Nottingham Forest tasted defeat for the first time under Dougie Freedman with a 2-1 loss at Charlton Athletic this evening.
The Addicks had an early lead when Frederic Bulot curled home a precise free-kick, but Forest equalised shortly afterwards through Michail Antonio.
The visitors looked the more likely side to head into the break ahead but a rare defensive lapse allowed Bulot to stroke home the winner shortly before half-time.
Freedman made two changes to the side that beat Reading at the weekend. Gary Gardner, who scored a sensational goal at the Madejski, replaced Michael Mancienne in defensive midfield, while Chris Burke came in for Jamie Paterson. Both Mancienne and Paterson were named on the bench.
Charlton started the game strongly, testing Karl Darlow within two minutes when Lawrie Wilson stung the keeper’s palms with an excellent strike from 20 yards.
And the keeper was picking the ball out of his net five minutes later. Jamaal Lascelles was booked for bringing down Tony Watt on the edge of the area in a central position. Bulot took charge of the free-kick, curling the ball over the wall and into the top corner.
It had been a slow start for Forest but they found a way back into the game on 14 minutes. Henri Lansbury spread the ball to left back Danny Fox, who played it forward for Antonio. The winger used his pace to drift inside, past Lawrence, before firing the ball low and hard into the far corner of the net from the edge of the area.
The Reds were now in control, Lansbury drawing a save from Stephen Henderson with a curling effort from 25 yards before Alou Diarra had to head the ball off his goal line after Antonio had done well to beat Wilson down the left before drifting in a dangerous cross.
Subsequent corners from Burke caused panic in the Addicks’ area and Forest eventually worked the ball to Lansbury. His cross-cum-shot saw the ball flash through a crowd of bodies but no-one was able to turn it home. Shortly afterwards, Lansbury was booked after a clash with Diarra which saw the Frenchman collide with the advertising hoardings.
Forest didn’t allow that to disrupt their flow, however, and Antonio was involved once again as his side attempted to take the lead. Wilson was left rooted to the spot as Antonio spun away from him before firing the ball low towards goal. The strike appeared to deceive Henderson, who will have been relieved to see the ball spin out for a corner after his unconvincing parry.
A succession of corners followed, and Forest nearly made it 2-1 when Lascelles beat Henderson to Osborn’s wicked delivery. The defender could only nod the ball wide of the far post.
The Reds were playing with confidence, as evidenced by Eric Lichaj’s audacious long-range half-volley which saw the ball fly a yard over the crossbar.
But, just as it looked like it was only a matter of time before Forest would take the lead, they failed to track the run of Wilson down the right on 38 minutes. The full back crossed the ball low for Bulot, who had time to control it in the area before firing it into Darlow’s top corner.
The goal came completely against the run of play but Forest were unable to respond before the interval, Gardner going closest with a 30-yard thunderbolt after a patient spell of possession. The ball stayed low but Henderson was able to make the save to preserve his side’s slender lead.
Charlton boss Guy Luzon made two changes at the break. Callum Harriott, who injured himself when he miskicked a cross seconds before half-time, came off for Chris Eagles, while Wilson was replaced by Andre Bikey. Forest reemerged unchanged.
As he was in the first half, Darlow was tested early. He had to make a strong save at his near post from Addicks right back Joe Gomez.
Forest’s reply came from Antonio, who received the ball in the left side of Charlton’s area before shifting on to his right to buy space for a shot. He got underneath it, however, and was way off target with his effort.
Openings had been few and far between for The Reds’ lone front man Matty Fryatt, but he had a golden opportunity to equalise on 57 minutes. Lansbury offloaded the ball to Osborn 20 yards out. The midfielder’s left-footed cross was perfect for Fryatt, who had drifted into the gap between two Charlton defenders. Unchallenged near the penalty spot, he could only head the ball over the bar.
Forest were back in control and they created another opening thanks to more excellent wingplay from Antonio. His pace and power took him towards the left corner flag and his cross towards the near post caused Diarra to get the ball stuck under his feet. Lansbury was first on the scene but the former Arsenal man was unfortunate to see the ball bounce off him and out for a goal kick.
Keen to carry on his goalscoring exploits following his stunning effort at the weekend, Osborn was next to have a go at restoring parity. He turned away from Yoni Buyens with ease before curling the ball just wide of the post with a left-footed effort from 22 yards.
Forest’s first change of the evening followed as Gardner was replaced by David Vaughan, before Dexter Blackstock replaced Fryatt shortly afterwards.
The Reds remained in the ascendancy but opportunities were beginning to dry up. With 12 minutes to play, Burke did brilliantly to control Fox’s crossfield pass, beating his full back in the same movement before seeing his shot blocked out for a throw in.
During the resultant stoppage Lars Veldwijk replaced Lansbury, but neither the Dutchman nor any of his team-mates were on hand to turn the ball home after Lascelles flicked Lichaj’s long throw into a dangerous area.
Another half chance came and went shortly afterwards when Burke controlled the ball well before scuffing a left-footed shot straight at Henderson from the edge of the area.
With Forest committing Lascelles up front alongside Blackstock and Veldwijk, the game was opening up. But time was running out.
Charlton twice came close to extending their lead with seconds of normal time remaining, Watt drawing a save from Darlow at his near post before Collins had to block Bulot’s shot, denying the Addicks’ number eight a hat-trick.
Three minutes of added time were indicated at the end of the match, during which both Lichaj and Antonio were booked as they scrapped to clear the ball from near their own corner flag as the hosts tried to run down the clock.
Forest eventually managed to break, winning a corner with seconds to play. Darlow went up for it but his opposite number confidently claimed Burke’s inswinger to consign Forest to defeat.