With the vultures circling above their under-pressure manager Chris Hughton, Nottingham Forest sunk further into the mire as they blew a lead at home to Cardiff City, losing 2-1 at the City Ground.
To add to Hughton’s pain, it was a masterstroke from his opposite number Mick McCarthy that proved pivotal, as substitute Rubin Colwill turned the game on its head with a superb brace — his first goal coming just seconds after being sent on.
Given their disastrous start to the season and the pressure surrounding their boss, an understandable nervous energy appeared to get to the Forest players, who started the game calamitously at the back.
Chris Hughton’s Nottingham Forest prop up the Championship with just one point in six games
Substitute Rubin Colwill’s (No 27) brace saw Cardiff turn the game on its head after the break
First goalkeeper Brice Samba shanked his clearance to the edge of his own box, but was handed a reprieve as the visitors couldn’t work a clear-cut chance, then Samba’s defence haplessly failed to deal with a cross from Cardiff’s right-hand side. Joel Bagan’s subsequent header bounced back off the hosts’ crossbar.
Hughton would have wanted his side to set the tempo early on, but they were slow out of the blocks.
Lyle Taylor’s curled effort from the edge of the box, which floated over the Cardiff goal, was a rare foray in the first 15 minutes — while McCarthy’s men, unsurprisingly, looked a threat from set pieces.
But in the 23rd minute, Forest sprung into life. Suddenly space was to be found down the left-hand side and they moved the ball quickly, before running directly at the backpedalling Cardiff defenders.
Max Lowe, on his first appearance since joining on loan from Sheffield United, fizzed the ball into the box, straight into the path of Lewis Grabban — who sidefooted firmly past Dillon Phillips in the Cardiff goal.
The City Ground erupted with, one suspects, a mixture of joy and relief. They had not seen a home win in these parts since the start of April, and a long-time before that with anything approaching a full house.
Forest overcame a nervous start to take the lead on 23 minutes through Lewis Grabban
As half time neared, Forest found themselves again having to deal with a threatening throw-in — throwing their bodies on the line with block after block, as Marlon Pack, among others, looked to smash home. Results may have abandoned Hughton, but it appears his players’ fight has never waivered.
McCarthy could consider his side a little unlucky to be trailing at the break, and if Kieffer Moore — on the bench and not yet fully fit — had been available from the start he may have made the most of some of the ping-pong in the box in the first 45.
Moore was introduced soon after, along with Colwill, and McCarthy’s substitutes made an instant impact.
Wales international Colwill swept in just a minute after coming on for his first-ever senior goal
Not for the first time, Forest failed to deal with a floated cross into the area and as the ball dropped following Moore’s header, Colwill found space and swept in to make it 1-1 on 58 minutes.
Cardiff’s approach was paying off in spades now, as Samba spilled a looping ball, only for Mark Harris to volley just over the bar with the goal gaping.
Then Moore hit the post with a superb header, and the travelling fans sensed a goal was coming.
Samba was forced to save well again from close range from another Harris volley as Forest threatened to crumble under intense pressure.
And the 19-year-old then curled excellently past Brice Samba to take all three points to Wales
The goal felt inevitable, and so it proved. It was 19-year-old Colwill again, too, dancing into space on the edge of the box and placing his shot accurately past Samba, before celebrating in front of the jubilant Cardiff fans.
It was a lead their side deserved, and one McCarthy could take a great deal of credit for.
If only Hughton had such a magic touch. Instead, as the Bluebirds faithful sang, ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’, he tasted defeat for the fifth time in six Championship games. Unfortunately, he may soon find he will have plenty of spare time to chew on it.