If the headline above has you feeling slightly confused… well, you should be used to that sensation by now as a Nottingham Forest supporter.

Many are probably still trying to fathom what happened against Aston Villa on Wednesday night.

And for good reason.

Everything had started so positively.

The customary dropping of the team sheet an hour before kick-off had delivered a positive response.

Joao Carvalho starting for the first time under Martin O’Neill.

Karim Ansarifard starting for the first time full stop.

Pele given another go in the middle of the park.

All of the pieces were there.

And then, a goal from Jack Colback inside three minutes!

Puzzle

(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

As is often the case with Forest, though, having all of the right pieces does not necessarily mean that the puzzle is completed.

For the Reds, one plus one can often equal three.

Goals against in this instance against Villa.

Early optimism quickly eroded on the banks of the Trent, with another disjointed display further highlighting the infuriating inconsistency of a side without back-to-back wins since September.

This, in a roundabout sort of way, is where we get to the aforementioned headline.

Defeat on home soil to Villa delivered more questions than it did answers.

And chief among those remains: Who should be filling the 11 starting berths?

To narrow the focus to just one of those spots, there is some debate as to who should be given the nod at right-back.

Tendayi Darikwa was asked to do that job against Villa.

In what was his 29th appearance of the season.

Threat

 

Across those outings, the Nottingham native has encapsulated Forest’s campaign as a whole.

Some good, some not so.

His most recent performance slips, rather unfortunately, into the latter of those two categories.

Darikwa was far from being the only one to cross that divide, but his is a place which could come under threat.

To repeat, could come under threat.

Sam Byram, fresh from an outing for Forest’s U23 side, is working his way back towards full fitness.

Reds legend Garry Birtles has said in the Nottingham Post of the West Ham loanee, who has been out of action since August: “He might play a part but Martin is in the business of picking the XI to win each match now, not easing loan signings back in to get match fit.

“We are on the home stretch now where every result has immediate implications.

“Byram can’t go out on loan to get fitness – he’s already on loan! Forest aren’t in a position to help him get games unless he’s ready.

“He needs a pre-season, so anything Forest can get out of him this term in the promotion race would be a bonus. Patience is needed.”

Valid

(Photo by Rachel Holborn – CameraSport via Getty Images)

All valid points.

Birtles is correct in stating that Byram should not be rushed back.

The European Cup winner could, however, be questioned when suggesting that he should be overlooked due to a lack of minutes.

Byram is a 25-year-old with Premier League experience and has not forgotten how to play football.

Yes, he will be rusty and will probably hit the fabled ‘wall’ at some stage if he does indeed return.

That may be a risk worth taking.

Darikwa, for all of his qualities, can hardly be considered to have nailed down the right-back berth.

Neither can Saidy Janko.

Byram, in the admittedly fleeting minutes he got early in the campaign, appeared capable of succeeding where others have failed.

And with Forest still clinging to promotion dreams by their fingernails, a few gambles at this point may be more right than wrong.