Saturday afternoon would have been rewarding for new Nottingham Forest head coach Steve Cooper in more ways than one.
The 41-year-old took to the City Ground home dugout for the first time, after he was appointed as Chris Hughton’s successor last week.
Having watched Forest pick up their first win of the season at Huddersfield last weekend from afar, Saturday presented Cooper with a first chance to manage his team first-hand.
Matt Smith headed Millwall in front in a first half which lacked quality, with very little to separate the two sides at the break.
But Forest responded well in the second half, and even though Max Lowe’s goal was more than fortuitous – a cross which looped over Bart Bialkowski and into the net via the woodwork – the Reds earned a deserved point.
It will take time for Cooper to fully embed his philosophy into his players’ minds, but this is the Championship and games come thick and fast.
Here, we take a look at two headaches Cooper has after his side’s 1-1 draw with Millwall, ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Barnsley…
Forest may well have taken the lead inside five minutes at the weekend, with Lewis Grabban seeing his close-range effort denied by Bialkowski following Djed Spence’s cross.
But the striker hobbled off with a thigh injury shortly after, which really halted Forest’s early momentum and left them short of a focal point for the remainder of the contest.
Lyle Taylor replaced Grabban, but the 31-year-old was unable to provide the physical prowess and intelligence the latter brings to the table, which often sees him dropping deep and pushing Joe Lolley and Brennan Johnson on.
Cooper was unsure about the severity of Grabban’s injury when speaking post-match, but the striker walked straight down the tunnel looking dejected, and it is unlikely he will feature in midweek.
If that is to be the case, then it presents a huge opportunity for Taylor to stake a claim for a regular starting berth.
But aside from Grabban and Taylor, Forest lack an out-and-out centre-forward. They failed to bring one in during the summer, and even though Xande Silva can play there, he is still building up fitness.
Do Forest delve into the free agent market, or do they even look to promote Will Swan or Julian Larsson from the Under-23s’?
Turning possession into cutting edge
Old habits seemed to die hard for Forest at the weekend. They dominated the ball, worked it into promising areas, but were unable to carve out clear-cut chances on a regular basis.
Grabban came close inside five minutes, with a swift attacking move seeing Spence drive down the right and deliver a teasing cross into the area.
But Forest were able to register a further two attempts on target after that opportunity, leaving a real need for more quality to be on show.
As alluded to before, it will take time for Forest to learn Cooper’s style of play and get grips to it, and patience will be required.
They will have to be patient and show composure to play out from the back and progress the ball forward, but it’s about turning the switch on when required.