Nottingham Forest suffered their first defeat at The City Ground since November as Wigan Athletic ran out 4-1 winners this afternoon.
Martyn Waghorn tapped home a fortuitous opener before the break but a strong start to the second half saw Jamie Paterson level the scores. However the injury-stricken Reds eventually succumbed to Latics pressure as Waghorn and James McArthur put the game out of sight before Jordi Gomez scored a sensational long-range effort at the death.
Billy Davies, who before the match revealed defender Jack Hobbs will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury, that Guy Moussi had returned to France for personal reasons and that Darius Henderson was unavailable, made four changes to the side which faced Burnley last weekend.
Eric Lichaj replaced Danny Collins, Jonathan Greening made his first start of the season in place of Djamal Abdoun, Radoslaw Majewski came in for Moussi and Simon Cox replaced Rafik Djebbour. Gonzalo Jara was named captain in the absence of the injured Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Hobbs.
Shooting towards The Trent End Forest started brightly, winning a corner which was taken short between Paterson and Cox. Paterson whipped the ball in low and hard but Ali Al Habsi managed to take control of it.
The Latics responded with a corner of their own after Danny Fox had nodded Nicky Maynard’s header over his own crossbar. Jamaal Lascelles headed the ball away after Waghorn had taken the corner.
It had been a fairly quiet start to the match but on 12 minutes a Wigan mistake looked like it would lead to the opening goal.
Leon Barnett underhit his backpass but Cox, running into the area from the right, could only send the ball wide of the post on the stretch.
Wigan’s first clear-cut chance came five minutes later when Maynard did brilliantly to bring Emmerson Boyce’s long ball down out of the sunshine. The striker quickly shifted his feet in the area before firing the ball wide of Karl Darlow’s near post.
The visitors had another sight at goal two minutes later when, after James McClean crossed the ball in low from the left, Chris McCann struck it off one of his own teammates and out for a goal kick.
Despite their significantly depleted squad Forest were performing admirably, and with 20 minutes to play in the half Majewski was the orchestrater of two Reds chances. The first came when the Pole sent a dangerous cross in from the right, the ball dropping between Wigan’s defenders and just evading the marauding Fox.
The second came when Majewski, again operating down the right, cut the ball back for the onrushing Cox. The striker took it in his stride nicely on the edge of the area before seeing his shot blocked. The ball was claimed by Al Habsi.
It had been an even half and on 32 minutes a Wigan corner caused a scramble in The Reds’ area, from which McCann could only send the ball rolling through the crowd of players and safely into Darlow’s arms.
Two minutes later, Lascelles got sufficient distance on his header to send the ball over the head of Barnett, who was outmuscled by Cox. The bounce of the ball slowed the Republic of Ireland international down and, with covering defenders about to surround him, Cox went for an audacious half-volley, sending the ball harmlessly over Al Habsi’s crossbar.
Wigan’s response heralded the most fortunate of opening goals. Gomez’s shot took deflections off Jara and Lascelles before the ball fell perfectly for Waghorn, who had the simple task of tapping it into the empty net from eight yards out.
The Reds had a good chance to equalise before the break when Paterson cut in from the left side of the area. He could only smash the ball over the bar.
Three minutes of added time were indicated, the first of which saw Lichaj replaced by Collins. Halford shifted to right back and Lichaj headed down the tunnel.
No further changes were made by either side at the break and Forest claimed the first chance of the second half on 47 minutes. Greening raked the ball across the pitch and out towards the corner flag. Jamie Mackie succeeded in his tussle with Jean Beausejour before his pace took him away from the Chilean and along the byline. Mackie could only fire the ball straight at Al Habsi, who was guarding his near post.
Wigan offered a response three minutes later when Maynard was picked out in the area. He sent the ball trickling harmlessly wide of Darlow’s far post from a tight angle.
But the scores were level two minutes later. For a moment it looked like the chance had gone - Beausejour hacked down Mackie after the former QPR man had beaten him for pace, and Fox’s resultant free-kick came to nothing. But The Reds kept the move alive, Cox eventually laying the ball off to Paterson in the area. He smashed it emphatically beyond Al Habsi and into the back of the net.
Beasejour, who had been booked for the foul on Mackie, was soon replaced by Stephen Crainey. But the Scot soon proved himself just as helpless in trying to stop the rampant Mackie, tripping the forward on the right wing. Fox’s resultant free-kick was enticing for Lascelles who headed the ball just over the bar.
Forest had started the second half brilliantly but their visitors eventually got a foothold, forcing Halford to head the ball over his own crossbar with Maynard lurking dangerously at the back post. The Reds managed to clear the resultant corner but Wigan came back again through McClean, who sent a dangerous low cross into the area from the left. Maynard made contact at the near post but a combination of Lascelles and Darlow managed to prevent the ball going over the line.
But The Latics’ pressure told on 66 minutes when Halford was unable to get enough distance on a defensive header. The ball dropped for Waghorn who volleyed the ball past Darlow and into the net. Boyce may have got a touch with his head on its way in.
Greening was replaced by Djebbour soon afterwards as Forest set about restoring parity, but it was Wigan who next had the ball in the net.
A careless pass by Jara in the middle allowed McClean to make strides towards goal. His shot was blocked but the ball dropped for McArthur who stroked the ball beautifully beyond Darlow with a first-time effort.
The third goal appeared to knock the stuffing out of Forest, who couldn’t halt McClean with 12 minutes to go. The winger’s direct running took him beyond a number of defenders before he flashed the ball across goal and just wide of the far post.
Four minutes later Mackie was blocked off by Ryan Tunnicliffe, on for Waghorn, who slipped the ball to fellow substitute Marc-Antoine Fortune - he had replaced Maynard. The Frenchman couldn’t wrap his left foot around the ball and sent it harmlessly wide.
With injury time looming Majewski picked himself up after being tripped near the ‘D’ before firing the ball towards goal. Al Habsi’s parry went straight towards Paterson but the 22 year old could only balloon the ball over the bar.
And a frustrating afternoon for The Reds was compounded when Gomez added further gloss to the scoreline with a sensational strike from 30 yards in the dying seconds of normal time.
Darlow, Lichaj (Collins 45'), Halford, Lascelles, Fox, Jara(c) (Abdoun 74'), Greening (Djebbour 69'), Majewski, Paterson, Mackie, Cox
Subs not used: De Vries, Harding, Gomis, Derbyshire
Scorer: Paterson 54'
Booking: Fox 72'
Al Habsi, Perch, Boyce(c), Barnett, Beausejour (Crainey 55'), Gomez, McArthur, McCann, Waghorn (Tunnicliffe 78'), Maynard (Fortune 77'), McClean
Subs not used: Nicholls, Ramis, McEachran, McManaman
Scorers: Waghorn 36', Boyce 66', McArthur 71', Gomez 90'
Booking: Beausejour 52'
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Attendance: 23,114 (Away: 1,169) ]
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