Nottingham Forest recorded their first win of the season on Saturday afternoon, with a 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers getting Chris Hughton’s tenure off to a perfect start.
Hughton replaced Sabri Lamouchi at the helm last week, and his task is to revitalise Forest after what has been a disappointing start to the season, with four defeats from their first four Championship outings.
Having already conceded seven goals in the Championship heading into the clash at Ewood Park, he will be keen to address his new side’s defensive issues as quickly as possible.
Coming up against a Blackburn side who had scored 11 goals in their first four league games – a tally higher than any other side in the division – the new Reds boss will have been urging his side to stay tight and organised at the back.
Wary of Blackburn’s obvious attacking threat, Forest made a positive start to the game, pressing high up the pitch and looking organised in the middle of the park.
Rovers’ only source of attacking threat came from out wide, particularly in their full-backs, who began to cause problems on 14 minutes.
After Joe Lolley was brought down in the middle of the park, referee Jarred Gillett played on, allowing Rovers to break with Amari’i Bell down the left-hand side.
Bell, who burst forward towards the Forest area with speed, played in Corry Evans on the overlap, however the Northern Irish international’s cross was far too tame and was easily cleared. A wasted opportunity early on.
Across the other side of the pitch, Ryan Nyambe was also a threat, and his powerful low cross had to be cleared by Scott McKenna before Ben Brereton could pounce onto it and produce an effort on goal.
Forest were also looking to unlock Rovers’ defence through their wide options. The dangerous Sammy Ameobi – so hard to knock off the ball due to his obvious physical presence – tried to find Lewis Grabban with a clever cross towards the back post, which was inches away from the striker’s boot.
There was very little for both goalkeepers, Thomas Kaminski and Brice Samba, to do in the first-half, though. In fact, the Reds’ only effort of the half came via Cyrus Christie, with the full-back’s teasing cross having to be tipped onto the bar on 20 minutes.
As the half went on, Blackburn began to assert their dominance on the game. Tobias Figueiredo was shown the game’s first yellow card on the half-hour mark, deliberately handling the ball as Mowbray’s men threatened to break.
But, despite showing plenty of endeavour particularly through Tyrhys Dolan on the right, the hosts failed to threaten Samba’s goal. Ben Brereton’s effort from 25 yards towards the end of the half was far too tame for Samba, who saved with ease.
Hughton was left frustrated by his side’s toothless display in front of goal, too. Nicholas Ioannou delivered a looping ball into the box on 41 minutes, but Grabban headed high and wide.
That brought an end to a rather cagey and scrappy first-half, with both sides cancelling each other out after gritty, determined displays at the back.
It was Forest who started the second-half strongly. Shortly after bringing on Harry Arter to replace the injured Jack Colback, the game’s best chance came Forest’s way.
Grabban, who is normally known for his poacher instincts inside the area, went about turning provider, wriggling away from his man and stood a ball up to the back post.
Ryan Yates was on the end of it, but the midfielder’s effort from 12 yards was headed over, with the target needing to be hit.
Blackburn made their first change of the game a minute later, as they looked to add more firepower to their attacking armory with Sam Gallagher replacing the lively Dolan.
Another big chance fell Forest’s way on the hour mark. A dangerous Luke Freeman corner found an unmarked Tobias Figueiredo, whose header was saved at point-blank range. A little more conviction, and it could have been the game’s opening goal.
Forest were starting to threaten now, with Kaminski finally being made to work. Sammy Ameobi, who was proving to be a nuisance down the left, had a powerful driven effort saved by the Belgian.
Lewis Grabban, who had found service hard to come by throughout, made way for Lyle Taylor on 70 minutes, and the former Charlton Athletic man went about making an immediate impression.
After dispossessing Ben Brereton on halfway, the striker burst forward and had a shot at goal. His powerful effort stung the palms of Kaminski, who could only put the ball behind for a corner.
Forest came inches away from finally opening the scoring late on, too. On 87 minutes, a free-kick was headed away only as far as Ameobi, whose deflected effort from 20 yards left Kaminski stranded.
The woodwork was there, though, denying the winger a first goal of the season – however the woodwork wouldn’t deny Forest moments later.
Joe Lolley picked the ball up on the right, cut inside onto his left foot, and produced what Forest fans know he is capable of.
His strike picked up a wicked deflection. which once again left Kaminski stranded, helplessly watching the ball trickle into the bottom corner.
Four minutes of added time was announced as soon as Lolley found the net, with Forest players jubilantly celebrating what could prove to be a massive goal in Forest’s season.
Despite Blackburn threatening late on, that was to be that, with Lolley’s strike securing a vital first win for Forest, and a winning start for Hughton.
A gritty, cagey, dogged performance that won’t grab the headlines by any means, but a weight off the shoulders for the visitors.
Final score: Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Nottingham Forest.