Nottingham Forest made it back-to-back league wins with a 1-0 victory over Rotherham United in South Yorkshire last night.
A blustery night at the New York Stadium culminated in all three points for the Reds, courtesy of Ryan Yates’ second-half strike.
The conditions meant it would be a battle for Forest, who had to cope with Rotherham’s physical prowess and aerial threat in every area of the pitch.
But it was a test that they coped with, and an all-round solid, professional performance was rewarded when Yates swept home from close-range on 67 minutes following Tobias Figueiredo’s knockdown.
Here, we take a look at three things we clearly learnt about Chris Hughton’s side after their victory over the Millers.
Defensive muscles flexed once again
Not many would argue with the fact that Forest have certainly improved since the moment Hughton arrived at the City Ground. Patience is a virtue, and the 62-year-old is now getting a really fine tune out of his playing squad.
Forest are up to 15th, and whilst some teams below them do have a game or two in hand, they find themselves 10 points clear of the relegation zone and 10 points adrift of the play-off positions.
Not only does that show how tight and competitive the Championship is this year, but it also shows the progress Forest have made under Hughton’s tutelage.
One key reason behind that revival is the defensive performances. That is now five clean sheets from their last seven league outings, with only two goals being conceded in that time.
On Tuesday night, Rotherham made the most of the windy conditions, throwing nearly every man forward for every throw-in within range of the penalty area. Despite their obvious aerial threat, Forest defended every one of those opportunities well.
The Millers did hit the bar late on through Michael Smith, but in truth, that was perhaps the only time Forest failed to clear their lines on the night.
Not an awful amount of goals have been finding the net at the other end this season, but Hughton has turned Forest into a solid, well-drilled, organised outfit who are crucially, hard to beat. Given their current situation, grinding out wins and being that hard to beat is so incredibly vital.
Yates makes immediate impact
Even if you go back 20 years or so, you will struggle to find a player who divides opinions as much as Yates continues to do so. As the midfielder’s name was revealed in the starting line-up last night, it was mostly met by a reaction of negativity amongst Forest fans.
On a night where there were a host of individual battles all over the park, and where winning second balls and participating in the nasty side of the game were vital, Yates emphatically came to the fore.
The midfielder was his usual self, throwing himself into challenges and battling hard to nullify the threat of Lewis Wing and Dan Barlaser in midfield.
In the second half, he got a deserved goal, latching onto Tobias Figueiredo’s knockdown and poking home from close-range.
Yates is never going to be every Forest fan’s favourite player, but the energy, passion and fight he displays on a weekly basis is admirable, especially when it plays such an integral part in helping Forest record a vital win on the road as they did last night.
Christie stands out
‘Wowza, that was some performance from their right-back’ were the words of Rotherham United manager Paul Warne in his post-match press conference.
Christie is a player who has divided opinions amongst Forest fans since joining the club on a season-long loan deal from Fulham in the summer. His end product has been lacking on more than one occasion, and he often failed to step up out of the shadow left by Matty Cash.
But last night, Christie had arguably one of his best performances in a Garibaldi shirt. He was a strong runner down the right-hand side, enjoying plenty of success against Clark Robertson and Wes Harding, and that allowed Anthony Knockaert to drift inside and find pockets of space.
The 28-year-old also threatened to open the scoring in the first half, cutting inside onto his left-foot and firing an effort narrowly wide into the side netting following good control of the ball.
Last night was a battle, but the right-back showed he was more than up for the rough and tumble of the contest. He now needs to apply that on a consistent basis.