Nottingham Forest’s 2013-14 campaign got off to the perfect start with victory over Huddersfield Town at The City Ground this afternoon.
Henri Lansbury’s second-half strike was enough to send The Terriers back to West Yorkshire empty-handed.
Jack Hobbs, Eric Lichaj and Jamie Mackie were handed their Forest debuts, while Matt Derbyshire was rewarded for his fine goalscoring form in pre-season with a start.
Forest had dominated the early stages with some patient passing, but it was the visitors who first went close.
Adlene Guedioura was dispossessed on the halfway line on ten minutes and Martin Paterson raced into space. His shot from distance deflected up off Danny Collins and over Karl Darlow’s crossbar.
The keeper had kept his place in the starting line up ahead of summer signing Dorus de Vries, who was on the bench, and on 16 minutes he watched on as Forest created their first opening.
Derbyshire raced into the channel to meet Chris Cohen’s neat ball before turning sharply to open up his options on the edge of the area. He found Cox, who did well to shift his feet quickly enough to get a shot away in a crowded penalty area, only to see his effort blocked on its way towards goal.
Shortly afterwards, Guedioura blazed over from 30 yards before Cox scuffed a half-volley into Alex Smithies’ grasp after Derbyshire flicked on Collins’ long ball.
It was all Forest and on 32 minutes Lichaj nearly gave them the lead in unorthodox fashion.
His initial cross near the byline was blocked and he struck the rebound on the full, sending a cross-cum-shot across goal and just wide of the far post.
The Reds continued to press and it was Lansbury’s turn to next have a go. He picked the ball up just outside the area and saw his low shot blocked.
And the ex-Arsenal man was involved again in the third of three added minutes. His dangerous cross just evaded Mackie in the middle and the sides went into the break level.
There were no changes at the break and within a minute of the second half, Darlow had to make an excellent save to deny James Vaughan.
Adam Clayton burst into the Forest area and threaded the ex-Everton striker into the box. Running away from goal and closely pursued by Collins, Vaughan did well to force a fine one-handed save from Darlow at his near post.
Cox and Guedioura both responded by sending efforts soaring over Smithies’ crossbar, but on 52 minutes Forest had the lead their dominance deserved.
Cohen charged into Huddersfield territory before playing a one-two with Cox. The full back did brilliantly to reach the return pass before it crossed the line and found Lansbury lurking at the back post for a simple tap-in.
The goal sparked activity on the Huddersfield bench as Sean Scannell, who had been well marshalled by Lichaj all afternoon, was replaced by Danny Ward.
The change did nothing to disrupt Forest’s flow as Lansbury slipped Guedioura to the byline shortly after the resumption of play.
The Algerian dinked a superb cross into the middle and Derbyshire flew through the air in an attempt to meet it. He couldn’t quite make contact, however, and referee Graham Salisbury was unmoved by the striker’s claims that he had been pushed.
Another Terriers change followed as Oscar Gobern was replaced by Adam Hammill.
Former Red Joel Lynch was then booked after a late challenge on Cox, before he saw his side go within inches of scoring an equaliser.
Huddersfield left back Paul Dixon found himself in possession high up the pitch and sent a superb cross towards the back post. Darlow couldn’t reach it and Vaughan headed just wide under close attention from Collins.
At the resultant stoppage, Jamie Paterson took his Forest bow as he replaced Cox.
Derbyshire nearly had his name on the scoresheet as the game got back underway. After Reid had been fouled near the left-hand corner of the area, Lansbury’s deflected free kick soared towards the back post where the former Olympiacos striker couldn’t quite rise high enough to provide the finishing touch.
Martin Paterson was then replaced by Spanish striker Cristian Lopez, but it was Vaughan who would twice go close in quick succession as Huddersfield stepped up their chase for an equaliser.
After Collins had miskicked on the edge of his own area, Hobbs did brilliantly to get across to block Vaughan’s strike. The danger wasn’t over, however, as Hammill picked the ball up out wide and found Vaughan with his cross. The striker could only head over.
Mackie then made way for returning striker Darius Henderson and Ishmael Miller replaced Derbyshire with less than ten minutes to play.
Billy Davies’ men hadn’t given their opponents room to breathe all afternoon and maintained their fierce work ethic into the match’s final throes.
Miller nearly capitalised on a sustained spell of pressure but could only send his left-footed effort wide under pressure from six yards.
Five minutes of added time were indicated, news which appeared to give the visitors a temporary boost as they applied a rare spell of pressure in Forest’s half.
But The Reds could have wrapped it up when they broke into the space vacated by a Terriers side desperate for an equaliser. Reid led the charge but his ball across for an unmarked Miller was awkward to deal with and the former West Brom striker was adjudged to have controlled it with his hand.
It wasn’t to matter, however, as Forest saw the game out to claim an opening day win.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Collins, Guedioura, Cohen (c), Lansbury, Reid, Mackie (Henderson 75'), Hobbs, Derbyshire (Miller 83'), Cox (Paterson 68')
Subs not used: De Vries, Harding, Halford, Majewski
Scorer: Lansbury 52'
Huddersfield: Smithies, Clarke (c), Scannell (Ward 59'), Paterson (Lopez 70'), Hunt, Hogg, Clayton, Dixon, Gobern (Hammill 63'), Lynch, Vaughan
Subs not used: Bennett, Gerrard, Carroll, Norwood
Booking: Lynch 65'
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Attendance: 25,535 (Away: 1,975)