Nottingham Forest boosted their top-six hopes at the weekend, after picking up a hard-earned point against Preston North End at Deepdale.
Sabri Lamouchi’s side remain fifth in the Sky Bet Championship table and still sit six points clear of seventh, with another game chalked off as they look to cement their place in the play-off spots.
Forest took the lead against the play-off hopefuls North End – Nuno da Costa was bundled over in the area, and up stepped Lewis Grabban to dispatch from the penalty spot, netting his 20th goal of the season.
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Alex Neil’s men were level just 10 minutes later, though, with Jayden Stockley tapping home from Brad Potts’ low cross to equalise for North End.
Both sides had chances to win the game in the second-half through Sammy Ameobi and Sean Maguire, but in the end, the points were shared in Lancashire.
Here, we take a look at three things we learnt about Forest after their 1-1 draw with Preston…
Prolific Grabban proves key once again
Before last season, Forest had been missing that potent goalscorer up top since the days of Robbie Earnshaw, Britt Assombalonga and Marlon Harewood – that was before they found Grabban.
At the weekend, Grabban scored his 20th goal of the season – his 37th strike in 83 appearances for the Reds – having already surpassed last season’s tally of 17 goals with potentially another six games still to play.
The 32-year-old has scored some crucial goals for Forest under Lamouchi this season, and even though this one came from 12 yards, it matters just as much as the other 19 he’s scored this term.
He has certainly lived up to expectations since his arrival from AFC Bournemouth last season, and became the first Forest player to net 20 goals in a season since 2002/03.
Nuno da Costa coming into his own
Eyebrows were raised when da Costa – the scorer of just two goals in 20 games for Strasbourg this season – was brought in in January to provide competition for Grabban up top.
But the 29-year-old is starting to find his feet after a short spell on the sidelines through injury, becoming an effective player in a slightly different position to what fans may have expected since the season’s restart.
Da Costa has been used out wide in his recent appearances for the Reds, and after standing out against Derby County last week, the Cape Verdean’s pace and power makes him a very useful player for Lamouchi.
He won the penalty for the Reds at the weekend and has looked sharp since being introduced to the side, and Forest fans will be hoping that there is more to come.
Killing two birds with one stone
Forest are winless in their last three games, but there is a bigger picture to look at.
They may have been held to another draw at the weekend, but in turn, they have helped dent another promotion rival’s chances of replacing them in the top-six, with Preston now sitting seven points off the Reds.
Leeds United did Forest a huge favour at the weekend, too, with the Whites scoring late on to defeat Swansea City in South Wales.
This now means that ahead of Wednesday night’s clash with the Swans, a win could all but confirm the Reds’ place in the top-six, with Swansea six points off Lamouchi’s men.
They are creeping closer towards that top-six finish, and a hard-earned point at the weekend could turn out to be invaluable.