Even a mutter of the word Playoff is enough to give any Nottingham Forest fan the nervous jitters. Three times we’ve been to the playoffs, and three times we’ve seen our team beaten in gut wrenching fashion. Ahead of the second-leg against Swansea City, here's a brief reminder of the past and five reasons why we can emerge victorious this evening.
Our first taste of disappointment was against Sheffield United during the 2002-03 season. After an initial 1-1 draw in the home leg, the game at Bramall Lane ended up 4-3 to United. Four years later we were to try our luck again, only this time we had sunk to the unthinkable depths of League one. During the 2006-07 season, after a fourth place finish we were to play Yeovil Town. After a comfortable 2-0 first leg win away at Huish Park, we somehow managed to come back to the City Ground and lose 5-2. Just thinking about this brings back memories I no longer wish to conjure, so onto the next one.
The season is 2010-11 and we’re back in the Championship. After a fantastic second season under Billy Davies, we finished up third, just missing out on the second automatic place to well known yo-yo club West Bromwich Albion. We had played the whole season well above our expectations, as the season before we were in danger of the drop. With the disappointment of missing out on the automatic places, the playoffs loomed. We went in believing it may be a relative stroll, only to be knocked off our perch by a Blackpool side brimming with confidence after sneaking into 6th place on the last day of the season. We lost the first leg 2-1 at Bloomfield Road, which I missed due to being on holiday in Portugal. I had managed to get a ticket for the home game, but due to a volcanic eruption I missed the game, and I was glad too. We lost 4-3.
This year we finished up 6th, and after what has frankly been a topsy turvy season I would prefer to skip the playoffs and give automatic promotion another go next season. Albeit we are back in the Playoffs for a 4th time and I feel our luck has to change this time. After a 0-0 stalemate in the first leg against Swansea City last Thursday night, I have decided to put my years of being a pessimistic b**tard behind me - and look at the positives in our chase for promotion. With it all to play for at The Liberty Stadium tonight, here are 5 reasons why Nottingham Forest can beat Swansea City...
This time it is a different story, we have scored 14 goals in the last 4 games, not including last Thursday, and I believe that we can cope with the underdog tag that we have been given
With 6 goals in 10 appearances since his time at the club, Boyd has brought one thing we have been missing from our strikers: consistency. His strength gives us presence in the box, which means when we eventually revert to humping the long ball - we have someone there to bring it down onto the feet of Robbie Earnshaw or Marcus Tudgay. He’s also brilliant at scoring the goals himself. His record at Rangers speaks for itself.
In his third season as Nottingham Forest manager, Billy has done it again and got us into the playoffs. His previous record at getting his clubs into the playoffs is quite impressive. Preston twice before us and obviously his successful playoff campaign at our rivals just down the A52. With the failure of last year's playoffs and the amount of “photo finish” quotes coming out of wee Billy’s mouth in the last few weeks I think he needs to step up to the plate and put his money where his mouth is. Otherwise I can’t help the feeling he may not be with us next season.
With 3 previous unsuccessful playoff attempts to our name, I can’t help but think we are due some good luck for a change. I mean how many times can a club fail at the playoffs? I’m not taking anything away from Blackpool’s success last season, or Norwich’s back to back promotion this year, but I personally feel our squad is equally as good as the aforementioned teams. We have shown our ambition through the last two seasons, and I feel this current crop of players are good enough to take us up. So I have to ask if we aren’t good enough now, then when will we be?
Swansea’s tired legs
After going down to ten men within a minute of kick off last Thursday night, and possibly losing star player Fabio Borini to injury, the effects of playing the majority of the game with ten men will hopefully take it’s toll on Swansea. With the game at 0-0, it’s all to play for. Our failure to convert chances at home was heavily frustrating but come Monday night - one goal could be all we need. We managed to mark Scott Sinclair out of the game in the first leg, but let Nathan Dyer run riot at times. This will need to change if we are to win the second leg.
Our current form
We went into the game last Thursday night having won our previous four games. At the same stage last year we were suffering from a slump in form, and the disappointment of missing auto promotion had taken its toll on us. This time it is a different story, we have scored 14 goals in the last 4 games, not including last Thursday, and I believe that we can cope with the underdog tag that we have been given well. We were missing a certain strength in midfield at times in the home leg, so the news of a possible Guy Moussi return will not only give us fresh legs in the middle of the park, but hopefully a bit of the strength we were missing last Thursday.
Ultimately this is an awkward time for fans of all four playoff sides, but it’s always going to be more uncomfortable for Nottingham Forest, as our previous experiences have left us dreading another playoff failure. This is both the clubs and Billy’s fourth time in the playoffs. Now has to be our time to march onto Wembley.
As well as loving Nottingham Forest, David is also partial to a bit of fashion. Feel free to check out his website www.the-highrise.com
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