Costel Pantilimon answering his critics as Nottingham Forest aim to end the season on a high note

Nottingham Forest achieved back-to-back Championship wins for the first time in seven months thanks to the continued improvement of Costel Pantilimon.

By Steve Corry
Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 4:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 4:20 pm
Reds keeper Costel Pantilimon salutes the Forest fans after Saturday's win at QPR
Reds keeper Costel Pantilimon salutes the Forest fans after Saturday's win at QPR

The giant Romanian keeper was the hero of the day at Loftus Road as he denied Queens Park Rangers a controversial late equaliser from the penalty spot.

He capped off a fine performance by acrobatically saving Nahki Well’s 88th minute effort to secure all three points for his side.

It’s quite a transformation for the 32-year-old, who has been the recipient of some fierce criticism at times this season.

Many Forest supporters, including myself, questioned his selection following some shaky performances in the first half of the campaign.

The prominent areas for concern seemed to be his distribution and ability to command his area.

At 6ft 8ins tall, you’d expect Pantilimon to absolutely own the airspace within the penalty area.

However, whether it was down to a lack of confidence or indecision, it was clear to the masses that all was not well in the land of the giant.

But if you’re an avid follower of all thing’s social media, you’ll have noticed a rapid decline in the negativity towards Pantilimon of late.

My own personal take on this is the arrival of Seamus McDonagh as the NFFC goalkeeping coach.

There is a direct correlation between the appointment of the former Republic of Ireland coach and the upturn in form of the big lad from Bacau.

Pantilimon’s overall performance at QPR was outstanding.

Not only did he command his area competently, which should be a given for any goalkeeper, but he produced some excellent saves from the likes of Eze and Hemed prior to the spot kick.

The penalty save not only marked a first away win for the Reds since November but also secured a 15th clean sheet of the Championship season for the Forest No.1.

The game as a contest was competitive for an end of season dead rubber.

Both sides had decent chances in a match that could have quite easily finished as a 2-2 draw.

From my slightly biased viewpoint in the stadium I thought that the away side edged it and deserved the narrow victory.

It was great to see Joao Carvalho starting for the second consecutive week and, despite being closely shackled, he did what he does best by assisting on the winning goal.

The move that led to Karim Ansarifard’s strike was the best passage of play in the game.

The intricacy of the tika-taka passing between the likes of Lolley, Cash and Carvalho was exceptional, but it would be remiss not to mention Ben Osborn.

The industrious 24-year-old, who has never been a favourite of mine, began the move with a fantastic diagonal ball from the left flank.

Without his vision and speed of thought at that moment, the silky build up and the goal itself would not have happened. Credit where credit is due sir!

As for the goalscorer, Ansarifard took his chance beautifully.

He’d previously missed a couple of decent opportunities that he should have buried, but his ability to play on the shoulder of the last man impressed me throughout.

Despite not quite leading the line with the prowess of Lewis Grabban, his style really suits the likes of Carvalho when there’s a threaded ball to peel away and run onto.

The stage is set for the season finale at home to Bolton, and whilst Championship football is a certainty again next season, the opportunity to end this one with a third straight victory provides some encouragement.

A convincing win accompanied by his 16th clean sheet of the season would be a fitting end to the proceedings for Pantilimon, marking quite a transformation in the process.