I can’t imagine too many people would have been rushing down to the bookies to back Nottingham Forest to win at runaway leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday when selecting their accumulator bets prior to the 3 pm kick-offs.
In claiming three valuable points on the road, Forest not only arrested an alarming slide down the Championship, but also sent a message out to the rest of the division that, under Aitor Karanka, they mean business.
The Spanish boss finished his first full week in charge of the club with a scintillating 2-0 victory to send a dedicated bunch of Forest supporters home mightily happy, and offer optimism at what the future might hold under his leadership.
It is safe to say that Wolves fans on Twitter were pretty ‘salty’ after the final whistle on Saturday. Indeed, some of them are still chirping away now about how lucky Forest got and that the club should enjoy its big day because there won’t be another one. Our players were dirty, the grass was too long, blah, blah, blah.
Maybe the Wolves supporters were so disappointed at the fact that their group of expensive promotion candidates were comprehensively rolled over by a group of young, hungry and determined academy graduates keen to impress a new manager.
If ever there was proof that your chickens shouldn’t be counted in the second tier of English football, then Saturday was the perfect example. Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo said as much after his side’s first defeat in 13 games, and it was nice to see him laud Forest’s performance.
The most pleasing aspect of the victory in the West Midlands was that Forest weren’t intimidated by a side high on confidence and several places higher than themselves in the division, and produced quite possibly the most accomplished performance of the campaign so far.
Karanka has clearly already stamped his authority on the squad and the high-intensity, high-press style of football will go a long way towards appeasing the Forest faithful after months of frustration under previous boss Mark Warburton.
I have said for a while in these pages that football should not be a complicated game and I have to say it baffles me just how many managers in today’s game make it seem nigh on impossible.
Joe Worrall was immense against Arsenal in the FA Cup and even better in the win at Wolves and that is down to the fact that he has been allowed to get on with what he is good at –- defending!
Ex-Forest boss Warburton was insistent on the Hucknall-born defender playing out from the back and, at times, it made him look relatively incompetent as it was a trait unfamiliar to the youngster.
A back four of Eric Lichaj, Worrall, Michael Mancienne and the returning Danny Fox looked like a complete mismatch against a formidable Wolves front three on Saturday, but lo and behold! Karanka tasked them with defending. Nothing fancy, just plain old-fashioned defending and, shock horror, it worked a treat. Fundamentally, Warburton tried to create Fort Knox using plasticine and, in my eyes, that showed him to be a fraud of a manager towards the end of his tenure. For me, it shows the quality of Karanka that he has identified the biggest problem already and all without making a single signing yet. I think it’s safe to say that you’d have got pretty long odds on an away clean sheet on Saturday.
I’m going to give special praise this week to Forest midfielder Ben Osborn, primarily because it is not something that I have done too often in the past, but also because, at the moment, I think very few can criticise the academy graduate.
Credit where it is due. Osborn has been in decent fettle over the last month or so. He was superb against Arsenal, never stopped running against Aston Villa and capped off a decent fortnight with a quality goal against the Championship leaders.
I have been known to be a huge critic of Osborn in the past but, in the current Forest team, he is really starting to come of age and, hopefully, he can now kick on and his performances can become even more consistent over the next few months. Indeed, if he can add a few more goals to his game, Forest can add a few more million to his valuation should the Premier League come calling.
Of course, the Wolves win is just another three points, but with a new manager at the helm, it is all about building small foundations on the pitch once again and given the level of performance at Molineux, I have no doubts whatsoever that Forest will go places if Karanka is given the time and resources to do his job.