The online chatter before kick-off was inevitably about the absence of João Carvalho — rumours of a ‘heart to heart’ with the manager way off the mark, as was the suggestion Joe Lolley was out until October. Yuri Ribeiro also missed out, equally controversially given his Twitter comments after the match.
Perhaps it was mercurial Portuguese’s failure to make his mark against Barnsley in the Carabao Cup last week, proving that in Sabri Lamouchi’s eyes he’s either a luxury player or a passenger; the Championship is no place for either.
Ribeiro’s name not in the first XI, or on the bench, was the only real surprise with Jordan Gabriel slotting into Matty Cash’s position and Tyler Blackett on the opposite side — Gaëtan Bong and Carl Jenkinson increasingly looking like needless, expensive mistakes in the transfer market.
QPR frustrated the Reds in the opening stages but Forest began to take control, playing down both wings and probing in midfield.
A Blackett cross to Lolley on 19 minutes saw his header narrowly miss, after Luke Freeman played the left-back in. The new signing from Reading clearly under instruction to press forwards — Lamouchi looking to overload QPR’s right-flank.
Forest continued to battle hard, with QPR not showing much… until a chance in the 28th minute should’ve resulted in a goal. A neat move culminating in Lyndon Dykes not getting on the end of a Lee Wallace cross into the six-yard box.
The midfield trio of Jack Colback, Ryan Yates and Freeman working hard to find space, press and pass — the latter’s ability to play between the lines, drifting left and right, allowing Nuno da Costa to operate more centrally when required. And the interplay between the front players showing promise even without an end result.
Despite QPR’s lack of adventure, our recent vulnerability at the back was still a cause for concern when the home side did press forward. But the score remained 0-0 as the half-time whistle came, fairly evenly matched for the next 45 minutes.
The sucker-punch came within 10 minutes with Dykes through on goal, and Tobias Figueiredo bundling him to the ground in the box. The QPR striker slotted the penalty past Brice Samba — a complete gift of a goal.
The introduction of Sammy Ameobi, just before the hour mark, seemed to spark Forest into life with a good spell of possession, passing and attempts on goal in the QPR half. The addition of Lyle Taylor and Alex Mighten further demonstrating the Reds’ efforts to get back into the game.
Into the final 10 minutes of the game, and Ameobi swept the ball into Grabban’s feet in the box which he struck just over the bar — another chance gone begging.
And the predictable injury time goal was scored by Ilias Chair. A second cheap giveaway.
With that Stoke game just over seven weeks ago, and a pre-season that lasted three weeks, the calls for Lamouchi’s head already are laughable. Players have left, players have arrived, and the new coaches have had little time to do anything.
The head coach explained: “We know we have to get better, with the ball and without the ball. The last year was our first quality, to defend, be aggressive and compact, all together and today with the first mistake we conceded. We need to be more focused, we need to be more consistent and of course, efficient in both boxes.”
We will improve, we will score goals, we will win harder games than today. But chasing an equaliser into the dying minutes, the result felt inevitable. Let’s hope last season’s hangover doesn’t last too long.