Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka praised the spirit of his side after an 86th minute penalty by striker Lewis Grabban secured them a battling 1-0 win over Rotherham United.
It was a closely fought affair with both sides struggling for openings and it looked like it would be a goalless draw only for Ben Osborn to go down inside the area after a clumsy tackle by Ryan Williams. Lewis Grabban stepped up and sent Marek Rodak the wrong way to secure the three points.
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Speaking after the game, Karanka claimed his side were not at their best but was delighted with their attitude.
“We haven’t played to our best,” said the former Real Madrid assistant.
“It was a very difficult game. Rotherham are a good team with a good manager. I knew it was going to be a tough game because it was the third game in a week for us, with one day less than them to rest.
“It’s difficult to create something when you are tired. I put Ben Osborn in the middle because I wanted to be more offensive. I went to three at the back because I wanted to be more offensive.
“When you have the desire to win the game, the opportunities will come.
“The main thing for me is we showed a completely different team spirit to what we showed against Brentford three weeks ago. We fought for every ball. We competed, we demanded of each other, we supported each other.”
Before the recent international break, Karanka spoke of the importance of that time with his squad and after making it seven points out of nine this week, he believes his side are reaping the reward for a productive fortnight.
“I said before that the international break would be important,” said Karanka who celebrated his 45th birthday this week.
“In those two weeks, we had time to work on the pitch and we had time to work off the pitch. I had meetings with each player to get to know them better and we also had a group meeting. The players now know we have an opportunity to do something very nice this season.”
Lewis Grabban scored his second goal in his last two games after netting in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday and Karanka claims his striker, a £6 million summer arrival from Bournemouth, is the best marksman in the league.
“For me, he’s the best striker in the Championship,” said Karanka post-match.
“I’m very pleased for him because a week a go he hadn’t scored.
“He’s a good player, he’s got a lot of experience and he’ll help us going forward. That’s the reason why he is here.”