A game to forget, but a goal to remember, as Nottingham Forest beat Bristol City 1-0 at the City Ground to return to fourth in the Championship — with the Reds taking seven points from nine since the restart
There are some games in the Championship that it’s better not to watch, let alone discuss. Without doubt, this was one of those games.
It was ugly, unmemorable — bar the goal — and one to forget and file alongside some of those League One days. But it was three points, won by a sumptuous free-kick from Tiago Silva, and puts Forest back in fourth position.
Bristol City’s 4-3-3 formation caused early problems as they pressed high in the Forest half, and the home side were penned in for the first 10 minutes. In contrast, Lewis Grabban and Silva were roaming high at the opposite end but for the most part we sat much further back.
Benik Afobe showed early danger on 11 minutes, after a poor ball from Silva on the edge of the away side’s penalty area saw a Forest move break down, but his shot was easily saved by Brice Samba.
And a strong header from Afobe again on 14 minutes, from a Nakhi Wells cross on the left, followed another Forest attack failing due to the final ball. The Reds at this stage couldn’t get hold of the ball, and the times they did occasionally find themselves with it they couldn’t keep it.
A Silva ball over the top, after Grabban timed his run to avoid the offside trap, saw the forward one-on-one with Niki Mäenpää but the keeper got a touch outside the box which forced a Forest corner. A long stoppage — the story of the game — came to nothing but Mäenpää was ultimately replaced on 27 minutes by Daniel Bentley.
The Reds’ best move came on 33 minutes as Joe Lolley found Matty Cash just inside the box and Bentley had to force his shot wide for a corner. Another corner on 36 minutes won by Sammy Ameobi — who was gradually coming into the game — saw an in-swinging corner from Silva, which seemed to come off Ashley Williams’ head at the near post.
Nuno da Costa came on for Joe Lolley in the second-half — fingers crossed it’s nothing serious — and the Reds began to look more lively. There was more pace, more attacking, more confidence in themselves…
A free-kick on the edge of the box, just outside the D, saw Silva step up. And the key moment of the game saw the midfielder curl an absolute beauty into the top-left corner. The Portuguese casually lifted the ball over the wall, scoring a goal good enough to win any game.
At 1-0 up, Forest were finding more time on the ball and more space. And da Costa — definitely looking like a decent signing after his £1.8m move in January — showed his work ethic and battling qualities, as well as passing ability, linking up neatly with the other attacking forwards and providing an outlet on the right-wing.
Williams was sent off on 78 minutes, after Bristol City won a free-kick — having kicked Silva moments earlier — the former Swansea player bafflingly deciding to shove Yuri Ribeiro in the face. Korey Smith later kicked out at Ribeiro in front of the referee, surely another red? And the stoppages continued as Yates appeared to have a broken nose, replaced by a now fit Samba Sow.
Forest held on to see out the win, as Bristol City fought for the remaining seven minutes of added time. But as Colin Fray said on BBC Radio Nottingham: “It was fairly mad all night long.”
A classic away performance. At home. The back four were magnificent and nobody will really care how we get the three points in a game like that.
But a lot to be proud of. Strength. Determination. Commitment. You can’t deny what Lamouchi has given us this season. And we’ll need all of it for Pride Park on Saturday.