“I’m really not out to surprise people with my team selection.”

Martin O’Neill’s words to Nottingham Forest’s official website after seeing his side down Wigan.

He may not have intended to shock, but he certainly did.

Ben Watson welcomed back from the wilderness, Ben Osborn at left-back and Daryl Murphy leading the line by himself.

With Joao Carvalho, Lewis Grabban and Claudio Yacob on the bench.

That’s the Reds’ most creative talent, top scorer and last week’s captain playing support roles.

While a man with no minutes since October, one of the most divisive figures at the City Ground and a 35-year-old frontman lead the charge.

Who saw that coming?

O’Neill added on the club website: “I played two up front last weekend but I felt that didn’t really work well for us.

“Today we selected a slightly different side to play in a different formation and it got the result for us.”


NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND – JANUARY 26: Matty Cash of Nottingham Forest (14) celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal with team mates during the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Wigan Athletic at City Ground on January 26, 2019 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

No arguing with that.

A 3-1 victory has got Forest heading in the right direction again.

They required a few moments of brilliance to get them there, but the end result was the desired one.

O’Neill has already spoken in the Nottingham Post of being on a “learning curve” at the City Ground.

He took important lessons from a 1-0 defeat to Bristol City and altered his plans according.

Few could have predicted the tweaks he would make, but that is no bad thing.

A surprise factor could actually work in Forest’s favour.

Given that most of those with close ties to the Reds failed to predict Saturday’s starting line-up, what chance did Wigan boss Paul Cook have?

He would have needed no telling that Joe Lolley has a useful left foot.


Or that Adlene Guedioura can pick a pass or shoot from distance.

His pre-match plans may, however, have been hastily re-drawn once he discovered precisely who he was coming up against.

Such an approach is obviously no guarantee of success and stability within a settled XI would be preferable.

Forest are still searching for a formula that works though.

Aitor Karanka had it at times but was considered to be a scholar of the same defensive coaching school as former mentor Jose Mourinho.

O’Neill is aware of the need to be more expressive and is trying to deliver.

He has had two goes at getting things right, with mixed results.

The pack may well be shuffled again during a visit to Birmingham next time out, in what will be O’Neill’s first trip out on the road.

Transfer deadline day will have passed by the time that contest is taken in, while those out of favour have another week in which to force their way back into the frame.

Attempting to predict a favoured team is almost impossible, with O’Neill seemingly set to keep everyone guessing for at least one more fixture.

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