Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten run since the season’s restart came to an end on Tuesday evening, as the Reds fell to a 1-0 defeat at home to Fulham.
Forest went into the encounter on Trentside with an outside chance of reaching the top-two, as they prepared to come up against a Fulham side that sat one place and two points ahead of the Reds in fourth.
A win would have seen them push closer to Leeds and West Brom, as well as all but confirming their place in the Championship play-offs, but that wasn’t to be the case on what was a frustrating night for the hosts.
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Looking to return to winning ways after Chris Martin’s 97th minute equaliser for Derby County at the weekend, Forest performed way below their usual high standards, as Fulham left the City Ground with a win.
Harry Arter’s magnificent left-footed effort, fired into the top corner, right on the stroke of half-time proved to be the winner. It was the worst possible time for Sabri Lamouchi’s side to concede, after failing to threaten in the opening 45 minutes.
Five changes were made in quick succession at the start of the second-half, but despite Nuno da Costa’s looping header that nearly found its way over Marek Rodak, the game ended in a 1-0 defeat for the Reds.
Here, then, we take a look at three things we learnt about Forest after their 1-0 defeat to Fulham on Tuesday…
Substitutions failed to work out
Lamouchi was quick to ring the changes right after half-time, making four out of his five substitutions in the opening 20 minutes of the half.
The likes of da Costa, Diakhaby, Yates and Semedo were brought in to add more impetus in midfield, however record-signing Joao Carvalho was once again overlooked.
This decision proved to be baffling in the end, with Forest failing to show any signs of danger despite freshening things up in the middle of the park.
Carvalho is a natural attacking midfielder who can pick out a killer pass, whilst Yates and Semedo are completely different players and are more defensive-minded players.
Managers like Marcelo Bielsa are often really smart with their substitutions. The Argentine spotted the opportunity to come on for Leeds against Fulham at half-time a fortnight ago, and he completely changed the game.
This is something Lamouchi needs to get better at going forward, and the introduction of Carvalho could prove to be an inspired decision.
Time to rest Joe Lolley
Lamouchi spoke about his concern for Joe Lolley and the winger’s fitness after the game, and now could be a good time to rest the winger ahead of their potential play-off fixtures.
The winger suffered a knock in the first-half and was subsequently replaced by Ryan Yates at the interval, and was seen wearing ice packs as he watched his teammates play in the second-half.
This isn’t the first time Lolley has been in the wars since the season’s restart, with the winger being taken off against Derby after being on the receiving end of some strong challenges.
Lolley works so hard for the team and is a key player in Lamouchi’s system, and rather than aggravate his injury, he shouldn’t be rushed back and he should be put in cotton wool ahead of the play-offs.
This could open a door for Nuno da Costa to reclaim his place in the side, after starting against Derby at the weekend.
Automatic promotion chances over
Forest fans may have thought that their automatic promotion chances were dead and buried before the game, but their top-two chances definitely look to be over now.
Tuesday’s defeat sees them sit nine points off second-placed West Brom, with both the Baggies and Leeds United set to play on Wednesday and Thursday against Derby and Stoke respectively.
With only four games remaining, it would take a miracle for Lamouchi’s men to break into the top-two, and overcome a rampant Brentford outfit in the process.
They now need to concentrate on their final four games and finish the season strongly, which would give them real momentum heading into the play-offs.
They sit seven points clear of seventh, with Derby, Preston, Swansea and Millwall still set to play this week, and with two important games coming up against Swansea and Preston, they need to remain focused on cementing their place in the top-six.