Martin O’Neill has his feet under the table at Nottingham Forest.

He has been in the job for four weeks now and can no longer be considered wet around the ears.

There is still talk of experiments and learning, but that is to be expected.

Injuries, suspensions, form and referees have clouded the City Ground picture at times.

Are Forest heading in the right direction though?

Seven points from 15 is a better return than the four managed in the five games immediately prior to his arrival.

The same number of goals have been scored (seven) and there has still been no clean sheet since facing Derby on December 17.

That run may stretch to a return date with the Rams, with only one more game to take in.

Said fixture comes away at Preston on Saturday.

Forest headed to Pride Park before Christmas on the back of a meeting with the Lilywhites, and will now reverse that trend.

Tangible

(Photo by Mick Walker – CameraSport via Getty Images)

This time, though, the Reds will be looking to surge towards derby day rather than stumble into it.

A 1-0 defeat was suffered against Preston last time the two sides met.

Aitor Karanka’s side dominated for long periods that day but were unable to turn pressure into anything more tangible.

Will O’Neill’s selection fare any better?

Opposite number Alex Neil has said in the Nottingham Post of his expectations: “They are a totally different prospect to what they were when we last played them.

“Martin has gone in there and brought in a different approach. They will be difficult to break down and they have good players.

“It’s certainly not going to be an easy game.”

A totally different prospect.

Is that a fair assessment of Forest’s class of late 2018 compared to that of early 2019?

Positives

 

Changes have certainly been made on and off the field, bringing different personnel to the table.

The Reds were, however, coming off the back of a seven-game unbeaten run in the Championship when playing host to Preston.

They had won four of those games and were very much in the play-off mix.

In the present, only three wins have been taken from the last 12 – going back to that date with Neil’s men on Trentside.

Two of those have come in the last four, though, and there were plenty of positives on show in a gut-wrenching 2-2 draw at West Brom.

Maybe the tide is turning.

Goals are proving a little easier to come by than they once were, while O’Neill’s message is getting through.

The emergence of Ryan Yates has been a welcome bonus and the likes of Yohan Benalouane and Alexander Milosevic have slotted seamlessly into the fold.

There is an air of positivity around the City Ground, but the same was true in mid-December.

To describe the Reds as a ‘totally different prospect’ may be going a touch overboard, but they have enough about them to suggest that O’Neill wins out over Neil without an ‘O’ this weekend.