Steve Cooper still needs time to mould a team out of Nottingham Forest’s array of summer signings but insisted he saw the right signs even as they suffered a 4-0 hammering against East Midlands rivals Leicester.
James Maddison ran the show for the Foxes in a battle of the league’s bottom two teams, scoring either side of a fine strike from Harvey Barnes in a devastating 11-minute spell before teeing up Patson Daka for the fourth in the second half.
The meeting of the under-pressure Cooper and Brendan Rodgers was variously billed as the ‘P45 Derby’ or ‘El Sackico’, and defeat sees Forest swap places with Leicester to drop to the bottom of the table, a fifth straight loss their worst run in the league since 2004.
Cooper is still trying to get to grips with a squad that had 22 new arrivals this summer, but insisted progress was being made.
“It’s a poor run of results, the stat on chances and goals we’re conceding is not good and we’re trying to address it, but what I would say is you didn’t see the team give up,” he said. “I know it’s a group of players that care even though we’re new.
“Sometimes you can feel that and I’m not sensing that at the moment. We’re just trying to put loads of layers of our work in to become the team we want to be and we’re not that at the moment…
“We’ve got a lot of new players and it’s not just about being a team on the pitch. It’s about the relationships, the camaraderie and everything else you need to be a successful team. We are trying to become that on the job in the hardest league in the world.”
Leicester went at Forest from the very start, but the night might have been different had Taiwo Awoniyi capitalised on a counter-attack in the 22nd minute. Instead his shot came back off a post and three minutes later Leicester were ahead. Fourteen minutes later, it was 3-0.
“We should score, that was the chance of the game before they scored, and if somebody had said we’d have a chance like that to go 1-0 up and I’d have bitten their arm off,” Cooper said.
“We are not taking those moments in games and scoring when we should but also we are having phases in games where we are letting the result get away from us, we have done that again tonight with two goals in a couple of minutes and then a third.”
For Leicester this was a first victory of the campaign at the eighth attempt, with a first clean sheet thrown in.
“I said this could be a season-changing game for us if we get the result and the performance,” Rodgers said.
“It’s been too long for how we’ve been used to working here not to be winning. We’ve had a tough start with games on the back of a tough summer but tonight feels like the first game of the season. The performance level was there and now we’re going to push on and start climbing the league.”
Leicester kept their concentration to the end, with Danny Ward making good saves from Awoniyi and Morgan Gibbs-White in the second half to preserve the clean sheet.
“I think the international break gave us a chance to reset everything,” Rodgers added. “We knew we needed to have greater desire, to press the game and to stop goals going in.
“We know we have the football idea that allows us to create opportunities and tonight everything worked really well. Now we need to take that into the weekend game (at Bournemouth).”