They’ve improved upon last season’s 21st-place finish, yet it’s still looking like a bottom-half finish for Forest. Can you sum up the last few months or so?
There’s a mood of optimism, if anything. It does feel like Aitor Karanka has steadied the ship to some degree because he’s given them the defensive stability and organisation that will be the foundation for things moving forward. They are not without problems by any means and they still need to sort out the lack of firepower they’ve had in recent games. Forest certainly made good additions in January, so it feels like, while this season isn’t going to be what anybody had hoped for, they can look forward to next term with a bit more hope.
Forest have struggled to build any real momentum this season – would you say that is down to anything in particular?
Under Mark Warbuton, the focus was very much on the opposite end of the pitch; they were almost like Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle where they had so much attacking threat and ambition that they just went out to try and win every game 4-3. Karanka has tended to play in the same formation, but has changed the style of play quite a lot. They were seven games unbeaten prior to the defeat to Millwall and for the first time, while there was a lot of draws in that run, they did start to look like they were a team that was buying into Karanka’s style. There is still plenty of room for improvement in the final third, however.
How well has Karanka been received at the City Ground since his appointment in January?
Forest fans knew the problems Karanka was taking on so he was given a certain amount of leeway on that front. That patience has started to be rewarded; what fans have been encouraged by more than anything is the quality of the signings he’s been able to bring in. He’s attracted players like Ben Watson, Jack Colback, Costel Pantilimon and Lee Tomlin – these are good Championship players, if not lower-end Premier League, who’ve upped the quality in the dressing room both in terms of their ability on the pitch and their attitude off it. Karanka makes a big deal about the importance of character and he’s certainly added plenty of that to the mix.
At the start of the season you said Barry McKay would be the player Brentford fans should keep a particular eye on – is that still the case?
Probably not going into this one. He’s still a very good player and has got the ability and potential to be a Premier League player but, for whatever reason, he is having a bit of a bad time at the minute. He was given a relatively rare chance to impress under Karanka at Millwall recently and you’ve got to cut him some slack for the fact that he hasn’t played regularly and is probably a bit rusty, but he didn’t have the best of afternoons if I’m honest.
The danger man nowadays is probably Lee Tomlin. He’s been pretty good since he’s come in and is the one player who always looks like he’s got that bit of creative spark to make something happen. He’s been a good signing and has that air of unpredictability about him.
What’s been your highlight of the season so far?
It was probably the 5-2 win away at Queens Park Rangers in February; everything clicked into place that day. They had defensive solidity, real attacking threat and played some brilliant football. That was the first proper sign of how good things could be under Karanka.
How is Karanka likely to set up on Tuesday evening?
Unless he experiments with it being the last few games of the season, he’s been pretty consistent in his use of the 4-2-3-1 formation. I’d be surprised if he didn’t go for that against Brentford because that seems to be the one that he sticks to.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
It’s a tough one for me because Forest haven’t been scoring a lot of goals, but they also haven’t been conceding many either. I don’t think it is going to be a 4-3 thriller, so let’s go for a narrow 1-0 Forest win.
There will be Pay on the Day, cash only, pre-match at The City Ground tomorrow. Tickets will be on sale, Adults £22, Seniors £17, 18-23 £10, Students/16-17 £5, Under-16s £1.
After Forest, and Saturday’s trip to Fulham, Dean Smith’s men will be back at Griffin Park next week when we face our local rivals Queens Park Rangers (Saturday 21 April). Tickets for our game against The R’s are available to previous ticket purchasers and selling fast so secure your place here.