Forest Defence Providing Springboard For Star Names To Shine
The Nottingham Forest back five was subject to much change over the summer. Despite not being at the forefront of the headlines, the only area of the side that can claim to have gelled the most, is the defence.
In the three games before the last international break, Forest had conceded seven goals. Heading into this one, only a single goal has been let in over the past three matches, and it should be noted that this goal was scored by Derby, minutes after The Reds had been reduced to ten men.
When Luke Chambers departed for Ipswich Town in the summer, Nottingham could be felt erupting with delight, amidst the takeover saga. Chambers had to be replaced, along with Joel Lynch, who left for Huddersfield Town.
Greg Halford, Daniel Ayala, Danny Collins, Dan Harding and Sam Hutchinson were all brought in. No headline makers.
Like with players from every other position, they had to gel, but they had an added problem. This problem was goalkeeper Lee Camp.
In previous years, Lee Camp has been a fans favourite. Making himself available for Northern Ireland and airing his unhappiness at certain figures at Forest who refused him the opportunity of talking to Swansea City. These two factors saw his confidence take a dramatic slump, meaning the arrogance and distinctive, chest-out walk were nowhere to be seen.
On his day, Lee Camp is the best goalkeeper in the division. But for his day to come again, he needed a capable back four in front of him, which he now has.
In the last three games, the old Lee Camp has returned. His brilliant distribution, his admirable command of the area, and the unrivalled presence he once had, is now back. Those who were worried early in the season after a few dodgy moments, needn’t worried.
Camp needs confidence in others, before he can be confident within himself. Now, with a formidable looking defence in front of him, he can start believing he’s invincible again, which can only be a positive.
The back four themselves, haven’t totally convinced some.
In the last two matches, Forest have faced an expensive Blackburn side, and a Peterborough side who despite their difficult start to the season, are still known to be high-scoring, and took quick 2-0 leads against Barnsley and Hull in recent games.
For the second time this season, Forest made Jordan Rhodes look like a a striker worth £8, and on the whole, looked comfortable against a Blackburn team who had previously scored in every league game.
Peterborough rarely threatened Forest, but when they did, it was calmly dealt with by the defence.
Left-back Dan Harding has received his fair share of critics, quite unfairly. Andy Reid is often prone to drifting in from the left side, leaving yards of space on the opposition right wing unoccupied. When Forest have lost possession, Harding has found himself faced with two players springing on him with pace, as Reid struggles to track back.
Daniel Ayala, another individual who has his critics. The more games he’s playing, the better he is becoming, and the progression of his partnership with Danny Collins is evident.
As Blackburn and Peterborough plugged away at the Forest defence in spells, the organisation was clear to see. For the first time in a long time, Forest looked as if they weren’t going to concede. An extra willingness from the eleven on the field to block every shot, to challenge for every ball.
An enthusiasm to defend, something that was lost for large parts of last season. The feeling that whatever Blackburn or Peterborough were going to throw, Forest had the tools equipped to handle the storm.
All of this without Sam Hutchinson, the man Jose Mourinho once predicted would be the next John Terry.
The telling sign that Forest are much improved in defence?
As the full time whistle blew at London Road, and every player walked towards the 3,300 travelling supporters to show their appreciation.
One man trailed behind. Lee Camp, with his famous, passionate celebration. This time, there was meaning behind it. The look on his face, was one of a man who is up for the battle for promotion.
Andy Reid grabbed the headlines, but Lee Camp and his defence will go into the break equally as delighted, as they’ve made Nottingham Forest a difficult team to beat.
A trait that is always needed, if you’re going to be up there.
@will_forest to get in touch via Twitter.