Nottingham Forest came from behind to stun East Midlands rivals Derby in injury time, putting a halt at least to an appalling run that had seen Stuart Pearce’s team collect just two wins from the previous 20 competitive fixtures.
Pearce’s manic celebrations on the touchline said it all as he ended a turbulent week on a relative high following murmurings he was close to the sack after Forest’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday, as well as fierce criticism from Danny Mills, who played under Pearce at Manchester City, describing his former boss as being “not a great coach”. Mills added: “He’s not a great tactician, he’s not a great motivator and he struggles with big players who question his authority.”
Impressively, Pearce didn’t let his temper boil over regarding Mills’ comments following the win and rightly so. Only a blistering start to the season, which saw Forest top the table during September, has prevented them from slipping amongst the relegation strugglers. Now in 12th place, Forest lie a distant 10 points off the play-offs and Pearce will know that his job remains under threat.
He described the win as being a “marker” and a “catalyst” for the next few games, which are likely to play a crucial part in Forest’s run-in. Indeed, starting with a trip to Fulham on Wednesday, the next six Forest fixtures are against clubs below them, including the current bottom three. A late push for the play-offs may still be on but Saturday’s result needs to be more than a one-off.
Another team highly thankful for the result was Ipswich, who comfortably beat Millwall and leapfrogged Derby into the second automatic promotion spot. “I think it’s vital the boys realise that I’m here and I’ve been given the job to save this club,” were the ominous words of Millwall boss Ian Holloway, another man understandably under pressure with his team in the relegation zone but who for now has been given the backing of his chairman John Berylson despite the latter agreeing to refund the furious Lions fans who had watched their team hammered 4-0 by Bradford in the FA Cup in midweek.
Saturday’s defeat was Millwall’s fourth on the trot although as it stands they remain within touching distance of three clubs – Rotherham, Leeds and Brighton – all winless on Saturday. Wigan, who have still yet to get going under Malky MacKay, remain five points adrift of safety, and Blackpool are still rooted to the foot of the table four points further back.
Back at the top, Bournemouth remain a point clear after recovering from last weekend’s defeat to Norwich, their first in 17 league fixtures, to beat Rotherham, with Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe opting for the same starting line-up.
“When the team has just been on a long unbeaten run and suffered its first defeat I wanted to give those lads an opportunity to respond and make sure I didn’t make any knee-jerk reactions in terms of selections,” he confirmed afterwards.
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