There was a debut goal for Rafik Djebbour as Nottingham Forest ran out 3-1 winners over Yeovil Town at The City Ground this afternoon.
Kieffer Moore had levelled for the visitors after The Reds opened the scoring via a Byron Webster own goal, but Simon Cox ensured the hosts headed into the break ahead. And Djebbour made sure of victory in second-half injury time, leaving Forest just six points behind second-placed Queens Park Rangers.
Billy Davies made four changes to the side which beat Watford on Thursday night. Dan Harding, Djamal Abdoun, Greg Halford and Radi Majewski all had to settle for a place on the bench as new signing Danny Fox, Henri Lansbury, Jamie Mackie and Simon Cox replaced them. There was room on the bench for Djebbour, while the fixture came too soon for the recently re-signed David Vaughan and Jack Hobbs.
Kicking towards The Trent End, Forest started the game briskly. Lansbury had missed the previous two matches through suspension and, keen to reassert his authority, made strides towards Yeovil’s box early on. He, Paterson and Fox all saw shots blocked before the ball broke again for Lansbury on the edge of the area. He composed himself before wrapping his right foot around the ball, bending it just wide of Marek Stech’s post.
Early indications were that Yeovil’s defence were in for a testing afternoon and they were on the back foot again when Paterson’s jinking run took him into the area. His shot was blocked, as was Cox’s on the follow up, and Andy Reid couldn’t adjust his feet quickly enough to take advantage of the loose ball, firing it wide off balance.
The Reds were making all the running and nearly had their first clear-cut chance of the afternoon when Cox raced onto Lansbury’s neat pass. He was unable to take the ball in his stride, however, and Yeovil cleared the danger.
And Forest’s frustration continued when, with Glovers keeper Stech stranded after he raced out to close down Cox, the Ireland international crossed the ball low into the area, just evading Lansbury’s dart towards the back post.
For all the hosts’ dominance they handed Yeovil a gift on 14 minutes. After patiently attempting to pass the ball from the back a lack of urgency caught up with them, allowing Moore to claim possession and advance towards Forest’s box in plenty of time and space. He could only send the ball wide of Darlow’s post.
But The Reds had the lead their energetic start deserved on 16 minutes. Lansbury’s superb ball over the top for Paterson allowed the winger to round Stech. The former Walsall man was left with a narrow angle but managed to stroke the ball goalwards. Byron Webster attempted to hack it away but his efforts were futile and Forest had the lead.
Keen to double their advantage, the hosts continued to press. Lansbury’s long ball was difficult for Jamie McAllister to deal with and his header broke for Reid down the left. He bent the ball low towards the back post where Cox was steaming in, but the striker couldn’t get enough distance on his slide to make contact.
Yeovil’s resilience was being tested to the limit and they responded with a good spell of pressure. James Hayter took the ball across the edge of Forest’s box on 20 minutes and generated impressive power on his shot despite the difficult angle. The ball flew straight at Darlow, who reacted quickly to parry away. The Glovers reclaimed possession and came agonisingly close to an equaliser when Joe Ralls rolled the ball just wide from 22 yards out.
And the visitors were celebrating on 25 minutes when McAllister’s dangerous cross from the left was met by Moore, who had nipped ahead of Darlow and nodded the ball into an unguarded net.
Forest were struggling to impose themselves on the game at this point but had a chance to regroup after Fox’s tough - but fair - challenge on Ralls left the pair requiring treatment. Ralls was later replaced by Tom Lawrence, but not before his side had gone behind for the second time.
Paterson’s left-footed shot was saved by Stech, who pushed the ball wide. Mackie pounced first and crossed low for Cox to tap home his third goal in two matches.
Back in the ascendancy, The Reds pushed for a third. Lansbury robbed Joe Edwards in the middle, allowing Mackie to race into Yeovil territory. He was forced to check before curling the ball just wide of the far post.
Determined to restore parity before the break, Yeovil refused to lie down. Moore’s cross from the right sailed over Darlow’s head, leaving the keeper stranded. Hayter dived in at the back post but could only nod the ball wide under pressure.
Four minutes of added time were indicated at the end of the half, in the second of which Forest could have doubled their advantage. Duffy’s backpass was way underhit and Mackie pounced. The angle was tight but the former QPR man will have been disappointed to miss the target, firing the ball into the side-netting.
The home side nevertheless went into the break ahead and re-emerged unchanged, as did Yeovil.
On 51 minutes Cox played a lovely through ball for Mackie who appeared to have an angle to shoot towards the far corner first-time. He instead opted to take a touch and the ball ran away from him.
And the visitors were handed a chance of their own when Lawrence pounced on Darlow’s mishit clearance, taking the ball into the left side of the area before striking it into the side-netting.
The Reds responded immediately through Lansbury, who took one touch in the middle before firing the ball low towards goal. Stech produced a fine save, diving low to his right and pushing it wide.
And Forest came even closer a minute later when the ball fell for Paterson in the area. Recognising he had time, the winger composed himself before stroking the ball across goal, only to see it bounce off the inside of the post.
The hosts’ first change of the game came on 62 minutes as Harding replaced Fox, and six minutes later Mackie made way for Darius Henderson.
Forest looked comfortable but, keen to put the game beyond doubt, pressed forward. Harding made a lung-bursting run down the left, received the ball from Reid and crossed into the middle. The ball look destined for Cox but a Yeovil man got in front of him to turn it behind.
Djebbour was introduced with 16 minutes to play, replacing Paterson, and The Reds continued their pressure as play resumed. Lansbury tricked his way out of a tight position in midfield before blasting the ball over the bar, a feat replicated by Henderson moments later - albeit with considerably more time and space.
The Reds certainly had had enough opportunities to be comfortably ahead by this stage and were almost left ruing their profligacy when Yeovil’s Hayter laid the ball off for Edwards on the edge of he area. The midfielder sent the ball low towards goal but Darlow was equal to it, diving to his left and hanging on.
As the game entered its latter stages Reid sent the ball sailing wide from the left, before Yeovil won a free-kick in a dangerous position with nine minutes to go. Lawrence got it all wrong, firing the ball high into The Trent End.
Five minutes later Yeovil pushed again and Cox took a poor touch in his own area, presenting McAllister with an opportunity to shoot. The striker atoned for his error by rushing out to block, although the ball looped dangerously up and just over the bar.
In the final minute of added time Reid saw his right-footed effort diverted behind by Duffy before, in the first of four added minutes, The Reds wrapped it up.
Reid’s cross from the left flew over everyone in the middle but the ball dropped to Cox, who lurked beyond the back post. The striker composed himself before drilling the ball across goal where Djebbour was waiting on the line to bundle it home.
Darlow, Jara, Collins, Lascelles, Fox (Harding 62'), Moussi, Reid (c), Lansbury, Mackie (Henderson 68'), Paterson (Djebbour 74'), Cox
Subs not used: De Vries, Halford, Majewski, Abdoun
Scorers: Webster (og) 16', Cox 38', Djebbour 90'
Stech, Ayling, Duffy, Webster, McAllister (c), Ralls (Lawrence 40'), Edwards, Lundstram, Grant, Moore, Hayter (Lanzoni 80')
Subs: Dawson, Foley, Dunn, Morgan
Scorer: Moore 25'
Referee: Graham Scott
Attendance: 21,393 (Away: 358)
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