Elliott Ward happy to be back among familiar faces at Nottingham Forest
ELLIOTT Ward will be reunited with some familiar faces this afternoon, in more ways than one.
During little more than a week back at parent club Norwich, the defender managed to force his way onto the Canaries bench last weekend, as they faced Peterborough in the FA Cup.
Today, the defender will not only be reunited with Nottingham Forest, but also Darren Ferguson's resurgent Posh, as the two sides meet at the City Ground.
Ward admits he has provided a little inside info on Forest's opponents. But he is more concerned about delivering his own, more personal, message to new Reds boss Alex McLeish, as he looks to ensure a more permanent stay in the East Midlands.
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Out of contract at Carrow Road in the summer, 27-year-old Ward hopes to earn himself a deal with Forest.
He will get an immediate chance to impress this afternoon, with Daniel Ayala injured and Danny Collins suspended.
But Ward warns Forest are in for a more difficult challenge than the victory Norwich secured over Peterborough might suggest.
"We watched Peterborough play Wolves on video, prior to last weekend, and they were brilliant. They won 3-0.
"But, against Norwich, they were completely different and their manager came out and said that they had not been good enough.
"So I don't expect that this week. They will come out fighting; there will be more passion about them.
"They will probably be more organised, they will have more organisation.
"I expect their performance against Norwich was a one off.
"I have spoken to the manager a little bit, but the club also has a good scouting system that will have picked things up."
Forest's previous manager, Sean O'Driscoll, had intimated to Ward that he hoped to sign him permanently in January.
But the defender is not deterred by the fact that he now has to impress McLeish to secure a permanent move.
"It is an encouragement that he has brought me back, that he wants to have a look at me," said Ward. "If I was not comfortable, I would not have come. I am happy with what has been said.
"I know that, if I perform as I did towards the end of my previous loan spell, I will be fine.
"I have to make sure that I am at my best in every game. I will just give my all, then we will see what happens.
"It is in my own hands. If I do well, I will get a contract here. If I don't, then I will be a free agent.
"I am here to play well, to hopefully push Forest on and see where we can all go."
One change for Ward will be the keeper playing behind him.
With Lee Camp told he has no future at the club, it will either be Karl Darlow or a new signing between the posts this afternoon.
"It is like any new player. You have to use your experience and talk. You just have to organise each other," said Ward.
"Whoever it is, it will not be their debut. They are likely to be a player who has played a lot of games.
"As long as the communication is fine, I don't see it being an issue."
What matters to Ward is not the personnel involved, but the fact that, as a team, Forest find a way to become harder to beat.
McLeish this week called for more toughness; more steel from his side.
And Ward agrees with his manager's sentiments, saying: "In every team, you need to be hard to beat. If you are not, you will not be anywhere near where you want to be.
"To get into the top six, you have to show fight and passion, you need qualities like that.
"We do not feel as though we are far away, we are nearly there. What will it take to make that next step?
"It will need a good run of performances. Being consistent is the biggest thing for anyone.
"If you try to be as consistent as you can, you can build a good run.
"We are not far off achieving that. But every team is striving for the same thing.
"Every team knows that consistency is the key, but it is an inconsistent division.
"The first step is not to lose two games in a row.
"But it starts today for us, we start by trying to beat Peterborough, then we have a big derby game next weekend."
The upcoming run of fixtures, which also includes the visit of high-flying Watford and a return, for McLeish, to Birmingham City in early February, looks a tough one on paper.
But Ward said: "It is a big spell for us, when you consider the games coming up.
"But we have to make things difficult for the sides we face as well.
"We feel it is a run of games that we can pick up plenty of points in. We are confident.
"We just need to find that consistency.
"It is important to have a steady back four, but you also need to have a squad.
"This season has been disrupted in all positions, particularly in the back four. Left-back, right-back, central defenders – they have all been chopped and changed.
"It can disrupt things a little bit. You might have seen that in some of the performances.
"Hopefully we can get settled quite quickly and use that as a base to build on.
"You want to start with a clean sheet in any game. Then, if anyone scores for you, you get the win.
"In this league, anyone can beat anyone, which is sometimes the problem.
"Occasionally, you don't expect the other team to be as good as they are. But the starting point is always that clean sheet.
"Whoever you are playing, the starting point is always to stop them from scoring.
"You have to be wary of every team, but particularly those who are in form."
If, come 5pm, Ward has played a part in another 3-0 win over Peterborough, nobody at Forest will be complaining.