This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
With Nottingham Forest’s Championship campaign getting off to a terrible start in August, Chris Hughton will be looking to find the solution as they host Cardiff City this weekend.
Despite having a wealth of talent in the attacking midfield and wide positions, Forest can’t seem to regularly find the back of the net and coupled up with their poor defending they currently sit bottom of the league after five matches.
One player who has featured just twice so far is Joe Lolley, who was withdrawn against AFC Bournemouth after 68 minutes and since then has not been seen due to illness.
Lolley played in Forest’s under-23’s clash with Reading this week though and found the back of the net twice, showing Hughton that he’s ready to be involved once again when the Bluebirds visit the City Ground on Sunday.
Should Hughton throw the 29-year-old straight back into the line-up though? We asked the FLW team for their thoughts…
I don’t think so.
Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic to see Lolley enjoying his football and playing well the other night, scoring two goals for Andy Reid’s Under-23s’ against Blackburn.
I think in the long run, Lolley can be an integral player for the Reds if he manages to get back to the form he displayed in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
But he’s only just recovering from illness so shouldn’t be thrown straight back in, I don’t think.
Alex Mighten hasn’t done an awful lot wrong either, and he brings a great deal of pace and direct running to the midfield.
There are plenty of games coming up and Lolley should be eased back in.
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It would feel like something of a risk for Lolley to go straight back into the Forest XI this weekend.
With Forest needing the points, and Lolley having impressed with a brace against Blackburn’s Under 23s in midweek, you can understand why there may be a temptation to bring him back into the lineup against Cardiff.
However, Lolley has been dogged by injuries for several months now, and this weekend’s game will obviously be played at a much higher pace than that youth outing he had, meaning there is a greater possibility of a setback that extends his spell on the sidelines, and leaves Forest without a key player even longer-term.
Indeed, having brought in the likes of Xande Silva and Braian Ojeda late in the transfer window, it does seem as though Forest have the options available to not need to rush Lolley back, so a place on the bench on Sunday, where he can make an impact from without putting as much as strain on himself with a shorter run-out, could be a more sensible option.
I’m sure he will be tempted to do so, but whether it’s the best decision remains to be seen.
Lolley has been missing from the scene for the last few matches and Forest have obviously missed him with the quality and talent he brings to the pitch.
The Reds certainly need a bit more spark at the moment and Hughton will obviously look at Lolley and think that he is the sort of player that will help kickstart things, especially up against a decent Cardiff side that will pose plenty of threat and defend robustly.
That said, there are loads more games to come, including midweek next week, and Hughton might be better off giving Lolley a little more time to really get up to speed.
We may see him off the bench to get more minutes this weekend, but I think from the start Hughton might err on the side of caution.