Ben Osborn is not a left-back, but Nottingham Forest need him to starting looking like one in a Derby audition on Saturday.

Aitor Karanka is being forced into a selection call he would rather not make, with square pegs being shoved into round holes.

In an ideal world, the Reds would be in a position to name their strongest possible line against Preston this weekend.

This not an ideal world, though, it is the real one.

With Tobias Figueiredo serving a ban, Michael Dawson nursing a hamstring problem and Danny Fox yet to shake off a foot complaint, Forest find themselves down to the bare bones at the back.

Unwelcome headache

Centre-halves are suddenly in alarmingly short supply, and that is posing an unwelcome headache.

When Dawson hobbled off against Ipswich, the ever-reliable Jack Robinson was nudged across from the left and into the middle.

Fine, not a problem.

The issue here is that with Robinson moved inside, cover is required in his regular starting berth.

Osborn filled that void when stepping off the bench in a 2-0 win over the Tractor Boys and is capable of being a makeshift option at full-back.

Forest, though, are now in a position where they potentially need him to fill that role for a couple of weeks – with a trip down Brian Clough Way looming large.

It is safe to say that Osborn has not entirely convinced when slotting into a defensive post this season – and that is putting it mildly.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

He opened the campaign being asked to do that job, with Karanka calling upon him in Forest’s four Championship fixtures out of the gate.

The Reds went unbeaten through those outings, but were held on three occasions – with a solitary success, and only clean sheet, secured against Reading.

Osborn was then slotted in at left-back again for a Carabao Cup clash with Stoke in September, and managed to get on the scoresheet in a 3-2 victory.

More opportunities came his way against Norwich in the league and Burton in the cup, and we all know how those games went.

Against the Brewers in particular – League One opposition, no less – Osborn looked far from assured, with his lack of positional sense contributing to the concession of a first-half penalty and the decisive third goal for Nigel Clough’s side.

Little choice

Forest cannot afford for a repeat performance.

They are, however, being left with little choice.

Karanka was once a useful centre-half himself – one good enough to grace the Champions League final in 2000 – but unless he decides to dust off his boots and come out of retirement, the Reds are going to have to make do.

Osborn may not be the first name on the teamsheet, but he is likely to be on it and the Reds need him to offer signs of encouragement ahead of a return to the scene of his most memorable moment in a Garbaldi shirt to date.

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