Nottingham Forest pulled off a stunning comeback against Norwich City this afternoon to earn their first win in ten league games.
A 94th minute winner from Michail Antonio gave The Reds all three points after Britt Assombalonga had got Forest back on level terms in the 85th minute.
Norwich had taken the lead through Jonny Howson in the first-half but Stuart Pearce’s men fought right to the end and took the win.
Pearce made four changes to the side that lost to Brentford on Wednesday night, with Dan Harding, Matty Fryatt, Britt Assombalonga and Robert Tesche all returning to The Reds’ line up.
Norwich lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Jonny Howson sitting behind a front pairing of Lewis Grabban and Cameron Jerome.
Forest started brightly and after 90 seconds Michail Antonio was fouled by Norwich captain Russell Martin who picked up an early booking.
And their early pressure didn’t let up, with Antonio particularly dangerous.
The 24-year-old, restored to the wing by Pearce after his role up front on Wednesday night, cut inside Martin and sent a fine cross to an unmarked Tom Ince at the back post. Ince took the ball down and hit a curled effort, but it went just over the bar.
Shortly after Antonio was again terrorising Martin, and he drew another foul from the Norwich skipper. Ben Osborn’s ball in from the resultant set piece nearly found Michael Mancienne in space, but the visitors managed to clear.
But then Norwich, having had very little of the game up to that point, took the lead. Jonny Howson picked the ball up thirty yards from goal and drove through The Reds’ defence, before finishing with aplomb from a tight angle.
The home side were straight back on the attack and, after Robert Tesche was fouled on the wing, another dangerous Osborn delivery presented a chance.
Ruddy came to punch and missed but Antonio couldn’t keep his shot under control. The goal had buoyed Norwich though, and they slowly took control of the game.
Their robust midfield, composed of Gary O’Neil, Alex Tettey, Bradley Johnson and the goalscorer Howson were knocking the ball around well, and in the 27th minute it was so nearly two.
Martin sent in a dangerous cross that Grabban met powerfully, but his header flashed just past Karl Darlow’s left hand post. It was a let-off for The Reds, but things didn’t get any easier.
They were struggling to push out and soon after Martin Olsson produced a dangerous cross which Lascelles cleared, before Mancienne was forced to block a Grabban cross when he was well placed.
Norwich’s dominance slowly subsided as the half entered its latter stages and Ben Osborn found Assombalonga with a drilled pass on the 35th minute.
The Forest number nine spun but was scythed down by Alex Tettey, who escaped a booking. Assombalonga took the resultant free-kick, but his powerful effort didn’t quite dip enough to trouble John Ruddy in the Norwich net.
Then with four minutes left of the opening period Forest came as close as they’d been. A deep cross from Jack Hunt was challenged for by both Matty Fryatt and Antonio, but the former’s contact wasn’t enough to send the ball past Ruddy.
As he had against Brentford, Stuart Pearce made a change at half-time, bringing Jamie Paterson on for Tom Ince. Paterson started on the left-hand side with Antonio switching to the right.
After three minutes of the second period Jerome had a golden chance to make it two. A free-kick was driven in and Lascelles clearance was blocked, the ball falling invitingly for the front man, but he snatched at his shot and blazed it over.
Antonio set off in the 52nd minute from deep inside his own half and ran past three defenders, but his eventual cross from the byline fell straight to Norwich’s Michael Turner who cleared, and The Canaries were able to counter.
A ball from the left found Grabban and his close range shot was well palmed away by Darlow. The game was starting to open up and Antonio was presented with a chance to swing in a dangerous cross soon after.
Unfortunately it fell straight into the arms of Ruddy, but the signs were encouraging for Pearce’s men. The volume was rising inside The City Ground and it seemed to inspire The Reds.
Antonio won a corner which Osborn delivered superbly, and the ball fell first to Assombalonga, and then to the aforementioned Antonio, but neither could squeeze their shots beyond the mass of bodies inside the Norwich box.
Three minutes later it was Antonio again causing The Canaries problems. He burst past Tettey in the middle and drove at Norwich, eventually unleashing an effort from 25 yards that just whistled over Ruddy’s bar.
Tettey was booked for impeding the winger in his early stages after the referee played advantage. Pearce made his final two changes in the 65th minute.
Henri Lansbury replaced Dan Harding and Eric Lichaj replaced Jack Hunt meaning Forest shifted to a back three, with Lichaj joining Lascelles and Mancienne in central defence, whilst Henri Lansbury moved to the left, allowing Paterson to go and play in behind Assombalonga and Fryatt.
Lansbury’s impact was immediate as he delivered a dangerous cross to the back post looking for Antonio, but the winger couldn’t quite get above Olsson.
Norwich went close on the 70th minute mark when Grabban got onto a Johnson free kick, but it was deflected wide for a corner. The open nature of the half wasn’t letting up and it was Assombalonga’s turn to go close next, when he met a cross from the right but nodded his header wide.
Kyle Lafferty entered the fray for Norwich in the 75th minute, replacing Cameron Jerome. Lansbury was proving to be effective on the left and after good work from Fryatt and Assombalonga the Forest number ten swung another dangerous ball over to the back post for the waiting Antonio, but this time there was just a little too much on the cross.
Lafferty picked up a booking for a cynical foul from behind on Mancienne in the 82nd minute and Forest were continuing to push.
And, eventually, their second half pressure paid off. Matty Fryatt picked the ball up on the right hand side and sashayed through a few challenges before delivering a low ball to Assombalonga that the number nine turned home from close range. Two minutes later he had a chance to put Forest in front.
The Reds countered from a Norwich corner and Paterson played in Assombalonga, but he checked back in The Canaries’ box and was crowded out.
Norwich didn’t seem fazed by being pegged back and got back on the front foot, keeping the ball patiently, before Johnson blazed a shot over from 18 yards.
But, after the fourth official had indicated there would be four minutes of added on time, Forest won it.
Jamie Paterson picked the ball up on the edge of The Reds’ area and sprayed a superb pass forward to Assombalonga, who took it down deftly and fed the marauding Antonio. The right winger steadied himself then powered it past Ruddy in the Norwich net.
Forest: Darlow, Harding (Lansbury 66'), Mancienne, Lascelles, Hunt (Lichaj 66'), Ince (Paterson 46'), Osborn, Tesche, Antonio, Fryatt, Assombalonga
Subs not used: De Vries, Collins, Blackstock, Burke
Goals: Assombalonga 85', Antonio 90'
Booking: Tesche 88', Antonio 90'
Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Cuellar, Turner, Olsson, O'Neil, Tettey, Johnson, Howson, Grabban, Jerome (Lafferty 75')
Subs not used: Rudd, Whittaker, Hooper, Hooiveld, Murphy, Redmond
Goal: Howson 16'
Bookings: Martin 2', Tettey 63', Lafferty 82'
Referee: Andrew Madley