Strength in depth will be key to Nottingham Forest's season, says our columnist Steve Corry

Rafa Mir (right) takes on Derby's Matt Clarke on Tuesday night. Photo by Jez Tighe.
Rafa Mir (right) takes on Derby's Matt Clarke on Tuesday night. Photo by Jez Tighe.

Nottingham Forest produced three excellent results within just six days, proof that the club finally has strength in depth.

Despite being outplayed for long spells at Charlton Athletic, who in my opinion, manufactured the best passing football of the season so far, Forest dug out an invaluable point at the Valley.

Similarly to the game away at Leeds, Sabri Lamouchi’s get out of jail card was the strength at his disposal from the substitutes bench.

Like most Nottingham Forest supporters, I never envisaged the win at Craven Cottage against a well-fancied Fulham outfit.

Although, I tweeted just before the kick-off that, despite the excellence within Fulham’s ranks, I couldn’t see them playing anywhere near as well as Charlton had three days earlier.

Despite not being party to the dressing room conversations at the City Ground I’d bet that having nullified the Addicks, the lads took to the field on Saturday without an ounce of fear or trepidation.

The way Forest went about the win was even more impressive, from the 11-man passing move for Lewis Grabban’s early goal to the single-mindedness of the gaffer to give Brice Samba a league debut in a contest of such magnitude.

That, for me is a huge insight into the world of Sabri Lamouchi; self-assured and in no uncertain terms letting everybody know that the buck stops with him.

Yes, he’s a coach, meaning that there’s a certain degree of liaison with director of football and so on. However, it’s clear to see that he has a philosophy and vision to accommodate 25 or so of his squad in whatever way he sees fit.

In last week’s piece I paid homage to Sabri getting the best out of Grabban in the lone striker role, and the hit man continued with aplomb last Saturday.

My own personal take on this mini purple patch for the 31-year-old is down to the plethora of service from the wings. Grabban isn’t blessed with pace, therefore balls through the centre are not his gambit of preference. If you replay the Forest goals scored thus far, you’ll notice that the majority have come from wide areas, including corner kicks.

And so, to the visit of Derby County in the League Cup on Tuesday, a game that no matter what side we fielded, I just couldn’t see us losing.

There were a staggering 18 changes made between both sides for the tie, but this is where Nottingham Forest’s strength in depth was inextricably evident.

All over the field of play, it felt for the first time in a long time that this so-called second eleven were better than the first-choice sides of the previous five seasons. The likes of Yuri Ribeiro, Brennan Johnson and John Bostock stepped up to the plate and performed admirably, whilst Albert Adomah, who’d started on the bench against Fulham, waltzed not only back into the side but past three Rams defenders to supply Joe Lolley with a rare headed goal. Width again!

In contrast, Derby reminded me of the Reds during the Fawaz years, questionable activity at board room level and a roster of playing staff that look average at best. The two clubs must meet each other twice more so I’m certainly not going to give it large at such an early stage of the season.

The tangible difference going forward is that Nottingham Forest have almost two decent players competing for every position, which is a situation I’ve not witnessed at the club for a long time.

As I’ve just alluded to, it’s still very early in what’s our 21st season outside the top flight, but if the players in question continue to challenge each other for a place in the starting eleven each week, it bodes well for the rest of the campaign.