Jordan Smith handled his full debut for Nottingham Forest like a duck to water, proof that we needn’t look further than the City Ground walls for competent keepers.
The 22-year-old looked like he was making his 100th league appearance against Sheffield Wednesday, in what must be described as a flawless full debut.
Regarding goalkeepers, you can usually tell an awful lot about them from their body language, and I sensed very good vibes from this guy.
Prior to kick-off on Saturday he emanated a natural confidence as he went about his warm up routine in front of 20,000 people.
Sure, you can put on a façade, but as the match got under way you could tell that this young man was hiding nothing at all.
Smith commanded his area well and was on hand to make an outstanding save just before half-time, denying Fernando Forestieri from point blank range.
He wasn’t afraid to come off his line for the odd cross either, showing great agility in the process.
There weren’t too many clear-cut chances in the contest, which can be unnerving for a rookie keeper.
You might not see any action for long periods before being called upon to save the day in the blink of an eye, a trait of goalkeeping that applies at just about any level of the game.
Despite the Reds succumbing to a 2-1 defeat, the young stopper wasn’t at fault for either of the away side’s goals.
No goalkeeper in the world would have kept out Almen Abdi’s 28th minute screamer, a ferocious volley from just outside the box.
Wednesday’s second was simply down to poor defending, as Forestieri was allowed to juggle the ball before smashing home from just three yards out.
It’s at this point that we must remember that Jordan Smith was Forest’s fourth choice keeper back in August, with the likes of Stojkovic, Henderson and Evtimov blocking his path to the first team.
Football throws up some unlikely opportunities, but when it does you have to grab them with both hands. (No pun intended).
What odds would you have given for our Serbian national goalie’s slump in form, incorporated with simultaneous injuries to both Stephen Henderson and Dimitar Evtimov, all within the space of a month? Although Jordan Smith has only made two appearances thus far, who knows where this lucky break could take him?
You only have to look at Marcus Rashford at Man United; a virtual unknown this time last year, he was thrust into first team action due to Anthony Martial’s injury in a pre-match warm-up and the rest is history!
I have great sympathy for Evtimov because he has waited patiently for a return to the first team at Forest.
He should have been the natural replacement for Dorus De Vries at the beginning of August.
When Philippe Montanier brought Vladimir Stojkovic to the club earlier this season, people were quick to say that he was equal to or even better than big Dorus.
Funnily enough, I don’t see those same people coming out in support for the Serbian after his prolonged slump in form. Montanier was also responsible for bringing in Henderson, who after a shaky start began to show some real promise.
If truth be told, both Stojkovic and Henderson are no better than Evtimov and Smith.
What’s most surprising of all and something that almost went unnoticed, is the fact that Montanier was once a shot stopper himself.
To recruit so poorly for a position that you once played should have set alarm bells ringing in people’s heads from the beginning. I must be careful not to produce an exact replica of an article I wrote way back in August 2016, where I said that we needn’t look anywhere but the City Ground for a keeper.
However; it only backs up my sentiments regarding the rich history of promoting within at Forest.
Smith’s elevation into the first team is yet another commendation for the Nigel Doughty Academy, a gift that just keeps giving. Where would the club be without this well-oiled machine beneath its ever-rusting chassis?
Although I pay regular visits to the academy matches of all ages, I must admit that I’ve not seen a great deal of Smith, due to his various loan spells at non-League level with the likes of Ilkeston and Nuneaton.
Such is the pool of goalkeeping talent within the club, Smith will have plenty of competition from within the academy itself. Tim Erlandsson (currently on loan in his native Sweden) and Jordan Wright are both progressing nicely and could soon be in the frame for a first team call up.
It’s early days of course but Smith has made an excellent start to his Forest career.
He’s been thrown into the deep end and has responded brilliantly so far, in what will most likely be a relegation battle.
Without putting too much pressure on young shoulders, I’d say that his fateful intervention could play a big part in Forest’s Championship survival.