Nottingham Forest v Leeds United: Five-point-gap needs stretching not protecting says Adam Forshaw

THRIVING: Adam Forshaw celebrates Leeds United's late winner at Aston Villa.
THRIVING: Adam Forshaw celebrates Leeds United's late winner at Aston Villa.
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ADAM FORSHAW knows what it takes to win automatic promotion from the Championship to the country’s top flight.

Been there and done that with Middlesbrough in 2016.

The midfielder also knows very well about opening up gaps at the top of the division.

A 1-0 victory at Brentford in January 2016 put top-of-the-table Boro eight points clear of third-placed Hull City and with a game in hand.

Five games without a victory including two defeats followed. Despite picking up six-straight wins in March and April, the Riversiders ultimately sealed automatic promotion by the skin of their teeth on goal difference at Brighton’s expense.

Remembering that experience well, it means Forshaw is determined for his Leeds United side not just to protect the 2018 five-point gap to third but extend it ahead of today’s outing at Nottingham Forest.

Just as in 2015, Forshaw waved farewell to 2018 with his side sat top of the Championship with Leeds three points clear of Norwich City.

Derby County’s dramatic 4-3 success at Carrow Road ensured United maintained their three-point lead with third-placed West Brom only able to close the gap to Leeds by a point through an added time strike in a 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday at The Hawthorns.

The picture is not too dissimilar to the one experienced by Forshaw at Boro at the end of 2015 with the Riversiders ending the year top and four points clear of second-placed Derby - and with a game in hand.

Third-placed Hull were five adrift of Forshaw’s men with another three back to fourth-placed Brighton who were to emerge as the chief threats.

Following their 1-0 win at Brentford in January, Boro were 11-points clear of sixth-placed Brighton who had also played a game more.

Even that advantage almost proved too slender and fuelled by those memories Forshaw is determined to open an even bigger gap at Leeds.

“I remember winning a game for Boro just after the Christmas period and we were eight points clear of third place,” said Forshaw. “It took us until the last game of the season to go up.

“A lot can change between now and the end of the season and hopefully we can make the gap even bigger.

“Saturday’s result just proved that this league is strange, results do happen like this and you have just got to keep working and keep doing your recovering for the next game.

“I think we have got enough experienced heads in the dressing room now to know that we have played in this league for long enough to know that it is a slog in itself.

“This period itself and around Easter is hard work so we have just got to recover and go for the next game as well as you can.”

The notoriously demanding Festive fixture schedule offered Forshaw and company just two full days to recover ahead of today’s clash at The City Ground.

Having began the season with a foot injury and forced to somewhat bide his time, Forshaw has now started United’s last 11 games since handed his opportunity in the 1-1 draw at home to Forest on October 27 with the 27-year-old by and large deployed as Marcelo Bielsa’s holding midfielder with Kalvin Phillips regularly used as a centre-back.

“I am enjoying it,” said Forshaw,

“It’s a different role for me, not really participating as much in the attacking third but helping out, trying to lock out as much as we can when we have good possession.

“It’s a joy giving the ball to the likes of Pablo and young Jack Clarke is doing really well when he comes on.

“I am just trying to contribute as much as I can and help the team win games.”

At the other end of the experience spectrum, Clarke is still awaiting his first start after ten outings as a second-half substitute, all of which have left Forshaw highly impressed.

“He has been fantastic,” said Forshaw.

“He is a typical young winger who does not really think about the game as much.

“He just wants to get at his man and take his man on and it is really refreshing to see.

“As you get older slightly as a player, you take into consideration both sides of the game and managing the game and tactical sides. Young Jack is a breath of fresh air really and all he thinks about is just getting at his man and taking him on. It is brilliant to see and exciting.”