Sky Bet Championship outfit Nottingham Forest recorded their first victory of the 2018/19 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Reading at the City Ground on Saturday.
The Reds tasted victory for the first time this season thanks to a second-half strike from summer signing Hillal Soudani, who stepped off the bench to show Aitor Karanka – and the adoring Forest faithful – exactly what he is capable of.
It had been a somewhat disjointed performance from the Reds before the Algerian curled an unstoppable effort beyond Vito Mannone in the Royals’ goal with just 22 minutes remaining on the clock.
Karanka’s men were left frustrated with a dogged game plan from Paul Clement’s side and for a long period of the game it had looked like being a third consecutive share of the spoils for the East Midlands-based club.
With the Reds having spent heavily on the squad this season it is definitely apparent that promotion is the ultimate goal from this campaign and this maiden victory will give a new-look squad a massive boost of confidence.
The Boot Room looked at three things learnt about Nottingham Forest from their 1-0 win over Reading.
Danny Fox is integral
According to Who Scored, the Nottingham Forest central defender and captain for the afternoon won 11 headers against Reading in a vastly dominant display.
It is a remarkable turnaround for the 32-year-old who only a few years ago was deemed a weak link in the Forest side, with some fans deeming him the scapegoat for some underwhelming form.
Forest have recruited several new defenders this summer with Michael Dawson, Jack Robinson and Micheal Hefele all arriving at the City Ground. On current form, however, each of the new boys have a real job on getting in the starting line-up, such has been the form of a rejuvenated Fox.
Competition for places is as good as ever
In recent years Forest have found themselves short of a squad that is remotely capable of challenging for anything in the higher echelons of the Championship table, but thankfully that looks like being a thing of the past under Aitor Karanka.
With the arrival of Sam Byram into the squad, the Reds now boast two solid players capable of performing in the Championship and it could be the quality of the personnel in their squad that gives them the edge on their rivals this season.
Hillal Soudani and Matty Cash entered the fray on 56 minutes and just 12 minutes later the two had combined to edge Forest in front and ease the frustration that was building around the City Ground.
Karanka now boasts one of the best squads in the second tier at his disposal and the challenge for him will be to ensure that morale remains high among the crop of players not featuring on a frequent basis.
Newcastle midfielder is a stunning loan signing
Some people questioned Aitor Karanka in the summer when he opted to bring back Jack Colback for a second loan spell after he impressed during last season, with certain fans wondering whether Forest really needed him.
On Saturday’s showing the signing of the 28-year-old is a fantastic piece of recruitment from the Reds and he was once again in solid form in the middle of the park alongside the in-form Adlène Guedioura.
According to Who Scored, Colback boasted a successful pass completion rate of 87% and with him in the side it seems as though Forest will be capable of winning more games than not.
Nottingham Forest bagged a bargain with Adlene Guedioura free transfer
The Algerian is thriving in his second stint at Nottingham Forest.
In January, Nottingham Forest boss Aitor Karanka made plenty of additions to the team at the City Ground. Plenty of new faces arrived, with many of them being praised by fans immediately. But one who certainly puzzled some was Adlene Guedioura.
The former Forest man returned to the club he left in 2013. His previous spell at the City Ground was a success, so fans knew what he was capable of. However, the 32-year-old had struggled for football in recent times. He has managed just six games with Middlesbrough that season and just five overall in the whole of 2016-17 with Watford.
Perhaps the Algerian was passed it?
However, the experienced midfielder has proven that is not the case. He slotted straight into the Forest team again last season and added some much-needed energy and experience to the middle of the park.
This season, he has been even better. Nottingham Forest have plenty to thank Guedioura for in their unbeaten start to the season. As well as his one goal and one assist so far, his overall game has been magnificent.
He is keeping the likes of Liam Bridcutt and Ben Watson out of the starting XI and that is a testament to his form this season.
Considering he did not cost Nottingham Forest a penny, it looks like this was an absolute steal from the Reds.
Tyler Walker bags hat-trick for Mansfield as Nottingham Forest scrape through
The talented striker is highly thought of at the City Ground.
Mansfield Town went through to the next round of the League Cup in scintillating style last night. They defeated League One newbies Accrington Stanley 6-1 in a fantastic performance from the League Two side.
There was also a reason for Nottingham Forest to be pleased with the result. It was a tough night for Forest. Reduced to ten men, Matty Cash scored a last-minute equaliser to take their tie with Bury to penalties. They went on to win 10-9 in a thrilling shoot-out.
But whilst that was going on, one of their young stars was walking off with a match ball. Tyler Walker scored a hat-trick in the Mansfield win.
It takes his tally for the season to four goals from three games and is hopefully a sign of things to come from the 21-year-old.
He burst onto the scene at Nottingham Forest in 2015 but soon found it tough to get minutes at the City Ground.
Subsequent loan spells at Burton Albion, Stevenage and Port Vale have been somewhat successful. However, a stint in the Championship with Bolton Wanderers last season certainly set him back.
Walker made the bold move to head back down to League Two, where it seems he is set to have a fantastic season with the Stags.
Nottingham Forest fans will hope Walker continues his fine form and can eventually bring it back to the City Ground.
Nottingham Forest should consider loaning out Liam Bridcutt this month
The Scottish midfielder has struggled to find his feet under Aitor Karanka.
Nottingham Forest take on Bury in the League Cup this evening, in a game which will likely see some fringe players get a chance. One of those players who will be hoping for a recall will be Liam Bridcutt.
When Nottingham Forest signed the former Leeds United captain last summer it looked a coup. A favourite of Garry Monk’s, new manager Thomas Christiansen was not so keen. Therefore, Forest got him for a reported £1 million. It appeared a bargain for a top Championship midfielder.
However, Bridcutt currently finds himself down the pecking order at the City Ground. He played just 24 times last season, with new manager Aitor Karanka not as keen on his talents as predecessor Mark Warburton.
This term, with the likes of Jack Colback, Ben Watson, Adlene Guedioura and Matty Cash ahead of him in the pecking order, Bridcutt has not yet featured at all.
One of the highest earners at the City Ground, Forest must surely be considering sending him out on loan before the end of August. He is contributing very little at the moment and with young Ryan Yates waiting in the wings, it might be time to move Bridcutt on.
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