NOTTINGHAM Forest face Sheffield United tonight knowing an emphatic win could propel them back into the automatic promotion places.
But rather than sporting the self-satisfied smile which befits someone who has fashioned one of the Championship’s most exciting teams, Billy Davies’ face will instead be creased into a grimace.
Confrontations, not congratulations, are what make the irascible Scot tick.
Still smarting from Saturday’s defeat by Hull City, Davies can be expected to cut an especially animated figure on the Bramall Lane touchline.
“I’m certain Billy is going to react strongly to that,” Michael Doyle, the United midfielder, said. “They’ll be coming here looking to bounce back straight away.
“But, at the same time, they’ll know they’re going to be in for a tough time. We’re fighting and giving everything.”
Forest, still fifth in the Championship table despite seeing Nigel Pearson’s side end their 36-match unbeaten run at home, start this evening’s game as strong favourites.
United, narrowly beaten by Portsmouth last weekend, are 23rd and without a win in 15.
Micky Adams, Davies’ managerial rival, welcomes centre-half Shane Lowry back from suspension with Nick Montgomery and Joe Mattock also poised for recalls.
Given their well-documented defensive problems, United will not relish the prospect of facing Forest’s quick-silvered attack.
But there are weaknesses in the opposition’s armoury that Adams - whose record in South Yorkshire reads ‘W0 D4 L9’ - can exploit.
A recent setback at the hands of Scunthorpe, coupled with draws against fellow strugglers Preston North End and Middlesbrough, have raised suspicions that the momentum which saw Forest climb from the lower reaches of the table to the brink of promotion has now stalled.
“I feel as if there’ll be a reaction from us too,” said Doyle.
“We were really disappointed to lose at Portsmouth because we pegged them back for long periods.
“There are positives we can take though because Pompey are a good side.
“What we’ve got to do is get our noses in front and then look to hang in from there.”
United’s vulnerability at set-pieces once again cost them dear at Fratton Park with Hermann Hreidarsson stabbing home from close range after David Cotterill’s corner had fallen kindly in the box.
Doyle admitted: “It’s very, very frustrating.
“It’s not like teams are cutting us wide open.
“The problems are at things like free-kicks and corners. Believe me, we’re doing everything we can to try and find a solution.
“It’s even more annoying because we’ve got a good physical presence in the team. We’re strong in that department.
“We made a mistake (against Portsmouth) with the second phase ball.
“We actually stopped it (the corner) coming in the begin with.
“But then we just didn’t seem to react and their guy did.
“Maybe that’s something we’ve got to be more aware of. Be better at doing.
“Not just getting in there first but also, if someone gets a touch on the ball, predicting how it is going to bounce and where it might land.”
“It’s something we’re very aware of,” added Doyle.
“Very conscious of. We know we’ve got to stop conceding like that.”