Nottingham Forest’s four-game unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday afternoon as they lost 2-0 at home to Huddersfield Town.
The Reds have made strides of improvement over the course of this season, and sat 10 points clear of the relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Terriers on home soil.
But Carlos Corberan’s side are desperate for points, though, and fought like a team scrapping their way to Championship safety on Saturday.
Forest dominated the opening stages and Filip Krovinovic was denied with a few chances early on, but Huddersfield grew into the game and profited from a horrendous James Garner back pass on the stroke of half-time.
Aaron Rowe showed willingness to latch onto the loose ball, before showing composure to fire low and beyond Brice Samba. On the hour mark, Juninho Bacuna broke forward and added a second goal for the Terriers, unleashing a thunderous effort into the top corner.
Chris Hughton’s side were unable to respond and they fell to their first defeat in five. There is still a very big chance they will avoid the drop, and at some ease as well, but complacency crept into their game and the manager will want to eradicate that in the final four games.
Here, we take a look at some dilemmas following yesterday’s 2-0 defeat to the Terriers…
How to solve a problem like Anthony Knockaert?
Knockaert was sporting a new hair colour yesterday with perhaps one eye cast on the summer already. The winger failed to take his chance yesterday.
Whilst Knockaert may be a very talented individual, how often you get to see that talent on display is another matter entirely, which is undoubtedly the biggest frustration amongst Forest fans.
On Saturday, the winger came up against a tough customer in Harry Toffolo – the returning Huddersfield full-back whose absence has been so noticeable during his spell on the sidelines.
Toffolo limited Knockaert to very little space down the right-hand side, and even when the winger was allowed room to drive inside, a hard-working midfield unit nullified his threat and snuffed out the danger.
Being a winger isn’t all about offensive play, though. Chris Hughton constantly bellows at his wingers to track back and help form a solid defensive structure, and the manager was spotted having one or two words with the Frenchman in the first half.
He cut a frustrated figure as he was withdrew on 81 minutes, walking around the City Ground turf reflecting on a below-par display.
This was his second successive start after spending a few weeks on the sidelines, but with Sammy Ameobi edging closer to a return from injury, time is running out for Knockaert to impress.
One of those days?
Well, he will certainly be hoping that was the case.
We have seen Forest make huge strides of improvement since Hughton first arrived on Trentside, and in recent weeks, their performances have been impressive.
But yesterday, fans witnessed a performance which was far too similar to that of a few months ago. Create chances, but fail to apply any real quality in the final third and struggle to compete after going a goal down.
This shows how quickly Forest can still creep into their old habits and produce those sort of performances, and with their status in the division still not yet secure, they cannot afford this to repeat itself in the next four games.
What you get with James Garner and Ryan Yates are two players are recycle possession well and don’t mind participating in the dirty side of the game.
When Cafu replaced Yates on the hour mark, the Portuguese midfielder immediately offered more progressive, forward-thinking, with Garner sitting deep and allowing the 28-year-old to push forward.
He was ultimately unable to get Forest back into the game, but he offered a bit of inspiration and mobility going forward.
Alongside someone who does the gritty side of the game well, this could work well.