Nottingham Forest got their play-off push back on track with a 4-2 win over league leaders Leeds United
The Reds had previously been on a run of five games without a win, with defeats against Preston North End, Queens Park Rangers and Millwall putting Aitor Karanka’s position under major scrutiny, according to reports.
In truth, Forest were still not at their best against Marcelo Bielsa’s men. A couple of major decisions went in Forest’s favour, something that has not been the case in recent weeks.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Forest to secure the win after an intense festive period, and when it was announced that Lewis Grabban had been ruled out through injury, many people feared the worst.
Daryl Murphy was the man presented with the task of troubling the likes of Pontus Jansson in the Leeds defence, something he was able to do for the entirety of the match.
Showing his experience
The 35-year-old striker provided a reminder that Grabban is not the only viable striking option that Karanka has at his disposal.
Murphy made a menace of himself all game and got his reward with around 20 minutes to play as he headed home Ben Osborn’s corner to complete a dramatic turnaround for Forest.
Many fans were critical of the striker after the 1-0 defeat against Millwall at the weekend, with some suggesting that Forest are significantly weaker when he is in the team.
In a 4-2-3-1 system, it is crucial that the lone striker is able to hold up the ball effectively to bring the other forward players into play, and it could be argued that Murphy is the perfect striker for this system.
The ex-Sunderland and Newcastle man may be long past his best, but this performance proved that he still has a lot to offer at this level.
Karanka has always made it clear that he is a big fan of the Irishman and that he has a role to play this season, which suggests that he may not be in the market for a new striker this month.
With more winnable league fixtures against Reading, Bristol City and Wigan Athletic on the horizon, Karanka will have a tough decision to make on whether to stick with Murphy or bring Grabban straight back into the starting line-up once he returns from injury.