Goals from Lewis Grabban and João Carvalho saw Nottingham Forest beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 last night, with the Reds beginning to assert themselves on the pitch. Max Piesley witnessed the action at the City Ground
My first year as a season ticket holder at The City Ground has, thus far, panned out in typical Forest fashion. Early goals, dodgy defending, late equalisers and – importantly – periods of sheer brilliance.
The season up to this point has seen Forest somewhat frustrated. Despite only one loss to Brentford a couple of weeks back, the Reds have struggled to make the most of their opportunities in previous games and could have racked up a few more victories had they done so. Last night’s game against Sheffield Wednesday was, at times, no different.
Forest dominated possession but squandered chances, and our ability to see out a game was put to the test. A few crucial elements, however, came together that demonstrated the progression made by Aitor Karanka’s newly refurbished team as they picked up an excellent three points in a game that could have had a much larger margin of victory, and may prove to be a vital stepping stone in the race to the Premier League.
Forest came out of the blocks quickly, running at Wednesday and carving out a good opportunity down the right flank within the first minute. With João Carvalho for Joe Lolley being the only change from Saturday’s game against Swansea, it was promising to see Karanka providing some consistency within his team selection.
His biggest task this season will be to get these players to gel and he can only do that by curating a consistent starting XI. That being said, you only have to look at the bench to see the strength and quality we have in depth and Forest looked like a team of players who were all hungry to stake their claim and secure their positions.
Despite looking slightly disjointed, you could see what Forest were trying to do and we managed to create a handful of chances in the first quarter. Adlène Guedioura, who in previous games has switched play well to Ben Osborn, misplaced a few passes and, perhaps partly thanks to Storm Ali, sent a few long balls astray. Down the other end of the pitch, the Fox-Hefele partnership was firm as ever and Wednesday were offered very little in the way of concrete chances, despite having an effort ruled offside (and some questionable goalkeeping from Pantilimon).
It was around the 20-minute mark when a ball was flashed into the box and volleyed over by Carvalho that we really switched it up a gear. Forest, perhaps remembering Daryl Murphy was not on the pitch, started to keep the ball on the deck and forged a few good opportunities. Osborn, who had received criticism for much of the first-half for his floaty deliveries, whipped a wicked free-kick into the box and Grabban nodded it home for his first league goal in a Forest shirt. We went into the break with a deserved lead.
Into the second-half and Forest continued in a similar vein. It was becoming more apparent as time went on that these players have been getting to know each other. Saidy Janko, a late but welcome addition, linked up well with Matty Cash down the right and they could have crafted more opportunities together had Wednesday not defended so well. Forest were starting to look less like a group of talented individuals and more like a football team.
Another pairing that caused issues was that of Osborn and Carvalho. It has been remarked that Carvalho is often one step ahead of the opposition and indeed his team mates. This was evident against Wednesday as he frequently danced around defenders and played a couple of menacing through balls to Lewis Grabban. Osborn, however, seems to be forging an understanding with Forest’s record signing and the two were magnificent in midfield. In my opinion, they should be the first two names on the team sheet every week.
This partnership was no less apparent than for Forest’s second goal. Carvalho started the move, playing a cute ball to Osborn inside the box. Osborn, without taking a touch, back-heeled it to Carvalho who swept it past a blue shirt and curled it into the top right. Pick that one out.
I would like to take a moment to comment on Ben Osborn. He was, in my opinion, the best player on the pitch last night. Numerous fans around me however were critical of his every move. This has been evident within the fanbase for a long period of time, not just at games but all over Twitter. Ben is always looking up, trying to create things. He tracks back, takes people on, flies into tackles, wins the ball and keeps it on the ground. He did not stop running last night and bagged himself two assists. When brought on as a substitute against both Birmingham and Brentford his impact was immediate, and I do not understand the consistent scapegoating against him.
It is testament to his ability that Karanka is the latest in a long line of managers to instil their faith in him and he would be sorely missed had we sold him when Gary Rowett came calling. As a football team that has over the years accommodated various journeymen looking for pay-outs, we need to be appreciative of the genuine players who have not just stuck around but also put in excellent performances. That, and he scored against Derby.
It would not be a Forest match had we not conceded a sloppy goal late in the day, but our defence held firm. This back four is the strongest I have seen at Forest in a long, long time. You can only judge a team by their ability to see out games and Forest did just that. A welcome change.
One thing is certain, progress is being made at the City Ground, and four points against Swansea and Sheffield Wednesday is nothing to be sniffed at. We go into the Rotherham game high on confidence and slowly but surely building some long-awaited consistency. Give this team more time and we will cause serious damage to someone’s goal difference.