Garry Birtles: Sean O'Driscoll needs just one vital piece of the jigsaw at Nottingham Forest
IF Sean O'Driscoll signs one player this January, I hope it is a defender.
The Nottingham Forest manager says he has three players on his wish list, as the transfer window approaches.
And I can understand why he might want to add another quality striker or a winger to the equation.
But the most important addition he could make, without any question, is another defender.
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Yes, fans would get excited at the prospect of another goal scorer.
And there is no question that they could do with a little more pace in the side, particularly in wide positions.
But if there is one area that needs strengthening, it is the back-four.
In the summer, that was O'Driscoll's biggest challenge; it was the most obvious void in the squad.
Just look at the players Forest have lost over the past year.
Wes Morgan was sold last January and Reading brought Chris Gunter in the summer.
Then Luke Chambers and Joel Lynch departed on a free transfers, after their contracts had expired.
O'Driscoll had to start from scratch when it came to his back-four.
And he did a good job, with the players he brought in.
Danny Collins is solid, he is a steadying influence and a decent captain.
Greg Halford's flexibility has already been a valuable asset. He must have played in virtually every position, asides from in goal, at some point or another, only half way into the season.
And, for the first time, Forest actually have a left back, in Dan Harding, at the club.
But, with Daniel Ayala, Elliott Ward, Sam Hutchinson and Alan Hutton all at the club on loan, they still lack many permanent figures in defence.
If they want to build for the long term, I'd like to see a few more permanent additions to the Forest rearguard.
It would be great to see Ayala in particular made a permanent addition, if that is possible.
As O'Driscoll says, much will depend on whether Norwich are willing to sell.
If they are, having him at the club permanently would be a welcome boost.
The work O'Driscoll did in the summer was good – but it felt like a temporary fix.
If he can find a way to give Forest's defence a more long-term feel to it, it could really make a difference.
People always talk about the need for strikers to have a good understanding up front, with their strike partner.
But that applies just as much at the back. So far, it looks as though Ayala and Collins are the best partnership in the centre. Wouldn't it be great if there could be some longevity given to that?
But, whatever happens with Ayala, Forest still need to add more permanent strength in depth to their ranks.
And, while January is not the best time to do business, nor are the final few weeks before the season starts – and O'Driscoll seemed to do a good job back then.
There will be players out there who are available, who can make Forest stronger.
And, if one of those does prove to be a defender, I will be a happy man.
Equally, Forest will be one step closer to being the finished article, when it comes to being capable of challenging for promotion.
And I genuinely don't think they are too far away from that.
Just two or three additions could see them very well equipped.
Given what happened in the summer and all the excitement it generated, there were high expectation levels at the club.
And they have perhaps not been fulfilled as many would have hoped.
But let's not get too downhearted. Because Forest are not a million miles away.
They are within touching distance of the play-off places. They can still make this a successful season, without having to improve hugely.
There are a host of sides who will still consider themselves to be in the promotion race and Forest are very much one of those.
Yes, automatic promotion may now be beyond them, as they would be relying on other teams to drop points.
But a top six finish is more than realistic, it is entirely within reach.
The players can no longer use the excuse that they are gelling as a squad.
But that is a positive thing, because they should be unified; they should have developed an understanding, having had five months together now.
But, if all goes well, there will be no need for excuses anyway.
Forest are close to being the finished article.
And, if O'Driscoll can add two or three pieces to the jigsaw over the coming weeks – including the pivotal defensive signing – they should have a squad that is capable of competing with anyone in the Championship.