Pearce is having trouble shaking the tag that he is "no tactician"- even among the Forest fans who see him as a legend - and he has been outmanoeuvred on occasion, but the win against Norwich was not only a success of tactics, but of his self belief and conviction.
It was clear from the first moments that Pearce wanted to draw Norwich onto Forest and exploit any space that appeared. This strategy was influenced by The Canaries narrow midfield: the theory being that any width our opponents had would arise from their full-backs coming forward.
Forest played a traditional 4-4-2 with Michail Antonio and Tom Ince on the wings, players who are not as defensively minded as Chris Burke for example - this was to exploit space which Pearce expected to appear behind the Norwich full-backs.
The Reds were further instructed to draw their opponents onto them through a conditional pressing game. This caused some murmurs of protest in the crowd which is fair enough - nobody wants to see away teams come to The City Ground and have lots of possession while the Forest midfield stands off, but not pressuring the ball high up the pitch allowed the Norwich players - particularly the full-backs on the overlap - to come into the Forest half more, which was the desired effect.
The only question was whether this strategy was wise. Pearce was showing a lot of faith in Ben Osborn and Robert Tesche, who were playing well, but it was apparent they were becoming heavily outnumbered. I was convinced Forest would revert to a 4-2-3-1 in order to bolster their position in the middle of the pitch.
But even after going a goal down while having little success, the manager stuck with his belief that the gaps would appear, not changing things until the 66th minute. However, this readjustment did not see Pearce back-tracking; instead he took his strategy to extreme levels, reverting to an unconventional 3-3-4 formation (see right, click to enlarge).
Forest now had two banks of three in the middle, with the midfield dropping extremely deep at times - almost onto the defenders' toes, and while the forwards were providing only fluctuating cover out wide, this change of formation was an invitation for Norwich to flood forward and finish The Reds off.
It was an invitation Norwich could not resist, but as they pushed men forward, Forest played long balls into wide areas trying to catch their full-backs out of position. This was the trade off; Forest were deliberately short at the back, in order to have the men in a position to hurt their opponents.
Again Pearce was showing a lot of faith in his midfielders; shorthanded, the three defenders were having to venture out of line to deal with problems, but the deep midfield trio of Tesche, Osborn and Henri Lansbury were working with the defenders and covering them.
This was the reason Pearce's gamble worked: he knew his players were well enough drilled to cover defensively - how did Norwich cope when their defenders were similarly dragged out of position?
As Forest concentrated on pumping direct balls into the flanks, there were always players in red shirts there to fight for the ball. When the Norwich full-backs were caught up the pitch - and even on occasions when they were in position, their central defenders were having to go out and deal with the threat (see right).
But unlike Pearce's men, the Norwich midfielders were poorly drilled at helping the defenders. They repeatedly left gaping holes in the dangerous area in front of goalkeeper John Ruddy, and because Forest had so many players up front, there were always men waiting for an easy tap-in (see examples, below).
Pearce made a gamble - he basically created a situation where Forest were almost guaranteed to score. He knew that Norwich would push their full-backs forward, and all through the match tried to use this against them.
And when this did not immediately work, it would have been easy for him to take a different approach. Forest were in danger of being totally overrun in midfield - the obvious solution would have been to sacrifice an attacker, but Pearce deliberately made Forest weaker defensively to lure Norwich even further forward.
This was a resounding tactical victory for Pearce - the only surprise, as things turned out, was that the equaliser took so long to arrive. Forest were not at their best, but were still pulling the Norwich defence to pieces, while defending well at the other end of the pitch.
And once Assombalonga equalised - a sucker-punch in the exact manner Pearce had been attempting all game - Forest continued to hit Norwich on the break. The Garibaldi were confident now and looking truly dangerous, catching their opponents out every time they came forward.
The Forest manager is still finding his feet at this level - errors are inevitable, but this game proves that he has a flair for tactics, the strength of character to stick with a game-plan, and is not afraid to make unconventional decisions. He deserves a lot of credit for this extremely important victory.
Thanks for reading.