With no sense of timing, Forest welcomed Brian Clough back to the City Ground last night and promptly produced their flattest performance since Stuart Pearce took on the old patriarch's mantle as caretaker-manager.
Clough, witnessing his first senior match on the ground since his retirement, has spoken with admiration of Pearce's leadership qualities and it must have disappointed his former captain that he could not inspire an extension of Forest's recent revival.
The man who ruined the script was Darren Huckerby, who turned down the chance to join Forest as a schoolboy six years ago before beginning his professional career at neighbouring Notts County. The 20-year-old striker scored his fourth goal since moving from Newcastle to Coventry in December.
The goal, five minutes in to the second half, rewarded a rare display of positive intent by the visiting side. Huckerby's progress along the right flank brought a corner when Steve Chettle made a saving tackle on Noel Whelan. From the kick, delivered by Gary McAllister, the defender Paul Williams glanced the ball on at the near post and Huckerby nodded home from close range.
Forest, whose January recovery is likely to see Pearce named manager of the month after last Sunday's Cup triumph at Newcastle, seemed weary at times. After Kevin Campbell had squandered an early opportunity, only Ian Woan, with an angled volley on the left, threatened Steve Ogrizovic before half-time.
Once behind, Forest found more drive but little of the inspiration that had brought six wins from Pearce's first eight matches at the helm. Woan forced the night's best save from Ogrizovic with another left-foot effort and hit a post from 30 yards in stoppage time. But, otherwise, Forest did not look to have a goal in them.
Victory brought to a happy end a dismal match for Gordon Strachan, who was manager of the month for December after four consecutive wins but was celebrating his first in five matches since. Pearce will hope his luck is not about to take a similar downward turn.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Phillips (Guinan, 63), Haaland, Bart-Williams, Woan; Clough (Lee, 84), Campbell. Substitutes not used: Gemmill, Fettis (gk), Allen.
Coventry (5-3-2): Ogrizovic; Telfer, Shaw, Borrows, Williams, Hall; Jess, Richardson, McAllister; Whelan, Huckerby (Ndlovu, 89). Substitutes not used: Boland, Prenderville, Strachan, Filan (gk).
Referee: A Wilkie (Co Durham).