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Forest 3-0 Fulham

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Successive wins at The City Ground and a brace for a central defender...Dougie Freedman is finally getting tangible reward from his team.

David Marples

On such a blustery and wind battered City Ground, it seemed for a while that the howling breeze would be the only winner. Not so. In the end, a well deserved three points, clean sheet and absolute absence of bookings meant that Forest claimed their third win in four.

Pegged back for the most of the first half - especially in the opening exchanges - Dougie Freedman's team were perhaps slightly fortunate to be one goal to the good and seek refuge from the conditions in the safety of the dressing room at half time due to a headed Matt Mills goal after good work from Eric Lichaj who recycled the ball well. Fulham enjoyed good spells of possession and chief Forest tormentor Ross McCormack always looked dangerous. Luckily, the chances created didn't always fall to him but instead to Matt Smith, who lacked the potency of his strike partner.

With Scott Parker pulling the strings in the middle, Richard Stearman solid at the back and McCormack up front, Fulham have all the ingredients in place but Mills' goal just before half time knocked the stuffing right out of them and the second half was largely a procession with Chris O'Grady doubling his tally for the season and Mills nodding in unmarked from a corner. If it sounds pretty simple and straightforward, that's because it was.

In many ways, it was a very similar performance to the one last week against a weak, disappointing and dispirited Reading team. For Reading, read Fulham. After a bright start, they faded badly, lacking leadership and know-how to handle the hurly-burly of the Championship. As for Forest, what's gone right after being just a mere two points clear of relegation a matter of weeks ago?

A tighter defence for a start, clearly benefiting from what seems to now be a sustained run with four of the back five pretty much bedded in for the season - the only variable being the identity of who partners Matt Mills in the centre. In midfield, it's a similar story with David Vaughan, Henri Lansbury and Ryan Mendes regularly featuring. Ben Osborn on the left is currently working well but one does wonder whether this is a long term plan. Regardless, if it ain't broke...

With Robert Tesche back to full fitness, Michael Mancienne taking up his place again with effortless élan, O'Grady and Nelson Oliveira producing something looking like an actual goalscoring partnership, a clean sheet, six goals in the last two games and Chris Cohen about to start kicking a ball around again, the Forest garden is looking particularly rosy. There have been some very rocky moments along the way (Bristol and Wednesday away spring to mind) but performances have generally been decent and so it's about time the pendulum of luck swung the team's way for a change and ceased to oscillate wildly. Not that luck was needed today though - just a bit of nous to weather the sustained spell of possession the opposition enjoyed from the start and to convert their chances.

The ease with which Forest swatted away this managerless team - and indeed the hotchpotch of the Reading team the previous week - to pull clear from the drop zone and closer to the play off places in terms of points, perhaps suggests just as much about the Championship as it does Forest's upturn in fortunes. The difference between your legs dangling towards the baying hyenas at the bottom and getting your foot in the front door of an exclusive party is approximately two successive wins and a striker who bags a goal once in a while. Yet Freedman deserves a degree of credit, especially since it is pretty clear that the players are very much with him in their desire and attitude. There are no throwing of hands in the air, no sustained glares towards the dug out and certainly no bibs chucked about willy-nilly;  it genuinely seems to be a team pulling in the right direction as one.

Although the roses are smelling sweet at the moment, they are far from full bloom. Nonetheless, it's lovely to stop and smell them.