OPINION: Nottingham Forest are slowly starting to find their game
Whisper it quietly but we are now into the second half of the season.
It sometimes feels like Forest are stuck in a hamster wheel, perpetually playing Cardiff or Millwall and with games against Swansea and (obviously) Barnsley looming on the horizon, it would be natural to feel a deep sense of discombobulation.
Indeed, navigating through this most unusual of seasons has more than a whiff of tackling a seaside crazy golf course.
The first tee seems straightforward enough. All you have to do is navigate the ball around a dog-leg curve. Something to ease you into the course ahead. Yet what seems easy enough turns out to be an exercise in draining morale from your soul.
You strike what seems to be a solid and accurate shot towards the hole, yet the ball hits the curvature of the bend and somehow ends up back where it started: perched neatly on the very spot from where you hit it.
This continues for the first four holes. No matter what you do, your first shot sees the ball somehow contrive to find itself even further away from the hole than the tee. Confidence is draining. The ball keeps bouncing over the bricks that act as barriers. You even have to apologise to other players on another hole at one stage for having to retrieve your ball from their area.
Come the fifth hole, you try something different. You allow someone else to get you off the mark. After all, they can’t do any worse and your own confidence is at the bottom of a deep well. You hand the club to a more experienced pair of hands.
They successfully navigate the 4000 holes potted on the short fairway with their first shot and bag a hole-in-one. Success!
You find your confidence. Crocodiles and pirates are no longer the threat they were. You work your way steadily through savannah themed holes, picking up the odd win here and there and rarely losing the hole.
Then comes a problem. A windmill stands atop a small mound. The entrance to the windmill doubles up as a hole through which a ball will then drop down through a tunnel and plop out onto the green.
Your attempts to hit the ball with just the right pace and direction repeatedly fail. You hit it too hard and the ball canons back off the foot of the windmill. You hit it too soft and the ball apologetically lands back at your feet.
Nothing is working. All the while, the windmill keeps turning, intermittently blocking the entrance.
After what seems like an age, the windmill slows. The gap remains open and you get used to the incline. With unbridled relief, the ball eventually plops through.
Confidence rises. The bunkers don’t seem so big. There doesn’t seem so many obstacles in the way. The pirates still snarl at you but seem less frightening. You steadily move up the leader board.
There are tricky holes ahead, but you seem to be finding your game. It’s not spectacular but it’s increasingly effective.