansea and Carlisle, Forest simply had to get three points on the board.

The team followed this up by grinding a point out on the trip South Wales, where Colin Calderwood declared himself satisfied with a hard-earned draw with one of Forest’s promotion rivals.

The December blip wasn’t the first time the team have given their fans cause for concern. Back in September they lost at home to Oldham and followed it with three draws. The team then beat Swansea only to suffer a 4-0 home defeat to Scunthorpe. After that desperate result though, Calderwood’s side went 11 games undefeated in all competitions.

There may be a few more nervous moments before promotion is secured but if it is, then the expectation is that the squad could certainly survive in the Championship. This Forest team has an awful lot of players who have appeared at higher levels, a few of them in the Premiership.

John Curtis, Scott Dobie, Jack Lester, Danny Cullip, David Johnson (now retired) and Gary Holt were just some of the players who have a firm acquaintance with life much farther up the League. Nathan Tyson, Sammy Clingan, Kris Commons and Grant Holt are squad members who shouldn’t be out of place in the Championship.

The trick for Colin Calderwood will be to get this talented squad out of this division first. The team should be able to put on a good show in the upcoming plum cup tie at Stamford Bridge but bringing the same form to an away trip at Chesterfield or Scunthorpe will be the key to their season.

Forest can enjoy the big Cup occasion this weekend but then comes the trip to Carlisle and after that three more games with sides that are in the bottom half of the table. An 8 or 9 point haul is the minimum requirement from the game in Cumbria and then encounters with Bradford, Northampton and Brighton.

As long as Forest can stay in touch their run in looks easier than a lot of their rivals- each of the last 4 games look winnable and provide every chance of avoiding the play offs. As long as the team can apply themselves in February as they have in January, the City Ground could well be hosting Championship football again next season.

Hugh Larkin
23 January 2007

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