It’s easy to talk about ‘must-win games’ throughout the season, and maybe this was one of those… Cardiff City supplanted Preston North End in sixth place, Brentford beat West Bromwich Albion to move up to third, and a win against Huddersfield Town would put Nottingham Forest seven points behind second place and seven points above seventh place.
As it came to pass, there will be more must-win games but today’s result was significant in going a long way to securing a play-off position as well as restoring a winning confidence.
The City Ground was resplendent in cut-outs of fans, flags, banners and, as ever, Forza Garibaldi’s magnificent displays. Ben Watson was the only change from last Saturday, his experience and positioning somewhat making up for the continued absence of Samba Sow.
The match itself, much like the draw at Sheffield Wednesday, was fairly even between the two sides to begin with. Sammy Ameobi was again at the heart of everything and nearly broke the deadlock early after hitting the post from Joe Lolley’s marauding run and cross.
Huddersfield should probably have been awarded a penalty on 19 minutes when Watson brought Alex Pritchard down, but the referee waved play on. And a minute later Brennan Johnson was played in by Ameobi only to hit the side netting.
Pritchard, Lewis O’Brien and Karlan Grant were the main Huddersfield threats as the away side pressed high into the Reds’ half, as well as seeking to exploit the space behind the full-backs when Matty Cash or Yuri Ribeiro pushed up.
Shortly before half-time, Ameobi gained a corner which Lolley took short for Tiago Silva, the ball ending up over on the left side of the goal for Joe Worrall to collect. The centre-back looked up, sent a looping ball back towards the far post which Lewis Grabban watched all the way before despatching the volley into the back of the net.
It was only Grabban’s seventh touch of the entire half but his 18th goal of the season, and Forest went into the break deservedly a goal up.
Ryan Yates came on for Johnson in the second-half and the tactical change quickly brought results as Silva moved up into the number 10 position, disrupting the away side’s midfield.
Less than a minute from kick-off, Ameobi split the Huddersfield defence as Grabban ran through clear on goal. The striker waited for Jonas Lössl to move before clinically planting the ball beyond reach of his outstretched hand.
His nineteenth goal of the season and enough for Forest to see out the game, even at this early stage.
Grabban was played in by Ameobi again on 63 minutes, only to see his shot flash across the face of the goal. Huddersfield were playing a higher line, with their midfield duo tracking Silva as he dropped deep, creating space for Forest.
The home side were seemingly happy to absorb pressure after the second goal, and whenever Huddersfield came close Brice Samba was equal to the goal threat. A superb save on 76 minutes from a Juninho Bacuna free-kick was as close as they came though.
João Carvalho, on for Silva, found himself in the box and almost chipped Lössl. And the resulting corner from Lolley saw Yates attack the ball at the near post and finish with his foot up. Three goals up and the three points were safe now.
Yates threw himself at a Trevoh Chalobah shot a few minutes from the end, demonstrating the Reds’ dedication to defending their lines. But there was still drama left as Bacuna received a straight red card for a wild challenge on Da Costa, and Mighten nearly made it four in added time.
However, a penalty awarded on 96 minutes and finished by Grant, was perhaps justice for Huddersfield’s first-half penalty that wasn’t; disappointing not to keep a clean sheet.
A welcome result on Sabri Lamouchi’s first anniversary though, and the games come thick and fast now.