Alex McLeish secured his first win as Nottingham Forest boss when his side saw-off a resurgent Peterborough side at The City Ground this afternoon.The hosts had both of their centre backs to thank for twice heading them ahead. Ex-Red Scott Wootton had cancelled-out Greg Halford’s first half goal but Elliott Ward marked his return by firing Forest into an unassailable lead.
The Reds made five changes to the side that was knocked out of the FA Cup by Oldham last weekend - Karl Darlow stepped in for Lee Camp, Gonzalo Jara Reyes for Brendan Moloney, Ward for Danny Collins, Henri Lansbury for Andy Reid and Billy Sharp for Dexter Blackstock.
It was Darlow’s first league start for Forest and he was joined in the squad by 18 year old midfielder Jack Blake.
It was also Ward’s first appearance since rejoining the club and the centre back did well to block Davide Petrucci’s effort from the edge of the area on six minutes.
And another new face was on hand to present Forest with their first chance of the game moments later. Jara Reyes’ cross was headed over by Simon Cox, however.
Darlow’s first test came from Dwight Gayle on 12 minutes but the lone striker’s effort lacked power and the keeper saved it comfortably.
And six minutes later Radoslaw Majewski spurned a great chance when he fired Dan Harding’s low cross over on the stretch from 12 yards.
But Forest had the lead on 28 minutes. Lansbury’s corner was met by Halford at the back post and, despite Kane Ferdinand’s best efforts, the linesman waved his flag to indicate the ball had crossed the line.
Petrucci had a half chance to level three minutes later but he never got hold of his shot from the edge of the area and it went harmlessly wide.
Five minutes before the break, Sharp - who had moments earlier fired harmlessly wide after good work by Cohen - was denied brilliantly by Bobby Olejnik. The keeper got across superbly to turn the striker’s header around the post.
And just before the break Forest’s lead was put under threat when George Boyd made strides into the area but Darlow stood firm at his near post and blocked the midfielder’s effort.
There were no changes at the break and on 53 minutes Ward found himself in the area to latch on to Cohen’s cross. His header was tame, however, and straight at Olejnik.
And on the hour mark Posh were level. Forest failed to clear a corner and Scott Wootton pooped up to fire home from near the penalty spot.
Five minutes later another ex-loanee tested Darlow - Boyd’s dipping half-volley from 25 yards was straight at him.
But he went much closer on 72 minutes when he flashed a low effort just wide of Darlow’s post from similar range.
Seven minutes later Majewski missed an almost identical chance to the one he squandered in the first half. Cox rode a challenge from Michael Bostwick to run clear down the left and his cut-back was perfect for the Pole but he fired over once again.
But it wasn’t to matter as with seven minutes of normal time remaining Ward scored with a bullet header from Majewski’s corner. Olejnik got a hand to it but there was enough pace on the ball to beat him.
Forest kept the ball well from then on with substitutes Jonathan Greening and Guy Moussi, on for Lansbury and Majewski respectively, looking comfortable as McLeish’s men saw the game out.
Forest: Darlow, Jara Reyes, Halford, Ward, Harding, Cohen (c), Gillett, Lansbury (Greening 80'), Majewski (Moussi 88'), Cox, Sharp
Subs not used: Evtimov, McGugan, Moloney, Derbyshire, Blake
Scorers: Halford 28', Ward 83'
Bookings: Greening 85'
Peterborough: Olejnik, Brisley (Mendez-Laing 88'), Bostwick, Boyd, Rowe (c), Newell (McCann 86'), Ferdinand (Gordan-Hutton 57'), Little, Petrucci, Wootton, Gayle
Subs not used: Day, Alcock, Knight-Percival, Richens
Scorer: Wootton 60'
Bookings: Petrucci 75'
Referee: Eddie Ilderton
Attendance: 22,777 (Away: 1,636)