The curse of the ex-player came back to haunt Nottingham Forest at Watford, but it could not stop them reclaiming top spot.
Lewis McGugan left Billy Davies’ side in the summer on a free transfer to join Gianfranco Zola’s Hornets, having made a name for himself through a series of spectacular strikes. And he enhanced that reputation by curling a brilliant 20-yard effort around the wall and into the top corner, cancelling out Andy Reid’s early strike and ending his old club’s 100 per cent start to the season.
Despite the stunning finish though, Zola replaced McGugan, below, shortly after and warned him he needs to contribute more than just stunning goals.
“I was about to take him off before he scored as he looked tired,” he said. “I see a lot of potential in him, but I am expecting more than that. It is not just about scoring that goal, which I know he can do, it is about being more effective on the pitch, working going forward and defending as well.”
Defending proved a problem for both sides all afternoon as the two promotion hopefuls amassed 37 shots between them. “We have to defend better than we are doing at the moment,” added Zola.
Reid had given Forest the lead after only five minutes, rifling home from the edge of the box. Henri Lansbury was denied a second goal for Forest before the break when he hit the post and the visitors found home keeper Manuel Almunia in superb for after the interval.
He blocked one-on-ones from Greg Halford and Jamie Mackie and superbly turned Ishmael Miller’s injury-time shot on to the post. At the other end, Karl Darlow celebrated his new four-year contract by producing top-drawer saves from McGugan, Sean Murray and Ikechi Anya to move Forest to the summit.
“Karl played brilliantly, he is a super young goalkeeper destined for very good things,” said Forest’s assistant manager, David Kelly.
Elsewhere, Wigan needed a late free kick from Jordi Gomez to salvage a point against Middlesbrough at the DW Stadium. Grant Holt’s penalty gave the hosts the lead before Boro hit back through George Friend and Grant Leadbitter.