If Nottingham Forest are to secure a top-six finish this season, then a few moments of brilliance will be required along the way.

Fortunately, the Reds boast match-altering ability within their squad.

The general consensus is that Joao Carvalho is the man with the skeleton key to unpick any lock.

He has, however, just spent 180 minutes picking splinters out of his backside.

Martin O’Neill has talked up the Portuguese playmaker, but hasn’t picked him… yet.

Instead, the new Reds boss has looked to others for inspiration.

He found little on an emotional afternoon against Bristol City, but got plenty back at the City Ground on Saturday.

Eyebrows were raised when the team sheets dropped – and plenty of questions asked.

Fortunately, O’Neill has been around long enough to have a few answers up his sleeve.

Was the performance against Wigan perfect? No.

With three points in the bag, does that matter? Not a jot.


(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Victory was imperative against the Latics, regardless of who played and how said result was achieved.

Having drawn seven blanks in nine, a spark was clearly required.

Step forward Joe Lolley.

With one swing of that wand of a left foot, Forest were back in business inside 19 minutes against the Latics.

Carvalho may have been restricted to a cheerleader role again, but others stepped up.

Lolley has been the man to deliver such moments for the Reds on a regular basis.

He had gone 10 games without finding the target – since that stunning effort on a crazy night at Aston Villa – but he was back with a bang against Wigan.

O’Neill told the club’s official website of his mercurial winger: “Joe Lolley is a proper player.

“With a little bit of tuition, he will improve massively but the main thing is he has the willingness to learn.

“When we really needed someone to break the deadlock, he produced a goal of outstanding quality.”

With Lolley leading the way, others were dragged along with him.

Adlene Guedioura’s raking pass to Matty Cash teed up another impressive strike, before the Algerian then got in on the act himself.


His right boot is the perfect foil to Lolley’s left when fully loaded and aimed in the right direction.

His radar has been a little off at times this season, but there has never been any doubting his ability to conjure up the spectacular.

O’Neill added on the club’s website: “I was going to substitute Adlene Guedioura in any case because he looked tired but he popped up with a super goal to give us that two-goal cushion.

“Hopefully now that will give him some confidence, as it will for the rest of the team.”

Forest need belief to come flooding back.

Three moments of brilliance – ably assisted by Costel Pantilimon and his penalty-saving exploits – got the Reds over the line against Wigan.

More of the same will be required from this point, but it cannot be relied upon.

A tap-in is worth the same as a 20-yard thunderbolt.

O’Neill could do with a few of the former to complement the latter.

There is, however, a healthy dose of virtuosity within the ranks which should help to keep things interesting over the coming weeks.

And there is still the promise of a new member of the magic circle to be added before Thursday’s deadline.

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