SIMON GRAYSON is keeping his team shape and personnel strictly under wraps for the visit of Nottingham Forest tonight but promised: “We are going into the game full of belief.”
Town impressed 500 travelling fans and millions watching on Sky TV with a commendably disciplined display against promotion favourites Cardiff City on Friday night, despite losing 1-0 to a last-gasp goal from Mark Hudson.
Grayson was delighted with the performance in a 4-5-1 formation and, even though they haven’t scored in two senior outings so far, Town are targeting a first Championship win in 11 years against Sean O’Driscoll’s new-look line-up.
“Every aspect of our performance at Cardiff was pleasing apart from the result and, while we would have preferred to have played poorly and won, we can take a lot of heart from that 90 minutes,” said Grayson.
“I think before we played on Friday, quite a lot of people were probably nervous and apprehensive about how we might go at this level, but maybe that performance has highlighted the belief I have got in the players and highlighted that we can be competitive in the Championship.
“This season will not be all about us just turning up and winning matches, we have to be realistic about that.
“You have to respect the opposition at this level because you are up against better players and better teams who have been around in the Championship a lot longer than we have.
“No disrespect to League I, but nine times out of 10 we were expected to win games and it was all about what we did.
“It is still about what we do, but we have to be much more aware of the opposition capabilities and make sure we are right – so it’s a different approach to playing at a different level.
“If you play too open in the Championship you will get picked off. You have to be solid and play with discipline from whatever shape you decide on.”
So can 4-5-1 work at home?
“I think you can play selective, counter-attacking football at any level and at any venue,” he answered.
“I don’t think you automatically have to go two up front all the time, because sometimes you have to play three in midfield to prevent getting overloaded by your opponents.
“The great thing we’ve now got in our squad is flexibility, especially with the options we have available in midfield.
“That was an area of the pitch I looked at in the summer and felt we needed to strengthen, and the new signings (Keith Southern, Adam Clayton and Oliver Norwood) have all brought different qualities to the mix.
“Keith has experience and tenacity, Oliver has a wonderful control and passing range and Adam brings elements of all those things, so we’ve got a lot of ability to take on any challenge.
“I thought Scott Arfield did very well the other night and Sean Scannell as well on the opposite side, and with Oscar Gobern and Anton Robinson in the squad as well, we can get people into more advanced positions if we need to.”
Rhodes will be given until the last minute to prove his fitness, with Grayson adding: “Jordan did a little bit of work with the physios (yesterday) and we’ll see how he comes through.
“If there’s any doubt at all he won’t be risked, but if he’s okay he could be in the starting XI or in the 18, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Town are expecting a big turnout of fans for the game and Grayson added: “We have to give them something to cheer about with people working and chasing and tackling, and get them excited with what we are trying to do with our passing, movement and creating of chances.”