A ray of Spanish sunshine broke through the dark clouds above Nottingham Forest this week as Daniel Pinillos returned to action for the first time in almost a year, writes Reds fan Steve Corry.
The Spanish left back, signed from Cordoba in 2015, had been a revelation for Forest up until his cruciate knee injury last December. In my opinion he is the best left back to wear the red jersey since Stuart Pearce moved on to pastures new, back in the nineties.
Losing him was a heavy blow to the club but his return couldn’t have come at a better time. With the impending takeover just weeks away it will be another massive positive for his teammates and especially us supporters.
Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena was the unlikely setting for the Spanish revolution as Pinillos featured in the Forest under 23 squad that took on Sheffield Wednesday. Not that it bothered the 24 year old at all; trust me, when you’ve been out of action for as long as him, you’d be happy to play on the Astroturf at your local greengrocers.
He started the game and from the very first minute looked lively as ever as the reds set up with a 4-2-3-1 formation. He stuck to his winger tightly in the early encounters, not allowing him an inch of space in which to turn.
What also impressed me immediately was his turn of pace when overlapping down the flank; he bombed on numerous times and whipped a lovely ball into the box after 14 minutes. His movement off the ball was impressive too, both defensively and going forward as he demanded the ball at every opportunity.
Pinillos linked well with Elvis Otim, Kyle McLean and Ben Brereton each time he burst into the opposition half. Brereton really seems to have come of age; for a guy who struggled a little at Under 21 level last year, he once again looks the real deal and performed brilliantly.
What gave me real confidence regarding the fitness of Daniel Pinillos was his heading of the ball, despite not being the tallest of lads; he rose well and won all but one of his aerial duels.
I was more focussed on his landings following each attempted header; this is usually a benchmark for how well an ACL injury has healed.
The knee seemed as steady as ever and showed no signs of buckling on impact, especially in the 22nd minute when he produced a goal saving header on the edge of the box.
He risked a clash of heads as he nipped the ball from Wednesday’s Devante Rodney who would have been in on goal.
As the first half wore on I wondered if Pinillos would tire; we’ve all experienced similar fatigue in opening day matches that followed a string of pre season friendlies.
You feel like a million dollars, pinging the ball around and sprinting everywhere; then the muscles contract and you realise that regardless of several friendly matches; you still need competitive game fitness.
Well; the Spaniard showed no signs of slowing down and continued to get forward at every opportunity, in front of the watchful eye of Philippe Montanier.
Any Forest fan will tell you how good Pinillos was with the ball at his feet last season, especially under pressure from the opposition. Well you’ll be pleased to hear that this facet of his game is also very much alive and well; on numerous occasions he was able to play his way out of tight spaces with real precision. Refreshingly, not once did he opt to launch the ball down the wing or waste possession carelessly, something that becomes very favourable when the fatigue sets in.
Despite not really watching the game itself and focussing on our returning full back, the match was still goalless as the end of the half neared. Although dynamic Dani found time for one last marauding sprint down the wing, producing a fantastic deep cross that Brereton almost scored with.
The whistle blew soon after for the end of the half and the end of Daniel Pinillos’s night too. He was withdrawn at the interval which I fully expected as the road to recovery requires caution at all times.
Despite all of the doom and gloom surrounding the club at present, I was over the moon to see this guy in Forest shirt once again. He certainly didn’t disappoint either; he looks pacey, hungry and determined to make his first team return.
The shocking injury doesn’t seem to have disabled his game in any way but we must be patient whilst he clocks up some match time behind the scenes.
I managed to catch him in the stand after the game and congratulate him in my best Spanish which made him laugh (my Spanish is very laughable).
You could see that he was absolutely buzzing to be back and I’m sure I speak for all Forest supporters when I say that, it’s like Christmas coming early to see you in action again amigo!