Another dose of good fortune for Nottingham Forest
AFTER the final whistle, Dave Jones insisted he must have run over a black cat – while Sean O'Driscoll must have found a four-leaf clover.
For the second time in the space of a week, Nottingham Forest enjoyed a significant dose of good fortune, as an own goal from Miguel Llera helped them to a narrow 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.
Only, this time, O'Driscoll can at least argue that they made their own luck, as industrious, hard-working Forest more than played their part in an end-to-end affair.
And, while the 2-2 draw at Leicester had more than a whiff of injustice about it, this time the Reds just about did enough to merit a morale-boosting three points.
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It was easy to feel sympathy for Jones, whose side have now lost ten of their last 14 outings, following 90 minutes in which they had carved out enough opportunities to win two games.
But Forest were also profligate in front of goal on an afternoon when you would never have wagered any money on the decisive moment proving to be an own goal.
At times, it was like a basketball game, as the action charged from end-to-end relentlessly.
Indeed, on another day, the score might have been 3-3, as both sides repeatedly found the room to carve out opportunity and openings.
But, while Forest again demonstrated the same steely defensive determination that had earned them a point across the East Midlands seven days before, they also enjoyed a little fortune as Llera headed a dangerous Chris Cohen cross into the back of his own net in the 74th minute.
It was a harsh blow to a Wednesday defence that had shown plenty of grit themselves. But that will matter little to a Forest side that was badly in need of a victory.
Amid a Championship division that can rarely have been tighter, one result really can change the perspective significantly.
And, having failed to win their previous three games, Forest can now look back on a run of three games unbeaten.
The first third of the season has been far from perfect but, with December on the horizon, Forest remain handily placed.
A win at Wolves on Saturday could lift O'Driscoll's side into the top six, a position they have occupied for a matter of only hours this season.
And they will travel to Molineux full of confidence, after facing up to some of the top sides in the division in recent weeks.
A return of two points from games against Leicester and Middlesbrough may seem a modest return, but the games have also proved to be a valuable learning curve for the Reds who, you sense, are starting to find their feet.
A moment of good fortune may have provided the decisive moment on Saturday afternoon, but the foundations for this win were hard earned, in the form of simple graft, organisation and perseverance.
O'Driscoll kept faith with a back four that had, at times, looked far from solid at the King Power Stadium – and was rewarded with a far more cohesive display.
In terms of the challenges the Owls posed, this was more akin to the recent visit of Millwall. But, while Forest were outfought, outmuscled and outgunned by the Lions, Jones' side were not allowed the same dominance.
Danny Collins had to clear a Jay Bothroyd effort off the line in the second half and Brendan Moloney produced a goal-saving tackle to deny the striker a golden opportunity before the break.
Lee Camp also produced a solid save to deny Gary Madine and a more spectacular one to thwart Jose Semedo.
At the other end, however, Forest's chances were even more numerous.
Andy Reid was denied by goalkeeper Chris Kirkland after skipping clear of the visiting defence, Henri Lansbury fired over following a good exchange with Dexter Blackstock and Jermaine Jenas robbed Billy Sharp of a clear opportunity when he got a glancing touch to a Cohen cross.
There was bad fortune, as well as good, for Forest, who lost both Reid and Jenas – who had started his first game since returning to the Reds on loan - to injury early in the second half.
Both, according to O'Driscoll, have a chance of returning for the short trip to the West Midlands next weekend.
But it is a sign of the depth in the Forest squad that losing either player would now no longer be viewed as a crisis. Indeed, it was substitutes Lansbury and Guedioura who added some pep and urgency to Forest's performance.
Along with the typically hard-working Cohen, they were integral figures when it came to securing the three points.
And, with the likes of Guy Moussi and Jonathan Greening not even in the squad on Saturday afternoon, Forest are hardly short of cover in midfield.
It is likely that defensive resolve, as much as midfield guile, will be an important quality again on Saturday, as they head to face an underachieving Wolves side who will want to bounce back from a 2-1 defeat at Watford.
Forest have bad memories of their recent trips to face Wanderers, where they have suffered some heavy defeats.
Following a clean sheet – and a man-of-the-match performance from Moloney – O'Driscoll is unlikely to make changes to his solid-looking back four.
The manager has intimated that, in January, he may look to add another left-back to the squad, to provide competition and cover for Dan Harding, who continues to struggle with a hamstring injury.
But, following another encouraging display, there are no glaring holes in a Forest squad that, with their injury problems beginning to abate, is starting to look balanced and full of depth.
So far, Forest have perhaps yet to find their best form consistently. And their win on Saturday did owe something to good fortune.
But, sometimes, you make your own luck and, if O'Driscoll can continue to coax a steady improvement from his side, he may find that he gets luckier with every passing week.