Nottingham Forest must improve on the road to achieve promotion

IN PICTURE: Forest manager Aitor Karanka'STORY: SPORT LEAD: Nottingham Forest v Derby County.  Sky Bet Championship match at The City Ground, Nottingham.  Sunday 11th March 2018.
IN PICTURE: Forest manager Aitor Karanka'STORY: SPORT LEAD: Nottingham Forest v Derby County. Sky Bet Championship match at The City Ground, Nottingham. Sunday 11th March 2018.

Nottingham Forest snatched a dramatic late point at Wigan Athletic but must find a way of winning on the road if they are serious about promotion to the Premier League.

Super sub Hillal Soudani was again the hero for the Reds as his stoppage time leveller prevented a first defeat of the season.

Performance aside, which was awful if we’re honest, a draw at the DW Stadium isn’t a bad result when you consider that Forest have never won at Wigan.

And, when all’s said and done, we’re only four games into the new season.

If you revert to my very first article of the campaign, you’ll remember that I alluded to the possibility of a shaky start and asked for patience from our supporters.

Given the volume of personnel changes and foreign signings, it’s fair to say that most Forest fans have been pragmatic enough accept that it wouldn’t happen overnight.

And, whilst I highlight the need for wins on the road, I’m talking more collectively than instantaneously.

If we take a look at last season’s away form, you’ll see what I’m getting at.

Of the 23 away games played, Forest’s record was as follows – five wins, five draws and 13 defeats. It doesn’t take a genius to see the correlation between these stats and the 19-point gap between ourselves and the play-off places.

Compare this to Fulham’s record of 12 wins, five draws and six defeats on the road, and you have a tangible target to aim for.

I’m prepared to stick my neck on the block and say that our home results will be significantly better than those of the 2017-18 season, the City Ground has a different feeling about it for the first time in a very long time.

Whether that’s owing to the twenty thousand plus season card holders or to the various refurbishments I’m not quite sure.

Both home league games this season emanated real electricity and excitement from every corner of our famous old stadium.

In times gone by there seemed to be an aura of pressure and negativity by the banks of the Trent, but I’ve witnessed the twelfth man effect of late and long may it continue.

As for the playing side of things, I’m happy for Aitor Karanka to work that out.

Last week I touched on the importance of Sam Byram and Jack Robinson being regulars in the Forest side, which attracted some decent counter opinions on social media it must be said.

However, I shall refrain from speculating who should and shouldn’t be starting against Birmingham on Saturday.

Many scenarios have been banded about on Twitter but it’s frankly too early to call it. I’d go as far as to say that we probably won’t see the manager’s preferred eleven until at least October, simply due to the sheer strength in depth of the squad.

Personally, beating Birmingham this Saturday is imperative. Firstly, to make amends for the poor performance (not result) at Wigan, and secondly to accrue vital points ahead of difficult trips to Brentford and Swansea respectively.

Despite my calls to rack up more wins on the road this season, I’m not being hypocritical when I say that I’d take a draw in West London and again in South Wales.

I doubt many Nottingham Forest supporters will honestly be expecting to win either of those matches at this juncture of the Championship campaign.

Despite the lack of cohesion and consistency thus far, Forest find themselves unbeaten and in eighth position in the Championship table.

It’s a placing I’d be happy to sustain for large portions of the season if need be, and one that would make my prediction of a fifth-place finish attainable come season’s end.

But, if the Reds are indeed to make the play offs, they will most certainly have to double last season’s away record of just five victories on the road.