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Forest looking good for play-off push - Interview
Friday, 21st Dec 2018 12:20 by Clive Whittingham

Our resident Forest fan Jack McCormick is impressed with the work of Aitor Karanka so far, and believes a more attacking outlook than the one he employed at Middlesbrough could lead to a play-off place this season.

How would you assess Forest's season so far?

Promising. After the dross we’ve been subjected to over the past few years, you’d be hard pushed to find a fan disappointed with our performances so far this season. But, since we ditched the Kuwaiti madmen for our Greek saviours, most impressive have been the changes off the field. Forest feels like a club to be proud of again, and the fans are returning in their droves. I’m confident the results will follow, as we’ve shown in patches that we are now genuinely one of the best sides in the division.

Only three defeats but a league leading ten draws - why's that?

I can count at least four of those draws that should’ve been wins—not least the appalling decision to award Leeds an equaliser for punching the ball into the net. I can’t put my finger on anything consistently causing us to draw games, other than perhaps being guilty of not being clinical enough at times. It’s been more about the fine margins; individual errors, and sometimes struggling to break sides down. One thing could be that we’ve played the majority of sides at the top end of the table, so wins have been naturally harder to come by—those few extra draws are the only thing separating us from the top two at the moment.

There hasn't been the 0-0 snooze fest we saw from Karanka at Boro, how's he done so far? What's the general consensus among the fans on him?

Love him. There was some disgruntlement bubbling away amid a rocky patch earlier in the season, but those fans seem to have been quietened by quality results against the likes of Middlesbrough and that 5-5 with Villa. The difference between Karanka at Boro and Karanka at Forest is the squad. Here, he’s put together a team with a wealth of attacking options to complement a solid defensive unit. There’s an argument that he was only so defensive at Boro because that was the most sensible way to get the best out of the players at his disposal. We did draw 0-0 in our last game, though, and we haven’t scored for two games. Snooze-fest 2018/19 could yet be reignited.

Stand out players and weak links in the team?

Ain’t nobody like Joe Lolley. What a revelation he’s been. He arrived in the January window and had a solid enough half-season, but I’d always been a little disappointed with his end product and thought he’d be on the fringes this year after we signed a few Portuguese wonderkids. Boy, was I wrong. You’d put your house on him getting a goal or an assist most games, and is at the heart of all our best play—especially cutting in from the right with long shots. I think he’s already won our Goal of the Season competition four or five times over, and he came closest for us against Derby—forcing a brilliant save before hitting the bar late on.

Then there’s Lewis Grabban, of course—the league’s top scorer. Should’ve had at least one against Derby but is guilty of taking too long to get his shot away sometimes, not that you’d know it from his goal tally. Amazingly, I think he’s also missed three penalties this season, but has the balls to dust himself off and ‘go again’, as modern footballers are so fond of saying. He does a lot more than that for the team, too. Great hold-up play and intelligent movement and passing. You’re always in with a shout of scoring while he’s on the pitch—as he proved with the equaliser against Villa when we were down to ten men.

The other one to mention is Joao Carvalho, our 21-year-old record signing. He’s a special player and will grace the top leagues before long—has an eye for a killer pass and oozes quality. He’s usually one step ahead of everyone else on the pitch, but it feels like there’s a lot more to come from him as he continues to find his feet in the number 10 role.

What have people made of Jack Robinson so far? Where does he play for you?

He’s been a standout performer at left back, mainly due to us not having another recognised one and trying to play tiny, creative midfielder Ben Osborn there previously. Solid at the back and surprisingly adventurous going forward—I hadn’t pinned him as an attacking fullback when he joined. Even scored against Leeds. Filled in at centre-back for the first time as we lost against Preston, but looked far more assured when asked to play there again versus Derby. Expect to see him back at fullback on Saturday, however, as Tobias Figueiredo returns from suspension.

Any January activity being tipped? Any names mentioned?
The owners clearly want promotion this season, having spent big in the summer. I would be very surprised if they didn’t bankroll at least a couple of quality additions in January, although I’m not sure what Karanka feels he needs to push us to the next level. An experienced winger, perhaps, as the young Portuguese duo Gil Dias and Diogo Goncalves – despite possessing obvious talent – haven’t been consistent enough.

Promotion realistic this year? Consequences, financial and otherwise, of not achieving it?

Yes, and I think we’ll make the playoffs—although this is probably the toughest Championship I can remember. There are so many quality sides that will be thinking the exact same, which I think will stop us mounting a serious challenge for the top two. Financially I think we’ll be OK if we don’t go up. The bank balance is healthy enough thanks to the sales we’ve made the past couple of seasons and the attendances and improved commercial activity since the new owners took charge should see us through our old friend FFP for now. Not sure the same will be true for Karanka if we don’t go up. There’s been massive improvement on the pitch, and I’d give him as long as he needs to get us promoted, but I don’t get the impression the owners are the type to give a manager more than a season to build some momentum. They’ve got a pretty dire record of sackings at their other club, Olympiakos.

The Twitter @jack_mccormick

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CliveWilsonSaid added 12:43 - Dec 21

“The other one to mention is Joao Carvalho, our 21-year-old record signing. He’s a special player and will grace the top leagues before long—has an eye for a killer pass and oozes quality. He’s usually one step ahead of everyone else on the pitch, but it feels like there’s a lot more to come from him as he continues to find his feet in the number 10 role”

Sounds like our free signing Ebere Eze :D
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Phildo added 14:33 - Dec 21
Not sure it is the toughest championship think that happens when two clubs p1ss it- more that it is close with a number of teams (maybe 10) with a punchers chance?
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TacticalR added 22:28 - Dec 21
Thanks to Jack.

Even though the previous owners were hopeless, it's surprising how quickly things can turn around.

Forest have some serious attacking power - Lolley really has a flair for spectacular goals.
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francisbowles added 10:51 - Dec 22
Lolley cutting inside from the right? Alarm bells ringing!
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