Friday 6th March 2020 was the last time Nottingham Forest kicked a competitive football in the EFL Championship, a game that was anything but competitive in the end, the Reds destroyed by Millwall, too rough, too tough, too damn right good for their underwhelming hosts at the City Ground, the away team eventually going on to head back down the M1 to London victorious and at ease, without breaking sweat in beating the favourites on the night following a resounding 3-0 win all thanks to a Matt Smith hat-trick with his goals coming inside the opening 33 minutes.
That night Forest were bad. That night everything in red looked deflated, the players themselves looked like they needed a rest following testing games prior to the final push in the playoff race, but luckily enough a rest is certainly what they got.
It now looks too late for the reds in fifth to catch West Bromwich Albion in second place as the Baggies sit ten points above Forest with only nine games to go but consolidating the clubs playoff position is realistic as they currently have a five point gap on seventh place Bristol City.
With Millwall now long forgotten Sabri Lamouchi’s men will feel fitter, fresher and hungrier than perhaps they did in March following a lay off three months long no thanks to Covid-19 and the Great British (and global) lockdown imposed on all. It might just have done Forest a favour.
Sheffield Wednesday are next up, and long overdue too, a side that like Millwall, destroyed Forest at the City Ground earlier this season, a sinking first half performance in December that ended in a 4-0 win and one that will very much stick in the memory of those reds players involved, one of which those players will want to put right this weekend.
The big old ground at Hillsborough often feels empty so nothing new for Forest as they play without fans for the first time, attacking the Leppings Lane End and the Spion Kop once again with its endless rows of blue seats in front of them. A usually imposing stadium and one that has often seen the Reds struggle in, Forest have been beaten by Wednesday on the last four occasions at Hillsborough and the Owls have taken maximum points against the Reds in nine of their last ten Championship meetings too… These kinds of statistics need to be put straight by Forest. Especially considering neither club has enjoyed a huge gulf of class on another in recent years.
Forest will ‘need’ this win more than Wednesday do. The fifteenth placed side are comfortable in mid-table, too good to go down, not good enough to go up, they are eight points adrift of Preston in sixth, nine points above Charlton in the last relegation slot in 22nd. I don’t see Gary Monk’s men going up or down, but coming off an equally as embarrassing result last time out (losing 5-0 at Brentford) they will want to banish that memory with a win over the ‘Scabs’ and their cross-county rivals from down the road.
For Forest, not having those ‘Yorkshire Bastards’ chant picket line rants everytime they go forward will no doubt make things easier and I hope that Lamouchi encourages the side to play with freedom, structurally solid, better on the ball than their opponent and more clinical in attack thanks to the quality forward power they have.
The Reds have no injury worries and the best team these days picks itself… Anything other than Samba, Cash, Worrall, Toby, Bruno, Sow, Watson, Lolley, Silva, Ameobi, Grabban will simply not do. Forest need to lift off the remainder of the campaign with a bang and this is the sort of game they need to take points from.
Finally we can say 3pm Saturday afternoon football is back, we’ve all waited so long and despite the fact we cannot go, we can not feel unexcited by the return of action and Nottingham Forest Football Club being back on the ball in the EFL Championship.
What will come by 4:45pm will answer the many questions pre-match raised and engulf our post-match conversation further, we are all hoping for a win, we are all hoping that Forest can still do it, they may have to do it alone, but we’ll be there as fans in spirit, willing them to win, hoping, praying, shouting and screaming, just as we always do.
*Article provided by Daniel Peacock (Editor).
*Main image @MailOnline Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium will be without fans on Saturday.