With 11 changes for the First Round of the EFL Cup tie against Bury, Nottingham Forest made life hard for themselves before winning 10-9 on penalties. Antony Hatton witnessed events at the City Ground
On a night when Aitor Karanka chose to make 11 changes, including debuts for new signings Micheal Hefele and Sam Byram as well as a senior debut for academy graduate Ryan Yates, it was always going to be interesting to see how the Reds fared.
In truth they were poor for 88 minutes, doing all their best work at the death and gaining their reward for it. The match, in my opinion, only stressed the value of certain players and the problems Forest will face this season.
Micheal Hefele and Sam Byram settled in quickly and both provided hard-working performances, with Byram given the MotM award. But the stars for me were Matty Cash, Benny Osborn and new keeper Luke Steele.
Steele, forced into action after the sending off of Jordan Smith, looked solid, settled in quickly and will undoubtedly provide adequate cover for first choice Costil Pantilimon. Smith, however, will need to find his confidence again after a night to forget, with his mistake leading to Bury’s goal after just two minutes and then being sent off on the half-hour mark for hacking down Bury’s frontman in a one-on-one.
Matty Cash, as well as popping up unmarked to blast home the rebound from a 93-minute corner, was the catalyst for everything Forest achieved . Chasing down lost causes, geeing up team mates and providing some excitement in an otherwise poor team performance.
The second-half introduction of Osborn and Joe Lolley changed the game and put Bury on the backfoot. Daryl Murphy looked poor all game, winning few headers and showing a lack of movement. And in turn he took the wrath of the fans.
For me though, I left the City Ground happy. Not just at progression in the cup, but at the togetherness and determination showed by the players. A season or two ago we would have fallen away in a game like this and come away empty-handed. But the grit and determination installed by Karanka shone through yet again and the result reflected that.
Just over 8,000 provided a typical City Ground atmosphere, despite the overall poor performance. There was steady improvement on show again. And if the new players look at the likes of Cash, Osborn and Lolley and take the same energy in to games ss they do, Forest will go far this season.
We’ve seen steady improvement defensively from Forest this season, we now need to see that from the strikers too. Bring on the next round.