Nottingham Forest striker Daryl Murphy made his fifth successive start at the weekend against Bristol City.
At 35 years old, it’s fair to say that he is still competing well at this level. He has scored five goals so far this season, which isn’t a terrible return. Especially considering he has been largely kept out of the team by Lewis Grabban.
The recent appointment of Martin O’Neill always looked like being a good one for Murphy. O’Neill gave the striker another chance on the international stage with the Republic of Ireland. It’s clear that he holds him in very high regard.
If O’Neill sticks with a 4-4-2 formation, Murphy’s chances of playing are automatically doubled. Aitor Karanka’s first-choice striker was clearly Grabban, and due to his 4-2-3-1 set-up, Murphy often had to settle for a place on the bench.
In this case, the main concern of supporters is that Murphy may not be up to playing so many games at his age. However, the Reds currently have few options to replace him in the starting line-up.
Murphy finding it ‘tough’
Following his recent run in the side, he admitted to the Nottingham Post that it can be difficult. He said: “It’s tough at my age, but I think they are managing me quite well with my workload in training and everything.
“If I do get a chance, it is up to me to keep my place in the team.
“I know what I need to do, I need to score goals if that is to continue.
“We have a lot of good players in my position so it is difficult.”
That is an honest reflection from an experienced striker at this level. He is aware that he may struggle to play so many games at his age, but is prepared to do so for the benefit of the team.
The Reds have failed to find the target in seven of their last nine outings. This is no criticism of Murphy, but of Forest’s forward line as a whole, as they all seem to have hit a dip in form at the same time.
Won’t be easy to find back-up for Murphy
The key issue with this situation is that it isn’t easy to find another quality striker in January. It would be unwise for Forest to spend a lot of money on someone who is likely to be used as a squad player.
If Forest are to close the seven point gap on the play-offs, they would want someone who could come in and hit the ground running. However, a player of this calibre is going to be expensive.
There is no doubt that the Reds do need to get another striker in. Especially if O’Neill persists with a 4-4-2 formation. Would Murphy be able to start the remaining 18 games of the season? No.
If either of Grabban or Murphy picked up an injury, the situation would become even more urgent. As it stands, there is no other recognised striker in the first-team picture until Karim Ansarifard returns from the AFC Asian Cup.
This is clearly a dilemma that needs solving at the City Ground this month.