Martin O’Neill once again proved his doubters wrong by deploying a 4-3-3 formation and put Hull City to the sword in the process.
Going into another sell out clash with Hull, Forest found themselves on equal points with their opponents and just a solitary place separating the two clubs.
It didn’t take a genius to see that it was a must win game for the Reds, especially for those who still believe a play off spot is still possible. And in a bizarre twist of fate, results elsewhere amplified the magnitude of the victory as the full-time whistle blew.
Forest not only set out their stall differently but handed a full debut to Pele in the midfield. Much has been said about the Guinea-Bissau international since he was loaned from Monaco, with many highlighting the fact that he’s amassed less than 150 appearances since making his professional debut ten years ago.
If I’m totally honest, I did question the need to sign such a player when we already had the likes of Colback, Watson and Yacob on the roster. However, as is the case with every player he’s signed so far, Martin O’Neill seems to have recruited brilliantly.
In my opinion, Pele was the man of the match against Hull, but such is the collective improvement in performance levels at the club of late, at least two others were worthy of the same accolade. Despite not being his biggest fan, I though Ben Osborn was outstanding against City, especially given the enormity of the task he faced at full back. He thoroughly neutralised Jarrod Bowen who’s one of the stand out players in the Championship this season.
Pele on the other hand was flawless, he broke up play time after time and began attacks by giving the easy ball. What impressed me most about the 27-year-old was his timing, he’d drop his shoulder and threaten to hang onto the ball before dispatching it at the very last second. Some might construe that as risky but experienced players are adept at such tactics. By doing so, he managed to draw in one or more opponents before popping off a last gasp pass, crucially, this creates a five/ten-yard space behind them for the like of Yates or Carvalho to roam into.
Despite the first half lacking any real clear-cut chances apart from Lolley’s solo dribble, Forest never looked like conceding. Again, something that resonated with me during that first 45 minutes was the collective work ethic as the home side hunted down in packs. It’s something I’ve noticed since Martin took over the side, when not in possession of the ball Forest look to suffocate their opponents in order to turnover possession. I’m sure that somebody will take this out of context, but it was a core value of Pepe Guardiola’s all conquering Barcelona side a few years ago.
The 68th minute of the game saw Daryl Murphy replaced by Joao Carvalho, which was disappointingly greeted by some ironic cheers. Although Murphy isn’t a prolific goal scorer, similarly to Ben Osborn, I fully appreciate what he brings to the side.
Four minutes later Carvalho riffled home a contender for goal of the season to put the Reds in front. In doing so he certainly staked his claim for a start against Aston villa on Wednesday, but I suspect he won’t.
The goal was the catalyst for the floodgates to open as the home side added two more through Karim Ansarifard and Joe Lolley. It was pleasing to see Ansarifard open his account for the Reds, he looked far hungrier than Bonatini had done during the game and has given the management plenty to think about regarding selection ahead of the Brazilian.
It was also fantastic to have Evangelos Marinakis among the capacity crowd on Saturday, it must be reassuring to know that his employees, both on and off the field of play, are bearing the fruits of their industry.
Personally, I really hope that Martin O’Neill will again deploy 4-3-3 for the visit of Aston Villa, I think it’s the most effective of all the formations he’s used so far. Whatever the game plan, we’ll be up for the challenge.