REPORT: FOREST 2-0 TOWNA goal in each half from Eric Lichaj and Jamie Ward was enough to condemn Huddersfield Town to defeat down on the banks of the River Trent at the hands of Nottingham Forest.
On a gloriously sunny April day, the result Town desired was made that extra bit harder in the shape of a Forest side galvanised since the arrival of new boss Mark Warburton.
Although winless under Warburton up to today's encounter, the hosts displayed resilient characteristics to shut out a potent Terriers attack, which will have taken a huge amount of confidence to The City Ground following Wednesday's dismantling of Norwich City.
Town’s Head Coach David Wagner made a sole change for the visit to Nottingham; Chris Loewe was rested for the match, paving the way for Tareiq Holmes-Dennis to make his sixth league start. Dean Whitehead made the bench on his return from suspension after his dismissal against Burton a week previously.
In truth, Warburton's Reds outfit had a firm grip on most of the proceedings. Highly-rated hot prospect Ben Brereton provided Town with a warning of what was to come early on, as the young man worked his way into a threatening position on the edge of the Town box before Michael Hefele managed to vitally block his route to goal.
A statement of intensity, urgency and aggression was laid out on the table early doors from the hosts; the anchoring duo of Jonathan Hogg and Philip Billing had their work cut out to maintain the dominant physical presence throughout the spine of the Terriers' set-up.
Chances eluded the first ten minutes of the clash; when one finally did arrive, it was to be Forest's offensive capabilities that would put Town to the sword.
Another highly-rated young talent in the form of Zach Clough slid a delicate through ball for an advancing Jamie Ward. The winger- who started the campaign on loan at Burton Albion- wriggled his way to the by-line following uncharacteristic hesitation from Danny Ward, but Town's number one recovered sharply to claw away Ward's attempted centre.
The same duo, Clough and Ward, would link up once again shortly after. Following Town's failure to effectively clear their lines, Clough dinked a ball to the far-post for an unmarked Ward, who in turn created an opportunity for yet another Forest academy product Joe Worrall to thump a header towards the far corner. Tareiq Holmes-Dennis the hero on this occasion, heroically flinging himself at the goal-bound effort to divert away for a corner.
Visiting chances were at somewhat of a premium. Philip Billing, a scorer of a thunderbolt in the last visit to the City Ground, was the first to try really test home 'keeper Jordan Smith, who managed to clamber onto the attempt at the second time of asking.
There was no issue with how ‘The Yorkshire Club' were going about their business with the ball; patience throughout build-up was as composed as ever, led by Aaron Mooy, who did well to continue to have a finesse within his passing even when under pressure from a hounding Forest midfield trio of Cohen, Vaughan and Osborn.
However, defensively, the Terriers just couldn't manage to keep the lively Forest front-line at bay;
The Tricky Trees would be the side to consistently grind out the best chances of the half; Jamie Ward's lightning break down the left resulted in the winger coming up with a clever ball across the face of Danny Ward's goal; luckily for the away side, Brereton's lung-bursting run into the box wasn't matched by his finish - only managing to hit the side netting.
Aaron Mooy immediately hit back with a creative play of his own; the Australian international floated a delightful cross for Nahki Wells. The Bermudian finished with aplomb, but the linesman's flag on the far-side would diminish any hopes of a Town opener.
Eric Lichaj competed well for the Reds against the left-sided unit of Rajiv van La Parra and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis. The American, playing on the Forest right as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation, very nearly became part of the action earlier than he did, if it wasn't for Hefele's crucial headed interception before a chipped through ball could reach an on-rushing Zach Clough.
Next time Lichaj played a neat one-two with Ward inches from the Town penalty area. Lichaj's return ball back to Ward somehow ended in the former Derby man blazing well wide of a relieved Ward's goal.
An unusual lack of defensive shape allowed the hosts to be the first ones to strike on the day; eventual home man-of-the-match Ben Osborn played in Brereton who sprung the offside trap before squaring to Lichaj for a simple tap-in at the far-post.
From the moment the home side went in-front, the game started to open. A Town response came and went moments after, with Nahki Wells pulling a ball back to Elias Kachunga six-yards out. Kache's accuracy was to be desired in this moment, as the German, a permanent signing from the end of this season, could only prod wide.
But again, Town hadn't completely learnt valuable lessons from the threats that the home side possessed in an attacking sense; Jamie Ward fired another attempt at his namesake's net, which was palmed away by powerfully strong wrists, before Town's shot stopper would react quickly to claw away Zach Clough's close range rebound from trickling over the line.
The resulting corner saw the looming figure of Joe Worrall nod just inches over the cross-bar un-challenged.
If the Worrall chance wasn't an alarming wake-up call for the Town defensive ranks to maintain only the one-goal advantage heading into the interval, then the next one could well have been an early nail in the coffin.
Ben Brereton rounded off an encouraging first period display by beating his marker to deliver a pinpoint cross for Ward, who's diving header was kept out by a superbly agile, smart save down low by Town's on loan 'keeper to ensure that the mountain to climb wasn't overly steep.
The interval saw a rare occasion of a Huddersfield formation change. Wagner elected to revert to a 3-5-2 to match-up the opposition in key areas, and possibly gain an important foothold in the match.
Joe Lolley and Dean Whitehead replaced Rajiv van La Parra and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis respectively at the beginning of the second period.
However, there was to be no instant impact because of the change of shape. Town were fortunate to escape any more damage being inflicted early into the half as Ward connected with Brereton once more, only for the latter to fail to adequately make contact with the drilled, grounded cross across the face of goal.
The same combo would this time reverse roles, as Brereton turned provider for Ward who rolled an effort millimetres wide of the away side's goal.
As time rumbled on, Town's offensive confidence grew. Nahki Wells, looking to notch his 50th goal for the Club, hadn't been presented with any real shooting opportunities throughout the encounter so far. The Bermudian worked some space 25 yards or so out from the home net, before rifling an effort straight into the arms of a comfortable Jordan Smith.
Wells would see another effort thwarted shortly after which wasn't totally cleared from the Forest goalkeeper, but any sniff of Town getting into the contest were wiped away as Elias Kachunga was beaten to the ball in the air by an impressively resilient Armand Traore.
Instead, a busy Jamie Ward doubled Nottingham Forest's advantage after racing clear of Dean Whitehead to fire home with authority after a misplaced header from the experienced midfielder, who was playing at centre back, gave the attacker the chance to run clear.
A beleaguered Town side continued to work hard even though they were staring at a second away loss on the bounce; Aaron Mooy positively drove through the heart of the Forest midfield before powering an effort harmlessly over the bar, before substitute Joe Lolley's cross evaded every black and green shirt in and around the host’s danger areas.
Lichaj could've added a third to the score-line and gained a brace for himself if it wasn't for the agility of Danny Ward to thwart the American having rushed off his line to meet Chris Cohen's delicate through ball.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (Dean Whitehead, 46’), Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith (c); Philip Billing, Jonathan Hogg (Collin Quaner, 77’); Rajiv van La Parra (Joe Lolley, 46’), Aaron Mooy, Elias Kachunga; Nahki Wells
Joel Coleman, Mark Hudson, Martin Cranie, Jack Payne