Nottingham Forest v Sheffield United
Nottingham Forest will be relieved to have a couple of fixtures at home this week. Their incredible previous 19-game unbeaten streak in the league, which had stretched right the way back to September, was broken a few weeks ago by bitter rivals Derby and this has proved a catalyst in their form away from home – they have now lost three games on the spin, and failed to score in any of them, with their last victory on the road coming over a month ago at West Brom.
As a result, their brief occupation of the second automatic promotion spot came to an abrupt end. Forest now need results in their back-to-back home games with play-off hopefuls Sheffield United and Middlesbrough to maintain the pressure on the top two. They are four points back on West Brom in second, having played a game more, and face two games against fellow promotion rivals in Leicester and Swansea in their next six games.
Meanwhile a torrid opening to Sheffield United’s season is starting to become a distant memory, having slowly turned round to display a suddenly very familiar outlook for Blades fans. Their team are on the coat-tails of the sides in the lower play-off places and only a fool would bet against the kind of strong finish to a league campaign that has become synonymous with the red half of Sheffield over the past few seasons.
However, despite a general upturn in fortune, more recent form has been less than convincing. United’s home record is impressive, certainly solid enough to suggest a top-six finish is achievable. They are unbeaten in their past eight and have been beaten only twice at Bramall Lane all season. Yet on the road there is work to be done if Kevin Blackwell’s men are to reach and of course consolidate a position in the play-off places.
Just 15 of their 45 points amassed so far this campaign have been picked up away from home and the last of those points came way back in mid-December at struggling QPR; one must go back further still to find the Blades’ most recent away success, on December 5. Results just haven’t been good enough and unless they improve soon United’s away record could well prove their undoing come the end of the season.
For that reason it is difficult to see the visitors coming out on top. Forest urgently need a lift – they are rapidly losing ground on the pacesetters and have some testing games coming up soon – and I fancy their chances of getting one from this game. Home win, 1-0.
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