Nottingham Forest under-23 went six points clear at the top of the Professional Development Division with a 5-0 win over Bolton Wanderers yesterday.
Brennan Johnson scored twice, with further strikes from Alex Mighten, Will Swan and Virgil Gomis completing the rout.
Forest’s under-23s have been in scintillating form all season and it begs the question as to whether Johnson, in particular, has been vastly underused.
When he was introduced as a late substitute in the first game of the campaign at home to West Brom it seemed as if he would be part of the first-team fold during 2019/20.
For some parts, he has been. His last outing for the first-team was in January, however, during a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup.
There is perhaps a sense among some supporters, however, that Johnson deserves a prolonged spell in the team.
With Tiago Silva injured it leaves Joao Carvalho as the only natural No.10 in Sabri Lamouchi’s ranks.
Now might seem like a good time to introduce him into the matchday squad on a more frequent basis due to his fearless nature.
The 18-year-old has looked decent when called upon. He can play as a No.10, in central midfield or even as a centre forward – as he did against Chelsea.
Forest’s midfielders are all similar. Ben Watson, Ryan Yates and Alfa Semedo all do a similar job. When Samba Sow is fit he will typically play but his fitness has been a concern, particularly in the second half of the campaign.
John Bostock has looked good in the last two games and he is also a good option to have.
Sticking Johnson in the 18-man squad seems like a no-brainer at the moment.
The Reds are struggling on the creative front and having someone with the youthful exuberance of the youngster going into the last 15 or 20 minutes of a game could be ideal.
Would there be any real problem with him starting a game or two to give Forest a bit more energy in the middle of the park?
Some would argue that a team chasing promotion shouldn’t be experimenting but the harsh reality is that on current form, Forest might not even make the play-offs.
These young academy players need to start somewhere and crucially they need opportunities to get on the pitch.
Johnson has almost outgrown the under-23 team now and although he will enjoy the games, he will be desperate to show he can perform at first-team level too.
With three games before the international break, now could be the ideal time to unleash Johnson and allow him to stake a claim for a regular place in Lamouchi’s team.