Championship Analysis – Nottingham Forest set early pace after victory over Bolton
Nottingham Forest are officially the early pacesetters in the Championship after a 3-0 victory over Bolton on Saturday maintained their perfect start while others around them stuttered for the first time. Forest last picked up maximum points in their opening three league games in the second tier back in 1997 although they managed the same feat in League 1 in 2006.
It may not have been a spectacular start in terms of the goal tally but the manner of the wins suggests the team has already demonstrated a steel-like quality that could make Forest genuine promotion candidates this season. After grinding out single-goal victories in weeks one and two, Billy Davies’ men showed their clinical side on Saturday – not bad considering injuries meant the manager couldn’t name a recognised striker. The zero goals against column, meanwhile, speaks for itself.
Not that it should be a surprise to see Forest start well. Form took a sharp turn for the better towards the back end of last season when Davies was reappointed manager in February with the club meandering in 11th spot. It ended up only narrowly missing out on the play-offs.
Sometimes there is a thin line between success and failure in football and Davies has certainly straddled it at the City Ground. During his previous spell at Forest he led the club to two successive play-off campaigns, although as both were ultimately unsuccessful he epitomised to the more ruthless of fan someone who had taken the club as far as he could. The retort, of course, is to be careful what you wish for. Following Davies’ departure Forest have barely been out of the bottom half and four managers, including big names like Steve McClaren and Alex McLeish, have come and gone.
That’s not to say Davies was sacked purely for football reasons last time around, mind you, as the fiery Scot has clashed with those above him in the past, not just at Forest but also at fierce rivals Derby County. As such, it may be another rollercoaster of a season off the pitch, but the much-loved phrase “unfinished business” has already echoed around Nottingham and one suspects the City Ground faithful are back in safe hands with a real shot at the Premier League in prospect.
The two other clubs previously on maximum points, Blackpool and Watford, had to settle for draws this weekend. The former, who had snatched last-gasp victories in both of their previous fixtures, got a taste of their own medicine at Middlesbrough when Boro striker Marvin Emnes cancelled out Chris Basham’s also-late opener in the fourth minute of added time. Watford, meanwhile, were among the goals again, this time sharing a thrilling 3-3 stalemate with Reading. The Hornets host Forest next Sunday lunchtime in what is arguably the game of the season already.
With no goals scored and five conceded, Millwall are Forest’s polar opposite. A 1-0 defeat to Huddersfield condemned the Lions to the foot of the table on Saturday evening and the club is now the only one in the division without a single point. Steve Lomas’ men travel to Hillsborough next Saturday to take on a Sheffield Wednesday side that earned its first point with a 1-1 draw at Leeds.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Man City v Newcastle