Nottingham Forest were made to rue missed opportunities as they lost 1-0 to Luton Town at the City Ground on Tuesday night.
Ryan Tunnicliffe’s second-half goal secured back-to-back wins for the Hatters, with Forest unable to return to winning ways after drawing with arch rivals Derby County on Friday night.
Forest were left frustrated at Pride Park, as missed chances proved costly when Colin Kazim-Richards’ strike salvaged a late point for the Rams. Undoubtedly keen to put that draw behind them, the Reds started this one very much on the front foot.
On four minutes, Anthony Knockaert was given time to deliver a dangerous in-swinging cross from the right, with Glenn Murray’s header kept out by Simon Sluga. Moments later, it was Knockaert who came close with a header, meeting Joe Lolley’s cross from the left.
A return to the starting line-up looked to inspire Lolley, who forced Sluga into a save in the 23rd minute following a smart free-kick routine. The Croatian shot-stopper was also equal to Cafu’s driven effort on the follow-up.
Knockaert seemed to be the catalyst of Forest’s best first-half chances. The winger displayed excellent work-rate to win the ball inside his own half, before bursting down the left-hand flank and delivering the ball into the area for Murray to attack. Normally lethal inside the 18-yard box, the experienced front-man could only fire over from close-range.
Forest, though, were comfortably the better side and were firmly in the driving seat. Luton, meanwhile, were struggling to get out of first gear. Nathan Jones’ side’s only real sight of goal came towards the latter stages of the half, with Harry Cornick’s cross well overhit and no causing trouble for Brice Samba.
Forest continued to apply the pressure as the half-time interval approached, with Knockaert dragging a shot narrowly wide following a quick corner with Filip Krovinovic. But the whistle soon blew to mark the end of the first 45 minutes.
One lesson Chris Hughton’s side will have learnt on Friday night is that missed opportunities can quite easily come back to haunt you. After witnessing his side carve out plenty of chances against Derby and in the opening 45 minutes against Luton, he would have been urging his side to find their finishing touch in front of goal.
The hosts carried their dominance in the first half into the early stages of the second, and Sluga was there to deny the hosts shortly before the hour mark.
Yuri Ribeiro’s low cross was dummied by Krovinovic, with James Garner latched onto the pass, driving into the area and forcing a fantastic save out of the goalkeeper, who got fingertips onto the midfielder’s driven effort across goal.
But Luton were presented with a wonderful opportunity moments later, with a loose ball falling kindly inside the area for Elijah Adebayo who failed to make a proper connection and fired straight at Samba.
Two minutes later, the Hatters were to break the deadlock. Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu’s cross from the left found Ryan Tunnicliffe inside the area, with the midfielder flicking past Samba and netting his second goal in as many games to give the visitors the lead on 65 minutes.
Hughton began to ring the changes as his side searched for an immediate response. Sammy Ameobi replacing Lolley, and Lyle Taylor replacing Krovinovic to add more attacking impetus and presence in the final third.
But it was Luton who responded to taking the lead well, and came agonisingly close to finding a second goal on 72 minutes.
Adebayo – who had proved to be a nuisance all night with his aerial threat and physical prowess – managed to keep the ball in on the byline before rolling it back for Jordan Clark, who fired an effort narrowly wide of the far post.
Another attacking change was made by the hosts as the clock continued to tick. Alex Mighten looking to add fresh legs and a bit of inspiration out wide, replacing Knockaert. Luton looking to defend their valuable lead, replacing Adebayo with James Collins.
Forest pushed desperately for an equaliser, but this left space for Luton to exploit. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall – a thorn in the Reds’ side all night – did well to ride a challenge and force Samba into action on 84 minutes.
Forest were unable to put their opponents under any real danger as the final whistle loomed, and in the end, the Hatters held onto a big win on the road.