Costel Pantilimon would appear to be on borrowed time at Nottingham Forest, with the Reds seemingly facing the same keeping conundrum as they did 12 months ago.

An assured presence between the sticks breeds confidence across the back four and throughout the team.

Forest do not have that at present, with nervous energy transferring from the stands onto the pitch.

Pantilimon could, to play devil’s advocate, be considered a scapegoat.

The big Romanian has only been beaten 22 times this season, with just two sides in the Championship able to better that record.

It is, however, easy to argue that defensive strength has been achieved in spite of Pantilimon, rather than because of him.

Communication, decision-making and distribution have become obvious faults that are being exposed far too frequently.

Fan backing

That is not to say that those issues cannot be addressed, as all three boast the potential to be worked on and improved over time – both on the training field and in competitive action.

Pantilimon has lost the backing of the fans, though, and that could prove terminal.

Aitor Karanka has tried to offer his support, telling the Nottingham Post back in October: “If you look at his stats, he saves a lot. He has been really good. The only thing is he is losing a few balls with his feet. I think he is much better than people think.”

The Reds boss is right, Pantilimon’s numbers do paint the picture of a competent performer.

Statistics can, however, be used to argue any point you like and they do not always tell the full story.

(Photo by Mick Walker – CameraSport via Getty Images)

That is certainly the case here, where it is the intangibles which are posing as many problems as ability – confidence, mindset etc.

Pantilimon has been around long enough to take the rough with the smooth, but if he is starting to question himself for fear of getting a mouthful from the stands or the touchline, then he will become a liability.

The three-year contract he signed upon completing a permanent move to the City Ground over the summer means that he cannot be quickly written off as a lost cause.

He could be phased out, though, and pushed back into a support role.

Potential targets

Pantilimon was responsible for such movement himself back in January, with Karanka bringing him in amid questioning of Jordan Smith’s value to the side.

Smith has seen one outing for Forest since – and that delivered a red card in a Carabao Cup clash with Bury.

The Reds also have Luke Steele and Stephen Henderson on their books, so are hardly short of options in the keeping department.

None, though, inspire confidence and another change appears to be on the cards.

There has been plenty of talk regarding potential targets for the winter window, including Keiren Westwood and Tom Heaton, but most of the obvious options are attracting interest from elsewhere and will not be easy to obtain.

And the last thing Forest need is to be left scratching around for another stop-gap or short-term fix to a long-term problem.

The jury would appear to have determined Pantilimon’s fate, but how does Karanka set about solving his goalkeeping riddle with entrance and exit doors about to swing open?

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