After two unexpected defeats at the hands of Wigan Athletic and Hull City, a positive result was an absolute must on the Reds first return to Kenilworth Road in 12 years. And Sabri Lamouchi must take huge credit for a disciplined game plan that saw his side shoot back into the play-off places.
The gaffer’s decision to replace João Carvalho with Ryan Yates worked well, as the academy graduate asserted himself solidly in the middle of the park.
The fact that Yates has only amassed 120 minutes of Championship football this season, makes a mockery of those who argue that Carvalho is still getting back to his best following injury.
Both players were sidelined at a similar period in pre-season but have projected differing levels of application on their return to fitness.
As I’ve been saying since the season began, there is much strength in depth at Nottingham Forest.
Yates’s performance is testament to that statement when you consider the impact that Samba Sow has had on the side prior to his injury. So, regardless of whether the Malian is fit or not to face the Rams, in my opinion, we have enough midfield steel to win the battle on the day.
Another recent absentee is skipper Michael Dawson, who has been a rock since returning to the club from Hull City. But again, should he not be ready in time for the local derby, Lamouchi has enough at disposal to shut out the opposition. Joe Worrall continues to impress and improve whilst the likes of Chema and Tobias Figueiredo haven’t done much wrong when selected.
As I alluded to at the outset, the win at Luton was vital going into Saturday’s clash. Football is a game of habits; had the Reds unthinkably gone into the Derby match off the back of three straight defeats, they could have been sitting ducks. However, the victory triggered the rejuvenation of Joe Lolley and saw a return to the score sheet for Lewis Grabban, both of whom could well be instrumental against Derby County.
The team from the wrong end of the A52 are having a mini revival of late, winning three of their last five league games. So, as per usual, it’s beautifully poised, as the two clubs once managed by Brian Clough, go to war for the 106th time in all competitions.
If I had to stick my neck on the block and predict the outcome of Saturday’s clash, I’d be bold enough to call a home win. I just feel that our manager has been tactically astute this season and that we’ve earned our luck at times too.
Take the Luton game for instance, where Sabri Lamouchi’s men counter-attacked their opposition time after time at pace; a tactic of the late Brian Clough on many an occasion. And as for luck, the injuries to Dawson and Sow have occurred during an international break and a postponement.
I couldn’t give a hoot that Forest only had 30 per cent possession at Kenilworth Road because possession doesn’t win games, but goals do, and we scored more than Luton in their own back yard. As for the post match comments by their manager Graeme Jones, belittling Nottingham Forest’s game plan; well, Hatters gonna hate!