Nottingham Forest put another point on the board on Saturday afternoon, holding play-off contenders Reading to a 1-1 draw at the City Ground.
The Reds stopped the rot and arrested a run of two straight defeats with a good point against the Royals, on an afternoon where they rode their luck despite initially taking the lead.
After a drab first half, Forest took the lead when Tom Holmes diverted into his own net amid pressure from Glenn Murray, following good work from Sammy Ameobi down the right.
Ameobi did come close to doubling Forest’s lead as he forced a terrific save out of Rafael Cabral soon after, but Yakou Meite’s introduction inspired Reading and could have seen them leave the City Ground with all three points.
Meite put the Royals back on level terms when he fired an effort low and beyond Brice Samba, and George Puscas and Lucas Joao were also guilty of wasting big opportunities in the second half.
But in the end, the spoils were shared, and here, we take a look at three things we learnt about Forest following their stalemate with the Royals…
Ameobi steps up
On Thursday afternoon, Ameobi insisted that he wanted his performances to do the talking with his contract running out in the summer, and would leave any developments over a potential new deal to his relevant representatives.
The towering winger was subsequently recalled to the side on Saturday afternoon, and he made a hugely positive impression.
The 28-year-old showed some good touches in the first half, and five minutes into the second, he used his strong, physical prowess to full effect when he breezed past Omar Richards before pulling the ball across the byline for Holmes to put into his own net.
The winger was proving to be a nuisance driving in from the right, and he came mightily close to doubling the Reds’ lead with a powerful effort from 25 yards, with Rafael had to tip over the bar for a corner.
Ameobi has been unable to show any sort of consistency in his performances over his two-year spell at the City Ground, as he confessed in Thursday’s pre-match presser, therefore the task is now for him to replicate those displays and keep on earning starts under Chris Hughton.
If he can perform to that level every week, he will give the club and the manager a tricky decision to make in the summer.
Samba leaves critics with a smirk
There can be no denying Brice Samba’s quality in-between the sticks. On his day, he is arguably the best shot-stopper in the division, as he proved last season by being named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
But as any professional footballer is, Samba is prone to mistakes, and on Saturday, he was under the spotlight again for the wrong reasons.
Clever hold-up play by Joao on halfway resulted in the striker spotting the diagonal run of the lively Meite, who took one touch out of his feet and fired powerfully beyond Samba.
Replays from an alternative angle on the club’s Twitter account suggest that the ball went through the goalkeeper, and it was an effort that you would expect him to do better with.
Samba also made a glaring error against Reading the last time these two sides faced at the Madejski Stadium back in December, where he came out and flapped at a cross, leading to Ryan Yates handling on the line and being shown a straight red card. Reading went on to score the resulting penalty and win the game 2-0.
Samba has obviously had his good moments this season, and was the hero as he saved Adam Armstrong’s spot-kick against Blackburn Rovers last month.
But he needs to cut these basic errors out of his game if Forest really are to start climbing the table under Hughton.
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Joe Lolley’s misfortune
It’s fair to say that, this season, we are yet to see the Joe Lolley who had 22 goal involvements in 2018/19 under Aitor Karanka and 18 under Sabri Lamouchi last term.
The winger has scored one goal and chipped in with two assists for Forest this season, and 12 of his 28 Championship appearances have come as a substitute.
At the weekend, Lolley was recalled to the side and started on the left flank rather than on the right, which is usually the position we associate with the 28-year-old.
Lolley was looking well up for it, too, driving in from the right and proving to be one of Forest’s main threats going forward, curling an effort narrowly wide of the far post on the half-hour mark.
But moments later, another clever touch and bursting run towards goal culminated in the winger pulling up and clutching his hamstring, before falling to the ground and eventually hobbling off the pitch.
It was a cruel blow for Lolley, who had been showing glimpses of his true self beforehand and had finally earned a recall to the team.
It remains to be seen how long Lolley is out for, and whether or not he will even feature for Forest again this season. With only 10 league games remaining, that looks unlikely, and a frustrating campaign looks to be over for an even more frustrated Lolley.