It’s second against third in the Championship, with a home win guaranteeing the Cherries a place in the top flight whereas an away win gives Forest the advantage heading into the final day
As an isolated game, Bournemouth’s 2-1 win at the City Ground back in August was far from spectacular.
A goal in either half from David Brooks, who would later be shown a red card, and Phillip Billing saw Scott Parker’s side edge a typically-tight Championship contest against Nottingham Forest. It would prove to be Parker’s first league win as Cherries’ boss having made the surprise decision to jump ship and leave Fulham earlier that summer.
It would be the first of 23 victories in the Championship this season for Bournemouth. Nine months on and a repeat of that outcome to deliver win number 24 will guarantee Parker’s men join his old club in the Premier League next season. However, in as big a regular season clash as the Championship has seen in the past 20 years, defeat will leave the Cherries staring at the playoffs, and put Forest in pole position for second spot.
A home win sees Bournemouth go up whilst a draw maintains their three-point buffer heading into the final day. An away win however would see Forest overtake them for the first time this season, with just 90 minutes of the season to play, due to a superior goal difference.
Showing no hint of nerves ahead of a monumental meeting, Parker says that the “process-driven” mentality of his players leaves him in confident mood. “We have the opportunity – a win gets us promoted,” said Parker. “What we have done throughout this season has been very process-driven and very clear-minded about what we need to do and how we need to go about things.
“That’s not going to change between now and Tuesday night. That’s going to stay the same and we are going to try and go and execute and try to get the win. This team has shown me over large parts of this year that when they need to step up, they have stepped up many a time. Tuesday night is the first time this season, after all the hard work we’ve done, we have an opportunity of getting promoted.”
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Bournemouth were among the promotion favourites for many when assessing the runners and riders in pre-season, yet Forest were far from that particular conversation.
A disappointing 17th-placed finish in 2020-21 was followed with an even more under-par showing in the early stages of this season. With just one point garnered from their opening seven games – representing the club’s worst start in more than a century – Chris Hughton was given the chop in September.
Since then his replacement, Steve Cooper, has worked wonders. The team were bottom of the pile upon his arrival but their transformation since then has been magnificent.
Forest have been revitalised under the ex-Swansea boss, changing formation and adopting a more proactive, attacking playing style, offering freedom to young Welsh sensation Brennan Johnson and creative forward Philip Zinckernagel, on loan from Watford. They have shot up the table and in 2022, losing just twice in the league.
Additionally, rather than proving a distraction, their barnstorming run to the FA Cup quarter-finals enhanced their promotion credentials with famous wins over Arsenal and Leicester along the way. Academy-reared stars such as Joe Worrall, Ryan Yates and £20million-rated Johnson have caught the eye, along with standout loan players like Djed Spence and James Garner hitting top form.
The feel-good factor is firmly back at Forest, bidding to end a 23-year absence from the top flight.
Whilst Parker appears to be listening to his head, Cooper is almost certainly listening to his heart. “We are so looking forward to this game. We’re excited about it, we’re focused and we’re ready for it. It cannot come quick enough,” he admitted on the eve of the match.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, we want to play our way. It doesn’t always work and we’ve had some lows as well, but the intent never changes. We want to aim to be the best team and aim to do it our way.”