Paul Lambert has made an instant impact at Ewood Park but scratch beneath the surface of his first four results and you’ll find that Blackburn have enjoyed more than their fair share of good fortune to collect ten points from a possible 12.
Victory over Rotherham on Friday stretched Rovers’ current unbeaten run to seven matches, landing back-to-back league wins for the first time since March, but Luke Hyam’s own goal was harsh on a Millers side that controlled the game for long periods and racked up the better chances from open play.
Hyam’s misdirected header was the second own goal Lambert has profited from, a ricochet off Jordan Pickford’s back getting Rovers up and running in his first game at Preston. The other five goals Blackburn have scored since also include two penalties and a wicked deflection, not to mention the red card for Nathan Baker, on which the balance tipped at Bristol City.
So it would be dangerous to assume the tide has turned and Lambert is a genial soothsayer. Maybe there’s a secret in the message he is getting across but the smart money is on the Glaswegian merely catching some of the breaks that eluded his predecessor Gary Bowyer over the first 16 matches - or, indeed, himself for the best part of three years at Aston Villa.
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In broader terms, Blackburn are still adrift of where they ought to be. Friday’s win pushed them into the top half for the first time this term but their shot data has consistently marked them out as a borderline top-six outfit and victory here will carry them temporarily up to seventh before the rest of the division returns to action on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
However, there’s little value in siding with Rovers at 6/5 here. Nottingham Forest are just as lively when it comes to disparity between results and performance data. And it would also be dangerous to assume the visitors will set up as they did at Molineux in the first game of Sky TV’s ’10 in 10’ initiative three days ago.
Few teams are as tactically flexible as the Reds. Dougie Freedman has so far deployed six different systems - each at least twice - using 28 different players in the process. But, essentially, the biggest distinction boils down to one important question: how many strikers?
If Freedman goes two up top, Forest are generally going to press high up the pitch, meaning a reasonably entertaining, high-tempo clash can be expected. If he goes with a lone target man, then the Reds will sit deep and look to counter, the upshot being a game low on clear cut chances and, therefore, goals.
Given the quick turnaround, the lack of recuperation time and the extent to which Rotherham controlled the game playing 4-3-3 on Friday, it seems likely that Freedman will revert to something similar, be it 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1. In that scenario, the bet to be having is under 1.5 goals at 2/1 or better.
On eight previous occasions this season when Forest have had less than a full week to prepare, they’ve played with one striker in seven, and those games have produced a grand total of ten goals, three of them equalisers that arrived deep into stoppage time. In four instances, the game has been goalless after 70 minutes.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.