We`ve been treated to a sign of greater things for our beloved Nottingham Forest, who provided a significant increase in optimism with a 2-0 win against Championship leaders Wolves this weekend.
Just the fourth defeat of the season for the league leaders, the game marked Aitor Karanka`s first in his tenure at the City Ground and provided a boost in the league standings, as we rise to 14th in the table.
There`s a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season, with it likely to be a campaign of consolidation, but the result has taught us some key things ahead of our future under former Middlesbrough boss Karanka.
The Spaniard earned a stellar reputation on Teesside, bringing Boro back to the Premier League, and we can seriously hope that he enjoys similar success in Nottingham- ending our long wait to return to the top-flight.
Forest can overcome the best
Mere weeks after knocking defending champions Arsenal out of the FA Cup with a 4-2 victory at the City Ground, Forest have proved once again that they`re capable of going toe-to-toe with the best and emerging victorious.
Wolves headed into this match on the back of a 13-game unbeaten run, with their last defeat coming in late August to Cardiff, and nobody expected the fierce test they`d face against our side which, once again, is comparable to that FA Cup game.
The key now is finding consistency and putting ourselves amongst the best but the signs of improvement in January are huge.
Karanka already showing defensive impact
During his spell in charge of Middlesbrough, Karanka established a reputation as a manager who would focus on the defensive aspects of the game and would focus on shutting the opposition out- then hitting decisive goals at the other end.
Signs of that style have immediately emerged with Forest, who frustrated Wolves this weekend with an extremely disciplined defensive performance. The hosts had the lion`s share of possession but, crucially, were unable to take advantage.
That`s something that we can look forward to as fans, frustrating the bigger sides on the road and potentially playing with more attacking intent when we welcome sides to the City Ground.
Top-half finish is achievable
After a disappointing first-half to the season, we can look forward with greater optimism and the achievable target of finishing in the top-half of the Championship table is in our sights- and that`s a vast improvement.
Since the turn of the decade, we`ve finished in the top-half just once, back in 2012/13, and the five years since have been difficult. Four consecutive bottom-half finishes have followed but that poor run could end this season.
After the win against Wolves, we`re now eight points behind Leeds United in tenth. That is a significant margin but there`s still 18 matches to play this season, giving us more than enough opportunity to make our mark.