Nottingham Forest secured back-to-back victories with a 1-0 win at Tranmere in the Capital One Cup first round this evening.
Michail Antonio scored his second goal in as many games on 12 minutes and, despite going down to ten men when Michael Mancienne was sent off early in the second half, The Reds hung on to another clean sheet.
Stuart Pearce made four changes to the side which beat Blackpool on opening day. In came Eric Lichaj, Jack Hobbs, Jamie Paterson and Ben Osborn as Forest adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, Britt Assombalonga the lone front man.
Danny Fox, who once again occupied a central defensive role as Mancienne pushed into midfield, was named captain in the absence of Chris Cohen and Andy Reid.
Forest took the game to their opponents from the off, coming close to scoring twice in the first minute.
First, Paterson saw his shot from the edge of the box blocked before Antonio skipped away from his man brilliantly seconds later. He struck the ball sweetly from outside the area but Rovers keeper Owain Fon Williams did well to push it to safety.
Antonio was in the thick of the action again on 11 minutes, playing a neat one-two with Assombalonga only to be left frustrated by a Tranmere defender who did brilliantly to slide across and smother the danger in the area.
But Forest kept up their pressure and, a minute later, took the lead as Saturday’s goalscorers combined.
Chris Burke, who demonstrated his prowess with his ‘weaker’ foot against Blackpool when he fired home Forest’s second goal, again shifted the ball onto left, this time in a crossing position. He found Antonio at the back post who generated enough power on his header to beat Fon Williams, despite the keeper getting his hand to the ball.
The Reds pressed again after the restart and on 14 minutes it was Assombalonga’s turn to try his luck. He showed nice footwork in the area to work himself some space before firing the ball narrowly wide of the near post.
The visitors could have been comfortably ahead at this stage but Tranmere had a chance of their own on 17 minutes, Danny Woodards diving to head the ball from Jason Koumas’ free-kick but failing to make contact in the middle.
Determined to double their lead, Forest worked the ball down the right for Lichaj to whip it into the centre. Antonio was there again, this time looping the ball back across goal and on to the top of the bar.
The hosts had struggled up until that point but found their feet for a brief spell midway through the half, Michale Ihiekwe heading the ball just wide and Danny Holmes testing Karl Darlow with a rasping volley from 18 yards.
Forest soon settled back into control and won a free-kick inside the Rovers ‘D’ courtesy of Antonio nine minutes before the break. Fox took charge, generating a superb contact on the ball and watching it zoom agonisingly over the bar.
Woodards had to be alert twice in quick succession to ensure his side went into the break only 1-0 down, first blocking Paterson’s goalbound effort before turning the ball over his own crossbar after Burke had fired it in low from the right.
There were no changes at the break but Pearce was soon forced into a reshuffle after Mancienne was given his marching orders on 51 minutes.
Referee David Webb was unhappy with the nature of the midfielder’s challenge on Koumas and, having booked the former Hamburg man shortly before half-time for blocking a quickly-taken Rovers free-kick, showed him his second yellow card.
Pearce opted to replace Paterson with Jack Hunt shortly afterwards. It took until after the hour mark for the hosts to take advantage of their extra man, Woodards meeting a cross from the right with a strong header. He could only watch on as the ball bounced back off the far post.
Lichaj, occupying a central midfield role at this stage with new arrival Hunt at right back, offered Forest’s response, blasting the ball over the bar from the edge of the area after receiving it from Burke.
Forest were coping well but came close to conceding an equaliser with 12 minutes to play. Eliot Richards took the ball along the edge of the area before drilling it low and just wide of Darlow’s post.
Antonio was replaced by Stephen McLaughlin shortly afterwards as the game entered its closing stages.
With four minutes to go Cole Stockton, who had earlier replaced James Rowe, blasted the ball over the bar from range before Jorge Grant entered the fray in place of Lichaj.
Stockton had another go in the second of five added minutes, firing the ball straight at Darlow from 22 yards, but Forest comfortably held on to put their name in the hat for tomorrow’s second-round draw.
Darlow, Lichaj (Grant, 87'), Mancienne, Hobbs, Harding, Paterson (Hunt, 56'), Fox (c), Osborn, Burke, Antonio (McLaughlin, 80'), Assombalonga
Subs not used: Evtimov, Collins, Fryatt, Veldwijk,
Scorer: Antonio 12'
Bookings: Osborn 26', Hobbs 31', Mancienne 44, 51'
Tranmere: Fon Williams, Holmes, Ihiekwe, Koumas (c), Odejayi, Richards, Baggie (Bruna, 73'), Rowe (Stockton, 77'), Woodards, Gill (Power, 83'), Hill
Subs not used: Laird, McDonald, Ramsbottom, Gumbs
Referee: Mr D Webb
Attendance: 4,374 (845 away)