Nottingham Forest manager Aitor Karanka said his side performed better without pressure after their dramatic 3-1 win in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
Forest took the lead in the second minute thanks to Daryl Murphy but looked to have been cruelly denied a deserved victory when Solomon Rondon levelled in the 92nd minute.
The Reds kept going, however, and goals by Matty Cash and Gil Dias deep into injury time saw Forest progresss.
Forest have been below par recently, needing late goals to rescue games against Wigan and Birmingham, and speaking after Wednesday’s cup win, Karanka claimed he now knows the reason why.
“The game today has been for me confirmation that the team is not performing well because we are under big pressure,” said the 44 year old. “To be unbeaten is important to me but the main thing for me is the performances and today confirmed for me that when we are ourselves, we are a very good team.
“When we approach a game under pressure, we are not ourselves. Today we approached the game without pressure and we were much better than a Premier League team. We saw again today how good we are.”
The former Real Madrid assistant was up against a former Real Madrid manager in Newcastle’s Rafa Benitez and Karanka was full of praise for the spirit of his team, epitomised by midfielder Liam Bridcutt.
“I am pleased with the whole performance,” said the Spaniard. “I’m really pleased, especially for players like [Liam] Bridcutt. One or two weeks ago, he was the last midfielder, he wasn’t even in the squad, but he played and he was amazing.
“I liked the spirit of the team and Bridcutt showed this spirit.
“When you play bad it’s because, again, the pressure is not good but when you play like we did today, or like we did against West Brom, it is not a coincidence, it is because they are working really hard.”