The Warmdown: Forest's unbeaten run comes to and end as Luton win their first game in April
LUTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Glen Rea of Luton Town battles for possession with Sam Surridge of Nottingham Forest during the Sky Bet Championship match between Luton Town and Nottingham Forest at Kenilworth Road on April 15, 2022 in Luton, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Luton Town fans left Kenilworth Road ecstatic after the Hatters became the first Championship team in 2022 to beat Nottingham Forest whilst keeping a clean sheet. 

The win - and other results around the league - means that Luton now sit fourth in the Championship with a five-point gap between themselves and Middlesbrough in seventh. 

A loss for Forest, though, leaves the Reds seven points away from Bournemouth in second place, indicating that the Midlands side may have to focus on maintaining a play-off spot. 

Key refereeing decisions played a part

Although the game only finished 1-0 to Luton, there were plenty of key talking points regarding the officials. 

Kal Naismith’s penalty sealed the game in the first half, but the decision to give the penalty didn’t come without contention. James Bree hit the ball at Jack Colback’s arm from a yard away before swiping the ball with his own hand, leaving Forest fans frustrated when the referee pointed to the spot. 

Early in the second half, Forest wing-back Djed Spence had the ball in the back of the net but the linesman had already raised his flag for offside. Ryan Yates put Spence through - who looked to have been offside. However, Luton defender Fred Onyedinma did touch the ball before it managed to reach Spence, meaning the goal potentially should have stood. 

Later in the game, it was Luton’s turn to be frustrated by the officials. Forest forward Philip Zinckernagel put a ball through to Sam Surridge, who appeared to be in a clear offside position. Luton defender Sonny Bradley was adjudged to have fouled Surridge and received a second yellow card, leaving Luton with ten men. As Surridge was in an offside position when the ball came to him, Luton protested that Bradley shouldn’t have been sent off for a foul. 

Frustrations grew stronger when just a few minutes later, Luton were awarded a free-kick after Luton players Kal Naismith and James Shea seemingly clashed with each other. 

Forest’s change in system slowed them down

Although Forest will have been happy to hand Lewis Grabban his first start since January, it didn’t appear to help Forest going forward. 

The Reds tend to play on the front foot and move the ball quickly through Philip Zinckernagel. The Danish forward works the lines for Keinan Davis in the middle and sets Forest up for multiple attacks. 

Grabban has been a strong servant for Forest since he’s arrived and was top goalscorer for the Reds before his injury, but playing off the wing isn’t his game. 

Grabban played 75 minutes and touched the ball 43 times, whilst completing two successful dribbles. The forward had two shots on goal and didn’t create any key passes. 

Zinckernagel came on in the 66th minute and within just 24 minutes of football, had 22 touches, four shots on goal, one key pass, three successful dribbles and hit the woodwork once.

It may be that Grabban is better as a lone striker or an impact sub, but Keinan Davis’ form would suggest the latter is more likely. Nonetheless, a late hamstring injury for Davis in this game may open the door for Grabban to play through the middle again. 

The loss is not the be all and end all for Forest

Since Steve Cooper took charge at Nottingham Forest, the Reds have only lost five league games out of 32. 

After losing his first game as Forest manager against Fulham, Forest went nine games unbeaten. 

After losing to Middlesbrough and Huddersfield Town, Forest won three in a row. 

After losing to Cardiff City, Forest went ten games unbeaten. 

If Forest follow up this loss to Luton with a run like they have previously, the play-offs will be a certainty for the Reds. Results around the rest of the league didn’t do Forest much damage either as the Midlands club still sit four points away from Middlesbrough in seventh whilst having a game in hand.