Nottingham Forest 2-0 Ipswich Town Six Things: Tricky Trees dominate

Lewis Grabban taps home the opener –

A brace and man-of-the-match performance from Lewis Grabban saw Nottingham Forest boost their promotion hopes with a convincing 2-0 win over bottom side Ipswich Town. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Grabban the headlines

Tendayi Darikwa was the main man getting Forest’s performance going early on with his driving runs. When the right-back obliged to calls for him to shoot from distance on nine minutes, Bartosz Bialkowski clumsily spilt the ball into the path of Lewis Grabban, who prodded home after reacting quicker than defender Matt Pennington. In fact, none of Ipswich’s defenders could contain the ex-Norwich striker. Right-back Jordan Spence and right-sided centre-back Luke Chambers were warned of the dangers of neglecting their back-post duties when Gil Dias headed onto the woodwork, but failed to heed that lesson seven minutes before the break, allowing Grabban to nod home. Although the front-man is not naturally quick, he makes up for that with his desire to sprint and battle for every ball, as well as a range of other attributes including power and technical proficiency.

Jackson’s moments

In a six-minute period midway through the first half, between Forest’s opener and their second, Kayden Jackson came alive. The former Accrington striker had more speed than opposing centre-backs, Michael namesakes Dawson and Hefele, which came to the fore in three transitional attacks. He sliced well wide on the break, then glanced narrowly wide of the far post from Grant Ward’s right-wing cross before eventually stinging Costel Pantilimon’s palms from outside the box. Jackson though has never played consistently above League Two level and while he possesses pace and raw hunger, he still needs to refine other aspects of his game. That though requires time and Ipswich, who are not in a position to create a high volume of chances every week, need their centre-forward to be reliable in front of goal and it remains to be seen whether Jackson can fit that criteria.

Ipswich playing out

The Tractor Boys have tried to play out from the back this season but without much success. Old-school defenders like Chambers and left-back Jonas Knudsen lack the audacity to attempt positive passes; while Spence and Pennington are more likely to try them, their execution has been found wanting. Those limitations played into the hands of Forest, who were perfectly set up without the ball. The silky Joao Carvalho pressed with surprising tenacity, Jack Colback buzzed boundlessly while the latter’s midfield partner, Adlene Guedioura, had the physical presence to dominate second balls as well as the quality to switch play. Dawson and Hefele did not look particularly accomplished in possession, but that did not matter for the hosts, who set themselves up so well that they were either forcing Ipswich back in their own half, or dictating play from the middle third.

Forest’s feast of chances

In many ways, the eventual scoreline did not do full justice to the attacking aspects this dominant display from of Aitor Karanka’s side. After the aerially-dominant Hefele headed Carvalho’s wide free-kick onto the post a minute after the re-start, Grabban clipped the bar from an unlikely angle, before the quick-footed Joe Lolley nearly scored the goal of the game following a mazy run, without the finish to match. Ipswich’s best second half effort came from one long-range curler from Jack Lankester which flew wide; that effort was nowhere near as promising an opening as at least five that Forest carved out after the interval, such was the gulf in class.

Any positives for Town?

From this defeat in the East Midlands, there are only two real positives to take. The first would be the performance of academy graduate Teddy Bishop, who showed quick feet, worked enthusiastically and appears to be getting back to his best following a long period on the sidelines. The second would be that the fans have stood behind manager Paul Lambert, who was given a positive reception post-match. Survival this season is a massive ask but there is still 78 points to play for, including crunch clashes with fellow bottom six strugglers in three of their next four home games. If Jackson can start taking his chances, if the board provide the funds to correct the summer’s recruitment errors while some additions from lower leagues acclimatize to the level, there is at least feint hope. Victories though are required to convert that feint hope into genuine belief.

Karanka’s new-found flexibility

When Aitor Karanka managed at this level with Middlesbrough, he deployed a 4-2-3-1 with Adam Clayton and Grant Leadbitter as the holding midfielders. That worked in the Championship in 2015-16, when the division was not quite as technically and tactically advanced as it is now, but he has since seen the need to evolve his approach slightly. Colback and Guedioura, who played double-pivot in this Forest side, are given the freedom to press and continue forward movement after shifting the ball, combining 63 touches in the opposing half. With Darikwa pushing forward and the trio of Lolley, Carvalho and Dias interchanging behind Grabban, the perception of Karanka as a rigid coach needs to be re-assessed. The Spaniard is, it seems, building one of the most balanced outfits in the division – and a top six finish looks well within their range.