Championship Analysis – Freedman’s Forest on fire in eight-goal Blackpool thriller

Welcome to the world of Nottingham Forest under Dougie Freedman. Two weeks ago the team that flew out of the blocks this season under Stuart Pearce were stuttering badly, but since the sacking of the City Ground legend the team have started firing goals left, right and centre again – and there were four more on Saturday.

Funnily enough, prior to Freedman’s arrival there were hints that fortunes would change for the club under Pearce. Less than a month ago mountains of stress were oozing from his veins as he leapt and bounced across the vicinity of his dugout at Pride Park in a manner not seen since that moment in the penalty shoot-out against Spain at Wembley in 1996.

Forest had just beaten Derby in a fiery East Midlands clash, and with a run of very winnable fixtures ahead, a late dash from mid-table obscurity to the play-off picture looked very possible.

However, a 3-2 defeat at Fulham, followed by a humiliating 1-0 loss at home to Millwall, proved the end for Pearce, who was sacked 24 hours following the latter. Not a surprise to many, sadly, although the fact that a permanent replacement in Freedman was announced barely an hour later did ruffle a few feathers; it suggested this move had been planned a while ago.

It simply epitomises the world of football management in today’s game: Pearce certainly failed this season but only three teams from the 24 in this division can get promoted. Is seven months in charge really enough? December of the following season is usually a better marker to judge. There have been 17 sackings this season – several from the same club, of course. It’s madness.

Freedman made several personnel changes in his first outing to successful effect and it’s difficult to argue with two wins, a draw and 10 goals in his first three games. Early preparation for next season’s promotion bid looks tentatively encouraging already – 12 points to gobble up to reach this season’s play-offs is surely beyond Forest now – and although Britt Assombalonga’s year-long knee injury is a big blow, with promotion out of the question the timing could have been a lot worse; now Freedman has time to plan ahead over the summer months and assess the shape of his squad while his star striker recovers.

It will be intriguing to see what happens to Lee Clark at the end of the season. Having been shown the door at Birmingham, Clark inherited a woefully thin squad at rock-bottom Blackpool in late October and has battled to the best of his ability. He definitely deserves the summer to plan ahead, albeit almost certainly in League 1 with the club being 10 points adrift of safety. The Seasiders led Forest 2-0 and 3-2 in a truly enthralling encounter in the mud at Bloomfield Road but needed a 97th minute equaliser from David Ferguson to secure a 4-4 draw.

At the other end of the table, Bournemouth returned to the top on goal difference despite being held by Huddersfield. The Cherries took advantage of Middlesbrough and Derby being involved in, although knocked out of, the FA Cup. The circumstances were good news for those just below, and wins for Ipswich, Watford and Norwich mean now only six points separate the top six.

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