Nottingham Forest secured a 2-1 victory in this evening’s pre-season friendly at Walsall.Walsall had taken an early lead through Sam Mantom, but goals from Matt Derbyshire and Andy Reid turned the evening on its head.
Both Jamie Paterson and Karl Darlow were handed starts on their return to The Banks’s Stadium, Simon Gillett occupied Forest’s midfield and Jamaal Lascelles was selected to partner Jack Hobbs at the centre of defence.
The hosts started strongly and had the lead on eight minutes. Mantom picked the ball up on the edge of the area and curled a precise effort beyond Darlow and into the top corner.
Forest sought an immediate response and Paterson had two chances to level in quick succession on 12 minutes.
Adlene Guedioura linked up with Dexter Blackstock 25 yards out and the latter poked a through ball into Paterson’s path. The former Saddler was denied one-on-one by Walsall keeper Richard O’Donnell.
Blackstock pounced on the rebound only to miscue his effort, before Paterson scuffed wide of the target.
Three minutes later, Hobbs managed to get his toe on Kieron Morris’ shot from range. There was still work for Darlow to do, however, and the keeper did well to get down to make the save.
Forest were demonstrating confidence in possession and they were almost rewarded for some patient passing play on 25 minutes.
Guedioura and McLaughlin exchanged passes before the Irishman played a sidewards ball to Paterson on the edge of the area. He sent his effort a yard over O’Donnell’s crossbar.
But The Reds did level the scores on 28 minutes. McLaughlin laid it off for Dan Harding down the left and the full back sent a delightful cross towards the back post where Derbyshire leapt brilliantly to nod home.
Harding came within inches of scoring himself nine minutes later. McLaughlin was again involved – he improvised well to slide into a 50/50 and direct the ball towards Harding. The full back showed quick feet to skip away from an onrushing defender before driving towards goal . He reached the edge of the area and sent a superb low drive towards goal, but was unfortunate to see it crash against the post and away to safety.
As the clock ticked down towards the interval, Walsall’s Romaine Sawyers checked back on to his left 22 yards out but sent his effort hopelessly over – the final action of note in an even half.
McLaughlin, Derbyshire and Guedioura made way for Reid, Simon Cox and Radoslaw Majewski at the break, and two of the substitutes combined to create the first chance of the second half.
Majewski found Reid in space but the Irishman could only fire over from 22 yards.
It was Cox’s turn to contribute just before the hour. He laid it off for Paterson who jinked onto his left on the edge of the area before firing a low drive straight at substitute keeper Seb Usai.
Another wave of Forest changes followed - Guy Moussi for Gillett, Danny Collins for Hobbs and Eric Lichaj for Lascelles.
As play resumed, Majewski showed superb skill to wriggle his way into the area before laying the ball off to Cox. The Republic of Ireland international drilled his shot across goal and just wide of the post.
On 65 minutes the hosts reminded Forest of their threat. Collins let the ball slip away from him and Morris curled an effort inches wide of Darlow’s goal.
The keeper was called into action seven minutes later however, smothering well after Craig Westcarr had latched on to Nicky Featherstone’s raking pass.
But on 74 minutes it was Forest who took a deserved lead. Cox’s nod-down from inside the area was perfectly weighted for Reid who finished expertly from eight yards.
The goal brought a further flurry of Forest changes as Chris Cohen came on for Harding, Jonathan Greening switched with Paterson and Henri Lansbury replaced Blackstock – a move which saw Greg Halford assume the role of target man.
The Reds were passing the ball superbly as the game entered its latter stages and Reid nearly bagged a second on 88 minutes.
Halford let Lansbury’s low cross go all the way through to the midfielder who watched his sweet first-time strike fly just wide from the edge of the area.
Three minutes of added time were indicated, and Darlow displayed excellent concentration to palm away James Baxendale’s effort in the dying seconds to ensure The Reds left the West Midlands with the win.
Forest: Darlow, Harding (Cohen 75'), Gillett (Moussi 62'), Guedioura (Majewski 46'), McLaughlin (Reid 46'), Halford, Lascelles (Lichaj 62'), Hobbs (Collins 62'), Blackstock (Greening 75'), Paterson (Lansbury 75'), Derbyshire (Cox 46')
Subs not used: de Vries
Scorers: Derbyshire 28', Reid 74'
Walsall: O'Donnell (Usai 46'), Purkiss (George 65'), Taylor (Benning 78'), Butler (James Chambers 65'), Holden (Downing 46'), Adam Chambers (Featherstone 63'), Mantom (Baxendale 46'), McQuilken (Isoufi 78'), Morris (Hemmings 65'), Hewitt (Westcarr 65'), Sawyers (Lalkovic 65')
Scorer: Mantom 8'
Referee: S Bratt
Attendance: 1,850 (Away: 410)