Nottingham Forest not short of inspiration
ADLENE Guedioura jokes that Billy Davies must have put Radi Majewski on a diet of Red Bull since returning to the City Ground. But it is not sipping on any beverage that is giving the little Pole and the rest of his Nottingham Forest team-mates wings.
The record books will show that Majewski's fifth goal in three matches was the decisive moment on a crisp afternoon at Hillsborough, as the Reds continued their steady flight up the Championship table.
What the statistics will not make clear was that it was also the most complete team performance since the Scotsman returned for a second spell in charge, as they followed up a first half that was peppered with spells of flowing football, with a second period that tested their mental and physical character to the limit.
Yes, there has been an additional energy and urgency infused into the Forest ranks, but that is not fuelled by caffeine, but by the influence of a manager whose impact has been immediate.
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There is an intensity about Forest now; a desire and work rate that had not been present, at least to the same degree, under either Sean O'Driscoll or Alex McLeish.
Ten points from 12 matches has lifted Forest up into eighth place, four points behind Brighton, who occupy the last of the play-off places. But it is not so much the increase in their standing, as the surge in confidence and belief that suddenly has people looking upwards once more.
When McLeish walked away, such was the mood of chaos and disbelief at the club – as Forest's owners looked to appoint their third new manager since the summer – that the season felt like it should be written off, with 2013 barely a month old.
Now there will be teams who are glancing over their shoulders at Forest, with an increasing sense of nervousness.
Because, while Chelsea's season threatens to fall apart as fans continue to vent their fury at Rafa Benitez, calling for the Spaniard to be sacked, the return of Davies has had the opposite effect at Forest.
It has lifted the spirits of fans. But, more importantly, it has galvanised a response from the players, all of whom want to play a part in the Scotsman's grand plan.
It says much that, rather than being frustrated or feeling ostracised by the fact that he has played only 17 minutes of football under Davies, the likes of Guy Moussi are instead motivated; brimming with a desire to force their way back into the side.
And the introduction of the Frenchman as a substitute on Saturday typified the course of a game that began with Forest enjoying long spells of dominance in the first half and ended with them having their resolve sternly tested in the final stages.
Danny Collins, restored to the side because of Greg Halford's suspension for collecting his tenth booking of the campaign, might have given Forest the lead, but just failed to make the minimal contact that would have been required to steer home a superb Andy Reid free kick.
But the Irishman was at the centre of things when Forest finally did make a deserved breakthrough, pirouetting through a sharp turn, prodding the ball between David Prutton's legs and finally feeding the ball into the path of Simon Cox.
The striker then demonstrated his unselfish streak as, after rounding two challenges himself, he squared the ball to leave Majewski with the simple task of slotting home a left-foot finish beyond the exposed Chris Kirkland.
Only a fine challenge from Anthony Gardner prevented Dexter Blackstock from making it 2-0, before the interval.
While in-form midfielder Majewksi could and perhaps should have had another after the break, but drove a fine opportunity into the side netting.
However, while the balance of the game slowly began to change as the second half wore on – with Moussi introduced to provide some much needed physical presence as Wednesday looked to make the most of their strength and power – the closest the Owls came to scoring was via two penalty claims, neither of which were given.
Both were 50/50 calls at best, with Collins appearing to waft an arm at the ball as he challenged for a header and substitute Jamaal Lascelles later seeing the ball bounce up off his leg and into his upper arm, which was by his side and not outstretched.
Otherwise, with Karl Darlow commanding his area with the confidence of a man with far more experience and the likes of Collins – who had to go off with blurred vision after falling awkwardly following an aerial challenge with Jermaine Johnson – Lascelles and Elliott Ward defending doggedly, Forest's lead was rarely meaningfully troubled.
Dexter Blackstock had to produce a brave, sliding block to hold Wednesday at bay in injury time, but had the home side equalised, it would not have been a deserved point as, for the fourth game in succession, Forest produced a performance that thoroughly merited a win.
If not for an inspired 90 minutes from Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan during Davies' first game back in charge last month, which ended in a draw, he could have been looking at four straight wins, instead of three.
Still, they will be looking to make it four victories in a row tomorrow, when Ipswich visit the City Ground, as the first of two home games in quick succession, following two on the road.
Forest may also have a little extra motivation against Mick McCarthy's side, as they look for revenge for the 3-1 defeat inflicted on them at Portman Road back in November, which saw the Reds produce one of their most insipid, uninspiring performances of the season.
Inspiration is not a quality that is in short supply now, however, with Forest steadily gaining momentum, at a perfect point in the season.
Davies' two previous top-six finishes with Forest were both inspired by long unbeaten runs, one at home and one on their travels. If, between now and the end of the campaign, Forest can maintain something close to their current run of form, then their climb up the table is certain to continue.