Nottingham Forest ended their miserable season with a miserable 2-1 defeat at the City Ground against Preston North End. James Edginton reports
Nottingham Forest hosted Preston North End at the City Ground with nothing to play for, as they looked to get this woeful season over and done with.
The Reds made two changes from their 0-0 draw with now-relegated Sheffield Wednesday, as Loïc Mbe Soh and Lyle Taylor came into the side to start Forest’s final match of the season.
With another game being played just down the A52, most Forest fans were far more interested in the fate of Derby County, who would have been consigned to League One had they lost to Sheffield Wednesday.
Ryan Yates fired wide for Forest and Ched Evans headed over the bar for Preston with the goal at his mercy, early on.
In a season with little to cheer about, one of few positives has been James Garner, who has proven to be a shining light in a team stuck in the dark. It was fitting, then, that on what could be his last game for the club, before he returns to Manchester United, it was him that scored for Forest.
It was an absolute stunner as well, with Garner walloping a stunning strike into the top corner from 25 yards out.
Lewis Grabban was then denied just before the half-hour mark before Anthony Knockaert fired wide from outside the box and Taylor had a goal disallowed before the break.
Forest had a great opportunity to extend their lead in the second half, but they squandered a 4-v-1 attack, as Krovinovic fired wide after receiving the ball from Knockaert.
That miss proved pivotal and Tom Bayliss made Forest pay, finishing off Scott Sinclair’s cross, albeit with Forest protesting for a handball.
Preston’s second goal was also controversial, with Liam Lindsay heading past Brice Samba, despite the assistant referee already having raised his flag earlier in the move.
Nottingham Forest failed to find an equaliser and their defeat compounded what has been a dreadful season and to cap off Forest fans’ days, Derby survived.
Now it is time for reflection for Chris Hughton, as Forest look for vast improvement next season.
The manager said: “Ultimately, we have lost the football match because of the mistakes we made. That being said, the first goal should have been ruled out for handball and then for the second goal, Alan Browne was offside then came back to an onside position but in that time, he had impeded Cyrus Christie.
“I thought in the first-half period we were very good and had more than enough chances to go further in front but when you don’t take those opportunities, that’s what can happen. The game summed up the season for us because we have been putting too much pressure on ourselves not to make mistakes because we haven’t been taking the opportunities at the other end.
“It is undoubtedly a very disappointing way to end the season and not the way we would have wanted to go into the summer. It will be a busy and uncomfortable summer with lots of phone calls to field and to make and lots of videos to watch but certainly come the start of the season, I would like to be close to having a squad that is going to be competitive.”