Nottingham Forest are still nowhere near where they want to be in the league table, but there was certainly improvement against Derby County on Friday night.
The Reds had a torrid first half, going 1-0 down via a Martyn Waghorn free-kick, but in the second half, the East Midlands outfit looked completely reinvigorated after half-time.
Indeed, Chris Hughton’s side attacked with a lot more venom in the second 45, and their efforts were rewarded as Lyle Taylor found the back of the net to level the game at 1-1.
Taylor may have got the goal, but it was Anthony Knockaert’s introduction that saw Forest grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
The Frenchman was unstoppable against Derby, getting forward at every opportunity and putting an obscene amount of crosses into the box, delivering 10 crosses in just 45 minutes.
That sort of directness is what Forest need this season as they’ve lacked any sort of attacking prowess, scoring just three goals in six league games, but Knockaert also showed Hughton the solution to another of his big dilemmas.
There’s no doubting that the Fulham loanee could be a key man for Hughton this season, after all, he won the Championship Player of the Year award the last time he played under him, and if Hughton wants to utilise his abilities in the most effective way, he has to play Taylor alongside him rather than Lewis Grabban.
We saw on Friday what Knockaert can do when he’s at his best, 10 crosses in 45 minutes is obscene, but it’s no good to anyone if there’s nobody getting on the end of them and Grabban has never been a real aerial threat.
The former Sunderland man won just 0.7 aerial duels per game last season, while Taylor was winning 2.3 per 90 minutes, and when he has a two-inch height advantage over Grabban it’s easy to see why he’s the bigger aerial threat.
The Taylor vs Grabban war has been waged over a number of weeks now, but Hughton may have just had his hand forced by Knockaert’s incredible showing.