A cautious wave of guarded optimism was apparent in the air as Forest supporters looked forward to guessing which of the new recruits would get the nod from Dougie Freedman to pull on the snazzy yellow away kit for this sticky trip to Loftus Road.
As it was, Chris O’ Grady got the nod to batter away up front with young Tyler Walker shunted to the right. Ryan Mendes started on the left with Kelvin Wilson coming in for the recently out of form Jack Hobbs. For QPR, the sight of Charlie Austin strolling around was a welcome, if slightly surprising sight for the home fans and it was his contribution that at one stage looked to separate this tight contest until the intervention of Nelson Oliveira.
The first half was played at a leisurely pace by both teams but Freedman’s men certainly looked the more likely of the two to score, despite a typically causal moment from Kelvin Wilson who left a ball to drop on the touchline for Matt Phillips to speed past him but apart from this, Forest looked reasonably comfortable in defence.
With two debutants for Forest, it was little surprise that their performance looked a little disjointed at times, even if it was largely solid and punctuated by some sparkling moments thanks to the nimble feet of Mendes. At one stage, Matt Mills looked vainly for an outlet from centre back only to come perilously close to being robbed of the ball.
Nonetheless, Forest were producing some neat football and maximizing the knockdowns from 0"Grady while looking to get Mendes isolated against former Forest stalwart James Perch, especially after his rash challenge rightly earned him an early caution from the referee. Sadly for Forest, the best chance fell to right back Eric Lichaj whose shot was comfortably collected by Rob Green….this time…for now.
As the half wore on, the home crowd grew visibly and audibly frustrated as little was produced from their team in terms of an attacking intent.
However, the feeling persisted that come the second half, QPR would improve along with the realisation that only Rotherham United had rolled over and allowed their tums to be tickled by Forest since 7th March - a run comprising 16 games in all.
With Tyler Walker getting little change playing out wide from the experienced Paul Konchesky, his withdrawal at half time was little surprise and Jamie Ward was let loose to scamper around. Soon after the restart, Michael Mancienne’s hamstring got the better of him and the Forest staff scratched their head in unison at the continued force of the club’s seemingly endless injury problems. Kyle Ebicilio was sent on only to be withdrawn again after Austin slalomed in from the right and got his shot away, which squirmed unceremoniously under Dorus de Vries’ body and into the net. It took only ten minutes or so of attacking intent from Chris Ramsey’s men to prize open the Forest defence.
But the game hinged on Rob Green’s clumsy attempt to deal with a routine back pass – he dillied and dallied and allowed O’Grady to nick the ball from him before bringing him tumbling down. It was heads on hands time for the home crowd and a red card was inevitable. Henri Lansbury smashed the resulting penalty past Alex Smithies with the force of Thor’s hammer.
The pendulum duly swung in favour of the away team. A third debutant was thrown into the fray in the shape of Nelson Oliviera. He and Mendes combined beautifully, resulting in the former Benfica and Swansea man finding the net a mere 14 minutes into his Forest career with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area.
Ultimately, Forest were good value for their first away win since late February against Reading. It might seem strange for some to see a club under a transfer embargo clinch a win, largely thanks to three debutants who finished the game with a front three composed of these very players. But this is the weird and wonderful world of The Championship – a place where odd things happen all the time.