First Half Of The Season Review
When the season started in August with £6,000,000 worth of new talent including the surprise capture of Chris Gunter along with Camp, Anderson & Blackstock who had also been on loan plus the signings of new captain Paul McKenna, David McGoldrick, Dele Adebola and the unknown Raddy Majewski there was a stern belief that we would move forward under Billy Davies to a solid mid table position with a few brave hopefuls predicting even a play position wasn't out of the question.
The month didn't go to plan though & it seemed the footballing Gods had other plans for us, a goalless draw away at Reading looked like a decent start on paper, but was followed by 2 defeats, a totally unjustified defeat against newly relegated West Brom where we missed a penalty & outplayed them for most of the game & a completely justified hammering at home to Watford which to date is the only real embarrassment this season. An away draw at QPR did little to allay the fears that things just weren't quite right, we were playing well at times but we just couldn't score goals.
Then came the local derby, a Majewski thunderbolt in under a minute & great attacking display in a first half that saw us put our local rivals to the sword & not even a spirited 2nd half fight back could stop Forest getting their first win of the season. The after match shenanigans seemed to create an 'us against the world' mentality amongst the Forest squad & it seemed the season was about to take off.
September began with an International break but with the month still having 5 games, Forest had the chance to kick on from the derby day victory with a new found optimism. Two away draws against Sheffield Wednesday & Ipswich Town saw the Forest away unbeaten run continue but left us hovering just 3 points above the relegation zone as we headed into a home fixture against Blackpool & with the confidence from the fans after the last home game, much was expected, only to see that confidence come crashing back down to Earth with a single goal defeat, even though Ian Holloway admitted after the game he felt like a masked bank robber after winning via a sucker punch we were now just 2 points above the drop zone & those relegation nerves returned.
it was though to be our last defeat to date.
September ended with 2 consecutive wins, 3 goals & none conceded. Chris Gunter got his first & only professional goal in a 0 - 1 away win at Plymouth & the inspired second half substitution in the form of David McGoldrick turned a home game against Scunthorpe in our favour to secure a 2 - 0 win that ensured we ended the month looking up the league rather than behind us.
October picked up where the previous month ended when Forest won the next three games against Peterborough, the league leaders Newcastle & a Barnsley team in fine form after the arrival of Mark Robins, this left Forest on a five game winning run which had seen them concede just one goal (which had been most Forest fans biggest worry). The reds now sat in 7th place and were just 2 points away from 1st place but this was going into a couple of very tricky away games at Neil Warnocks Crystal Palace & Dave Jones' free scoring Cardiff side, we came through both of these games with solid 1 - 1 away draws though & the Cardiff game in particular seemed to be the catalyst for many Forest fans to start believing.
The game went as expected with Cardiff having most of the ball & the better chances so when Bothroyd slotted home to make it 1 - 0 & without an in form Dexter Blackstock along with not having Cardiff old boy Rob Earnshaw available it was difficult to see where Forest would get back into the game & where we could snatch a goal. The clock ran down, the board went up with 4 minutes of injury time on it & at that point, even the most optimistic of Forest fans surely thought the game was over, we'd come up against one too many of the top championship teams and our luck had run out. This time, we'd be shown up for what were are, a mid table team. This time there was to be no last minute heroics. This time, we had to take it on the chin, begrudgingly accept there were better teams in this division than us & that this time, there was simply no way back.
Thankfully though, it turns out that for the 1st time in a decade, we're supporting a team that has the bottle, the desire & the unwavering belief that, come what may, they'll fight to the very last & there it was, little Lewis pops up in injury time & with what seemed like a sheer force of will, battled his way through the Cardiff defence to smash a goal into back of the net.
I (like many of you I'm sure) was in shock, my first reaction was a dumbfounded silence, my second to shout at the top of my voice & what followed this, that inner tranquillity that comes when you realise, a top half finish is still the target for this season, with just that tiny voice in the back of your mind whispering, we could though, couldn't we? It's possible!
That's how November started, next up was a home game with Bristol City that saw Forest fans become once again expectant & as usual things didn't go to plan. A draw was the result and it looked for all the World it would end goalless which is exactly the score line the game deserved. Morgan gave us a surprise 85th minute lead that had us all believing we'd steal all three points but a 90th minute equalizer evened the game up so that both teams went away with a point that in fairness neither team deserved. Another one all draw followed at early season favourites Middlesbrough with Earnshaw scoring a superb free kick but what was to follow, nobody saw coming.
The month ended with the visit of bogie team Doncaster who one year earlier had had ended the reign of Colin Calderwoods management at the City Ground. Annihilation was too kind a word for it though, Forest went about an attacking display that simply blew them away & in particular a second half performance was a sight for sore eyes in Nottingham, surely this would be the best game of the season.
December & the Christmas period started with the words, oh no it wasn't, as Forest then bettered their previous performance in what I've described as the best team performance in a decade, Leicester were sat in third place, just one place above Forest, but they too were blown away by a Robert Earnshaw hat-trick & proof to all who cared to watch, that Forest are genuine contenders.
A goalless draw away to Sheffield United & a win away at Swansea which saw Billy Davies simply tactically outmanoeuvre his Swansea counterpart has Forest within 3 points of the automatic promotion places. A week later & Forest again showed they are a class apart at the City Ground with Paul McKenna scoring his first Forest goal against his former team & another performance that saw the opposition given literally no foothold in the game.
& finaly, a bit of luck and a battling performance at the back saw us end the 1st half of the season with a goaless draw at Watford, an unbeaten run of 15 games, our away unbeaten run still in tact since way back in March and a manager still claiming we're not ready.
The second half of the season will be the judge of that Billy, but the signs are certainly good.
Merry Christmas everyone, & an unbeaten new year