Nottingham Forest 0-1 Charlton Athletic: Hosts stunned after abject display

A drab Nottingham Forest performance was punished by a Charlton side who had won just two on the road all season, Lyle Taylor striking his ninth goal in 17 games to earn a vital three points.

Several changes for either side

Relief and belief. The overwhelming flood of emotion that descended upon the City Ground when Tyler Walker netted the second goal in a thrilling 2-0 victory over Leeds United at the weekend propelled Nottingham Forest towards a chaotic promotion race, matching the unpredictability about to be unleashed by Storm Ciara that very evening.

As the wind calmed into Tuesday evening, Forest looked to refresh their march towards the top since Christmas. Five changes from that emphatic Saturday night saw Gaetan Bong make his debut and Adama Diakhaby introduced to his first start wearing the garibaldi. Top goalscorer Lewis Grabban missed out altogether through what appeared to be an injury.

Meanwhile, Lee Bowyer’s Charlton are fighting to keep their heads above water with a mixed run of results since the turn of the year keeping them afloat by four points. A combination of form and injuries drained in their defeat to Stoke City saw a quartet of changes to their starting eleven.

Jonnie Williams, contributing the third best ratio of assists to minutes played in the Championship was left at home but Lyle Taylor, boasting the healthiest minutes per goal percentage in the second tier, spearheaded the attack against a famously stubborn Forest defence.

Lolley and Sarr in the heat of battle as Taylor nets again

After heaping needless pressure onto themselves with two fouls in the opening 30 seconds, Charlton offered the first spark as Carl Jenkinson granted Alfie Doughty far too much room on the left, his cross scrambled away by the home defence.

The tempo was slow on a chilly evening but Forest soon settled, spreading the ball out to their rampaging full-backs as Ben Watson made up the numbers in defence when his side had the ball. When possession was lost, Charlton looked to spring forward, particularly down the left with Jenkinson playing high, Erhun Oztumer feeding Doughty who saw his effort palmed over by Brice Samba.

But Forest carried a threat through Joe Lolley on the same side of the pitch. After twisting and turning in front of Naby Sarr, his blocked cross was hooked towards goal by Tiago Silva but Dillon Phillips got down low to comfortably save.

Yet, after a drab spell midway through the half, Lolley was at fault for the Charlton opener. Waiting on his heels for the ball to come to his feet, Sarr nipped in to take the ball away before unleashing a curling cross that was slid home by Taylor.

Remarkably, Forest almost responded immediately as Lolley found Jenkinson and his whipped cross was diverted off Sarr and tipped onto the crossbar by his own goalkeeper.

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Lolley probes to no avail

The goal had certainly invigorated the hosts with Lolley particularly keen to make up for his error. The creative spark ghosted inside before his angled pass was hooked over by Ryan Yates. Silva then drove a distant strike wide of goal.

Down the other end, Oztumer was pulling the strings, forcing Samba into a parried save from a similar distance to Silva’s speculative effort.

The game opened up but Forest were clearly missing Grabban who has the third highest Championship goal contribution percentage for his respective team. With Walker lacking movement, the omnipresent Lolley was left touching the ball around in circles with limited options ahead of him.

As the half filtered towards a close, it was again Silva who looked the most likely for Forest, prodding a Diakhaby cross wide.

But perhaps the most damning statistic of the first 45 minutes was that lone striker Walker contributed just a dozen touches, only one in the Charlton penalty area.

Forest barely pulling up trees

No changes at half-time, Charlton started with more impetus, forcing Forest into some desperate defending to prevent them from doubling their advantage.

The home side were surprisingly bereft of confidence and stray passes soon turned into what could have been vital errors – twice they lost the ball in dangerous areas but the visitors couldn’t take advantage, the energetic Josh Cullen firing the best opportunity over.

Both sides made a double change apiece on the hour mark, Forest looking to bolster their attacking threat through Alfa Semedo and Matty Cash as Silva and Bong were replaced. Meanwhile, the lively duo of Oztumer and Doughty gave way to Ben Purrington and a welcome return for Aiden McGeady.

But the football was still scrappy at either end and Yates soon also trudged to the bench in replace of Nuno Da Costa with 20 minutes to play.

Leeds work undone

Both sides with a pass success rate below 80%, the creativity was limited as Forest entered the final ten minutes with just one shot on target in the first 80.

Undoubtedly, the hosts had to take any chances that came their way but the quiet Walker squandered a second strike at Phillips, pulling a cross straight into the goalkeeper's arms.

But Forest were beginning to find routes towards the Charlton goal and a whipped free-kick was almost hooked home by Semedo, Phillips dropping to the floor and killing time. A deflected strike from Lolley was then juggled by the Addicks' shot-stopper as the minutes edged away.

Forest, who have been strong against the teams around them this season, brought back memories of a humbling defeat to Wigan Athletic after Sabri Lamouchi had made several changes to the starting eleven. 

And it was a repeat outcome this time around, Forest slipping behind Brentford in the play-off positions after the Bees held Leeds to a draw.

Key takeaway

No Grabban, no party

Whilst the passing in the Nottingham Forest midfield was disjointed, there was no real belief when the hosts pushed forward.

A hero on Saturday, lone striker Tyler Walker lacked movement, propelling his manager into a fiery outburst just before the break.

Walker amounted just 25 touches, only three in the penalty area, compared to Lyle Taylor who was always on the move, contributing twice as many at the other end of the pitch.

In a game bereft of opportunities, class in attack was always going to prevail, Taylor taking his moment whilst Walker fluffed his lines.