Nottingham Forest secured an excellent 4-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers at The City Ground this afternoon.
Two Henri Lansbury penalties handed The Reds a comfortable-looking lead before Ben Marshall halved the deficit eight minutes before the break.
But Man of the Match Jamie Paterson and Andy Reid struck after the break to wrap up the victory and further cement Forest’s position in the Sky Bet Championship playoff positions.
Billy Davies made four changes to the side which drew at Bolton last weekend. The ever-reliable Jack Hobbs was forced off at The Reebok Stadium with a hamstring injury and the man who replaced him, Danny Collins, was handed a starting berth against Rovers. Jamaal Lascelles was also absent from the squad so Greg Halford was recalled to The Reds’ defence after excelling up front in recent matches.
Simon Cox filled the gap left by Halford. He was flanked by Paterson and Jamie Mackie, the latter replacing the bench-bound Djamal Abdoun. Sunderland loanee David Vaughan made his first appearance since sustaining a thigh injury in the Boxing Day win over Queens Park Rangers. That meant Guy Moussi had to settle for a place on the bench, where there was also a space for Ishmael Miller.
Striker Jordan Rhodes was consigned to the sidelines after injury ruled him out of Blackburn’s FA Cup trip to Manchester City on Wednesday, but there was no place in the squad for experienced keeper Paul Robinson who was substituted at half-time at The Etihad Stadium.
The visitors claimed the first opportunity of the match on three minutes. Gonzalo Jara dallied near his own corner flag and Rudy Gestede nipped in, taking the ball away from Halford and into Forest’s box. The angle was always against the Benin international, who flashed the ball across goal and two yards wide of Karl Darlow’s far post.
Forest soon took a firm grip on proceedings however. Vaughan’s left-footed 25-yard effort moved wickedly through the air on five minutes. Simon Eastwood was able to set himself before pushing the ball to safety.
A minute later Mackie was bundled over by Tommy Spurr down the right. Reid’s inswinging free-kick found Halford stooping among a crowd of bodies. He was unable to direct his header goalwards.
And The Reds went close again three minutes later, Cox shooting wide after Paterson had cut the ball back dangerously from the by-line.
Forest’s pressure was relentless and Lansbury was next to have a go. He took the ball beautifully in his stride before unleashing a stinging low drive. Eastwood did brilliantly to dive to his right and turn the ball behind.
The hosts were playing terrific football but a more direct approach proved to be the catalyst for the opening goal.
Lansbury’s forward run was met perfectly by Reid’s lofted ball over the top. The former Arsenal midfielder was bundled over by Grant Hanley in the area and referee Darren Deadman had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Lansbury opted for power - and he got just about enough on the ball to squeeze it under Eastwood and hand Forest a deserved lead.
The goalscorer almost doubled the advantage minutes later, looping the ball over the bar from long range.
Blackburn were being run ragged but served up a reminder of their own threat on the half-hour. Tom Cairney tricked his way towards the edge of the Reds area and was bundled over. Dan Harding went into the book and Cairney sent the free-kick a yard over Darlow’s bar.
But Forest soon made it two. Paterson latched onto Cox’s neat reverse pass before being chopped down by Adam Henley in the area. Mr Deadman pointed to the spot again and Lansbury ensured Eastwood had no chance this time, smashing the ball high, hard and straight down the middle.
The pattern of the game suggested the hosts would run away with it from that point onwards, but Rovers’ Marshall had other ideas.
Halford conceded a corner and after Forest failed to clear Cairney slipped it to his right, where former Leicester winger Marshall was waiting to curl the ball precisely to Darlow’s left and into the corner of the net.
The Reds will have been frustrated to have allowed their visitors a way back into the match and soon set about restoring their two-goal lead.
A 40th-minute spell of superb passing lead to Mackie firing a vicious left-footed shot towards Eastwood’s top corner from the edge of the area. The keeper produced a superb acrobatic save to tip it over.
And Forest claimed the final chance of the half as Paterson twisted and turned in the area, looking for space to shoot. When he eventually pulled the trigger Rovers got a block in to turn the ball behind for a corner.
There were no changes for either side at the break but Rovers soon set about altering the scoreline. Collins was penalised for nudging Gestede in the back and Marshall swung the resultant free-kick towards the back post. Scott Dan headed the ball into the middle and Spurr was able to divert it goalwards. Darlow did well to get across and claw the ball away from the top corner.
The Reds conjured up their first attempt of the half just before the hour as Gonzalo Jara burst onto Reid’s half-cleared cross on the edge of the area. The Chile international struck the ball well first time but the ball was always bending away from goal.
A much better chance presented itself minutes later. After Eastwood had palmed away Lansbury’s long-range drive Paterson picked the ball up on the left. The winger’s dinked cross was perfect for Cox but the Irishman could only nod the ball wide from six yards.
Despite improving since the interval Blackburn were struggling to create clear-cut chances. Josh King, on for Lee Williamson, took the initiative, drawing a strong save from Darlow with a low drive from 20 yards. Cairney flashed over on the follow-up.
And any hope the visitors had of salvaging anything from the match was extinguished on 72 minutes when, after receiving the ball from Reid, Paterson’s quick feet opened up the space for him to fire the ball low across Eastwood and into the left-hand corner of the net - the 21 year old’s fifth goal in three matches.
The Reds made two changes during the subsequent stoppage. Mackie and Vaughan made way for Matt Derbyshire and Moussi, and shortly afterwards Darius Henderson replaced Cox.
Blackburn had earlier introduced Rhodes and David Dunn for Gestede and Chris Taylor respectively. And Gary Bowyer was made to rue using up all his substitutes when Dann retreated down the tunnel late on, leaving Rovers to play the rest of the match with ten men.
Five minutes of added time were indicated, the first of which saw Paterson shift smartly onto his right foot on the edge of the area before curling the ball into Eastwood’s grasp.
But there was nothing the keeper could do in the 95th minute. His defenders backed off Reid on the edge of the area and, just as he did against West Ham a fortnight earlier, the Irishman put the icing on the cake - smashing the ball left-footed into the top corner.
Forest: Darlow, Jara, Halford, Collins, Harding, Vaughan (Moussi 74'), Lansbury, Mackie (Derbyshire 73'), Paterson, Reid(c), Cox (Henderson 79')
Subs not used: De Vries, Majewski, Abdoun, Miller
Scorers: Lansbury (pen) 15', (pen) 34', Paterson 72', Reid 90'
Bookings: Harding 30', Lansbury 64'
Blackburn: Eastwood, Henley, Dann (c), Hanley, Spurr, Williamson (King 54'), Lowe, Cairney, Taylor (Dunn 74'), Marshall, Gestede (Rhodes 58')
Subs not used: Kean, Kilgallon, Morris, Goodwillie
Scorer: Marshall 37'
Bookings: Taylor 14', Hanley 86'
Referee: Darren Deadman
Attendance: 22,456 (Away: 1,367)