Nottingham Forest manager Martin O’Neill has revealed his side’s plans ahead of next week’s East Midlands Derby against Derby County.
The Reds have endured a frustrating week in which they were denied victories at both West Brom and Preston by poor officiating. If Dwight Gayle hadn’t deceived the referee and Joe Lolley’s goal had stood, O’Neill’s side would be four points better off.
This would’ve seen them move to within two points of the play-offs. Instead, they are six points off. Bristol City and Derby both have two games in hand, whilst Middlesbrough also have one. It’s a tough ask for the Reds to bridge that gap.
However, Forest do have an opportunity to boost their chances. They are up against Frank Lampard’s Rams on Monday in front of a sell-out crowd at the City Ground. This gives the Reds the chance to get themselves back into the mix against a fellow play-off hopeful.
Anything other than three points would probably signal the end of Forest’s play-off chances. Although, Bristol City do face a tough trip away to league leaders Norwich City which could see them drop points. If all goes to plan, the table could look a lot more favourable for the Reds come Monday evening.
In his post-match interview after the goalless draw against Preston, O’Neill admitted he is very excited for the game. He told the Nottingham Post: “I am looking forward to it, of course. It will be good to take them on.
“But what we will do is give the players a couple of days off, to let them see their families. When we come back we will get ourselves ready to go.
“I am looking forward to it, I cannot wait in fact, until the game. It seems an awfully long time away right now, but we will make sure that we are ready for it.”
Will Forest’s luck change at the perfect time?
It’s fair to say that everything seems to have gone against the Reds in recent weeks. There’s no better time than now for that to change. The Rams will prove difficult opposition but if the Reds have a bit of luck on their side, then it’s more than possible that they can get the three points.
One advantage O’Neill’s side do have is that they don’t have a game this week. Whilst the Reds are enjoying a few days off, Lampard’s side are preparing for a game against Millwall at Pride Park tonight. Whether this has any impact on Monday’s game remains to be seen.
“It will be all systems go for the Derby game. We will be ready,” O’Neill told the Nottingham Post.
“I am going to give the lads a couple of days off – let them go and see family. Particularly those boys who have just come in to the club, because they will not have had the chance to do that.
“And the players who have played a lot of games will have the chance just to have a break and have a couple of days away. Come back refreshed and we will get ready for the game.”
O’Neill is hopeful that having a couple of days rest will help his side perform better against the Rams. It’s been an intense period of fixtures since he arrived at the club and it’s certainly a much-needed break for the players.
He said: “This is an opportunity we have, because we do not play until Monday night and we want to give the players an opportunity to get away from things; to get a bit of freshness, as much as anything else.
“Some time spent with the family will do nobody any harm whatsoever. But when we come back, we will be ready to go.”