Win over Leeds United shows Aitor Karanka has not lost Nottingham Forest dressing room

Jack Colback score's Forest's opener.'Nottingham Forest v Leeds United.  City Ground.  SkyBet Championship.'1 January 2019.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Jack Colback score's Forest's opener.'Nottingham Forest v Leeds United. City Ground. SkyBet Championship.'1 January 2019. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Nottingham Forest’s action packed victory over Leeds United on New Year’s Day was solid proof that Aitor Karanka certainly hasn’t lost the dressing room.

The past few weeks have been nothing but a fanfare of speculation and rumour from both fans and media alike.

Personally, I tried to keep out of it all because I had zero facts from which to comment upon. I made a couple of quotes on social media alluding to the fact that I feared our manager would be dismissed, at the same time hoping he’d still be with the club at season’s end.

Performances of late have been somewhat indifferent which is why I focussed on the transfer market in last week’s piece.

Aside from thirty minutes after Grandad’s Christmas sprout consumption, I cannot think of a better time for a window to be open.

As for the games themselves, they don’t get much bigger than a sold out City Ground on January 1st.

Despite Forest not having issued any statements regarding the future of their manager there was an air of tension surrounding the match.

In such moments as these I often find that the biggest clues are to be found in the body language of the players.

On Tuesday, it’s fair to say that the home side began the game like caged Tigers after release. The energy and intensity levels were high, even more so after Jack Colback pounced on a mistake to give Forest an early lead.

As the first half petered out it was clear to see that Leeds were a well drilled outfit, especially down the right flank where Jack Harrison ran riot at times.

Most of the home supporters were relieved to go in ahead at the break and slightly more optimistic when Kalvin Philips saw red for a late tackle on Adlene Guedioura.

What unfolded during the second half substantiated my belief that the Nottingham Forest players wouldn’t be throwing the towel in and abandoning their manager in the process.

The pivotal moment to suggest such a notion would have been seconds after going 2-1 down against ten men.

However, once over the initial shock of the situation they faced, I witnessed a collective fighting spirit epitomised by the likes of Murphy, Cash and Colback in particular.

Aitor Karanka must take praise for a game changing substitution too, Ben Osborn’s introduction was the catalyst for the fightback and he was the spark of intensity at the perfect moment.

There was a double dish of déjà vu about the whole situation as I cast my mind back to the final days of Stuart Pearce and Philip Montanier’s spells in charge of our club.

In both instances I witnessed forlorn expressions on the faces of the Forest players as they gazed in bewilderment toward the dug out from their on field positions. But despite all the injuries and positional reshuffling, I saw players battling for the manager and their supporters too.

Yes, Forest were playing against ten men, but the nature of the comeback spoke volumes.

An apparently over the hill striker chasing down everything and bending his runs to perfection was a sight to behold.

Daryl Murphy fully deserved his goal on the day but more importantly vindicated his manager’s faith in selecting him for the second week running.

Murphy was pipped for the man of the match award by Jack Colback, another man who gave everything for the cause once again.

What really impressed me about the industrious red head was his positioning for his second goal of the game. If, at 2-1 down your players have given up the ghost, trust me, you will not find a defensive midfielder bothering to force the issue in the opposition box.

It would be very easy to assume that your job is to stop goals from happening and leave it to the forwards.

Remarkably, for only the second time this season I was able to watch the game from the stand and not the commentary box.

And from this vantage point I witnessed the something quite brilliant and wonderfully poignant, not on the pitch but in the executive box behind my seat.

As Murphy headed Forest in front, I turned to see the club captain Michael Dawson celebrating like a child on Christmas morning.

That alone is enough to tell you that Aitor Karanka has his players right behind him.