Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Jamie Ward is a pest...and we'll need him for tough away tests

Kenny Burns is right. Jamie Ward is indeed a 'wee pest'. On Saturday the squad's arch irritant came to the party and delivered the sort of cutting edge that we'll be needing an awful lot more of in the coming weeks.

I'll be honest, I've been a little disappointed with Jamie since he came to the right end of the A52. That's not because he used to play for them lot, that doesn't matter to me once he dons the Garibaldi, but because we haven't seen his potential.

I was genuinely excited when Dougie picked him up on a free transfer in the summer and hoped that he could provide the sort of ruthless edge that all sides need in a relentless season of Championship football.

Yet, for one reason or another, it has been a slow start in Forest colours for the Northern Ireland international. In and out of the side, he's been restricted to long range pot shots and cameo appearances and has struggled to deliver an end product (barring a superb assist against Birmingham) until Saturday.

By earning a penalty with a penetrating run, crossing for a leaping Oliver Burke and rounding off the scoring himself he delivered end product in spades, was involved in al 3 goals, and helped to ensure it was a comfortable afternoon against a struggling Bolton side.

The change in fortunes was probably helped by a positional change. Shifted from the flanks, he was freed from the responsibility of tracking back - not his forte - and could drop in behind Nelson Oliveira. The 'hole' is, after all, the most irritating of spaces for irritating players to pop up in. When you've got a pain in the backside, you might as well let him loose to inflict maximum pain.

We can't afford to get too carried away, of course. This was 'just' Bolton after all - a fact used by some to dampen any praise given to Freedman for extending his unbeaten run to 11 games. We also shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Ben Osborn was utterly sensational on Saturday. He may not have done the headline stuff, but he was a joy to watch and was right at the heart of everything good done by the home side.

Ward's performance was particularly promising, though, when it comes to our upcoming challenges away away from home.

It may have been stodgy fare in recent weeks, but a bit of cutting edge in the final third could well have secured the results needed to silence talk of tactics or negativity. Something akin to Ward's Bolton show is what we've been crying out for to stick the knife in to teams when we're on top.

That's even more crucial as a date with Middlesbrough beckons on Saturday. The trip to Fortress Riverside starts a run that will see us play them, Leeds, Hull, Burnley, Ipswich and Derby away in the next 11 games. If we're still unbeaten after then Dougie will be getting showered with praise from even the most miserable corners of Twitter.

It's going to be tough, it's going to take bags of defensive resolve and, most of all, we'll need to take our chances and be ruthless in front of goal. Let's hope Dougie's little pest has got plenty of mischief up his sleeve to unleash during that run.

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