Nottingham Forest fell to their second defeat in the space of four days on Tuesday night, losing 2-0 to AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
After losing 2-0 to Barnsley on Saturday afternoon, the Reds will have been looking to bounce back with a win over Bournemouth – the start of a tough run of fixtures for Chris Hughton’s side.
Forest got off to the nightmare start, and found themselves a goal down after only three minutes when Junior Stanislas beat the offside trap and slotted the ball past Brice Samba.
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After a below-par first-half display, Stanislas and Bournemouth doubled their tally right after half-time – the midfielder netting from 12 yards after Dominic Solanke was bundled over by Jack Colback.
Forest huffed and puffed in the second-half, but in truth, they failed to lay a glove on the high-flying Cherries, and ultimately fell to their seventh league defeat of the season.
With Hughton’s men sitting 20th in the Championship table and only three points clear of relegation, we take a look at three things we learnt about the Reds following last night’s defeat…
Fitness levels an issue
One thing became quickly apparent last night – Bournemouth are a much fitter side than Forest and worked the ball a lot better than their opponents.
Right from the off, the Cherries got themselves on the front-foot. A slick attack and a lapse of concentration from the defence saw Stanislas through on goal, and Bournemouth were 1-0 up with only three minutes on the clock.
The likes of David Brooks and Arnaut Danjuma ran Cyrus Christie and Yuri Ribeiro ragged in the first-half, and the two wide-men posed massive threats down the flanks.
Bournemouth seemed to be one step ahead of Forest in every department. The Reds, meanwhile, struggled to get out of first gear and looked laboured and lethargic going forward.
In fact, it took until late in the second-half for Forest to look lively going forward, when Anthony Knockaert was brought on as a substitute.
Bournemouth looked a well-drilled, energetic outfit who were far better than the Reds on the night.
Midfield conundrum continues
Last night saw Forest set up with three central midfielders in the middle of the park, with Ryan Yates, Jack Colback and Harry Arter starting from the off.
This saw Forest revert from their usual 4-4-1-1 formation with an attacking midfielder to a 4-3-3, as Hughton looked to match Bournemouth’s system and nullify their very obvious attacking threat.
What it did, though, was offer Forest very little going forward. Lyle Taylor looked far too isolated up top on his own, whilst Sammy Ameobi and Joe Lolley were both forced out wide and were easy to contain.
Hughton is yet to decide on his first-choice midfield pairing. Jack Colback and Ryan Yates have started in recent weeks, but the pair have struggled to help Forest tick going forward.
He tried to fit Harry Arter into the team last night, but that meant losing a natural attacking midfielder and left them toothless in attack.
With games coming thick and fast, it’s something he’ll need to decide on very soon.
It won’t get any easier
Last night was Forest’s first real test under Chris Hughton. A test which would show just how Forest compare to a promotion-chasing team, with the ambition still to finish there or thereabouts this season.
Forest failed that test.
As alluded to before, Bournemouth have started the season strongly and one of the better sides in the division. Jason Tindall’s side will be right up there in the hunt for automatic promotion this term.
They made Forest look poor last night and were good value for the win, leaving Forest to lick their wounds and pick themselves up ahead of the weekend.
Forest, in their next four games, face current top-six sides in Swansea City, Watford, Reading and Norwich City – four sides who have started the season very well and will all pose similar attacking threat to that of last night’s opponents.
Forest have to start meeting these challenges head-on and improve, otherwise there could be a battle at the wrong end of the table for the Reds.