Nottingham Forest registered their first win of the Championship season with a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Lewis Grabban’s diving header opened the scoring for the Reds, who doubled their lead at the start of the second half as Lee Nicholls deflected into his own net.
The result isn’t enough to peel Forest off the foot of the Championship table. However, with a new era and managerial appointment due in the coming week, it builds momentum at the perfect time.
'Wherever a certain Welsh manager was watching on from, he will have been one encouraged man.' ✍️
— George Harbey (@georgeharbey) September 18, 2021
Contrasting form heading into the game, yet both sets of supporters contributed to a lively atmosphere in the Yorkshire sun.
Joe Lolley and Harry Toffolo enjoyed an early battle down one flank, as the Forest winger jinked his way into the penalty area, opening up a shooting chance for Ryan Yates.
Forest are, of course, about to embark on a new chapter as Steve Cooper prepares to replace Chris Hughton. Today, though, Steven Reid was in the away dugout, enthused by what he was seeing.
Tom Lees blocked a Brennan Johnson shot and Grabban flicked a James Garner cross straight at Lee Nicholls; Carlos Corberan’s side struggling to create much aside from Danny Ward’s tame header.
Forest were firmly on the front foot in the opening 20 minutes, playing with width and intensity, causing the usually reliable Toffolo and Levi Colwill a number of problems.
And, before long, Forest had the lead through Grabban.
Johnson picked up possession having drifted onto the right, skipped past Colwill and advanced, producing a cross that Grabban guided beyond Nicholls.
Huddersfield’s response to going behind was good. Josh Koroma fed Toffolo into the Forest area, only to be denied by Brice Samba quickly off his line.
Corberan’s left edge of Toffolo, Koroma and Lewis O’Brien has often been the key over the last 12 months and, sure enough, it looked Huddersfield’s most likely route to an equaliser.
Toffolo and O’Brien would win corners out of Djed Spence. However, Sorba Thomas’ delivery was dealt with by Forest time after time.
O’Brien’s efforts to get Huddersfield into some form of control were hard to ignore: chasing a lost cause and eventually clashing with Tobias Figueiredo, then twisting and turning between two Forest players to advance into the final third.
Samba, though, remained largely untested and Forest had the lead at the break.
Corberan will have been disappointed by his side’s below-par opening 45 minutes, reflected in a switch in personnel and system at the break. Ollie Turton replacing Matty Pearson, though, didn’t change the course of the game.
Only four minutes into the second half, Forest netted a second goal of the afternoon – only the second time they have done so in a league game since the start of April.
A turnover in Huddersfield territory allowed Ryan Yates to fire an effort towards goal from 20 yards. Nicholls could only parry it as far as the dangerous Lolley, and was helpless as the winger fired back across goal and into the net via a deflection off the goalkeeper.
Not the response Corberan would have been hoping for, then, and further attack-minded changes were introduced by the Spaniard soon after. Duane Holmes and Mipo Odubeko replacing Ward and Koroma, with the hosts looking to galvanise an impressive turnaround.
Town saw much more of the ball in the final half-hour, with Forest dropping deep and their wing-backs’ responsibilities changing to keep their opponents at bay. Town struggled to manoeuvre their way past a resilient, organised Forest back-five – with Holmes firing a long-range effort narrowly over the bar.
Reid looked to shore things up even more with less than 15 minutes remaining. Jack Colback and Jayden Richardson replacing Johnson and Spence, with Town fans already beginning to depart.
Holmes exchanged passes with Jonathan Hogg in the final stages of the contest, before seeing his shot on the angle deflected wide for a corner. From that set-piece, an unmarked Tom Lees rose highest and headed off target from six yards.
That squandered opportunity rather summed up what was a toothless display from the Terriers on the afternoon. Thomas drove another effort harmlessly wide on 88 minutes and, despite enjoying spades of possession late on, Forest dug deep, remained disciplined and, most importantly, kept hold of the points.
A first league win of the season, then, to lift spirits and instil belief into a group of players that should be nowhere near the foot of the Championship table.
The new chapter is just around the corner and has already been handed the perfect boost in the interim. Wherever a certain Welsh manager was watching on from, he will have been one encouraged man.
FT: Huddersfield Town 0-2 Nottingham Forest.