Danny Collins hopes Nottingham Forest's appetite for clean sheets can fuel a play-off push
AFTER playing 18 hours of football without keeping one, Nottingham Forest's appetite for clean sheets had swelled to considerable proportions.
But, after finally shutting out Charlton at the Valley last weekend – after conceding goals in their 12 previous games – the Reds are already hungry for more.
In fact, Danny Collins says that, under Billy Davies, keeping clean sheets is likely to be the first priority for the Reds.
And, as the Forest skipper prepares to return to the side at Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow, he says the subject has been discussed at the training ground.
"We were talking about it in the team room and we had a joke with the gaffer about how many clean sheets he wanted in the remaining games," said Collins.
"He said ten or something like that... which is a big ask. But, at the same time, if we can get to that, we will be more than happy.
"There have been too many games gone without us keeping clean sheets. Going to Charlton and seeing them reduced to ten men by having a striker sent off might have helped us a little bit.
"But it was great to see the lads get a win and hopefully we can build on that, ideally with another win and another clean sheet."
Collins has admitted his personal frustration at being relegated to the bench for the last three games.
But he has still been struck by the positive impact the new manager has had on his return to the club.
"He has come in, along with his staff and said immediately what he expects of us," said Collins. "He has given us some real motivation, which is perhaps what we needed.
"The gaffer realises we are a squad that should have done better than we have this season.
"He said a few words about that and it has shaken one or two up.
"A new manager coming in can do that anyway. But it has given one or two players a kick up the backside; it has inspired us to work a little bit harder.
"New managers are something we are used to this season, I guess. Billy is the third one. It would be nice to have some stability now, to be able to concentrate on football, rather than concern ourselves with anything happening off the pitch."
The key ingredient Davies seems to have instilled at Forest is old fashoned belief. And, when asked if the play-offs are still a viable target, Collins' own confidence is demonstrated by the speed of his response.
"Absolutely," he said. "Middlesbrough have struggled recently and us and Brighton have picked up a little bit.
"But there is still a nice little bunch there, who will feel they can play a part in things. There are plenty of points to play for. And I am sure there will be one or two who believe they can get in there.
"We have won two on the bounce now and I don't believe we have won three in a row all season.
"This is a chance for us to do that, by winning at Wednesday. If we can do that, we can come back to two home games. It will give us a great chance, when you look at it like that.
"Certainly, if we were to take nine points, people would be looking over their shoulders at us then."
Forest face a revived Sheffield Wednesday side tomorrow, who beat promotion-chasing Crystal Palace in their last outing.
But, beyond that, they have home games against struggling Ipswich and Wolves and Collins believes Forest should be ambitious in their targets.
"I have been in the Championship for long enough now to realise you can't look at any game and see it as being a nailed on three points," he said. "Look at Peterborough, they have beaten Cardiff this season, they have knocked down one or two of the bigger teams in the division, but they are still fighting relegation.
"You do look at two home games against teams who are struggling, but we went to Ipswich and were well beaten there.
"We did win at Wolves, but we have to concentrate on ourselves.
"If we can get the ball down as we did at Charlton – when we were playing on a tough pitch, but still managed to play some good football – it will be a good start for us. If we can do that, results will take care of themselves.
"We do look at videos of the opposition and the style they play in. We look at Wednesday and their result against Palace, which was a good win for them.
"You try to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Wednesday have some big, physical players. They tend to go a little route-one. We will expect some real battles.
"But, at the same time, we look at what strengths we have and how we can best utilise first of all. We only worry about everything else afterwards."
Forest produced some quality football on an awful pitch at the Valley last weekend – and Collins warns they will have to overcome a similar obstacle tomorrow.
"It will be a tough pitch, from what we have seen. I can't imagine there will be too much classic football," he added.
"But, if we can roll up our sleeves and we can battle through it. It is not what you like, but you have to get on with it.
"Our own pitch has gone a little bit as well. But it is the same for both teams. Once you are out there, you put it to one side and get on with playing the game."
The return of Davies has clearly had an impact on the players. But Collins says the positive mood it has created among fans can also be an asset to the side.
"Against Huddersfield the fans were as vocal as I have heard them," he said. "They were right behind us. There were a few noisy songs coming out. Many of them were about the gaffer coming back, as people are obviously feeling the positive vibes coming out of the camp.
"The results help, but we did get a good following at Charlton and I am sure a few more will make the shorter trip to Yorkshire.
"Hopefully we can give them something else to cheer about; hopefully three points and a clean sheet."