If Sabri Lamouchi lost his voice after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Derby County, then you have to wonder what he’s going to lose in the dressing room after tonight’s drab 1-0 loss to Fulham.
After a promising half-hour when Nottingham Forest were knocking the ball around comfortably, keeping possession, switching play from wing to wing and patiently looking for openings… things went somewhat awry.
Harry Arter’s goal in added time at the end of the first-half, seconds from the end, was the difference. But there was a question about handball, as there was a question about the officiating throughout the game.
In what might have been a battle for third or fourth place, it looks like that might be between Brentford and Fulham. But as our first loss in five games since the restart, and with four still to go, it’s not a time to despair. A play-off position is still very much in our hands, and we remain in the top six after 42 games on merit.
Lamouchi put out arguably Forest’s strongest first XI, with Sammy Ameobi and Tiago Silva both starting ahead of Nuno da Costa and Ryan Yates. Fulham were without the suspended Aleksandar Mitrović and the injured Tom Cairney.
Both sides looked sharp and incisive in the early stages, with probing balls and an energetic pace. Matty Cash switched play twice with sweeping diagonals, opening up Ribeiro’s runs in the first 10 minutes. And Forest were pressing high and harassing Fulham deep in their half, trying to force mistakes.
As in the Derby game, Forest were looking more comfortable in possession and attacking. And for a side supposedly not keen on possession, Forest continued to look extremely comfortable with the ball, switching play and patiently looking for openings.
Lewis Grabban got away from Tim Ream on 17 minutes, with defenders advancing, and managed a shot on target that Marek Rodák collected easily. Fulham’s first attempt on goal was on 27 minutes as Bobby Decordova-Reid strode through the middle and put a dipping shot over the crossbar.
And it was the away side that began to take more and more possession after the 30-minute mark, making life difficult for the Reds.
Forest had a great break on 46 minutes as Cash pelted down the right and found Grabban in the box, but he couldn’t get the power he needed. The sucker-punch came after almost four minutes of injury time as Arter slipped, retrieved the ball as it ricocheted off Ben Watson and the on-loan midfielder stuck a clean shot past Brice Samba from 20 yards.
And that seemed to take the wind out of Forest. Yates and da Costa came on for Sow and Joe Lolley in the second-half, and the game never really improved.
Fulham continued to take the game to the home side, with the Reds now hoping to pick up scraps — the Cottagers organised and controlling things.
There were chances… Yates nicked the ball in the 68th minute, Watson played forward to Grabban and on to Alfa Semedo who should’ve shot; Yuri Ribeiro eventually shot over the bar. A through ball for da Costa on 80 minutes saw him on the edge of the box with a looping ball over Rodák forcing a save. And then a clear handball on 81 minutes from a Cash cross proved to be another decision from the officials that didn’t go our way.
Lamouchi’s opinion was: “It was very disappointing. In two days we took two goals in the worst moments. At Derby in the last seconds and tonight in the worst moment just before half-time.
“It was not a good game for both teams to be honest, the draw was probably fairer. It was not a good game, the two teams did not play like usual. Fulham shot only one time on target and they didn’t create a lot but they won so congratulations to them.”
With just one loss in five games, it’s not the end of the world. Another six points from the remaining four games should secure a play-off place. But we have to hope that we’ve got a few of these things out of our system.