Date:Monday February 5 2007
SUPPORTERS have long claimed there's only one Jack Lester - but Colin Calderwood may have unearthed a second one.
And if Saturday's draw with Bradford is a barometer, this one could be even better than the original.
Lester might not have even still been a Forest player now had interest from Gillingham, Peterborough and Northampton come to anything in January. But the striker has since turned up in a new role that could see him play a pivotal role between now and the end of the season.
Deployed in central midfield at Valley Parade, he certainly played a key role in what looked like being Forest's first away win since December, creating one and scoring another.
Though a forward by trade, his presence in the middle of the park provided Calderwood's side with a creative edge that has been crucially lacking of late.
There can be no better measure of the problems Forest have had in the attacking third of late than the inauspicious statistic that they had failed to work an opposition goalkeeper in their previous two matches.
That, coupled with their difficulties on the road meant Calderwood had to find a cutting edge from somewhere for their fourth consecutive away fixture.
Few would have thought defeat at Bournemouth in December - their first away in the league this season - would be the start of a troubled run that would see them win only one more game away from the City Ground between then and February.
Fewer still would have believed the goal that completed Nathan Tyson's hat-trick at Crewe that same week would be the last any Forest player would score away from home before the striker equalised on Saturday.
That has been the measure of their troubles over the past two months and undoubtedly why Calderwood has sought to find solutions even in unlikely areas.
The result was to put Lester into the heart of midfield, providing Forest with their most cohesive performance to date from the middle of the park.
By pairing him with Sammy Clingan, Forest now have two ball-playing men in the engine room. As well as providing them with an extra creative influence, it crucially gives them better ball retention, which has been such a problem this season.
For all the qualities of Gary Holt and James Perch possess, they are essentially energetic ball winners, who will rarely unlock opposing defences.
Conversely Lester has the ability to soft shoe his way around the edge of the area before picking off runs.
That was demonstrably the case when he played in Wes Morgan for Forest's equaliser on Saturday, leaving the centre back with the time and space to square to Tyson.
David Prutton's presence also had a noticeable impact on a midfield that had run out of ideas in the midweek defeat at Carlisle.
He may not offer the natural width of Nicky Southall, but he is an effervescent type, whose two efforts on goal inside the first five minutes were an example of what he will bring to a midfield desperately lacking in goals.
While unlikely to make up for the potency that has been robbed by Southall's departure, Prutton's intelligence could prove even more important.
His top-flight experience was evident on Saturday, making the game look simple as he injected much-needed composure in the centre of the park.
So improved was Forest's possession that the travelling support greeted a series of first-half passes with chants of ''ole''. In recent weeks they've barely been able to get past ''o...'' without the ball being relinquished.
For a long period it looked like being a day of celebration for supporters who've had to endure return journeys from Swansea, London and Carlisle with little to cheer.
They should have been out of sight by time Billy Paynter's late strike robbed them of victory at the death.
And though it will have felt like another defeat after looking so comfortable for long, the very fact that Forest dominated suggests there could be many more enjoyable journeys to come this season.
Nottingham Evening Post
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