OPINION: Can Nottingham Forest play their way to Championship safety?
Mark Warburton's Nottingham Forest side outplayed promotion chasing Preston at the weekend - but can they play their way to safety?
I said that I’d gladly take a point prior to kick off at Deepdale on Saturday and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that said any different.
As it transpired, Forest could and should have taken all three points from the game. Britt Assombalonga took his goal brilliantly to put the away side ahead after 22 minutes, a reminder of what he’s capable of when he wants it.
His general demeanour looks considerably better under Mark Warburton and if he maintains this kind of attitude then it bodes well for our Championship survival.
Another player who has been somewhat rejuvenated since the change in management is David Vaughan; he produced a midfield masterclass on Saturday. He did what he’s always done to be fair but he now has team-mates around him to reap the benefits of his labours.
How often have we seen him break up the play and give the simple ball, only for it to be poorly retained by those further forward. Since the inclusion of Zach Clough and Ben Brereton to the starting line-up, Vaughan’s endeavours are no longer in vain.
Unfortunately, at this stage of the season results take precedence over performances. Some people will argue that you are better off winning dirty than taking a classy point, there’s a decent case for that ethos in all fairness.
If I were to ask you who won the European Cup back in 1991, the history books would quite rightly tell you that it was Red Star Belgrade. What they would not tell you is HOW they won it; the Yugoslavian’s tactically destroyed the competition by blatantly playing for a penalty shootout against Olympique Marseille.
However, with seven games to go and a decent squad from which to pick, Warburton can indeed play his way out of trouble. He has the personnel to make it happen and the belief that his troops can see the job through.
I was impressed with his post-match interview on Saturday, especially regarding his passion for instilling confidence on the ball in his players. He wants his players to have more self-belief, which was non-existent under Philippe Montanier.
Had Forest been that bit more clinical at Deepdale, they would have been home and dry. The best chance of all was that amazing run by Brereton - it was a throwback to the exploits of Stan Collymore.
Having run a good 80 yards with the ball, the flailing feet of Maxwell in the Preston goal somehow saved his shot. Some people said that he lacked composure at the death but if you watch it again you’d disagree.
He had the composure to open up his body as if to pick out the far corner, before attempting to drill it inside the near post. Let us not forget that the 17-year-old is also playing out of position, on the right flank.
North End had a few chances of their own but were gifted their 52nd minute goal, Aiden McGeady was allowed way too much space. Although Brereton lost possession in a dangerous area, McGeady can be seen clearly unmarked in the build up to his equaliser.
Such anomalies must be ironed out if we’re to build on future leads during this relegation battle.
In all fairness to the makeshift centre-half pairing of Danny Fox and Joe Worrall, they have performed well together. But, with the likes of Matt Mills and Jack Hobbs soon returning from injury - and Michael Mancienne waiting in the wings - you’d be foolish not to include at least one of them soon.
The Forest manager hinted at including Mills against Wolves tomorrow and hasn’t ruled out using all the afore mentioned before the last game against Ipswich. Mills had a great season under Dougie Freedman but has been very poor during this campaign.
Could he be another that finds himself rejuvenated by Warburton and his coaching staff?
The games are coming thick and fast and are not getting any easier, tomorrow will be a massive test of resolve away at Molineux. The Black Country outfit have won their last four on the spin and are scoring for fun.
Elsewhere within 24 hours, Newcastle host Burton, Blackburn are at Reading and Bristol City travel to Deepdale, so a solitary point for us may not be a bad thing when all’s said and done.
Before I’m accused of being negative, I’ll happily take a draw at Wolves and especially some more of that free-flowing football.