Whisper It No Longer, Promotion is a Real Possibility

Although I looked at the issue before and made certain projections and guesses about what we would need for promotion, I have tried to remain somewhat calmer on the issue than deciding that we are on the up. With some very dangerous fixtures coming up there were plenty of pitfalls and traps to stop our bid to reach the playoffs.

Well, things change. Not only have we overcome a very tricky fixture that I had factored at best as a draw, and a potential defeat, but the possibility of surpassing even the playoff aim remains very real. Not just real, but also within our grasp.

I scoffed not long ago at people suggesting we could make it. With 10 games left we’d need 31 points to reach the average points tally for promotion, and would need to win 8 games to reach the lowest over the last few years. But this year’s championship is a strange beast. Compare the points range to League One for instance and it is frankly scary. Anyone below 9th is embroiled in a relegation scrap. Above and it’s all open save for Cardiff moving clear at the top. 15 points spate the playoffs from relegation give or take. Derby in 9th would be the mire had they not beaten Leicester hovering 2 points above the drop in around 19th. The lower mid table is that tight. In League 1 the range is more like 30 points between playoffs and relegation.

What that suggests is 1, how tight the league really is, and 2 that such a thin spread of points means that the points needed to go up, might drop accordingly. Everyone seems so keen to slip up that it leaves the race wide open.

And now following that away win at Hull it is on. The race is open, and we’re driving a big tree shaped object right into that gap. I haven’t looked at the odds but over the last few weeks our odds must have tumbled quite dramatically. We still remain an outside by position and by our fixtures. But that forgets the momentum we have built.

Unfortunately the international break may well scupper that. Some are saying it will be a rest and a break to reinvigorate forgetting that we have our fair share of internationals that will be off representing their various nationalities. It’s only a break if you aren’t playing, and Guedioura, Cox, Lansbury and Majewski, all pivotal players in recent weeks will be off with their nationalities. I’ve tried to find out if Jara is away with Chile but the squad lists I found aren’t conclusive. But that’s an integral core of the squad who won’t be getting rests or having their feet up as many seem to think the international break is for, but instead will be busy.

Davies had spoke about the players looking leggy, but bear in mind he hasn’t rotated people at all to counteract that in the midfield or defence. Up front has seen various changes to combat injury, illness or specific targets the team wants. Bear in mind the one position struggling to hit the high levels expected is the one where we have been rotating. The strikers have struggled to net a lot, whilst the settled midfield went on a free scoring run of form. The defence have looked more secure. So the notion they need a rest for looking leggy is already looking slightly misplaced. The midfield was rotated earlier this season and didn’t reap the rewards of a settled structure and personnel.

The win against Hull has firmly established our credentials as promotion chasers, even for Claridge and Manish Bhasin to contend we are in there. Not just because of our form, but the fact the rest of the contenders seem intent on not going up. Watford, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Palace have all gone onto dodgy form, Brighton wavered until yesterday and we know about Hull. So not only are we hitting form, but everyone else is losing theirs.

The win on Saturday may well have been a backs to the wall job late on, and Bruce may rightfully claim they could and should have got more out of it, but you have to score those chances you get which Hull didn’t. It was always going to happen that Boyd scored for Hull after the whole Eye-gate thing at the end of January, but that episode bought about where we are today indirectly. And under McLeish we would have wilted. Instead we buckled down, got a goal through big Darius, and then snuck a winner and battled to a win clearing off the line in the last moments after McGugans goal. Radio Nottingham spoke of a slice of luck, and that occasionally you need to utilise it, and we surely did that on Saturday.

We could easily have only taken a point from that, and I think many would have been content with that, but as the wins continue to come so does the level of expectation rise, and I hope that doesn’t lead to pressure implosion we sometimes see with Forest, usually in the playoffs. We’ve played with the pressure firmly off of late. And we have reaped the rewards. The pressure will be on in a new way soon. And now we have to manage that. The fairweathers who demand wins for the few games they go to, as they only come out when we’re winning will be out in their droves. We just need make sure these legacies of the past; of imploding when the pressure and focus comes back to us doesn’t happen again. Maybe that’s why an under the radar, unheralded run has helped. No-one really saw us as contenders. Now they do, and so do we.