There’s little point in drawing conclusions from preseason games, especially when there’s still several to go before the season kicks off, but it’s always a good indication of something.
Chris Hughton was clearly keen to run an eye over some of the Academy players, many of whom will either be part of the first team plans or the U23 team’s first season as a Category 1 academy.
The starting line-up was a mixture of youth and experience: Smith; Gabriel, Fernandes, Mbe Soh, Richardson; Yates, Colback; Cafu, Carvalho, Mighten; da Costa. With Samba, Back, Sanders, Donnelly, Fornah, Hammond, Konate, Barnes and Lolley on the bench.
Forest lacked fluidity early on, and had difficulty in keeping possession and finding passes but pressed well, while Vale looked the more cohesive side. However, this didn’t last long as Alex Mighten was fed down the left after 13 minutes. The 19-year-old cut inside in the box and struck a shot in off the far post with his right foot.
The Reds settled after the goal and were much better with the ball. And they doubled their lead just 10 minutes later. Jordan Smith played the ball long to Nuno da Costa, who chested it down to João Carvalho in the centre circle and he released Cafu down the right channel. The cross inside the box was palmed clear by the keeper straight to Jack Colback who buried it in the back of the net.
Carvalho continued dropping deeper, looking for the ball and keeping play moving. Cafu and da Costa were both willing to make long runs, harass defenders and find space. And Mighten, who along with Loïc Mbe Soh completed the 90 minutes, was easily man of the match for his tireless running and threat right across our front line.
At the back, both full-backs pressed high and wide and although Mbe Soh looked less comfortable on the left side of central defence, having switched early on, it was a relatively easy game for the Frenchman. Baba Fernandes, alongside him, was a composed, dominating presence at the back and he clearly likes to get up the pitch when he can.
Colback and Ryan Yates kept it tidy in midfield, with the latter impressive with his running, passing and positioning.
There were nine changes during the second-half, with the heat and substitutions making it difficult to really assess. But Tyrese Fornah had a particularly good half-hour in midfield, sat deep in front of the centre-backs and looking to press forwards.
It’s important for the players to get minutes on the pitch — Joe Lolley especially — and Tuesday’s game against Northampton Town will give another indication of who is in Hughton’s thinking.