Birmingham City lost the battle of the boxes in a frenetic encounter with Nottingham Forest that sent them into the international break with four defeats from five games.
Blues created plenty of chances – that much cannot be denied – but once again a failure to take any meant they were always under pressure.
By contrast Forest were vibrant in attack and far, far more effective in front of goal, with Lee Bowyer’s men causing themselves as many problems as the opposition.
First half goals from Lewis Grabban and Ryan Yates – and a third early in the second from Djed Spence saw Forest record their second away win in three days.
For Bowyer there is plenty to think about over the next fortnight.
The first half was a frantic affair, in which Blues hit the woodwork twice and had an effort from Scott Hogan ruled out for offside.
By contrast Forest found the net with two both of their shots on target.
Indeed Blues had three attempts on goal, one just over from Jeremie Bela, an angled Lukas Jutkiewicz shot which was tipped away and a Tahith Chong drive which smacked the far post – before Grabban struck the opener.
Just 11 breathless minutes had passed when Chong was dispossessed by Jack Colback on halfway, allowing Grabban to race away and curl the ball into Matija Sarkic’s top corner.
Blues resumed the offensive, Harlee Dean’s volley dipped just too late and midway through the period Lukas Jutkiewicz glanced a header on to the same upright Chong hit.
Seconds later Bela under-hit a back pass which sent Grabban clear. Sarkic did well to concede a corner but Ryan Yates was afforded a free header from eight yards as Forest doubled their lead.
Eight minutes before the break Hogan tapped home Jutkiewicz’s low cross – but the flag went up.
The next goal was going to be crucial – and it came for the visitors just five minutes after the restart when Blues lost the ball and were countered on once more.
Philip Zinckernagel spread the ball to the overlapping Djed Spence who rammed it past Sarkic at his near post.
Blues continued to create chances – and spurn them. A Tahith Chong corner on the hour picked out Kristian Pedersen only for the Dane to head down and over.
The defender did better with his next opportunity, meeting another Chong corner in stride only for his effort to be hacked off the line.
With a corner of an hour to go Chong sent in a low free kick from the D which Samba did superbly to push aside.
The goalkeeper produced an even better save in the 88th minute when Marc Roberts applied a deft header to another Chong flag-kick.
The goal just wouldn’t come for Blues.
Dwelled on the ball a couple of times but had no chance with either first half goal and came out really well to deny Grabban when he’d been sent clear. Beaten at his near post for the third – but certainly not the villain of the piece.
Never looked comfortable. Made some important clearances but on a day when Blues wobbled defensively the centre back was as unstable as the rest of them.
Blues were terrorised down the left and Dean was often pulled out of position to cover – which he didn’t do very effectively. Played some dangerous passes into midfield which landed his team in trouble.
Returned to the starting line-up and given the unenviable task of covering Brennan Johnson down his side. Found it an impossible task. Probably should have scored a couple too.
Delivery into the box not what was needed. Ran hard up and down his sideline – and there was certainly less danger down his side than the left but still not a great day.
Once again he upheld his side of the bargain, running hard, winning the ball and trying to inspire his team to something.
Looked leggy and exposed as Forest counter-attacked with pace and purpose. Used the ball OK but difficult for him in a team that lacked stability at the back.
Once again the main threat came in the space behind him. He never stopped trying to create something and put some decent delivery into the box – but it’s a struggle for him.
His recent fortune was summed up in two first half minutes when he hit a firm shot which found only the post and then lost the ball on half way for the opening goal. Sent in some inviting set-pieces and forced a good late save out of Samba
Won his battle with the Forest defence – and showed a real urgency on the press – but should have scored with header from Bela’s free kick.
Had some bright moments before being subbed on 57 minutes. One ‘goal’ disallowed, a near post shot straight at Samba. Worked hard out of possession, his effort could not be faulted.
Aneke (for Hogan, 57) 4.5 Busy but not able to fashion anything
McGree (for Bela, 57) Very bright 6.5
Deeney (for Sunjic, 69) Another struggle 5
Not used: Trueman, Friend, Sanderson, Graham
FOREST (3-4-2-1): Samba; Worrall, Figueiredo, McKenna; Spence, Yates, Colback, Lowe; Zinckernagel (Garner 71), Johnson (Mighten 84); Grabban (Taylor 76). Not used: Horvath, Bong, Lolley, Carvalho
Forest : Grabban (11), Yates (29), Spence (53)
Referee : Keith Stroud
Attendance : 15, 148 (1,188 away)