Nottingham Forest made it seven points from nine under Steve Cooper with a 3-0 win at Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds have enjoyed a hugely positive start to life under Cooper and head into the international break having recorded back-to-back away wins in the Championship.
After winning 3-1 at Barnsley in midweek, Forest netted another three goals on the road as they picked up another three points – this time in the West Midlands.
Lewis Grabban opened the scoring inside 11 minutes, driving forward and finding the top corner with a superb effort from distance.
Ryan Yates then doubled the Reds’ lead shortly after, meeting Philip Zinckernagel’s corner with a brave diving header into the bottom corner.
Forest did have to ride their luck slightly, particularly towards the end of the first half as Blues looked to galvanise a turnaround.
But Djed Spence put the game beyond Birmingham’s reach on 53 minutes, latching onto Zinckernagel’s through ball and finishing emphatically beyond Matija Sarkic.
Another happy day of travelling for Forest fans, then, and here, we talk about three major talking points after Saturday’s emphatic victory at St. Andrew’s…
A home away from home
It’s six points on the road in the space of four days for Forest, and back-to-back away wins have left things on a high with another international break now upon us.
This was another emphatic performance on their travels, though, having put Barnsley to the sword following an electric second-half display at Oakwell on Wednesday.
To put it into context, it is the first time Forest have scored three or more goals in successive away games since February 2015, when they went to Blackpool and drew 4-4 before going to Reading and winning 3-0.
It is testament to the way things have changed since Cooper’s arrival. Forest now focus on themselves and what they can bring to the party, compared to what their hosts will bring.
One of Cooper’s post-match quotes summarised his attack-minded nature and fearless outlook on the game.
He said: “If you play with a back three, there’s got to be a real emphasis on one of the centre-backs stepping in and starting attacks.
“If you have three centre-backs staying back, then you are only attacking with seven – and I don’t want to do that.”
Grabban is back
Forest’s attacking players came in for criticism last season after they displayed a real lack of firepower in front of goal under Chris Hughton.
The Reds scored only 37 goals in 46 Championship fixtures – only Derby County and Southend United scored fewer across the EFL.
Naturally, Grabban – a player who fans place most of their goalscoring expectations on – bore the brunt of that criticism. He scored only six goals in 28 appearances, in a campaign which was hampered by injuries.
But Grabban looks to have reignited the goalscoring spark which saw him score 36 goals across his first two seasons at the City Ground. More importantly, he looks like a player brimming with confidence.
We tend to associate Grabban with the goal he scored away at Barnsley in midweek – a simple tap-in at the far post, with the poacher in the right place at the right time.
Yesterday, though, he drove forward with the ball before firing an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 25 yards, leaving Sarkic with no chance of saving.
That is now four goals in six games for Grabban, and as history shows, when he embarks on prolific spells, he doesn’t stop scoring.
History also proves that if you play to Grabban’s strengths, he will score goals. But even at the moment, Grabban’s confidence is seeing him create goals for himself – pretty good ones, too.
Samba getting back to his best
Not only was this another impressive attacking display from the Reds, but a first clean sheet under Cooper will please the Welshman just as much as the three goals they scored, as well as the win itself.
We talk about players coming in for criticism, and Brice Samba endured a shaky start to the season where he struggled for consistency and form – so much so, he lost his place in the team to Ethan Horvath.
But Samba has now reclaimed his place in-between the sticks, and his teammates had him to thank for keeping hold of an invaluable clean sheet on Saturday.
In fairness, he did have the woodwork to thank on a couple of occasions, with Lukas Jutkiewicz hitting the post with a glancing header in the first half.
But Samba was to deny Marc Roberts with a wonderful save late on, getting down low to his left to palm away the defender’s header from point-blank range.
Post-match, Cooper alluded to his “disbelief” after witnessing that save late on, whilst also admitting that defending set-pieces need to be worked on during the international break.
But when you have a goalkeeper like Samba in form, you always have a chance of keeping clean sheets, and yesterday was a sign of him getting back to his true self.