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Championship: Bournemouth & Nottingham Forest prepare for promotion showdown

Brennan Johnson, Steve Cooper, Scott Parker and Dominic Solanke (left to right)
Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson (far left) and Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke (far right) are sure to play a key role in Tuesday’s game

Bournemouth head coach Scott Parker and Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper have called for continuity from their sides before Tuesday’s meeting between the Championship promotion rivals.

With two games to go the Cherries are second, three points clear of Forest – who will move above them with victory.

However, a win for Parker’s side would see them back in the Premier League.

“I want us to stick to exactly what we’ve done throughout this year,” he told BBC Radio Solent.

“Let’s eradicate any ‘what ifs’ and any pressure that might be escalating around this game – it’s the same for Forest, they’re coming needing a result as well.

“The opportunity is there for us – it’s an opportunity for the first time this year, after the hard work that this team have put in, to try and get into the Premier League and that’s all you ask for.”

Bournemouth, who were beaten by Brentford in last season’s play-off semi-finals, go into the crunch match on a six-game unbeaten run – including four draws – and won comfortably at Blackburn on Saturday.

However, Forest’s 5-1 thrashing of Swansea was a ninth win in 10 for the Reds and means their goal difference is now one better than their hosts’ on Tuesday.

“You live for these moments,” said Cooper, following Saturday’s triumph at the City Ground.

“Nothing needs to change, if anything we need to do it even better.

“I said to the players a few days ago, from now until the end of the Hull game we’re not doing anything different – nothing different – we’re still in the middle of that period so we stick to the plan, we stay on task – nothing to derail us and the game can’t come quick enough.”

‘They’ve been battering a lot of teams’

While Bournemouth’s 30-goal striker Dominic Solanke has attracted most of the headlines this season, there has been a strong supporting cast behind him that have kept the Cherries right up there.

That includes Danish midfielder Philip Billing, who reached 10 Championship goals for the campaign with a double at Ewood Park on Saturday.

Asked about the possibility of promotion, he told BBC Solent: “It’s a nice feeling but they’re on an unbelievable run at the minute, they’ve been battering a lot of teams recently.

“We have to respect Forest because they’re a decent side with good players – they’re on a good unbeaten run so we have to be aware. But I back us, that’s for sure.”

Rewind to September and Nottingham Forest were bottom of the table with just one point from seven games, leading to the dismissal of Chris Hughton, but former Swansea and England youth boss Cooper has overseen a complete transformation in fortunes at the City Ground.

Wing-back Djed Spence, 21, and forward Brennan Johnson, 20, have been the poster-boys but January acquisition Sam Surridge is now making a name for himself.

The striker has five goals in four games, including a weekend hat-trick, and is particularly relishing the Bournemouth game – back at the club where he started his career.

“It’s absolutely massive – to be involved in it is just brilliant,” he told BBC Nottingham.

“For all the years obviously Forest have struggled and maybe not got to where the club expected – now is just an absolutely amazing moment for the players and the fans.

“We’re just gonna keep pushing and hopefully do everyone proud.”

Returns of Cook and Surridge add ‘jeopardy’ for Cherries – analysis

BBC Radio Solent’s Bournemouth commentator Kris Temple:

Bournemouth’s management and players told us that all was calm in-house before the Blackburn win on Saturday. There’s no doubt though that plenty of those connected with the club went into the weekend with a few nerves jangling.

But the win at Ewood Park, and more importantly the nature of it, has put the Cherries into a very strong position to finish the promotion job.

Of course, Forest are absolutely flying, and the Vitality Stadium meeting is set up breathtakingly.

The form of Bournemouth academy product Sam Surridge for Forest adds another layer to the jeopardy, with Steve Cooper getting the best out of a player that gave absolutely everything for Bournemouth, but for whom it never quite clicked on the south coast.

Former Cherries captain Steve Cook was never favoured by Scott Parker, before he was allowed to move to Forest in January. He, too, will probably find it a little strange in coming back to what has been his only real previous footballing home.

While a draw is by no means a disaster for Bournemouth, fans will expect Parker to send his side out to get over the the line with a win. The only way the game could be more excitingly poised is if it was the final game of this most competitive of seasons.

BBC Radio Nottingham’s Forest commentator Colin Fray:

Forest arrive in Bournemouth amidst a wave of euphoria the club hasn’t seen the like of for more than 20 years.

Not since Pierre van Hooijdonk and Kevin Campbell were hammering goals in from all angles to lift the Reds to the top-flight under Dave Bassett in 1998 have Forest looked so dominant.

Hundreds of fans gathered at the training ground merely to see the team coach off to the south coast in a haze of red smoke flares – such is the passion and the belief amongst a crowd-base European Cup-winning captain John McGovern recently described as the noisiest he’s ever known on Trentside.

Yet amidst the furore, within the camp there remains a calm focus. A focus purely on the next game, with no thought of what it might mean – the consequences if they win or lose.

It’s a philosophy which has seen Steve Cooper’s men rise from bottom of the league to third – with the highest number of wins in any season since that 97-98 side – and which has inspired the players to produce their best time after time.

Nine wins out of 10, thrilling football, wonderful goals, solidity at the back, and with a willingness to go forward and entertain in any circumstance.

It’s a heck of a ride for Forest fans – unprecedented for many – and with a play-off place already assured from a season which looked like 21st might represent a decent finish, it’s a ride everyone’s enjoying.

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