Garry Birtles: Nottingham Forest must believe that they are invincible
WHEN they face Brighton, Nottingham Forest's players should feel invincible.
They should be brimming with confidence; absolutely certain in the belief they will collect another three points.
The fact they can secure a place in the record books is part of it.
The chance to make history does not come around very often and, if they do need any additional motivation, the prospect of securing a record-equalling seventh straight win should provide it.
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But there is more to it than that even.
Because, while six consecutive wins may have sent out a message to their Championship rivals – none would have been more and clear than the one they broadcast by beating Hull.
If we are honest – and I am not decrying their achievements for a second – in one or two of those wins, lady luck was smiling on the Reds.
Opposition sides had players sent off in three games, big decisions went their way and the ball just bounced right for them when it needed to.
Don't get me wrong, Forest earned their victories, I am not trying to chalk off their recent run to good fortune. Because their performances have been much, much improved – outstanding at times, even.
But the win at Hull City, against a team in good form and, more specifically, in second place in the Championship table, caps off the lot of them.
And the manner in which it was achieved said as much as anything.
Following the farcical collapse of his move to Forest, which remains one of the oddest things to have happened in a season of considerable drama, it was always likely that George Boyd would play a leading role as the plot unfolded at the KC Stadium.
And, after he had scored, in the past, Forest would have crumbled. They would have lost the game. But not this time. The character they showed; the belief demonstrated, was just incredible.
It was a close game, it looked as though it could have gone either way, when you look at the chances both sides had. But it was Forest who snatched all three points, as Lewis McGugan came off the bench to score for the third game running.
That completed a fightback that had been started by a well-taken goal from Darius Henderson.
And it sent out a message that will have resonated around the division – you need to start looking over your shoulders at Forest. Because we mean business.
If Forest can beat Brighton, that message will only get louder. And the players should go into the match with a fierce sense of pride about the fact they are on the cusp of making history.
When we were on our unbeaten run, under Brian Clough, we went into every game believing we could and would beat anything that was put in front of us.
There was no complacency. It was just a simple belief that, if we were at our best, we would be good enough to beat anyone.
Forest can afford to have that confidence about them now. They have earned that right. But they must also keep doing exactly what they have been doing.
And that means listening to the manager and how he wants them to play, because there is no question he has found a winning formula.
It is one largely based around work-rate and effort; but one that also gives their midfield players so much attacking threat.
Forest, as a team, push high up the pitch. The strikers pressure the opposition back four, the midfielders take a high line and the defence join in as well.
It means that, when Forest do win possession, they are immediately in a good position to profit. This is why the likes of Radi Majewski, Henri Lansbury and McGugan are getting so many goals.
It is impressive that 13 of the 16 goals Forest have netted in their last seven matches have come from midfield, when you include Andy Reid in the equation.
But it is because, courtesy of the way they play, the midfield do get a lot of possession in dangerous areas.
They have to work hard to secure those chances. It is not all about pretty passing and fluidity. It is about working as a team and putting pressure on the opposition.
Confidence also plays a part. And, while Forest should have bundles of that, it is also a key factor that some of their rivals are seeing their's crumble at the vital moment.
Look at Leicester City... they have plummeted down the form table, collecting only one win in their last eight games.
That is as bad as anyone in the Championship and their league position is a reflection of that.
They have gone from fighting for automatic promotion to now needing to find a way to inspire a turnaround, just to hold on to their place in the play-offs.
In the meantime, Watford, Palace and Cardiff have all dropped points, with Watford and Palace collecting 14 and Cardiff 12 points from their last eight matches.
In that time, Forest have claimed 19 – which is why they are making a surging run towards the finishing line, as they head into the final furlong.
The one concern is what happens if Forest do lose; if they see that unbeaten run come to an end.
It should not be the end of the world, but you don't know how players will react.
But they shouldn't be thinking about that now. They should be trying to replicate the character, the belief and the performance they produced at Hull City.
If they can do that, they will win again and that invincible feeling will only continue.