Aitor Karanka’s Nottingham Forest side responded very well to the lacklustre defeat at Brentford a fortnight ago, and in doing so have given themselves a platform from which to build on.
It’s funny, because the Reds almost got away with an undeserved draw at Brentford, yet in South Wales, they earned a solitary point when they merited all three against Swansea.
Immediately after Forest’s first and only defeat of the Championship season so far, I said that the international break had arrived at the perfect time. And, if you listened to Karanka’s post match interview last Saturday, his comments regarding the time out period vindicate my own sentiments.
The former Real Madrid star was transparent enough to tell BBC Radio Nottingham’s Colin Fray that he’d used the time to speak with his players and gauge their opinions. From a personal standpoint, I was impressed by this because it projected a real team player ethic from one so decorated within the game.
The response from his playing staff was that “they should be more like themselves and increase the intensity levels.”
Say and do are two different entities, but the Nottingham Forest players were true to their word as they returned to competitive action against the Swans in Wales.
Over the 90 minutes it’s fair to say that they were superior to the home side and should have taken all three points. To the neutral, without having watched the game, it would appear to be a good point against solid opposition.
As for the contest itself, the Forest manager wasn’t afraid to ring the changes. Karanka made a whopping five alterations to the side that had struggled so badly at Brentford, with the inclusion of Swiss right back Saidy Janko who made his Reds debut.
The most glaring observation of all was the all English attacking midfield three, made up of Messrs Lolley, Cash and Osborn. I don’t think any Trickies fan would have predicted that the three aforementioned players would be keeping the Portuguese trio on the bench at this stage of the season, certainly not me!
For some supporters this is a worrying facet, that Aitor Karanka is still uncertain of his most favoured XI, and there’s a small element of truth within that scepticism. But before we get carried away, like a laughable minority on social media, it’s mid September and there’s a lot of football to be played.
Forest created a hat-full of decent chances against Swansea and could have easily put the game to bed before the final whistle. And given the catalogue of missed opportunities the fans have been pontificating as to just how and why we failed to hit the target. Some have pointed the finger at Ben Osborn whilst the majority have raised concerns about the £6m man Lewis Grabban.
Normally, I’d be asking the same questions, but having witnessed the malaise at Brentford, my desire was for a significant improvement in performance; and I wasn’t disappointed against Swansea.
Before I’m accused of overlooking the obvious, I’m aware that Grabban is not yet at the races. Some supporters have alluded to his body language and general demeanour since his big money move to the City Ground.
If I’m honest, he’s looked a little uninvolved at times but we all know that he has the ability to score goals at this level. It’s a difficult one to call because he plays in one of two positions that people think they know all about, when in reality, they know very little of, the other being that of a goalkeeper.
I’ve played both positions and I was neither use nor ornament at either! I’m a strong believer that you’re born to be a keeper or a centre forward, and regardless of all the coaching in the world, once you find your mojo, the rest is intrinsic.
All I can say is this; if Grabban’s application levels are satisfactory, the goals will not be far away.
The impressive point against Swansea has not only restored faith among Forest supporters but now provided a platform from which to build upon for Karanka and his many men. We now have three winnable home matches ahead, in the form of Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, and Stoke City in the League Cup.
Whether Nottingham Forest do indeed kick on from their last performance remains to be seen, but I was very impressed by the way that the manager and his players responded during the international break.