Steve Cooper pleased with ruthless Nottingham Forest after win against Preston North End
Steve Cooper, Nottingham Forest head coach during the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United at the City Ground, Nottingham on Tuesday 2nd November 2021. (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nottingham Forest produced a brilliant performance against Preston North End, which sees them climb up to 13th in the EFL Championship. After being winless in three matches, Steve Cooper's side bounced back to winning ways with goals from Jack Colback and a double from Lewis Grabban.

For the match, manager Steve Cooper changed to a 4-2-3-1 formation, something different to the usual 3-4-1-2 that we have become accustomed to seeing Forest play. He was very impressed with what he saw from all of his players, and pleased with the ruthless nature of his side.

  • The overall performance

Despite struggling in recent weeks, Cooper was very impressed with his sides performance both on and off the ball, although did say that his side weren't at their best, and performed better in their 4-0 loss against Fulham last month.

"It was a great win and it was very nice to score three goals and keep a clean sheet,” he said.

”I liked the fact that we were ruthless when we got into good areas and with the goals that we scored. I also liked the fact that when we weren't keeping the ball as well as we wanted to, we never looked like conceding.

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"In terms of general play we have played better, even in games that we haven't won including the game against Fulham, which is in someways a silly thing to say. We didn't play poorly today, but we've been better."

  • The penalty decision

Brennan Johnson was a very good outlet for Nottingham Forest today, and was the main catalyst for every goal that the home side scored. For the opening goal, Johnson was caught by Ben Whiteman just inside the box. After some thinking time, the referee awarded the penalty to the home side much to the delight of the Forest fans, who haven't seen a penalty awarded all season.

Manager Cooper said that it was 100% a penalty, and was pleased to have finally got a decision to go their way.

"I've seen it back on the broadcast, which I thought was important to do because of what has happened in previous games, but it is a clear penalty and the irony is that it's probably less of a penalty than the ones that we haven't been awarded.

"I said to the players before the game that you've got to make your own luck in this game and that just comes with a good attitude, good focus, good concentration, good game plan and backing yourself to go and play well."

  • Lewis Grabban's performance

The captain, Grabban, has been Forest's main man in front of goals this season, having scored six goals so far this season before this fixture. The 33-year-old scored last time out against Queens Park Rangers in a 1-1 draw, and has now made it three goals in the last two games for The Reds.

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"Lewis was brilliant today. He scored a very good penalty and he was in the right place for the second goal. It was a very good finish, I know it hit the post but it went in in the end and thats all him and I will care about really."

  • The change in system

The home side changed system for this match against Preston, something which came as a shock for many Forest fans. Steve Cooper usually goes for a three at the back formation, with wing backs and wingers. 

However, today Forest lined up differently and went with a four at the back formation in order to try and find a way through the Preston defence, which they did. Johnson on the right wing was the main threat as he found lots of space in the inside channel, especially for the first half.

When asked about the system change, manager Steve Cooper spoke about how it may not be seen very often in the future.

"I wouldn't read too much into it. I want us to be a team that can adapt and can do different things with our style and intentions. We felt that high width was important for us today with our wingers. trying to get them stuck in a back five and really isolate their wing backs and get at them.

"We tried to pin them back into a back five and isolate their wing backs, and get at them. Sometimes it worked really well and sometimes it could've been much better but that was the plan anyway."

  • Quality of full backs

The stand out for Nottingham Forest in this game was the full backs, both going forward and at the back. Both Max Lowe and Djed Spence were excellent today and offered a huge threat on the overlap, which not only made it hard for Preston's wing backs to get out but also allowed the wingers to find pockets of space in the inside channels, which caused Preston lots of trouble. 

This is something that Cooper has been working on in the time between games, and is very pleased with what he saw from both men. 

"We changed shape today and as I said we wanted high wingers and lots of width in the game and then for our full backs to join in as well. Both Djed [Spence] and Max [Lowe] are as good going forward as they are defensively so I was very happy with them today.

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"I thought Max was the standout player today, especially defensively. Maybe he enjoyed his break during the week against Sheffield United and his fresh legs helped us but both of them, whether they play full backs or wing backs, they are so important for us and how we play."