Preparation is finally paying dividends for Dougie Freedman. The Nottingham Forest boss stated in the summer that his overall approach would be geared towards coping with the rigours of the schedule and getting stronger as the campaign progresses, so take the 5/2 available on the Reds to build on their recent good form and bag a third straight win at Molineux.
Until recently, the campaign had been a frustrating one for Forest but victory over arch-rivals Derby in early November brought a timely boost to morale. Since then, they’ve been energised and purposeful, although not without a frustrating stoppage-time defeat at Brentford prompting Freedman to alter the message and urge his players to fine-tune dominant performances into effective ones.
The east Midlands outfit might be languishing in 15th position but they sit seventh in terms of shot data with a 53 per cent ratio. Only Reading and Brighton have taken more shots at the opposition goal. The Brentford defeat cut deep, though. It was one occasion too many that Forest had finished empty-handed from a game where they had dominated the play.
Freedman has since encouraged his players to be more direct, hit the danger zones quicker and concentrate on building up periods of sustained pressure, rather than controlling possession and carving out isolated attacks. Now a happy medium appears to have been found. In their last two outings, Forest have scored six goals from just 23 attempts, a vast improvement on their previous shot conversion rate of one goal every 14.5 attempts.
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The 3-1 win over Reading was triggered by a two-goal turnaround in 11 first-half minutes, while two goals in seven minutes either side of the break was the platform for a 3-0 victory over Fulham, even though the Cottagers had dominated the opening 45. On this evidence, Freedman’s target of establishing a position in the top half of the table by Christmas looks more than reasonable.
Wolves are doing no worse than can be expected for a club in limbo at boardroom level. Victory at Rotherham last weekend eases the pressure on Kenny Jackett, shifting the focus from one win in eight to four matches unbeaten. But it does little to eliminate the suspicion that he is wrestling with a job that is threatening to come loose at the seams.
The return of loanee Mike Williamson to Newcastle, an injury to Emiliano Martinez, the as-yet-unknown reaction of Benik Afobe to being dropped and the mystery over funds available to Jackett in the January transfer window all serve as potential red flags that make the home side a flaky propsoition at 5/4.
Such underlying uncertainties have a funny way of coming out in the wash when the television cameras arrive and the 36/1 available on Nottingham Forest to win 3-1 best reflects the contrasting mood in the two camps, if not necessarily the difference in quality between the teams. Should Forest get their noses in front, they have the verve and the firepower to heighten the damage when Wolves are forced to chase.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.