Forest welcomed Norwich City to the City Ground on the back of an impressive point against play-off hopefuls Reading. Daniel Farke’s Canaries side had won their previous eight matches going into the game and it always looked unlikely that Forest could upset the side destined for a swift return to the Premier League.
Chris Hughton was without injured goalkeeper Brice Samba, with Anthony Knockaert and Joe Lolley also injury absentees, so the former Brighton boss made five changes from the draw against Reading, including a first league start of the season for goalkeeper Jordan Smith.
Forest’s bid to contain the league leaders was hampered after just nine minutes, when Norwich’s top scorer, Teemu Pukki, took advantage of Tyler Blackett going to ground by firing low and hard past Smith.
Forest did not have time to react to Norwich’s early opener because just four minutes later, former Nottingham Forest player, Kieran Dowell, doubled their lead, drilling home from 20 yards out.
Forest looked most likely to score from a set-piece and Ryan Yates should’ve pulled back a goal for Forest in the first-half, but he planted a free header over the bar from Luke Freeman’s corner.
However, that only provoked another response from Norwich, who would’ve led 3-0 at half-time, if it wasn’t for Smith making a fine save to deny Kenny Mclean.
Forest continued to search for a goal to get them back in the game in the second-half and had multiple opportunities to do so. Luke Freeman fizzed an effort wide and Lewis Grabban was excellently denied by Tim Krul, after taking too long to convert after being found by James Garner.
But, despite these chances, it was still Norwich that looked the most dangerous and Smith had to make a good save to deny Pukki, with Cantwell also wasting a good chance to score.
Forest kept searching for a breakthrough but, in truth, Norwich were rarely threatened and won their ninth consecutive match to leave Forest with just one win from their last seven home matches.
The manager said: “It was a very tough night, particularly in that first-half period when they started a lot better than us. Overall you can see why they are where they are and they are clear in this division, I don’t think there are too many better teams that I have seen in this division, but we needed to get closer to them.
“There can only be two strategies, one where you need to be better on the ball as this is a team that is very good on the ball but also press very hard, or we were able to get closer to them to knock them off their stride and not allow them to play the type of game that they want to, and we never got close enough to them in that first-half period.”