Date:Friday March 9 2007
It was as far back as Christmas that, according to some, the Premiership title race took a decisive swing in the favour of Manchester United.
Remarkably, it took only three consecutive draws to prompt speculation about Jose Mourinho's future at Chelsea and to forge the opinion, among many, that United were as good as home and dry.
Little over two months later that assumption still looks to be correct, with Alex Ferguson's side currently boasting a nine-point advantage at the top.
But it is hardly fair to say that the 'Special One's' halo has lost its lustre just yet. Chelsea, like United, have lost only three league games all season. All that separates them is one simple factor - consistency.
While Chelsea were being held to draws by Reading, Fulham and Villa over the festive period, United beat Wigan and Reading and claimed a draw at Newcastle.
The line between success and failure is wafer thin.
But it is one that Nottingham Forest currently find themselves on the wrong side of.
While United's form has been close to unrelenting, Forest are being left to pay for their own slip ups, in the same manner as Chelsea are counting the cost now.
Tomorrow, Colin Calderwood's side face a game that could decide whether they still have a faint chance of winning the League One title.
But, even if they do beat leaders Scunthorpe, much more will be required if they are to go on to finish as Champions - or even win promotion at all.
They must find some consistency, in terms of both results and performances.
Last weekend, when Forest beat Hudderfield, they claimed back-to-back victories for the first time in four months.
It is no coincidence that, when it last happened, in November, Forest found themselves seven points clear at the top of League One.
Their 2-0 win over Brentford at the City Ground also took them eight points clear of Scunthorpe.
But while Forest have since floundered, with the reversal against Doncaster the seventh defeat since that stage last year, Scunthorpe are currently on a 14-match unbeaten run that includes ten wins.
All of which explains how they have turned that eight-point gap between them and the Reds into the ten-point advantage they hold going into tomorrow's game.
Calderwood, more than anyone, knows the importance that tomorrow's game holds.
But he is also be aware that, if Forest are to earn a return to the Championship, they must put together a run of positive results that stretches well beyond tomorrow's showdown.
'Bristol City were up and down, they were beaten a couple of times,' he said. 'They have conjured up results through January and February.
'They have got four wins on the bounce and they are breathing a huge sigh of relief, because they were wobbling.
'If we win tomorrow, it will be three wins from four for us, that is not too shabby.
'And if we can win three-quarters of our remaining games - if we can win six out of eight following tomorrow - that would be good, that should be enough.'
You have to go back to the first weeks of the season since Forest managed that kind of run.
But, as midfielder Kris Commons observes, at least Forest have proved that they are capable of finding that kind of form.
'We have done it, in the early part of the season,' said Commons. 'And we have won away from home now (at Chesterfield), which is important.
'But we know that we have to go and do it again.
'As I have said before, this is the business end of the season. Scunthorpe are winning games, Bristol City are winning games - we have to go and do it as well.
'We have to cement our place in the automatic promotion places and, at the very least, if we cannot do that, we still have to make sure we do not finish lower than sixth.
'But we need to find consistency even if we are in the play-offs, because we will need to play well in three consecutive matches if we end up playing in them.
'At this end of the season, consistency is vital.
'But we have done it before, at the end of last season and at the start of this one. Now we have to do it again.'
Victory tomorrow would put Forest back in with a chance. But that would only be the beginning.
Nottingham Evening Post
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