Nottingham Forest secured a superb 3-1 victory at Brighton’s Amex Stadium this evening.
A Darius Henderson strike and a Henri Lansbury double after the break turned the game on its head after Andrew Crofts had given The Seagulls the lead before the interval.
Forest had seen Nathaniel Chalobah red-carded in the second half but restricted their hosts to half-chances from there on in to secure a fantastic victory on the south coast.
Billy Davies made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Charlton on Tuesday night. Dexter Blackstock and Matt Derbyshire made way for Henderson and Simon Cox, while Radoslaw Majewski took Jamie Mackie’s place in the starting line-up after missing the trip to The Valley through injury.
The hosts made a bright start to the match and worked Karl Darlow for the first time on three minutes. Kazenga Lua Lua raced down the left, twisted and turned in the area and saw his cross deflect off Eric Lichaj and fizz towards goal. Darlow held at the second attempt.
The forward was involved again moments later. This time Lichaj showed him down the outside and Lua Lua could only blaze over.
Forest had their first sight of goal on seven minutes after Seagulls skipper Gordon Greer was penalised for a shove on Henderson 25 yards out. Andy Reid could only send his free-kick straight into the wall.
It had been a lively start to the match and on eight minutes Darlow was called into action again as he made a comfortable save from Ashley Barnes’ tame 25-yarder.
The Reds were growing into the game, however, and moments after Majewski had seen his free-kick, from similar range to Reid’s earlier effort, blocked, Tomasz Kuszczak was called in to make his first save of note.
Reid’s cross from the left was perfect for Henderson, who directed his header towards the bottom corner only for Kuszczak to get down well to his left to palm the ball away.
The hosts responded with a header of their own on 15 minutes. After Chris Cohen was adjudged to have fouled Will Buckley near the corner flag, the Brighton winger found Barnes with the subsequent free-kick. His header lacked conviction and the ball went harmlessly wide.
Despite that scare Forest were in the ascendancy and, after Chalobah went into the book after catching Lua Lua late, Kuszczak was called into action once more.
Chalobah capitalised on Henderson’s flick and neatly brought Cox into play on the edge of the area. Cox slid the ball to Majewski who struck his half-volley well, only to see the keeper push it to safety.
The former Manchester United stopper appeared to get involved again minutes later as Lansbury’s powerful effort from 22 yards seemed to brush his finger tips on its way past the post, but a goal-kick was awarded.
Forest were growing into the game more and more as the minutes ticked by, and it came as something of a surprise when their hosts opened the scoring on 31 minutes.
Barnes volleyed a cross from the left back across goal and Crofts stooped to head it beyond Darlow from six yards.
Keen to respond quickly, Chalobah was next to sting the palms of Kuszczak. The ball seemed to move on its way towards goal and it was an awkward save for the keeper, who will have been relieved to see the ball’s path evade Cox, who was lurking with intent in the centre.
It was the final chance of the half for Forest, but there was still time for Lichaj to pick up his fifth booking of the season, and a one-game suspension, for a tug-back back on Lua Lua.
Both sides emerged unchanged from the break and Forest renewed their intent immediately. Cohen’s low cross from the left was turned behind and from the subsequent corner they had an equaliser.
Majewski’s inswinger was met perfectly by Lansbury, who sent his header across goal and into the far corner with Kuszczak stranded.
The match had been an end to end affair and that wasn’t about to change as Darlow was called in to make an excellent save two minutes later. A spot of pinball in Forest’s box resulted in Crofts directing a low effort towards goal, only for Darlow to get down brilliantly to tip it onto the post. Danny Collins cleared the danger.
The hosts pressed again and should probably have retaken the lead on 50 minutes. Buckley’s cross from the right was met by marauding full back Inigo Calderon, but the Spaniard’s header was poor and sailed over Darlow’s bar.
While the hosts were left ruing that poor piece of finishing, Matthew Upson made amends at the other end with a superb piece of defending. Forest broke down the left through Cox, who spotted Henderson’s run towards the back post and for a moment appeared to find him with the perfect cross. Upson had tracked back superbly, however, and nipped ahead just in time to nod it to safety.
But there was nothing Brighton could do to stop Henderson on the hour mark as the front man fired The Reds ahead.
Cohen’s half-cleared cross from the left fell for him in the area, and he lashed home left-footed in front of Forest’s travelling contingent.
And there was yet more ecstasy minutes later as, after Cox was tripped by Greer as he spun away upon receiving the ball in the area, referee Craig Pawson pointed to the spot. Lansbury smashed it hard to the right of Kuszczak, who had dived the wrong way anyway, to spark scenes of jubilation among the 1,804 visiting supporters.
Despite the two-goal advantage, the pattern of the game up until then had suggested that it was unlikely to simply fizzle out, and that point was emphasised when Chalobah received his marching orders in the form of a second yellow card. He had appeared to push Lua Lua from behind as the forward raced towards goal.
Cox was next in the book, again for a foul on the Congolese, and he was subsequently replaced by Djamal Abdoun.
Brighton were unsurprisingly enjoying the lion’s share of possession by this stage but were finding clear-cut chances hard to come by against a resilient Reds defence, who were now being aided by the energy of Jamie Mackie, on for Majewski, and the fresh target of Greg Halford, who had replaced Henderson with seven minutes to play.
The minutes continued to tick by without a chance of note for the hosts, who were afforded the luxury of five minutes of added time at the end. But, aside from a scuffed Crofts effort, which drifted just past the post with just about the last kick, Forest comfortably saw the game out and took all three points.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Hobbs, Collins, Cohen (c), Lansbury, Chalobah, Reid, Majewski (Mackie 81'), Cox (Adboun 72'), Henderson (Halford 83')
Subs not used: de Vries, Jara, Paterson, Derbyshire
Scorers: Lansbury 46', Henderson 60', Lansbury (pen) 62'
Bookings: Chalobah 21', Lichaj 38', Cox 71', Darlow 90', Mackie 90'
Sent off: Chalobah 67' (Second bookable offence)
Brighton: Kuszczak, Greer (c), Andrews, Crofts, Barnes (Barker 84'), Calderon (Conway 81'), Ward, Forster-Caskey (Lopez 63'), Upson, LuaLua, Buckley
Subs not used: Ankergren, El-Abd, Chicksen, Ince
Scorer: Crofts 31'
Booking: Crofts 90'
Referee: Craig Pawson
Attendance: 27,755 (Away: 1,804)