Nottingham Forest mathematically secured their Sky Bet Championship status with a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City this afternoon.
Lewis Grabban tapped in from close-range shortly after half-time to earn a point for the Reds, after Rabbi Matondo netted a first-half opener.
Forest were guilty of producing arguably their most lacklustre performance of the season in a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City on Wednesday night. The Reds were able to see a lot more of the ball on Saturday compared to Wednesday night, though, largely because of the slick playing surface at the City Ground.
But for all their possession in the first half, the Reds were ineffective with it. Very few chances were created in the opening 45 minutes, with very little movement being shown off the ball.
The first real opportunity Forest managed to carve out, in fact, was a golden one. On 18 minutes, Lewis Grabban did well to capitalise on Harry Souttar’s error and shrug the defender off before racing towards the area.
From a tight angle, the striker cut onto his left foot, but dragged an effort wide of the near post, failing to make Adam Davies work at all.
On 27 minutes, Stoke made Forest pay for lacklustre quality in the final third of which has been too familiar throughout the course of this season.
Josh Tymon’s low cross from the left found its way towards the back stick, where Rabbi Matondo beat Yuri Ribeiro to the ball and seeing a deflected effort burrow its way under Brice Samba and into the net. A lead for the visitors.
The Reds went in search of a response and almost found an instant equaliser from a dangerous free-kick. James Garner’s delivery from the left darted across the box and evaded everybody, skimming the far post and out for a goal kick.
Forest were then forced into making an early change soon after, with Luke Freeman picking up an injury and being replaced by Anthony Knockaert. The latter almost made an immediate impact, playing a clever reverse ball into Grabban’s path inside the area.
Harry Souttar looked to pull the striker’s shirt which ultimately stopped him in his tracks, but referee Andy Davies waved play on, much to the Reds’ frustration.
The half-time whistle blew and Forest made their way down the tunnel needing to come out for the second half and produce a much-improved performance once again.
Five minutes into the second half, they found their equaliser, with Grabban making amends for the earlier miss.
Clever footwork from Knockaert resulted in the winger delivering a cross into the middle, with Grabban showing his predatory instincts to prod home from close-range after seeing his first effort snuffed out. 1-1, and game on.
Forest had Joe Worrall to thank for keeping the scores level shortly after the hour mark. A defensive error saw Matondo slip the ball inside for substitute Jacob Brown – who had replaced the injured Steven Fletcher – but Worrall produced an excellent last-ditch block to deny the Potters’ forward.
Nevertheless, the game was starting to open up a little, with Hughton looking to add further inspiration in the final third, replacing Cafu with Alex Mighten on 68 minutes. The hosts came close to taking the lead with two chances in quick succession, with Grabban forcing Davies into another save, before James Garner fired over from 20 yards.
Chances were few and far between towards the end of the contest, but events at Pride Park meant that Forest had got their job done even without sealing all three points. The full-time whistle blew, and mathematical safety was confirmed for the Reds after Derby’s defeat to Birmingham.
Still plenty to work on heading into the summer for Chris Hughton, especially after another shy performance in front of goal, but a weight off the shoulders for the East Midlands outfit.