Davies tries to quash Forest promotion talk

Nottingham Forest 1 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Online

As a man with strong opinions and no inclination to keep them to himself, Billy Davies does tend to become repetitive. "I must sound like a broken record," he says – probably several times every day. So when there is an issue at the forefront of his thinking, it is not difficult to spot.

"I'm a broken-down record," he said again as he dissected his team's performance against a team Forest had just toppled from top place in the Championship. "Prior to the last four games, when we have picked up some good results, the team had been playing very, very well – missing penalties, hitting the woodwork, missing great chances but, performance wise, I've been really pleased with how we have been doing. But..."

And it was the "but" that prompted another familiar refrain from the hyperactive Glaswegian, the one that goes: "Yes, we are doing well, moving up the table. But promotion? Forget about it. We're nowhere near ready."

It has not been heard too much yet from Forest supporters, whose expectations have been rising after four straight wins from Billy Davies's team. But at Preston and Derby, the first two staging posts in his management career in England, the words will have a certain ring to them.

He led both teams into the Championship play-offs against the odds, revealing a knack for taking ostensibly average players and forming from them teams that would consistently punch above their weight. At Preston his doubts were justified. The Lilywhites made it into the top six twice, but were not good enough to take the final step. At Derby, of course, the story was rather different.

It is the Derby experience, you assume, that has left him anxious that his Forest side, substantially refurbished in his 10-and-a-half months in charge, does not advance too far, too quickly. Davies planned that Derby, a good but not outstanding side in the 2006-07 Championship season, should climb to the Premier League in three years. Instead they did it in one, with disastrous consequences.

So his verdict on Forest's ascent to seventh place is not entirely surprising. For 45 minutes on Saturday, they outplayed Newcastle. Had Forest taken their chances, they could have been two or three in front. In the event they wound up defending Dexter Blackstock's single goal rather shakily in the second half.

Yet, asked to draw comparisons with their opponents, who remain favourites for promotion, Davies could not wait to apply the brakes. "We're miles away from where Newcastle are," he said. "When you look at the players they have, the experience they have. We are a team that narrowly avoided relegation last year, we are a side that needs to consolidate."

Davies has a point. Although he spent £1.75m on a right-back in Tottenham's Chris Gunter, he has a squad top-heavy with attackers. While the pace of Nathan Tyson and Paul Anderson on the wings and the subtleties of Polish midfielder Radoslaw Majewski – combined with any permutation from four central strikers – gives Forest exhilarating potential going forward, their defence looks vulnerable at times, as it did on Saturday.

But Forest hung on and, as Davies added, visiting another popular theme: "It's all about results – and results cover the cracks."

Nottingham Forest (4-4-1-1): Camp; Gunter, Morgan, Wilson, Cohen; Anderson (McGugan, 79), McKenna (Garner, 85), Moussi, Tyson; Majewski (McGoldrick, 61); Blackstock. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Chambers, Adebola, McCleary.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; R Taylor, Simpson, Khizanishvili, Jose Enrique; Guthrie, Nolan, Smith, Lovenkrands (Gutierrez, 61); Harewood (Ranger, 83), Carroll. Substitutes not used: Krul (gk), Geremi, Butt, Kadar, Donaldson.

Referee: P Taylor (Hertfordshire).

Booked: Forest Garner; Newcastle Smith, Khizanishvili, R Taylor.

Man of the match: Tyson.

Attendance: 29,155.

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