Nottingham Forest's set piece defending a big concern to Championship hopes
Nottingham Forest crashed back down to earth following their excellent away win at Middlesbrough, and in doing so raised questions about the fragility of their defensive spine.
Norwich City took all three points, and deservedly so at the City Ground last Saturday. Everything looked very rosy for the home side, when after just four minutes Lewis Grabban smashed home his sixth goal in as many league games.
Had Joe Lolley’s effort hit the net and not the crossbar soon after, maybe things would have panned out differently for the Reds?
However, the tide began to turn well before the half time whistle as the Canaries began to take control. You got the sense that it was fast turning into a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show, as collectively Forest capitulated all over the park.
The prominent area of concern for me and a fair few other supporters for that matter, was the defence when defending set pieces.
It’s so easy to dissect every little anomaly when we lose a match, and as I stated last week, us supporters are too knee-jerk at times when it comes to condemnation of the Forest performances.
When all’s said and done, Aitor Karanka deployed the same system as he did in the Middlesbrough game and but for the odd forced omission, roughly the same side. Take into account the suspension of Jack Robinson, the fitness level of Michael Dawson after his recent injury, and that the midfield five were unchanged also.
Therefore, we mustn’t be too fickle and bite the hand that fed us so wholesomely just over a week ago.
But, I do understand the frustrations of our supporters, who incidentally, paid their money to provide a capacity attendance which was the largest for four years. Despite the brilliant support and the blazing October sunshine it was a day to forget for all concerned.
It was obvious to the majority in attendance that set pieces are becoming something of a problem for Forest. Millwall’s ale house tactics highlighted our inability to deal with aerial bombardment a few weeks ago, but against Norwich the problem seemed to have escalated somewhat.
We must start by looking at the goalkeeper, who isn’t playing well it has to be said. Costel Pantilmon doesn’t look confident in his all round game and despite the backing of his manager, may well benefit from the competition of Luke Steele. I don’t think Pantilimon is either consistently terrible or brilliant but we cannot be too sentimental in our quest for the Premier League.
In front of whichever keeper that Karanka selects, it’s imperative to have someone like Michael Dawson.
His impact of late, albeit intermittent, has proved how influential he can be at Championship level. Despite the fact that Michael Hefele and Danny Fox have performed well this season, teams are working out that they are beatable in the air.
It’s a hard one to call because Fox has been the stand out defender thus far, so will the manager retain him or Hefele to accommodate Dawson?
Throw Tobias Figueiredo into the equation and you have some healthy combinations to hand.
I’m certainly not going down the route of ramming team selections down the manager’s throat, or personally attacking any of our players whose form has escaped them of late. The purpose of this piece, as always, is merely to provide an opinion based on what I’ve been watching.
The Championship is such an evenly contested division, but if Forest can toughen up from set pieces, I’ve no doubts that the play offs will be an achievable goal come season’s end.