Nottingham Forest were lucky to escape with honours even in the latest instalment of the East Midlands derby, with Lyle Taylor bundling home from close-range to neutralize Martyn Waghorn’s superb first-half free-kick.
Whilst Nottingham Forest maintain hold of the Brian Clough Trophy for a fourth successive occasion, its preservation was not without risk, nor controversy. Clough never shirked from either during successful managerial reigns at both East Midlands clubs; current incumbents appear somewhat bashful in comparison to the emotional rollercoaster that was Brian Clough.
Present Derby manager Phillip Cocu, however, was anything but diffident following referee Tony Harrington’s decision to disallow Kamil Jozwiak’s potential late winner. Harrington deemed Martyn Waghorn to have impeded the line of vision of Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba, rendering Waghorn offside and thus Jozwiak’s strike illegitimate.
Under Hughton, Forest have adopted a more direct and less possession-orientated attitude, focused on concentrated exploitation of wider areas through skilful wingers such as Joe Lolley
Such a goal would have been priceless to a struggling Derby County side, floundering in the relegation zone with only one win in six prior to Friday’s fixture. Cocu’s passionate remonstrations towards the officials perhaps reflect his desperation at an increasingly uncertain future at Derby – with Wayne Rooney ready to step out of the managerial shadows, a derby victory could have provided much-needed respite for the Dutchman.
Chris Hughton, on the other hand, is still seeking to impose his style on a formative yet improving Forest side. Goals remain at a premium in NG2, hence Hughton uncharacteristically opting for two strikers in his selection, with Lewis Grabban and Lyle Taylor leading the line. The back-five remained unchanged in lieu of recent sound defensive performances – Harry Arter the only other change, replacing Jack Colback in midfield.
Under Hughton, Forest have adopted a more direct and less possession-orientated attitude, focused on concentrated exploitation of wider areas through skilful wingers such as Joe Lolley. Friday marked divergence from this approach, recording 59% possession with an average pass success of 81% – this starkly juxtaposes Hughton’s début game against Blackburn, in which Forest only recorded 38% possession with just 66% passes completed.
One qualifying explanation for such radical change could lie with Derby’s 5-4-1 formation, where attempts at fast build-up through wingers Jozwiak and Tom Lawrence led to frequent turnover back to Forest. Central defenders Tobias Figueiredo and Scott McKenna were therefore often left in control of the ball, occupying 16% of the game’s total possession between them – in front of an organised Derby, such positions posed little offensive threat to a backline marshalled by experienced Championship veterans such as David Marshall and Curtis Davies.
Hughton referenced the challenges his side faced against this formation, stating that “our [Forest] movement needed to be better against a team who were happy to defend in a really good shape”. This tactical deadlock resulted in a relatively lifeless first thirty minutes with few chances for either side, interrupted by a moment of set-piece brilliance from Martyn Waghorn.
The constant direct running of Jason Knight proved tiresome for the Forest defence, drawing several fouls throughout the evening, most importantly from Sammy Ameobi in the 30th minute. Waghorn struck the resulting free-kick, which dipped from around twenty-five yards towards the centre of the goal – poor positioning from the usually reliable Samba, beaten by the sheer power of the strike.
A goalmouth scramble ensued following Knockaert’s left-footed out-swinging delivery, the confusion enabling a grateful Taylor to sweep the ball between the legs of David Marshall from close range to draw Forest level
In the fifteen minutes before half-time, Forest were unable to muster a response; an inability to progress possession through midfield areas resulted in little attacking output. Indeed it was Derby who were next to threaten, Samba atoning for his earlier mistake with a strong save from Graham Shinnie.
Half-time represented a change in attacking direction for Forest, with Hughton placing his trust in the experienced Anthony Knockaert to replace an injured Lewis Grabban. Knockaert’s introduction engendered attacking action at both ends, with his concession of a cheap free-kick establishing a set-piece opportunity for Derby, before a winding run produced a declined penalty shout at the other end.
And it was from a Knockaert corner that Forest, and Lyle Taylor, finally broke their duck in the 64th minute. A goalmouth scramble ensued following Knockaert’s left-footed out-swinging delivery, the confusion enabling a grateful Taylor to sweep the ball between the legs of David Marshall from close range to draw Forest level.
Although the points were split across the East Midlands, such a result is likely to leave Forest supporters significantly happier than its July equivalent. Forest still own only one competitive victory since said 97thminute Chris Martin equaliser at Pride Park this summer. Indeed, with the Reds now able to retain Brian Clough silverware for upwards of six-hundred days, the relief is palpable across Nottingham. Defining moments are still to come for Hughton’s Forest, however, and the conversion of such draws into victories will be essential if they are to stand any chance of clinching a play-off berth come May.
For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.