Nottingham Forest lost their second game in the space of a week as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat away at promotion hopefuls Watford.
Gaetan Bong was skinned far too easily by Ismalia Sarr, who then pulled it across goal and the rebound fell for Adam Masina.
Cafu came closest for Forest in the second half, when his deflected effort fizzed just wide, but Chris Hughton’s side started too slowly and paid the price for it.
After a tough afternoon at Vicarage Road, here are four things we learnt…
Left back is now an area of urgency
Perhaps this is something that all Forest fans have known, but it is now imperative that the Reds address the left back area in the summer.
On the one hand, any full back dealing with Ismalia Sarr will struggle, but Gaetan Bong struggled so much that he may as well have not been on the pitch.
In fact, he was so poor that Joe Worrall was basically playing both left back and centre back, as he was constantly filling in for Bong.
Given that Yuri Ribeiro is out of contract in June and Bong will soon be 33, clearly showing signs his legs have gone in the process, a new left back has to be top of the transfer wishlist regardless of whether Ribeiro stays or goes.
Bong may have been a trusted member of the squad for Hughton at Brighton & Hove Albion, but it’s clear on this display Forest need a lot better.
Hard to blame Brice Samba
When Watford’s opening goal went under the microscope, it was clear that a) Bong had been done too easily, b) Knockaert didn’t track back and c) goalkeeper Brice Samba was beaten rather comfortably.
However, after multiple replays, it was evident that Samba took a heavy blow to the head just before the ball fell to Masina and it’s highly likely this perhaps left him disorientated.
Samba was down for a good few minutes after the goal was scored and while some will assume it’s to try and mask his mistake by making out he’s hurt, it was clear it was a genuine injury and there were more than a few concerned faces on the Forest bench.
Thankfully he was ok, but in hindsight, Samba perhaps should’ve stayed on the floor as given it was a head injury, the referee would’ve had to stop play.
By doing ‘the right thing’ risking himself and putting the team first, Samba inadvertently played a part in the goal going in – however, it’s very difficult to blame him taking everything into account.
Joe Lolley and Cafu make notable difference
It was very clear that Forest’s plan wasn’t working and to be fair to Hughton, bringing on Joe Lolley and Cafu made a huge difference.
Within minutes, Lolley and Cafu had done more than their replacements Luke Freeman and Ryan Yates had all game, allowing Forest to start turning the screw and at least put up a fight.
With Cafu, Forest started keeping the ball a lot better and Lolley was immediately joining up attacks and causing Watford problems.
It makes you wonder why neither started – especially in Lolley’s case – but while Forest lost, they at least went down fighting thanks to the changes.
However, no shot on target is poor
With the game drawing to its conclusion, Forest decided to roll the dice again by bringing on Lyle Taylor.
Taylor did actually look lively and played wellwhen he came on – in stark comparison to how he looked against Luton Town in midweek – but while he had a goal disallowed for offside, he couldn’t help Forest get a shot on target.
No matter what way you look at it, no shot on target across 90 minutes is exceptionally poor as Forest went from spurning chances for fun against Luton to not testing the Watford keeper at all.
That will frustrate Hughton no end and with Reading at home coming up next, the fixture list doesn’t get any kinder.
Will Nottingham Forest see Watford away as a missed opportunity?