Martin O'Neill gets off to losing start at Nottingham Forest as Bristol City spoil homecoming
Nottingham Forest 0 Bristol City 1
Martin O'Neill's Nottingham Forest return fell flat as promotion rivals Bristol City killed the good vibes at the City Ground.
Famara Diedhiou's second half effort gave the visitors a deserved success in front of a frustrated full house.
The defeat leaves O'Neill's team in 11th place, seven points off the playoff places in a congested division.
And he admitted afterwards they will have to improve.
O'Neill was acclaimed by the Forest fans before the match, with the 66-year-old striding onto the pitch to greet cheers from all corners of the packed ground.
He would then spend most of the first half that followed pacing around the area near the dugout, with referee Jeremy Simpson stopping play at one point to speak with the home manager after he quite literally crossed the line.
O'Neill had reasons to be worried.
"I thought that we could get the momentum early on in the game, and we didn't actually get that at all," he said. "Bristol City settled much better."
Bristol City were the slicker side in possession and, ironically enough, it was a familiar face that was posing difficulty for the natives. Callum O'Dowda was a League Two player with Oxford when he first popped onto O'Neill's radar.
This week, he agreed a new deal with City off the back of interest from Leeds United. He was inches away from opening the scoring here with a crisp effort that fizzed inches wide of the post. Bristol also had another effort chalked out for offside.
Forest did create some chances, yet they lacked the cohesion of their guests and there was unease amongst the locals when they made a slow start to the second half.
O'Neill attempted to take corrective action by removing skipper Claudio Yacob and sending in Adlene Guedeioura. However, his static team were cut open by an incisive Bristol City move that culminated in striker Diedhiou converting from close range.
Daryl Murphy did threaten twice for Forest as they went in search of a leveller, with the Irishman striking the woodwork before a goalbound effort was cleared off the line. New signing Yohan Benalouane had earlier been denied by a brilliant save from Frank Fielding.
City fans revelled in the moment, chanting 'You're getting sacked in the morning' in the direction of O'Neill with a nod to the trigger happy tendencies of various Forest owners in recent years.
He will be able to use this result as evidence that Forest have to get busy in the transfer market with James McClean predictably linked with a move to these parts.
Either way, the Derryman has work to do ahead of next Saturday's visit of Wigan.
"I think players were anxious to impress - that's obvious - maybe a little bit over anxious," said O'Neill.
"The last couple of days have been a genuine whirlwind, there's been no time to breath. I want to put a stamp on this team.
"When things settle down, and when the players get to know me and what I'm expecting of them - and to be honest what they are expecting of me - I think this is something that we can work out together."