Nottingham Forest’s performance against Middlesbrough epitomised the mantra of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’.

In the 17th game under a new regime, the 16th time of asking proved to be a charm for the Reds in terms of changes made to an original blueprint.

Persistence and patience were rewarded three months into the reign of Martin O’Neill.

A process which started back on January 19 had experiment written all over it.

The Reds boss has admitted as much.

A lot!

Many were growing tired of the tinkering and apparent inability to find the right formula.

With O’Neill doing his cause few favours.

Be it formations, tactical approach or playing personnel, the Northern Irishman appeared to be confusing himself at times.

That was until Boro rolled into town on Monday.


(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Forest, quite aptly, were resurrected at the end of the Easter period.

No more 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or any variation of that.

Instead, the Reds moved to three at the back and tried something a little different.

Change, on this occasion, was most welcome.

Jack Robinson was back in the side, taking the captain’s armband no less, while a wing-back system threatens to make the most of the Matty Cash and Ben Osborn talents that can be difficult to categorise.

And then there was Joao Carvalho.

After months of tiresome calls for the Portuguese to be given more minutes, a role that suits him was finally found.

Able to drop deeper and dictate proceedings, the £13 million man put on a masterclass.

To many, his display made a mockery of O’Neill’s decision to use him so sparingly.

Let us not dwell, though, on the mistakes of the past.

Instead, let’s celebrate the present and look to the future with fresh optimism.

O’Neill has, of course, delivered only one display which truly met lofty expectations.



There have been other successes – including a memorable one over Derby – but questions have always emerged.

And many of them have not been of the positive variety.

A 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough changed all of that – for 90 minutes at least.

Such showings, even with the same system and players, cannot be expected week in, week out.

There will always be the odd dip and a 46-game marathon is intended to cover those as consistency over several months – not one afternoon – is rewarded.

Forest may well have found a concept that works.

There is still the potential for further tweaks, with the likes of Claudio Yacob, Lewis Grabban and any summer signings set to knock on the door.

Foundations have been laid and must now be built upon.

The Reds have celebrated their Sweet 16.

Here’s hoping 17 and 18 deliver similar rewards and O’Neill’s men finally come of age.

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