If you needed evidence of the progress Nottingham Forest have made in the past 12 weeks, then look no further than today. Back in November, Bournemouth outclassed a completely bemused Forest side who were lucky to only concede two goals.
Three weeks after that performance they beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 and began this 11-game run that has seen just one defeat, five wins, 20 points, six clean sheets and 14 goals. A hard-fought draw at home is not to be sniffed at.
Bournemouth might have despatched with manager Jason Tindall recently, but they remain in the top six. And started with £25m Jefferson Lerma, £13.7m Arnaut Danjuma and £10.7m Diego Rico to name a few — don’t forget this is the disparity between parachute clubs and those who haven’t been anywhere the Premier League this century.
Forest started brightly, pressing high and looking to force errors, and looked to be maintaining possession comfortably. An early free-kick, not far outside the box, was worked to Filip Krovinović but the shot was saved easily.
And a quick break involving Cyrus Christie and Luke Freeman resulted in a corner with Anthony Knockaert’s shot close. But the visitors showed how dangerous they can be with efforts from Junior Stanislas and Shane Long almost undoing the Reds.
The contrast with the reverse fixture at the Vitality was evident though — Chris Hughton’s side had a clear gameplay, worked hard, kept their shape, and looked promising with and without the ball. The midfield hugely benefiting from the additions of Krovinović and James Garner, while Freeman warranted his place in the side.
The Cherries had greater possession towards the half-hour mark, with plenty of crosses coming in from the right, but the defence remained resolute — as they did until the final whistle. Joe Worrall and Tobias Figueiredo’s strong partnership from last season seems to have returned at last.
The second-half started slow and remained fairly uneventful at both ends. Forest’s front four were ready to pounce when the opportunity arose, while keeping it tight at the back.
On the hour mark, Knockaert’s free-kick flashed across goal from Worrall’s header, and there was a sense that there could be something in this for the home side. Bournemouth began to dominate possession, with Forest forced back, but the game remained scrappy.
After a corner from a well-worked move, Glenn Murray’s header was cleared off the line on 79 minutes. And given that Bournemouth didn’t manage a single shot on target, it was perhaps the best chance of the game.
And despite being end-to-end stuff in the final 10 minutes, it ended goal-less. Hughton didn’t make any substitutions, compared to the Cherries’ four, but that decision was vindicated by finishing strongly and not conceding.
The manager added: “I’m certainly starting to see more of what I want from the team though and we have some good momentum.”
“It’s always a calculation when you’re putting subs on and sometimes when you’re in a good rhythm against a strong side, you’ve got to be careful you don’t disrupt your own team too much. If I’d seen someone on the pitch who was looking a bit tired or a bit leggy then I certainly would have made a change but that wasn’t the case this afternoon.”
If you’ve so much as glanced at social media today, you’ll have seen grumblings. But this was a very solid performance, a well-earned point and, with Swansea to play on Wednesday, it was important to keep this level of confidence up. Having reached 16th in the table, our highest position all season, every point we can gain from the next 17 games is invaluable.