Nottingham Forest suffered a 3-1 defeat at Norwich City’s Carrow Road this afternoon.
Substitute Chris Burke, who replaced the injured Dexter Blackstock early on, brought the score back to 3-1 following goals from Jonny Howson, Cameron Jerome and a Wes Hoolahan penalty.
But The Reds were unable to claw themselves back into the match.
Dougie Freedman made one change to the side that beat Rotherham on Wednesday night, handing Swansea loanee Modou Barrow his first Forest start in place of Burke.
The manager decided against including Jack Hobbs and Matty Fryatt in his squad despite the pair being in contention ahead of the match.
Norwich claimed the first chance of the game when Howson’s cross found Bradley Johnson in the middle. He didn’t connect well with his header, sending the ball harmlessly wide of the far post.
The home side had started the game in the ascendancy without looking particularly threatening, and it was after Michail Antonio showed his first burst of pace that The Reds were able to show their own threat.
The winger was felled by Martin Olsson as he tried to lead a Forest breakaway, earning the Canaries full back a booking, and Antonio was barged over by Steven Whittaker when he tried to control the ball from the subsequent free-kick.
Before the next set piece was taken, Freedman was forced into making his first substitution. Blackstock went straight down the tunnel for treatment after being replaced by Burke. The switch saw Barrow come on to the left wing with Antonio moving up front.
And it was Antonio who struck the free-kick as play resumed, receiving a lay off from Henri Lansbury and seeing his low, driven effort blocked by a sliding Norwich defender.
In damp conditions Forest were at times struggling to clear their lines, and after Eric Lichaj conceded possession on the edge of his own area, Jerome had his first proper sight at goal. He received a cross from the right but could only strike the ball into the ground and over the bar.
Forest responded almost immediately, Barrow nicking the ball away from the hosts. It squirmed to Osborn, who in turn supplied Antonio near the corner of the area. He bought himself some space to shoot before sending the ball skimming off the roof of the net and behind.
And Antonio came close to opening the scoring twice in quick succession shortly afterwards. He used his pace to receive a lovely through ball from Burke. John Ruddy was out quickly to make the save, but Antonio picked the ball up again in the right-hand side of the area. He took the ball away from the byline before lashing it just over the angle of post and crossbar with his left foot.
Forest could easily have been ahead, but Norwich reminded them of their own threat on 32 minutes when Howson glanced the ball across goal and just wide of the far post from Whittaker’s cross.
The Reds had grown into the game, however, and Ben Osborn had a chance to open the scoring with ten minutes to play in the half. Antonio received a pass from Lansbury and stood his defender up on the left-hand edge of the area. He worked space for a cross, skidding the ball low along the slippery surface and into the middle. It bobbled up off a Norwich defender and, on the spin, Osborn lashed the ball goalwards. Ruddy’s first save was unconvincing but the keeper managed to hold on at the second attempt.
But as half-time neared, Norwich’s pressure began to build. Karl Darlow had to make a good save low to his right to turn Howson’s 25-yarder behind for a corner, before Michael Mancienne diverted Whittaker’s goalbound shot over the bar with his head.
And, at the very end of the one additional minute, the home side had the lead. Sebastien Bassong received the ball short from a goal kick and was allowed to bring it into Forest’s half, where he supplied Hoolahan. The Irishman tricked his way into Forest’s final third before threading the ball through to Howson, who made no mistake in beating Darlow from eight yards.
There were no changes for either side at the break but eight minutes into the second half, Jamie Paterson replaced Barrow.
But it was Norwich who struck next. Olsson made a strong run down the left and crossed the ball low into the middle. Jerome produced a neat flick to send it into the far corner.
And there was worse news to come shortly afterwards
Olsson was pivotal once more, cutting into the area from the left and drawing a trip from Burke. Hoolahan rolled the ball to Darlow’s left to make it 3-0 from the penalty spot.
Forest needed a fast response and had a half-chance to reduce the arrears when the ball dropped for Antonio in the area following a free-kick. The winger saw his shot deflect wide for a corner, which came to nothing.
But, keen to kill the game off completely, Norwich attacked again. Mancienne was booked for a foul on Bassong and Graham Dorrans curled the ball into Darlow’s hands from the free-kick.
Hoolahan had been an impressive performer and almost added a second goal to his tally on 70 minutes, flashing the ball just wide from the edge of the area after some neat build-up play.
The Reds had a glimmer of hope six minutes later, however.
Paterson showed excellent trickery to get away from several Norwich midfielders before firing the ball powerfully towards goal with his left foot. It spilled from Ruddy’s grasp and Burke was first on the scene to poke it home.
Hoolahan took it upon himself to try to restore his side’s three-goal advantage, doing brilliantly to get away from Mancienne and Lansbury before dinking the ball into the middle. Dorrans could only head the ball straight at Darlow from six yards.
Forest broke, working the ball to Antonio who saw his 25-yard effort parried away by Ruddy.
And Antonio came within inches of making it 3-2 when he received the ball on the right-hand side of Norwich’s area and fired it low towards Ruddy’s far corner. The keeper did brilliantly to tip it wide.
Forest’s final change came with eight minutes to play, Tyler Walker replacing Osborn. The move saw Freedman’s men switch to a 4-4-2 formation with Walker on the left and Paterson up front.
Five minutes of added time were added on at the end of the match, in the third of which Lascelles had the ball in the back of the net following Paterson’s corner. The officials disallowed the goal for a foul on Ruddy, keeping the score at 3-1.
And that’s how it stayed as The Reds slipped to ten points off the play-off places.
Forest: Darlow, Mancienne, Wilson, Lascelles, Lichaj, Barrow (Paterson 53'), Gardner, Lansbury (c), Osborn (Walker 83'), Antonio, Blackstock (Burke 18')
Subs not used: Evtimov, Collins, Fox, Vaughan
Goal: Burke 77'
Booking: Mancienne 66'
Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin (c), Bassong, Olsson, Howson, Tettey, Dorrans, Johnson (Redmond 80'), Hoolahan (O'Neil 80'), Jerome.
Subs not used: Rudd, Cuellar, Hooper, Loza, Odjidja-Ofoe
Goals: Howson 45', Jerome 56', Hoolahan (pen) 59'
Booking: Olsson 17'
Referee: James Linington