Forest ended Wednesday’s unbeaten start to the season to go into the international break at the top of the Championship and set their supporters talking about a return to the Premier League ahead of the home match against arch-rivals Derby County.
His side are unbeaten in seven league and Capital One Cup matches, of which they have won six, yet manager Stuart Pearce says they have yet to deliver a performance with which he has not found fault.
Goalkeeper Karl Darlow, now a Newcastle player on loan after Forest chairman Fawaz al Hasawi controversially sold him against Pearce’s advice, was outstanding behind a brave and characterful defence as Forest hung on under pressure to a first-half lead provided by Henri Lansbury.
“This is a squad of players with real character and a never-say-die attitude and the way they threw themselves in the way of shots late in the game echoes what they have in the dressing room,” Pearce said.
“But there are probably four or five areas where we can get better. I have been satisfied with our results but I have not come away from one game totally satisfied with the performance. The thing that surprised me in the second half today was that we didn’t hit them on the break and get a second goal.
“Maybe I’ve set my standards too high, but I don’t think so. I just think that the more we keep making demands of the players the more successful we will be.”
Forest scored after 37 minutes when Michail Antonio, the winger Pearce signed from Wednesday, delivered a cross from the left that Lansbury headed past goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.
Wednesday probably deserved a point, creating numerous opportunities for strikers Atdhe Nuhiu and Steve May, with wingers Chris Maguire and Jacques Maghoma providing additional threat.
But they came up against a Forest defence in which Michael Mancienne, the former Chelsea centre-back who has spent three years with Hamburg, looked worthy of being tagged the new Des Walker. And then there was Darlow, who denied Maghoma, May and Maguire before brilliantly tipping over a Nuhiu curler in stoppage time to ensure that Forest took the points.
Pearce’s displeasure with Al Hasawi over the sale of the 23-year-old to Newcastle in a £7 million package with defender Jamaal Lascelles cast a shadow over his relationship with the club’s Kuwaiti owner, but Pearce is happy to joke about it now: “I’ve asked the chairman to put in a counter-bid to buy him back.”