TWO things became clear in my mind after Saturday’s swashbuckling 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest.

First, despite the reservations of some, there was proof and confirmation that Town are on the road to a brighter future under Paul Lambert.

I know from comments left on my stories that not everyone has been convinced by the Scot.

Understandably, those people point to the win ratio since he took over (admittedly awful) and suggest little progress has been made.

However, after such a one-sided and dominant second-half performance at the weekend, my view is that those claims hold little water.

Of course, Town could and should have won.

The fact they failed to add a second goal confirms what everyone already knows – that there’s room for improvement.

But to play well, with freedom and flair, and genuinely entertain is a huge step in the right direction – poles apart from some of the dross we’ve witnessed not just this season but in the last four or five years.

Happier, more successful times are on the horizon and I’m looking forward to next season already.

It’s going to be a very different experience, albeit at a lower level, and far more enjoyable.

Secondly, Saturday’s game crystallized my personal choice of player-of-the-year.

For me, the winner should be… Matt Pennington.

The field is open and sadly not for positive reasons.

Few, if any, have truly shone and emerged with credit.

It’s one of those years when ten supporters would probably advocate four, five or even six contenders.

However, Pennington has the edge.

He’s been the most impressive, reliable performer since joining on loan from Everton in August.

He’s made mistakes, of course, and I can think of goals that stemmed from his mistakes.

Everyone has been guilty of that this season, though, and it’s those errors – individual and collective – that explain why Town are rock bottom and heading down to League One.

Nevertheless, Pennington has been the most consistent – a generally dependable mainstay of Town’s defence.

He was superb again against Forest, pretty much nullifying the threat of former Town star Daryl Murphy and heroically lunging to block a goal-bound effort from Jack Colback.

For me, Pennington is the standout performer but I’m sure others will have other ideas.

Another loanee, Trevoh Chalobah, has been a regular this season but blown too hot and cold for my liking (although he was exceptional against Forest).

For every flash of brilliance, there’s been a wayward pass or unforced error.

Gwion Edwards also deserves a shout.

Having started the season so impressively, he’s now finishing it with a flourish.

However, there was a big chunk of the campaign when he dropped both out of form and the team.

I like him a lot but he wouldn’t get my vote on this occasion.

Nor would Alan Judge.

Don’t get me wrong, the Irishman has been a revelation since joining in January.

He’s exactly the type of creative player I love watching.

His set-pieces are a weapon and when he’s on his game, the team generally play well.

However, he hasn’t been here long enough to be crowned star man.

Cole Skuse is usually nailed on for a start and has been a linchpin of the team for years.

You could call him an unsung hero, screening the defence, breaking up play and doing the ugly side of the game.

But he’s not forward-thinking enough for me and offers little going forward, unlike Chalobah.

Other regulars – serial POTY winner Bartosz Bialkowski, skipper Luke Chambers and Jonas Knudsen – are out of the running on this occasion and so, for me, the top man is Pennington.

A shining light in a struggling team, a young talent with a bright future and someone who would be a truly deserving winner.