We’re Nottingham Forest…unbeaten away
Billy Davies is beginning to stretch credibility with the insistence that his Forest side aren’t yet ready to challenge for promotion, as the Reds sent out another clear statement of intent by brushing aside the much fancied Baggies 3-1 in last night’s Sky televised clash at the Hawthorns.
Sky’s broadcast team had certainly taken notice of Forest’s recent run, devoting nearly all of the pre-match build up to Davies and giving the shortest of interviews to Robert Di Matteo, perhaps a touch unfair considering his side have been a fixture near the table’s summit all season. But this was an occasion on which I was happy to put aside my usual bugbears with the ‘insight’ of Peter Beagrie and be thankful of avoiding the big freeze as I positioned myself on the sofa.
As a Forest fan, it’s testament to the past decade that I still approach every game fearing the worst – three years being humbled in League One does that to your confidence. But times are changing, and Davies’ squad approached the game on the back of a 16-match unbeaten league run, boasting the only unbeaten away record in all four divisions, and on the brink of a club record for consecutive clean sheets.
That resilience was apparent throughout as the Reds’ midfield, marshalled by Paul McKenna and bolstered by the return of the combative Guy Moussi, gave the Baggies’ creative forces no room for the brand of free-flowing football that has seen them rack up the Championship’s highest goal tally. Instead it was the visitors who attacked in numbers, with Paul Anderson, Chris Cohen and Raddy Majewski frequently bursting forward to support the tireless running of Dexter Blackstock.
Blackstock’s bundled first half strike was followed after the break by a thumping volley by Majewski, and Cohen added the third to cap a ten-pass counter attack. An increasingly forlorn Di Matteo threw on Roman Bednar, Robert Koren and Ismael Miller in hope of inspiring an unlikely comeback, but although Bednar finally breached Lee Camp’s goal, the damage had been done as Forest leapfrogged their hosts into 2nd for the first time this season.
Much has been made of Forest’s spending in the summer, with the implication often being that the fees paid somehow detract from Billy Davies’ achievements in turning the club around. But fortunes have been spent in the past to little effect – just ask any Forest fan about David Platt. Davies has identified the right players and assembled a tight-knit squad that lends itself to a number of formations, as shown by the success of his five-man midfield last night.
For Di Matteo, this was one of those nights on which almost nothing went right, with the likes of Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt shackled, and Gabriel Tamas enduring a torrid debut at centre-back. His side next travel to Newcastle hoping for an immediate reprieve in front of the Sky cameras. It might be fanciful to suggest that automatic promotion is now a three-way scrap, but on last night’s evidence, it won’t be a straightforward march for West Brom either.