Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka was left feeling "proud" of his side following their 0-0 draw with Burton Albion in the Championship on Saturday afternoon at the Pirelli Stadium.
Forest's chances of winning the game took a huge blow midway through the first-half as Eric Lichaj was dismissed. However, they did create a couple of opportunities to potentially have snatched all three points. The main positive for the Reds was how they managed to defend throughout the second-half when the Brewers really piled the pressure on.
Karanka felt it was a day to be proud of his side following their hard work and commitment which has arguably been lacking in recent times. He said: "It is a day to be proud of the team, especially after our last performances at home. It is a day to be pleased because I think it is a good step to look to the future."
He added: "We were coming to play against the bottom team but I told them before the game that they will want to fight. We knew we had to fight with the same intensity and we did it, even with 10 men."
A number of difficulties in the build-up
Many people were surprised when Karanka named six changes to his starting line-up from the 2-0 defeat to Hull City last weekend. However, it soon became apparent that a few of these changes were forced for a number of different reasons. Joe Worrall had picked up an injury in training during the week whilst Michael Mancienne had fallen ill.
Karanka felt his side dealt with these last minute changes very well. He said: "Even with the problems that we had during the week with (Joe) Worrall's injury and (Michael) Mancienne, I had to at the last moment change everything. The players who have come in have helped us a lot."
He added: "We have been training all week with (Danny) Fox and Tobias (Figueiredo) but at the last moment Mancienne could not play. (Tendayi) Darikwa has played really well and Ben Osborn has played really well. For me, the point, the performance and the effort of the players has been really good."
Karanka built his success at Middlesbrough on being strong defensively and keeping clean sheets. He believes this is very important and that if they can keep clean sheets, they are always going to have a chance of scoring at the other end with the quality attacking options at his disposal.
He said: "To keep clean sheets is really important. With the players we have upfront for sure, we will score goals. We have a lot of quality upfront."
Karanka disagrees with Lichaj's dismissal
The key moment of the game was clearly Lichaj's dismissal in the first-half following his strong challenge on Martin Samuelsen. Karanka felt that it was not a red card.
He said: "I do not think it was a sending off but again after the game today, it is not a day to complain. It was difficult but from the last performance (in comparison) to today, I feel very proud and I feel a very good improvement in the squad."
Karanka was left impressed with his side's ability to match Burton's intensity, even after they had been reduced to 10 men. In recent defeats to Preston North End and Hull City, the Reds had been accused of not showing enough desire and fight but this certainly was not the case at the Pirelli Stadium.
He said: "I remember when I came here two or three years ago, we knew they were a team that plays with everything. Every single game, they fight for every single ball. If I was Nigel (Clough), I would be very proud of them."
The Reds will be hoping they can secure a long awaited win on Tuesday night as they welcome fellow strugglers Reading to The City Ground in a very important game. Karanka will be hoping that the Reds can produce a similar performance on home turf, something they have not been able to do in recent times.