Forest's Christmas Period
It is pretty clear what side of the fence Colin Calderwood will be standing on the next time the age-old debate over the introduction of a winter break rears its head again.
Given the Christmas Nottingham Forest have endured, their manager would no doubt be happy to see an end to all festive fixtures.
Quite apart from the grim weather conditions in which they have had to face the likes of Doncaster and Tranmere, Calderwood's men have simply looked in need of a rest.
Take away a disappointing December and Forest's half-term report card would have made for impressive reading.
But three defeats and a draw in the space of a month saw a once seven-point lead wiped out as the one-time leaders must now start the new year looking up at unlikely pace-setters Scunthorpe.
Given the manner in which Scunthorpe dismantled Forest 4-0 when under Brian Law in September, you could hardly begrudge them their place atop League One.
But Calderwood will be focusing on his own players rather than their title rivals and will be concerned with the way their form has fluctuated over the past month.
Starting with a draw against non-league Salisbury in the FA Cup, defeats to Bournemouth, Leyton Orient and Doncaster have eroded their once masterful lead.
If not for the intervention of James Perch (below) on Saturday, a problematic final month of 2006 would have been even worse. A point at home to Tranmere does not paper over cracks that are beginning to show in Forest.
For those who thought the lead at the top could be into double figures at the turn of the year, they are finding the reality to be stark in contrast.
That can partly be blamed on a once watertight defence no longer being as dominant as it once was.
While the rearguard is hardly porous, it has only managed to keep one clean sheet in the league in December during the 3-0 win against Port Vale on Boxing Day.
Whereas earlier in the season a near-immovable backline gave Forest the opportunity to pinch victories even when not performing at their best, now they are losing by the odd goal rather than winning.
Another concern for Calderwood will be the time it takes his players to shake off sticky patches of form as and when they arise.
A difficult run in September saw them win just once in six games, while still holding on to top spot. The problems in December have been even worse with three defeats and a draw in the space of six games.
This time, however, they couldn't rely on the teams around them faltering, with Scunthorpe taking advantage to move ahead of them on goal difference, while today's opponents, Oldham, would leapfrog them with victory at Boundary Park.
John Sheridan's side would be favourites to win today.
Calderwood could not have asked for much more as November turned to December.
Sitting top of the league, he had managed to transform a group of under-achievers into genuine promotion material in less than six months in the job.
A difficult month hardly represents a crisis, but beginning 2007 off the top spot for the first time since August, the half-term report card now simply reads: Could do better.
Nottingham Evening Post
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