Forest finally shine in a Pride Park derby
For the first time in four seasons Nottingham Forest can be proud of their performance away at Derby County.
Having attended the previous three encounters at Pride Park I’d been appalled by the lack of application from my beloved Reds.
Hence the reason why I’d already made a conscious decision not to put myself through it for a fourth consecutive time.
I can take defeat at the hands of our bitter rivals, but not I can’t condone surrender.
But the current Forest side are made of sterner stuff under the management of Aitor Karanka and they performed gallantly under real adversity on Monday evening.
Even though the club have a decent level of cover in the centre back positions, injuries and suspensions have left us somewhat decimated of late.
I wrongly surmised that Michael Dawson would make a shock return to the fray against Derby, so when the matchday pairing of Michael Hefele and Jack Robinson was announced I knew we would be up against it.
To say that Karanka had to reshuffle the side is an understatement, and the inclusion of Saidy Janko at left back was brave deployment by the gaffer in a game of such magnitude.
It allowed Ben Osborn to play further up the park in his natural habitat but also proved that Aitor isn’t afraid to make big decisions when required.
Between the 10th and 35th minute of the game the ghost of Christmas past was rearing its ugly head in the form of Derby’s domination, I feared the worst as Forest were being out-fought in a similar manner to that of the previous seasons.
However, I was immensely impressed by their resilience in the 10 minutes prior to the interval as they steadied themselves and began to fight back.
As per usual in a game as big as this one, there were incidents galore, one of which was Derby’s appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Keith Stroud.
Almost every Forest fan I’ve spoken with agrees that a spot kick should have been awarded and I certainly wouldn’t have any complaints had that been the outcome.
Then came the possible red card incidents, firstly Fikayo Tomori’s twin footed lunge at Joao Carvalho and then the blatant elbow to Ben Osborn’s head by Jayden Bogle.
Remarkably, Mr Stroud deemed neither incident worthy of a sending-off.
I can only assume that Tomori was spared due to the fact that Carvalho pulled out of the imminent collision at the last minute.
As for Bogle’s elbow offence, just like the penalty shout, Stroud called it horribly wrong.
The Derby full back led with his right arm and could have inflicted serious injury upon his opponent.
Whenever I see such passages of play, my blood runs cold as I remember the horrific injuries sustained by Tottenham’s Gary Mabbutt after a reckless elbow from Wimbledon’s John Fashanu.
The game ebbed and flowed as the full time statistics proved, but I was so enthused by the attitude of the Forest side as they continuously took the game to their opponents, regardless of a patchwork team sheet.
There were so many good performances on the night by the men in Red, the likes of Pantilimon, Jacob, Osborn, Janko and Lolley to name but a few.
Special praise must go to the undoubted man of the match Jack Colback, who was immense in front of the back four.
I’d also like to give Jack Robinson the credit he deserves. His performance in an unorthodox position in one of the biggest games of the season was exemplary.
I watched him at close quarters as he read the game beautifully at times.
His concentration levels were spot on as he rarely found himself dragged into a last ditch tackle against the opposition’s dangerous forward three.
As Derby games go, it had everything but the goal, but not for the want of trying.
It would have been easy for our supporters to activate the selection excuse had we turned in a performance like that of the last few seasons.
But under Aitor Karanka, I’m seeing real strength of character throughout the squad.
For the first time in recent years Nottingham Forest refused to be dominated at the home of Rams and I for one was mighty proud of their efforts.