It may have brought the unbeaten run to a disappointing end, and it may have been a poor defeat but it’s time the fans and the club put the FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United behind them as we enter a critical fortnight in the Championship for Nottingham Forest, writes Tom Walker.
Forest must be back on top form as league leaders Leicester City visit the City Ground on Wednesday night. The local rivals are sat seven points clear at the top of the league with a game in hand over QPR, who lost out to free scoring Reading on Sunday. They will be looking to avenge the 2-0 defeat by Forest at the King Power Stadium back in November. That day Leicester were by far the better side, but it was Forest who came away with a very satisfying victory thanks to goals from Simon Cox and Jamie Mackie. An impressive league double could be on the horizon as Forest look to get back on track.
Following the visit of the Foxes Forest play Burnley away at Turf Moor on Saturday and Uwe Rosler’s Wigan Athletic at home the Saturday after. A critical period for Forest as they look to close the gap on the top two. Although for fans the stand out game in that will be Leicester City - perhaps the most important game is the away game at Burnley. The Reds have eyes firmly fixed on second position and along with QPR and Derby, Burnley are certainly a main rival. Unfancied at the start of the season Sean Dyche has worked wonders to put Burnley in the promotion frame. Lead by the deadly Vokes and Ings the Clarets are a serious threat in the promotion race. Many including myself had been waiting for their form to dip and for them to simply fade away in to mid table. That has obviously not happened and all the credit in the world must go to Dyche and his players.
The game against Wigan could be one of two things. If Forest can get a good return of points from Leicester and Burnley then it will be seen as a game they need to win to keep pressure on the top two clubs, and a draw may not be the worst result. If Forest come away from the two games with a disappointing return then the game will be seen as a must win game to keep Wigan at arms length in a fight for the play-offs. Football can be that fickle. Wigan’s charge towards the top six under Rosler has been pretty relentless, and they are just seven points off Reading in sixth with two games in hand. They have been up to their old tricks in the FA Cup too beating Premier League duo Crystal Palace and Cardiff City this season. It’s really important Forest win at least one of their games this week, just to keep the pressure off. You don’t want to be playing Wigan needing a win in their form.
Enough of the opposition anyway let’s look at the way Forest have been performing recently. It has been noted that we are still struggling for goals upfront still, Rafik Djebbour - despite his debut goal has been struggling to make an impact. Hopefully he can improve as time goes on. Jamie Paterson on the other hand has been in sublime form, and what was a rare headed goal against Huddersfield was bettered on Sunday against the Blades as he headed home from an acute angle. He has stepped up to the plate as Forest’s main midfield goal source taking over from the injured Henri Lansbury. It’s great to see a vibrant young player taking up such an important role. Long may it continue.