Martin O’Neill says Nottingham Forest deserved something from Birmingham City defeat

Martin O'Neill looks on.
Martin O'Neill looks on.

Disappointed Nottingham Forest boss Martin O’Neill admitted he was still getting to know his new squad — and the new faces brought in since he took over at the City Ground.

But after a 2-0 defeat to Championship play-off rivals Birmingham City, which left the Reds 12th, O’Neill said they also needed positive results to stay in the promotion race.

After falling behind to a Jota goal early on, the Reds grew into the game and went on to create the better chances in the second period.

But they were punished for failing to take their opportunities to grab at least a point when, in injury time, Che Adams converted a penalty after Yohan Benalouane was sent off for handling.

“Obviously I’m disappointed. I thought the second half belonged to us, we just failed to capitalise,” said O’Neill.

“I thought we’ve had good possession and a couple of shots that looked as if they were going to go into the net. I’m disappointed to lose a game that I don’t think we should have lost.

“Sometimes the final ball was not good enough, that’s something we really need to work on and we had nobody to finish those chances off.

“We’re just getting to know each other. We don’t want to drop out of the race, there’s lots of teams and lots of points still to play for.

“We’ve taken on some players and a few of them have not had a lot of game time. They haven’t played for some time and they need a bit of fitness so it will take some time for them to get used to things. One or two training sessions hasn’t been enough but they will get there.

“Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I know we can rectify that. I’m trying to find out about all of my players but at the same time, not lose ground by losing football matches.”

O’Neill said the play-offs remained the target and he was confident that could be achieved, although it would be tough.

“As a club, we haven’t won back-to-back matches since September and that’s something that a club fighting relegation shouldn’t be looking at, let alone a side going for promotion.

“We started brightly and hit the post but then we conceded a very poor goal from our point of view. We’ve got a lot of work to do over the next few weeks to improve things.

“We played well in the second half and had plenty of possession but couldn’t carve out the opening apart from Bonatini’s late chance. We’re disappointed to have lost the game because, particularly in the second half, I felt we’d go on to get the equaliser.

“We knew it would be tough today, it was a battle and they utilised their two centre forwards incredibly well. We haven’t yet developed a pattern of play and that is what we need to discover over the next couple of weeks.”