Forest made just one change from Friday’s 1-1 draw with East Midlands rivals, Derby County, as Joe Lolley replaced Luke Freeman. Luton were last in action on Saturday, when they came from 2-0 down to beat Sheffield Wednesday in a thrilling match, and the Hatters made three changes from their win over the Owls
The hosts had lost just two of their previous 15 matches and Luton’s last victory at the City Ground came in 1983, then under the management of Nottingham-born David Pleat. This was the sort of omen we didn’t need.
Nottingham Forest made the better start and should’ve taken the lead within four minutes, however Simon Sluga brilliantly denied Glenn Murray’s close-range header after a fabulous right-wing cross from Anthony Knockaert. That was a sign of things to come and Knockaert created another big chance for Joe Lolley, whose shot from outside the box was, again, well dealt with by Sluga.
However, the closest Forest came from taking the lead came with half an hour played, as Knockaert again created a brilliant chance for Murray, who miscued effort from very close range and spurned yet another opportunity. It had been a dominant first-half display by Forest, but their poor, wasteful finishing meant at half-time the tie remained dead-locked.
Forest’s poor fortune in front of goal continued in the second-half, with James Garner dancing into the penalty area but seeing his effort pushed away by Sluga, who was single-handedly keeping Luton in the game
It was always apparent that Forest’s missed opportunities may come back to bite them, and they did. With 64 minutes played, Ryan Tunnicliffe got on the end of a good Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu cross and directed his effort past Brice Samba to give the visitors an unlikely lead.
Despite Forest’s first-half dominance, the closest either side came to a goal after Tunnicliffe’s strike was the away side, with Jordan Clark almost doubling the Hatters’ advantage but dragging his shot just wide of the post.
It was a disappointing evening for Chris Hughton and Forest, who despite Knockaert’s fine performance, failed to finish their chances. The defeat was Forest’s 14th of the season and it leaves them 17th in the table and 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
The manager concluded: “It was frustrating because we were very good first half, we started the game well and had some really good chances. Of course, if you go through a period of the game, particularly early on, when you don’t take those chances you know the opposition are going to have some.
“To come in at 0-0, I think they would have been lifted by that and probably would have felt they can only be better in the second half. I am disappointed that after they scored, we didn’t really create anywhere near the chances we created in that first-half period.
“We have become a solid team that has a good structure and can win games in a certain way. What we have found it difficult to do is to have those comfortable games where we take our chances and we are going into half-time winning 2-0 and knowing that it is down to the opposition to come at us.”