Another week, another spurned opportunity - are Nottingham Forest's promotion dreams unravelling?
Nottingham Forest Manager, Sabri Lamouchi during the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Charlton Athletic at the City Ground, Nottingham on Tuesday 11th February 2020. (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

After yet more points dropped against seemingly inferior opposition - this time at home to Queens Park Rangers in an insipid stalemate -  the euphoria of Matty Cash's late stunner at The Hawthorns and the unbridled emotion of the 2-0 victory over Leeds United is quickly wearing off for  Nottingham Forest fans. 

A lively start from the Reds yesterday was adorned by a handsome headed goal from Joe Worrall, only for celebrations to be curtailed in a cruel decision which dictated that the wind had taken an illegal hand on proceedings, rolling the ball onto the foot of Joe Lolley from the corner spot.

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The game had taken an unorthodox twist, but from then on, it was a case of Groundhog Day for Sabri Lamouchi, as once again, he watched his side labour against a stubborn defence. With Leeds United, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion all digging out marginal victories, it leaves Forest with little room for error in their quest for the promised land as the 'business end' of the season commences.

Offensive deficiencies

Despite their prodigious endeavours in the crunch matches against fellow heavyweights, a recurring theme that has not gone unnoticed to regular City Ground attendees is Forest's inability to put the basement clubs to the sword.

Counter-intuitive? Perhaps. Though the subtelties and statistics have undoubtedly aligned.

In the 21 games where Forest have had less than 50% possession (typically matches against fellow promotion rivals where Forest will absorb pressure in a low block), the Reds have lost on just one occasion, yet in the 14 games where Forest have had more than 50% possession (contests where the smaller teams will drop deep and look to frustrate Forest), they have prevailed only once - that win coming against Luton Town, a side notorious for their defensive ineptitude. 

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It becomes clear, then, that there are glaring issues when Forest confront a low block.

Too often reliant upon Joe Lolley and Sammy Ameobi to forge inroads, the problem stems from a lack of fluency and guile in the final third, commodities that rival Leeds and West Brom possess in abundance. Saturday's encounter saw marked improvements in the pace at which Forest turned the ball over, however - as the game wore on - the only real source of hope came via set-pieces. 

Forest's reactive, counter-attacking methodology is no doubt best suited to the Premier League, but the infamous Sky Bet Championship is their first hurdle, and, once again, it's proving mightily difficult to overcome.

Brentford and Fulham remain in touching distance

Forest aren't the only ones, though, who will be ruing missed opportunities to capitalise on Leeds' winter rut.

Brentford, the outsiders bet for promotion, have won just two of their last seven, while Fulham's six-match unbeaten run was brought to an unceremonious end at home to Barnsley last weekend. Parker's men are winless in three after the draw at Pride Park on Friday.

And they, too, have their difficulties to contend with. Fulham paid the price for their naive adherence to playing out from the back against Derby County, while for Brentford - a gifted side in transitions - it is a similar problem to the one on Trentside: the Bees have seldom prospered against a deep backline. Pontus Jansson's absence has also no doubt been felt.

Only one point separates Preston in sixth from Fulham in third, so as long as Forest keep plugging away and grinding out results, they will surely be in the mix come May.

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