Nottingham Forest returned to winning ways as Simon Cox’s goal gave them a hard-fought 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday this afternoon.
In a repeat of last season’s scoreline between the sides at Hillsborough, Cox was on the end of a Greg Halford cross to hand The Reds all three points.
Billy Davies made two changes from the 2-2 draw at Millwall as Jamaal Lascelles returned from suspension in place of Eric Lichaj while Nathaniel Chalobah dropped to the bench and saw his place taken by Djamal Abdoun in the Forest midfield.
After a minute’s applause to mark the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, the game got going with Forest kicking towards their 4,000-strong travelling support in the Leppings Lane End.
It was the home side who had the first clear chance though. Jacques Maghoma whipped a free-kick into the Forest area but the unmarked Atdhe Nuhiu headed over Karl Darlow’s crossbar.
The game was enjoying a lively start in front of Wednesday’s biggest home crowd of the season and Cox almost put The Reds in front as he cut inside before firing a 25-yard shot inches over the bar.
Wednesday had a golden opportunity to open the scoring on 14 minutes. Darlow’s poor clearance fell straight to the feet of Nuhiu but the Forest goalkeeper redeemed himself by smothering the ball after the striker’s touch had let him down.
Cox could have edged The Reds ahead seven minutes before the break. Racing onto Abdoun’s reverse ball inside the penalty area, the Irishman shot over the bar from a tight angle with both Andy Reid and Abdoun in support as the half finished goalless.
There were no changes for either side at the break but Forest had the lead within three minutes of the restart. Greg Halford escaped down the right-hand side and delivered a superb cross into the six-yard box where Cox was on hand to turn home past Damian Martinez from close range.
Forest were well on top by now and saw a penalty appeal turned down on 52 minutes. Cox touched the ball past Martinez before going down under the goalkeeper’s challenge. Despite the protests from the Forest players and staff, referee Lee Probert waved play on.
The home side were pressing hard for an equaliser and Connor Wickham was the next to test the hands of Darlow. The striker created space for himself on the edge of the area but his powerful effort was straight into the hands of the Forest stopper.
Sensing that the tide might be slowly turning against his side, Billy Davies made his first change of the afternoon as Abdoun was replaced by Lichaj before Matt Derbyshire came on for goalscorer Cox with 11 minutes to play.
Wednesday were being roared on by the home crowd and almost found their equaliser. Reda Johnson was on the end of a Maghoma corner but he could only send his effort wide of Darlow’s left-hand post.
Forest made their final substitution with five minutes to play as Chalobah was sent on for Gonzalo Jara.
Roger Johnson went close for Wednesday in stoppage time but The Reds were able to see the game out to record an impressive and much-needed win in South Yorkshire.
Forest: Darlow, Halford, Lascelles, Hobbs, Harding, Jara (Chalobah 84'), Lansbury, Reid (c), Abdoun (Lichaj 67'), Mackie, Cox (Derbyshire 79')
Subs not used: de Vries, Greening, Paterson, Majewski
Scorer: Cox 48'
Booking: Lascelles 52'
Sheffield Wednesday: Martinez, Semedo, Roger Johnson (c), Maghoma, Mattock (Reda Johnson 62'), Lee (Helan 62'), Palmer, Wickham, Nuhiu, Olofinjana (Jermaine Johnson 81'), Loovens
Subs not used: Kirkland, McCabe, McPhail, Llera
Bookings: Loovens 19', Olofinjana 62'
Referee: Lee Probert