Date:Friday November 10 2006
James Robson talks to keeper Paul Smith about Forest's impressive defensive record this season
Playing for a club with such a rich tradition of custodians was always going to be a challenge for Paul Smith.
But treading the same turf as Peter Shilton has so far proved a walk in the park for Nottingham Forest's current number one.
He'd played for another of Shilton's former clubs, Southampton, before moving to the City Ground in the summer - so he is no stranger to living in a legend's shadow.
Which could explain why he was hardly shy about announcing his ambitions at his new club after a £500,000 move.
Smith immediately made clear his intention to lead Forest back to the Premiership.
And in four months, Smith has produced the performances to back up his lofty words.
A record of 11 clean sheets in 18 appearances is the measure of the impact he has had on Colin Calderwood's side.
Forest have the best defensive record in League One with only ten goals conceded. Their solid back line has fast become the foundation of their charge towards the Championship.
Now sitting seven points clear at the top of League One, the sound defence has been a focal point of their success so far - with Smith's displays pivotal to that.
The goalkeeper, though, refuses to take all the credit for Forest's meanness at the back.
'Keeping clean sheets are what me and Dave Watson, the goalkeeping coach, work hard on in the week,' he said.
'But a lot of that is down to the defenders in front of me.
'They get in blocks and tackles, so when I'm not there to make the saves they are doing the job for me.
'In the last few games the boys in front of me have got in plenty of tackles and blocks.
'I feel comfortable with the boys in front no matter which way we play. Whether it is three, four or five at the back, I am confident they will do the job.
'The defenders have played well, but luckily when I've had the chance to make saves I've done so.'
Peter Schmeichel once famously said he was a virtual spectator behind the Manchester United defensive partnership of Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister in the mid 90s. The same could hardly be said of Smith this season, who has pulled off a string of match-winning saves to help Forest's rise.
His athleticism and commanding presence have been notable features of his performances thus far, and have perfectly demonstrated why Calderwood was so keen to bring him to the club.
And Smith admits this is his best form since he initially shot to prominence with Southampton in the Premiership.
He said: 'In terms of results and in terms of clean sheets, 11 in 18 games has got to be up there with the best form of my career.
'It has not a case of 11 clean sheets and 11 games doing nothing.
'It compares well with my form at Southampton. Obviously Premier League football is a different level and it's where every player strives to perform.
'But at the moment I'm happy with what I'm doing here and as long as we can push this club forward we will be happy.
'Eleven clean sheets in 18 games is good for me and good for the team to build points from.'
The lowest point in Smith's short Forest career has undoubtedly been last month's 4-0 home defeat to Scunthorpe.
However, he and Forest have answered that in the best possible fashion - with six successive wins, while Smith has not had to pick the ball out of his net since.
He said: 'That was just an off day. Sometimes you get away with two or three players not playing well, but that day there were eight or nine players not playing well.
'It was a one-off and that's been shown because since that game we've bounced back and got really good results.
'Everyone was disappointed. For me personally because I conceded four - but I didn't think there was anything I could have done about it.
'I've watched it on video and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it. But everyone feels it when you lose - especially by that margin.'
In his current form, you sense it won't be an experience Smith tastes too many times this season.
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