Forest In the Playoff Zone After Wolves Win

So we have a playoff berth. And now the battle becomes retaining that spot. It’s a battle that Middlesbrough and Leicester seem to be intent on losing, as their seasons continue to implode. Indeed, most of the top 6 apart from now Forest seemed intent at the weekend to throw away promotion.

I have no doubt over the next 2 months we will fall out, climb back into and yo-yo between being in the top 6 and out of. It all becomes crucial to remain in there come May. To be able to rob Leicester of it could be all the sweeter.

Wolves, although fighting relegation were not a bad side, and I echo what Dean Saunders said about the fact they easily could have got something out of it. What puzzles me is how a Championship team can leave Kevin Doyle and Steven Hunt on the bench in a struggle. These are quality players they don’t seem to be using, and I can only assume due to financial reasons with something like appearance related fees or contractual obligations. But it is bizarre to see quality players on the bench of a team struggling.

That said we took our chances and in a Boxing analogy probably took it on points. But when Wolves equalised it could easily have gone the other way. And as I have said repeatedly, under McLeish I have no doubt we would have crumbled, with self belief all but shot. Now we go up the other end and hit them right back.

It is also interesting that the midfield have suddenly become some free scoring, and again I have written at length about the new midfield set up and its allowing of a bit more creative freedom. And it is reaping rewards. Lansbury and Majewski are free scoring, McGugan also chipping in when he comes on. But the goals are also often lovely sweeping team moves, combinations of good play being finished well. Lansbury’s first goal was an example of this, many passes working together before Lansbury finished low into the corner from the edge of the area.

Wolves equaliser had its element of controversy about it. The corner they scored from came via a free kick awarded, although rightly for a foul, after the ref played an advantage which seemed to have passed to another passage of play before being pulled back. Now I’ve seen it a few times lately so maybe it’s a new directive, but there’s no way that play should have still been pulled back. Allowing an advantage is all well and good, but how long do you allow it to go on? Of course it depends on the passage of play, but to pull it back when he did was in my opinion wrong. And it resulted in a goal. Had we missed the playoffs by a point, well then this sort of thing adds up.

Anyway we needn’t have worried as we were back in front within 2 mins, with Lansbury finishing beautifully from outside the area. It’s been refreshing to see players rejuvenated under Davies, and Lansbury is a prime example. There were rumours of him being moved on under McLeish, but Davies seems to be able to motivate creative midfielders like no-one else.

The third goal was a wonderful but ever so typical McGugan goal, just a very well struck shot into the top corner from around 20 yards. Wolves at this stage were down to 10 men, when Ward felled Halford as last man and was given his marching orders.

And a word on Halford, playing up front for the first time for Forest, but a role he’s played in regularly elsewhere. His introduction up the field helped restructure Forest. We started well with 2 strikes, but when Dexter came off and we put a midfielder on it invited Wolves onto us too much. We need that balance of two up front to maintain possession up the field, as too often we simply didn’t have the bodies up front, Wolves could push forward and they looked good in that system. Halford coming on up front enabled us to keep the ball away from our own half and move forward. Halford being good in the air was able to win possession, as well as another good Cox performance with no goals. The lack of goals would be a worry, but Cox team contribution has been strong so in that regard it’s not. The goals will come again soon for the Irish international though. He still gets in the right positions and it’s not as if he’s playing badly.

So all in all another good day by the Trent that see’s us pop up in the playoff zone. The next 9 games will be huge, but what is happening now is Billy Davies is merely cementing himself as a club legend. If we stay in the top 6, anything beyond that really is a bonus, because of where we were at the start of February. Those McLeish days seem a life time ago.