As the final weeks of football are upon us, Nottingham Forest and West Brom look like they are going to battle to the end for the coveted 2nd promotion spot. Newcastle has all but tied up one automatic place already, so who has the staying power to gain the other?
West Brom are not exactly the surprise package, they were many people’s tip for automatic promotion at the start of the season. The ultimate yo-yo team, they know what is expected of them and have been in this position before. Nottingham Forest on the other hand is this season surprise package. Under manager Billy Davies they have thrived with an incredible home record of 10 straight wins. The City Ground is proving something of a fortress.
West Brom under manager Roberto Di Matteo currently sits on 66 points after 35 games whilst Nottingham Forest are on 64 points after 35 games. West Brom holds a significant 8 goal difference advantage that could prove crucial at the end of the season. The sensible money would have to go on West Brom on holding Forest off with the experience they have. But don’t write off Forest yet, there is some serious heart within that side.
Billy Davies has done a wonderful job for the club. Despite his role technically as a coach he has stamped an authority on the team. With signings out of his control with Nottingham Forest operating on a more continental style using a transfer panel that control signings. David Pleat is one of the leading members of the panel and I find it most difficult to accept he has had a role in the resurgence of this once great side. Dexter Blackstock deserves high praise indeed for his form this season. Having signed after a successful loan spell with Forest from former club QPR last season, his goals have turned potential draws into stolen victories. The pace of Paul Anderson as well is an ever danger to the best of sides. The 21 yr old former Liverpool youngster has really found a place he can call home at Nottingham Forest.
West Brom at most times have looked classy, under manager Roberto Di Matteo they have continued the free flowing passing style of football that occurred with Tony Mowbray. Though they are susceptible to lapses of concentration. Points dropped at QPR, Bristol City and Ipswich in recent weeks has let Nottingham Forest back in the hunt. Just when it looked like Newcastle United and West Brom were going to run away with it.
Looking at the run ins for both teams, they are pretty similar. Nottingham Forest has a tough match at St James Park at the end of March and West Brom a tricky customer in Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday. If I had to make a choice now, I would have to say West Brom to steal it with the experience they possess and that 8 goal difference margin is like an extra point. Nottingham Forest’s away form has been erratic having lost the last four in a row. I hope they are not running out of steam. If West Brom begin to trip up, I would expect Forest to close the gap. If Billy Davies even gets a whiff of blood from Roberto Di Matteo’s side, he will have his team biting at their heels. This is going to be a close one.
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