A superb save from the penalty spot from Brice Samba helped Nottingham Forest claim a vital three points with victory over Wigan Athletic.
Tobias Figueiredo gave The Reds the lead on the hour mark with a fine header on a nervy afternoon at The City Ground as Forest held out to end 2019 with a victory and climb back into the Championship top six.
Sabri Lamouchi made three changes to the side that won at Hull on Boxing Day, with Ryan Yates, Sammy Ameobi and Joao Carvalho all coming into the starting line-up.
But it was the visitors who made a strong start to the game as they penned Forest into their own half. Lee Evans had a looping header tipped over the bar by Brice Samba and the goalkeeper was forced into action again just before the half-hour mark to keep out Joe Williams’ close-range effort.
Wigan were pressing high and forcing Forest into sloppy mistakes with The Reds finding it hard to string passes together, but as the half drew to a close there was some fresh impetus into their legs as they created a couple of openings.
Some quick passing saw Carvalho find some space on the edge of the box but shoot over the bar, then on the stroke of half-time Lewis Grabban had a golden chance to score but somehow headed wide of the mark from six yards out following Yates’s clipped cross.
The second half started slowly but there was an injection of life into the game just shy of the hour as Lamouchi introduced Joe Lolley and Tiago Silva from the substitutes’ bench. A charging run by Lolley down the left wing got the crowd on their feet and the noise started to ring around The City Ground.
The fans went into a stunned silence though as Nathan Byrne raced through on goal following a swift Wigan counter attack on 58, with the full back bearing down on Samba’s goal but firing wide of the target when he should have done better.
The Latics were made to pay for that miss just two minutes later when Forest took the lead. A delightful delivery from a corner by Silva was met by the arriving Tobias Figueiredo, who glanced a header into the far corner of the net for his first City Ground goal.
There was a tense finish on Trentside as Wigan pushed hard for an equaliser, with the Forest rearguard holding out despite some nervous moments. None more so than on 79 minutes as Alfa Semedo brought down Joe Gelhardt in the area, allowing Josh Windass to take a penalty but Brice Samba stood firm to keep out the effort, causing an eruption of noise around the ground.
Despite their relentless efforts, Wigan fell short and Forest held on for a big three points which sees them finish 2019 in fifth place.
Forest: Samba, Cash, Figueiredo, Worrall, Chema, Watson (c), Semedo, Yates (Silva 56’), Ameobi, Carvalho (Lolley 56’), Grabban (Adomah 83’)
Unused subs: Smith, Jenkinson, J. Robinson, Dawson
Goal: Figueiredo 60’
Wigan: Jones, Byrne, Kipre, Naismith, A. Robinson, Lowe (Garner 83’), Evans (Gelhardt 78’), Morsy (c), Williams, Massey (Roberts 62’), Windass
Unused subs: Marshall, Pilkington, Jacobs, Dunkley
Bookings: Byrne 57’, Kipre 71’, Naismith 81’
Referee: Matthew Donohue
Attendance: 27,844 (480 away)