Before going into the weekend’s game with Cardiff, a number of Forest fans remained somewhat unconvinced with our start to the season...
Those impatient few among us demanded a statement of intent, the sort of ‘grand gesture’ only associated with newly reconciled couples at the end of a romantic comedy. Fighting tooth and nail for four points, against table-toppers and promotion favourites a like, certainly had the similar heart-warming quality of an on-screen romance. Notting Hill Forest, you could say (but probably shouldn’t; definitely not in public).
Forest have emerged from two of the sternest tests of the season almost unscathed. It is this new found ‘backbone’, forged in a relegation season, but strengthened by the rigorous organisation of a Sean O’Driscoll side, that is the most pleasing aspect for me this year.
Fans will tell you that they can stomach losing, so long as their team shows sufficient passion and a will to fight. The only thing anyone in the stands can realistically demand is an unquestionable commitment to the cause and you tend to have a very happy red ‘n’ white army when you see displays, such as the two in the last week, produced consistently.
The strides forward we have taken in the last two months are already noticeable. Forest threw away two points in their first away game against Huddersfield, and September saw us fall behind in four consecutive games. Since then, October has seen us trail to our opposition for just 15 minutes, before Blackstock rescued a point at Bloomfield Road last night.
One would have to say, without sounding like the sore loser trying to trivialise the ‘achievements’ of our rivals, that losing to Derby actually did us a world of good. Character is built through times of adversity, and it says something for the team and the management that we have been unbeaten since then. A couple of days after that game, I wrote that the result would be ‘unremarkable history’. I could be wrong... much to everyone’s surprise, I’m sure!
Indeed, we have become a team of fighters, but have some players taken this title a bit too literally? Adlene Guedioura’s successive red cards have tainted the cult hero status he seemed to be acquiring, with some fans highlighting the idiocy of his two dismissals.
Adlene epitomises the ‘110%’ type of player, and it is this adrenaline fuelled attitude that maybe costs him his better judgement at times. His cavalier approach can be detrimental to the team at times, but he has bailed us out enough times to earn a couple of reprieves himself. Discipline is an area of his game he must work on, but he remains a vital member of this flourishing Forest side.
There is also a worry that we are letting in too many goals. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to reiterate that not only are our brand new back four finding their feet, they are also steadily improving. Danny Collins as our skipper has been a revelation and it is obvious he relishes the chance to lead.
Defences anywhere can be prone to the occasional leak. Look at the Manchester clubs so far this season, they seem to be conceding for fun. For that, I cannot thank Vincent Kompany enough... You are the reason my fantasy team, ‘The Cast of Crossroads’, are languishing in eighth, in a mini league of 12!
So yes, we still have room to improve. I speak as a man currently trying to overcome the trauma of orthopaedic surgery, when I say progress is best when it is slow and measured, but frequent. O’Driscoll’s organisational skills are stabilizing our once shaky foundations, and we travel to Barnsley on Saturday as a team buoyed by its own resilient spirit.
Kudos to any of you that have seen the table, and realised we can go fourth with a win this weekend. We only need the six teams above us to lose their respective games.
No big deal, right?