Reds boss believes on-loan goalkeeper has been ‘massive’ since arriving at the City Ground
Costel Pantilimon has showed his quality at Nottingham Forest, says Aitor Karanka – but the Reds boss is not surprised.
The Romanian international had found his opportunities limited at Deportivo during a loan spell in the first half of the season, but after joining Forest in January the goalkeeper has looked to be a hugely solid signing.
Pantilimon had to make two big saves in the first half against Derby at the City Ground to ensure Karanka’s side maintained their unbeaten run, with a 0-0 draw against their fiercest rivals.
The 31-year-old has grown in confidence during his eight starts in the Championship, but his manager is not surprised by what he has seen from the former Manchester City, Sunderland and Watford player.
“Costel has been massive for us since he arrived. I knew that some people had doubts about him,” said Karanka.
“I knew his personality and I knew his ability. I am really pleased because this is the kind of player who is good for the Championship.
“He can manage the game and help to shape the team. He is good.”
At the other end of the age spectrum, Karanka believes playing in the derby will have been an invaluable experience for Ben Brereton and Matty Cash, even if the duo failed to make the most of Forest’s best opportunity.
“Cashy is 22 and Ben is 18 so for them to play games now is not easy. It is good for them, which is what I told Kieran (Dowell) when we brought him on – these are good games to give them experience,” said Karanka.
“Playing in this atmosphere will be good for them. They are doing the best and, given the way they are improving, they will be really good players in the future.”
Forest did not include Adlene Guedioura in their squad against the Rams.
And, while he remains a big fan of the Algerian, Karanka says the midfielder must work hard to get back to his best.
“I can bring only 18 players into the squad. He knows that he is really important for the team. He is a popular player in the club,” said Karanka.
“He knows that he has to help the team. I have to help him as well; we have help him to play his best.
“It is difficult for him because he has not played much over the past year and when you are 31 or 32, it is hard to get that back quickly.
“But he is a good player, he is a good lad and I trust him completely. He will help us in the future, for sure.
“We need to keep working every single day here. The international break will be good for us.
“But we cannot think about the summer just yet, we have to think about the next game and how we can improve as quickly as possible.”
Karanka felt the red card shown to Tom Huddlestone in the 81st minute was a fair one – after the Derby man collected two yellow cards in a few minutes, for two fouls on Lee Tomlin.
“I think it was fair. Huddlestone did not say anything. It was the last 10 minutes and it was just the intensity of the derby,” he said.
“The players did not want to lose. It is another game where we have learned and where we will keep improving.
“It was the kind of atmosphere that you expect when you join a massive club like this.”