Steve Corry’s Forest Blog: Warburton’s bold selection vindicated

Forest boss Mark Warburton. Pic by Mark Fear.
Forest boss Mark Warburton. Pic by Mark Fear.

Forest pulled off an unlikely victory over high-flying Huddersfield Town, mainly down to the self-belief of Mark Warburton.

Prior to kick-off on Saturday I noticed a high volume of concerned supporters on the various social media outlets. They were mainly aimed at the team selection and all said pretty much the same thing. On paper, the starting line-up looked too weak to topple the side currently lying in third place in the Championship table.

I predicted a draw at very best and then a victory against Blackburn in the Good Friday six-pointer - what transpired was something extraordinary though. Forest absolutely dominated the Yorkshire outfit from start to finish, and in doing so produced their best display of the season.

In all fairness, Huddersfield have all but given up on automatic promotion and are focusing on the play-offs. The same can be said for Reading, who were hit for seven by Norwich on the very same day.

The end of the season throws up some massively unpredictable results and scenarios, I said a few weeks back that is the reason I consider the winter months to be the ‘business end’ of the season as opposed to the late Spring.

Britt Assombalonga was dropped to the bench and this alone was enough to create scepticism from the supporters. Just imagine if we’d lost to the Terriers on Saturday; we’d see a barrage of criticism toward the new manager for doing so.

Throw in the complete disregard for Ross McCormack also, and you’d have plenty of fuel for the masses to burn. Foresight and hindsight are real opposites and it was great to see that the team had enough belief in their gaffer to produce such an accomplished display.

Amid the searing heat, Forest took the game to their opponents and created chance after chance. Joe Worrall was denied a first career goal thanks to some desperate defending on the Huddersfield line.

The opening goal came soon after and was a throwback to the late seventies as Eric Lichaj finished off a slick passing move by tapping into an empty net.

The build-up involving Clough, Ward and Brereton was excellent and proved that football can be so simple if you let the ball do the work.

It brought back memories of Archie Gemmill’s goal at the very same end against Arsenal, on a somewhat muddier surface. Hats off to Lichaj for busting a gut to be in the right place at the right time, despite being dropped last week, his attitude cannot be questioned.

The Reds created chance after chance and but for some great goal keeping and desperate defending, they could have been home and dry by the break.

Since Warburton took over at the City Ground many have questioned his inability to sustain a tempo for the whole 90 minutes, a fair assessment when you look at the difference between first and second half performances in the games against Derby, Preston, and Wolves.

However, his Forest side seemed to improve in the second-half on Saturday.

As the sun began to fade, the tricky trees certainly did not and went further ahead through Jamie Ward; another player who has been rejuvenated under the new manager. Ward burst through the midfield and put the game to bed with a powerful strike at the near post.

I said that Chris Cohen would have a huge impact on his return to the Forest midfield, and alongside David Vaughan he has done exactly that. I wasn’t keen on two holding midfielders and never have been but it does seem to be working with these two in attendance.

It would be remiss not to highlight the massive influence that Ben Brereton had on this game and the relegation battle in general. He has been an absolute revelation and will be a major factor in our survival, should that happen. At 17 years of age, he’s only going to get better and better.

We must now go for the jugular against Blackburn on Friday and effectively relegate them in doing so. It’s a six-pointer that would almost guarantee our own survival and provide us with some real optimism for the first time in many years as we prepare for another Championship season.