"What happens if Forest never score or concede again?" was the question dominating my internal monologue as I filed out of the DW Stadium after the club’s third consecutive Championship 0-0 draw. We’d survive relegation this season, of course, but that would be followed by a never-ending and dreary fall through the leagues. In truth, most of the Gary Megson's spell felt like that anyway, so perhaps I’d be more prepared than first thought.
There is little doubt that it has been a distinctly odd run of scoreless matches, one which threatens to split the club’s support into two distinct camps. So, are you half-empty or half-full?
Many, the positive amongst you, will remain mindful of the danger of falsely increased expectations, aware that sitting level on points with the league leaders was a position beyond realistic hopes on the eve of the season. After ten Championship games one can start to gain a sense of realistic hopes for the campaign, and we currently sit second. Of course one would prefer to win every game, but football supportership is a constant exercise in dealing with disappointment - ours have been relatively minor. These are those that point to an unbeaten league record and to three consecutive clean sheets.
By the standards of many other clubs in the division (Fulham, Bolton, Wigan and Brighton, to name but four), it is has been a hugely promising first six weeks of the season. Despite having to acclimatise to a new manager with a new 'vision' attempting to bed in more than a few new players, Forest (and many of those signings) have hit the ground running. Supporters were prepared to stay patient as Stuart Pearce re-found his feet in club management, but have been treated to an impressive start both on and off the field. Pearce is saying the right things, whilst the players have largely put his faith and those words into practice.
That said, this is undeniably the first test of Pearce’s managerial reign at the City Ground. Following the slapstick 5-3 home victory over Fulham, during which it felt as if Forest had forgotten how to defend, for 270 Championship minutes it is the club’s finishing that now appears off-kilter.
Against Brighton on Saturday, Forest had 14 shots on goal, but only one was on target. In addition, against Brighton and Millwall the side lacked an energy or urgency in midfield, an odd sense that players were going through the motions expecting an inevitable winner. Perhaps that is the false confidence Britt Assombalonga’s seven goals in eight shots on target gave? Here lies the pessimistic camp, the nagging reminder that it’s now five games without a win in all competitions, and that after a stunning start Forest find themselves two points clear of seventh place.
Against Wigan on Tuesday, both sides of the fence could form their own weighted conclusions. Critics would ask why Pearce continued to play just one striker - Michail Antonio did offer support to Assombalonga but was quite palpably still midfielder pushed forward rather than strike partner. They would question the side’s inability to beat teams like Brighton and Wigan, who had high pre-season aspirations but endured unconvincing recent form. Making the most of your opportunities, they will grimly but forcefully state, is key to success in this division.
For the optimist, however, there were reasons for contentment. Forest really should have won the game, Antonio’s finishing falling short when it mattered most and Scott Carson thwarting Assombalonga on multiple occasions. The performance of Robert Tesche too was mightily encouraging, the German presumably recruited as back-up but making his own case for a regular starting place in the absence of captain Chris Cohen.
Without wanting to be that guy, referee Kevin Wright’s decisions also bordered on the inconceivable, at times. Whether or not supporters’ post-match pint glasses were half-full or half-empty, this was a point on which all could agree.
The conclusion to a rather answerless question over whether to feel encouraged or otherwise by Forest’s recent run of draws probably lies in the result of Sunday’s match against Ipswich. Lose and the pessimists will roll their eyes once more, win and Pearce will have reached the season’s second international break unscathed, an unthinkable occurrence in early July.
For now, you’ll have to forgive me while I remove the splinters from my time spent sitting on the fence. It’ll probably finish 0-0, anyway.