Aitor Karanka deserves huge credit for masterminding a brilliant 2-0 victory away at high-flying Middlesbrough, not just for the magnitude of the result but for silencing the knee jerk reaction fans, which includes me.
Let’s rewind to the final whistle at home to Millwall last week. Forest had thrown away a 2-0 lead and been fortunate not to have lost when all’s said and done. Despite still being a point off the play-off places at that precise moment and having only suffered one defeat in all competitions, there was a general consensus of disdain towards the Nottingham Forest manager.
But, the Spaniard didn’t pander to the desperate proposals of the supporters; instead he did what the best managers of all do and enforced his own tactical changes ahead of the Middlesbrough, and on nobody’s terms but his own.
Aitor made a staggering five changes ahead of the Middlesbrough clash, and it’s fair to say that a lot of eyebrows were raised when he did so.
A large number of NFFC fans voiced their concerns on social media prior to the game, with the majority aiming their discontent at the selection of Costel Pantilimon, who had an absolute nightmare against Millwall in the previous match. Pantilimon’s performance in the mid week game was indeed worthy of criticism, but didn’t warrant the vile and degrading torrents that were fired in his direction. The giant Romanian has neither been exceptional nor woeful on the whole this season; in my opinion he’s been pretty average. Regardless, our supporters must learn channel their frustrations in the right manner and not go down the route of making it personal.
Hardly anyone gave Forest a chance at Middlesbrough last Saturday, especially when they saw the team sheet. I had my reservations when I saw that Tendayi Darikwa had replaced Saidy Janko and that the holding midfield pair would be Watson and Colback. But, all of the above played well and proved me wrong, whilst nullifying one of the Championship favourites in the process.
Even more impressive, was how Karanka’s men coped with losing Michael Dawson before half time.
Having made so many bold changes, Karanka deserves huge praise as collectively, the new additions all interlinked to provide real balance all over the park.
Take for instance Daryl Murphy, he worked tirelessly and had a big hand in Joe Lolley’s stunning opener. Watch the replay and you’ll notice how the big Irishman drives into ten yards of space with his first touch, in doing so, immediately putting three defenders on the back foot.
As for Lolley, well he was simply unplayable and for my money has been the star performer of the campaign so far.
Nottingham Forest now sit in the play-off places as we head into the second international break, with a record of just one defeat in 15 matches.
Although it’s not been the dominant march to the summit that we all hoped for, you’d be hard pressed to say that the manager isn’t doing a good job.
And where Karanka is concerned, I think we supporters, myself included, must learn to trust the guy a lot more. Regardless of the odd derailment from time to time, our manager always seems to get us back on track.