Nottingham Forest are reaping the rewards of Taiwo Awoniyi having “a spring in his step” since the World Cup break.
The front man has been in fine form in recent games, causing defences all kinds of problems. After taking a little while to find his feet since his move from Union Berlin in the summer, he is now having a big impact for the Reds – both with his goals and his all-round play.
Awoniyi was named man of the match in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea. And he netted his fifth goal of the campaign on Wednesday night, having been played in by Brennan Johnson, to clinch a 1-0 win over Southampton.
“He has always been focused and works really hard, but T has come back from the break with a spring in his step,” said head coach Steve Cooper. “Training has been excellent, and he showed that during the winter break games.
“It was important for him to get the goal, and the type of goal it was, against Blackburn (in the Carabao Cup). Him and Brennan were excellent that night.
“I thought he played well against Man United, to be honest, even though it wasn’t a particularly happy night. I actually said to him, I brought him off a bit early (in the 62nd minute), because I’m always open to questions about stuff like that.
“Against Chelsea he was really good, and against Southampton as well. He’s definitely got a spring in his step.
“It was good he got a goal on Wednesday night. It was a brilliant assist from Brennan; how he made the chance for T, and how T got himself into that position – which looks easier than what it was – it was great to see them linking up.
“Let’s hope they can really build on that, while getting pushed by the other guys and not taking anything for granted. That will be a help, for sure.”
Three of Awoniyi’s goals have sealed 1-0 victories for Forest in the league. Cooper has swiftly discovered how fine the margins can be in the top-flight.
“We haven’t had the luxury of being a couple of goals up,” the Welshman said ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Blackpool. “The one time we did that in the league, we lost, against Bournemouth!
“You want your attacking players to deliver. What’s been good with T, including against Southampton, is that he is playing well, as well as scoring. Sometimes with goalscorers, they maybe don’t contribute that much but then they score.
“But he is really having an impact on the opponents’ defence. No one is enjoying playing against him at the moment, and that’s what we want.
“If he can get goals at the same time, then that’s going to be important for us. We have to push him now, to keep going. He’s been really good since he’s come back, but it doesn’t mean anything unless he can keep going.”