Former City boss proving why he was the right man for Forest
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Bringing in Chris Hughton always looked to be a sensible appointment by Nottingham Forest and the former Norwich boss has used his defensive expertise to ease his team clear of relegation trouble.
Forest sit 17th and nine points clear of the drop zone but only four teams have conceded fewer than their 35 goals, one of which is leaders Norwich (26) ahead of the Canaries' arrival at the City Ground on Wednesday night.
However, on the other hand, Forest's top scorer is striker Lyle Taylor on just four goals and only five teams have scored fewer than their overall total of 29 from 36 league games.
While that will come as little surprise to City fans after Hughton's mostly conservative Premier League spell with the club, the former Tottenham full-back had reemphasised his Championship credentials with an impressive promotion campaign with Brighton in 2016-17 - scoring 74 goals and amassing an impressive 93 points to go up as runners-up behind Newcastle.
He also kept Brighton in the top flight for two seasons before being replaced by Graham Potter in 2019 and it shouldn't be forgotten that he led Norwich to 11th place in the Premier League in 2013, prior to things turning sour as he was dismissed ahead of relegation in 2014.
There was little doubt that Hughton would get Forest knocked into shape though, after losing all four of their opening games of the season under Sabri Lamouchi.
They have lost just four of their last 18 league games and while results haven't been anything too exciting recently, the common theme is tight matches often featuring few goals.
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Saturday saw play-off chasing Reading claim a 1-1 draw at the City Ground thanks to a late goal, recent defeats at Watford and Swansea were only 1-0 and the last time Forest were beaten by more than a one-goal margin was a 3-1 home to defeat to Brentford over three months ago.
Their next test is to hold firm against runaway leaders Norwich though, buoyed by an eight-game winning streak and a 10-point lead at the summit, with a positive goal difference of 27 which is the best in the division.
There were 2,000 fans allowed into Carrow Road as Hughton made his latest return to Carrow Road back in December, when City were made to work hard for a 2-1 win with nine players still out despite their injury crisis starting to ease.
Joe Lolley had hit the post for Forest and it wasn't until just before half-time that Jacob Sorensen broke the visitors' stubborn resistance with an emphatic shot.
An equaliser arrived in the 73rd minute when a cross from Anthony Knockaert flew over the head of substitute Miguel Angel Guerrero and deceived Michael McGovern to creep in at the far post.
However, the Canaries reclaimed the lead four minutes later as Todd Cantwell came on and teed up Emi Buendia, whose shot from the edge of the box took a big deflection off Joe Worrall before finding the net.
Hughton may well have had criticism for being overly defensive at times but Forest needed someone to steady the ship and that's exactly what he's done.
The play-offs are out of reach for them this season but few Norwich fans would be surprised to see the 62-year-old getting the two-time European champions higher up the table in the next campaign, as they continue searching for their first top-flight season since 1998-99.
Speaking after Saturday's home draw with Reading, when Yakou Meite equalised for the Royals in the 81st minute with a shot that goalkeeper Brice Samba misjudged, Hughton told Forest's website: "Sometimes you have to appreciate that with the quality they've got in front of goal, we've done well not to concede too many goals.
"It has continued a good defensive run for us where we've not conceded many goals but the next part for us is to go on and win these games. We got ourselves into good positions and I've certainly got no complaints about the effort and the commitment from the players.
"Our game management needed to be a little bit better towards the end of the game because we were quite naive and Reading showed why they have been in the top six all season.
"The overriding emotion at the end is that we're happy with a point against a good side who are fighting to be in the play-offs."
Forest's recent results
Feb 23 - Rotherham 0 Forest 1
Feb 26 - Derby 1 Forest 1
Mar 2 - Forest 0 Luton 1
Mar 6 - Watford 1 Forest 0
Mar 13 - Forest 1 Reading 1
- You can watch the latest episode of Terrace Talk above, where Lee Clarke from Nottingham Forest News gives us an opposition view ahead of Wednesday night's game