Denouements are always difficult. How to tie up the loose ends in a satisfactory manner with the neatness of a Velma Dinkley explanation at the end of an episode of Scooby-Doo remains elusive for many filmmakers and novelists. Such struggling story-tellers should ask Chris Cohen and Britt Assombalonga for advice on how to craft an ending that will result in glorious catharsis.
With Henri Lansbury and Dexter Blackstock ruled out owing to illness, Chris O'Grady was recalled to lumber around up front with Cohen supporting from midfield. The sprightly Oliver Burke offered pace and tricks from the right while Ben Osborn brought the craft and guile. Initially, this formation looked promising too as chances were created with Burke giving 57 year old Dean Lewington a tough time.
Yet it was from the left flank of Osborn that a delightful cross was swung in for Cohen to cushion a header beyond Charlie Burns' despairing dive. A glorious 8th minute goal for a glorious number 8.
Of course, this being Nottingham Forest in their 150th anniversary season, it wasn't going to be straight forward. There were bumps, kinks and knots to be navigated. Nicky Maynard rounded off a flowing move in the 19th minute to offer brief respite for the already relegated home side.
As the game meandered towards half-time, Danny Fox slid in on Jordan Spence. It looked like a determined and forceful tackle and the ball went in the opposite direction of Fox's foot - clearly indicating that the ball had been won. Nonetheless, sliding in with feet even slightly raised is a dangerous business these days and after working hard to win back the belief and respect of the Forest fans, Fox would have no more part to play in this season as a red card was wafted in his general direction.
After a steely and graceful performance in their previous away game at Fulham, it looked as if this game was reverting to type for Forest. A point away from home with ten men seemed like the best that could be hoped for.
O'Grady was withdrawn and Burke stationed up top as a target man with Cohen continuing to support as best he could. It worked about as well as you might imagine with the young right winger game but running himself into the ground while chasing the balls swung up to him in an effort to utilise his pace. As Burke trudged off in the 68th minute to be replaced by Ryan Mendes, he looked absolutely shattered. Tesche too was withdrawn to be replaced by Assombalonga who took his place up front.
Osborn went close after cutting in from the left and Assombalonga started to make some clever runs. As the game seemed to be drifting towards a draw, Osborn produced a touch filthier than an Irvine Welsh novel to allow Assombalonga a run on Chris Long. He cut inside and struck a perfectly placed drive into the bottom corner in front of 4,000 travelling fans.
If MK Dons were poor, Forest were resolute and moreover, probed and pressed for a winner, despite their numerical disadvantage. There was no sitting deep or throwing on of extra defenders with ten minutes to go; this made for a pleasant change.
On the final whistle, Mendes chucked his shirt into the crowd and Tesche departed the field of play with one of those meaningful and pointed applause that footballers do when they know there is no shiny new contract on the table.
All that can wait though. For now, the goals and smiles from Cohen and Assombalonga were a welcome sight for some pretty sore Forest supporters' eyes.