Matt Derbyshire's early strike ended Nottingham Forest's two-month winless drought as they recorded a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Birmingham City this afternoon.The former Blues striker fired Forest ahead with just 99 seconds on the clock and The Reds were able to hold onto a vital victory which moves them to within three points of the Sky Bet Championship playoff places.
Gary Brazil made four changes from the side beaten at QPR last weekend. David Vaughan started for the first time in almost three months after recovering from a knee injury and took Gonzalo Jara's place in the side. The returning Danny Collins, Ben Osborn and Jamie Paterson replaced Kelvin Wilson, Henri Lansbury and Simon Cox respectively with only the latter being named amongst the substitutes.
The game was being played out in glorious sunshine and it was barely two minutes old when Forest hit the front. Derbyshire latched onto Paterson's cleverly-weighted through ball and facing a one-on-one situation with Darren Randolph, the former Birmingham man kept calm and placed a precise finish under the body of the goalkeeper to give The Reds first blood.
Forest had made much the brighter start and were inches away from doubling their advantage on 18 minutes. Jamaal Lascelles delivered a racking pass over the Birmingham defence which Derbyshire did well to catch up with. The striker hung a cross up to the back post but Osborn couldn't keep his header down and it cleared the crossbar.
Both teams were putting in some feisty challenges in the midfield area so it was no surprise when referee Michael Jones produced two yellow cards in as many minutes. Lee Peltier was first to go into the referee's notebook for a late challenge on Paul Caddis before Mitch Hancox faced a similar fate after a tug on Jamie Mackie.
Derbyshire was proving to be a constant thorn in the side of his former employers and he went close on 26 minutes. Tom Thorpe's defensive header lacked any power and fell straight to the feet of Osborn on the edge of the box. The youngster quickly shifted the ball to his left-hand side but Derbyshire's curling effort drifted narrowly wide of Randolph's far post.
Confidence was rising among all in a red shirt and Osborn was next to try his luck. With the ball landing to him 20 yards from goal, the 19 year old fired an instinctive low effort but was unfortunate to see it head millimetres wide of Randolph's post as the Irishman scrambled across his goal-line.
The Reds were dominant both in terms of possession and in creating goalscoring opportunities and they should have extended their lead three minutes before the interval.
A quickly-taken free-kick by Danny Fox was fed through to Paterson and the winger escaped towards the Birmingham area. His devilish cross sped straight through the six-yard box but no-one in a Forest shirt could meet it and The Reds were forced to settle for just a one-goal lead at the break.
The visitors had offered little in the opening 45 minutes and their manager Lee Clark opted to make his first change at half-time. On-loan Liverpool midfielder Jordan Ibe came on to replace Shane Ferguson.
Clark's substitution had done well to stem the Forest tide but it soon washed up again on the Birmingham shore on 53 minutes. Greg Halford found acres of space in midfield and sent a delightful ball through the visitors' defence to Paterson.
The youngster kept himself onside and raced towards the Birmingham goal but could only shoot straight at Randolph from a one-on-one situation. The ball came back to Paterson but his hooked cross was headed narrowly over by Derbyshire.
Gary Brazil then made his opening change of the afternoon. Vaughan had got through 56 minutes of the contest without a reoccurrence of his injury and was given a standing ovation when replaced by Jonathan Greening. Clark soon responded by bringing on-loan Manchester United striker Federico Macheda on for Hancox.
Goalscoring chances were at much more of a premium in the second half but Birmingham did have a good sight of goal with 20 minutes to play. Thorpe delivered a right-footed cross into the box which was met by the head of Nikola Zigic but the former Valencia man could only nod the ball straight at Karl Darlow from six yards out.
That was to be the last action of Zigic's afternoon as he was soon replaced by the former Newcastle striker Peter Lovenkrands as Lee Clark sought to find a much-needed equaliser. Forest then made their second change by bringing on Darius Henderson for goalscorer Derbyshire.
Birmingham had been outplayed for most of the game but were inches away from restoring parity on 81 minutes. Chris Burke led Forest a merry dance down the right-hand side before drilling a low cross into the box. A Reds defender got the slightest touch on the ball as it flashed just wide of the far post.
From the resulting corner, Darlow had to be at his very best to prevent Birmingham from finding their equaliser. Experienced defender Paul Robinson was left unmarked at the back post but his header was superbly stopped at point-blank range by the Forest number one.
Sensing the visitors were getting a strong foothold in the game, Gary Brazil made his final change on 82 minutes by bringing Cox on for Mackie.
Forest were doing everything possible to stop their visitors from levelling the scores but Fox took it slightly too far as he was cautioned for a late challenge on Burke in front of The Main Stand.
Man of the Match Osborn led a rapid counter-attack as the game entered injury time but he was cynically cut off by Robinson as he sped towards goal. The Blues skipper deservedly saw a yellow card for his troubles.
There was to be one final chance for Forest as Henderson curled an effort narrowly wide of the far post but it wasn't to matter as The Reds held onto a slender victory and kept their season alive with three crucial points.
Forest: Darlow, Halford, Lascelles, Collins(c), Fox, Vaughan (Greening 56'), Peltier, Osborn, Paterson, Mackie (Cox 82'), Derbyshire (Henderson 77')
Subs not used: De Vries, Harding, Jara, Abdoun
Scorer: Derbyshire 2'
Bookings: Peltier 19', Fox 88'
Birmingham: Randolph, Spector, Thorpe, Robinson(c), Hancox (Macheda 60'), Caddis, Reilly, Burke, Huws, Ferguson (Ibe 46'), Zigic (Lovenkrands 74')
Subs not used: Doyle; Packwood, Howard, Shinnie
Bookings: Hancox 20', Robinson 90'
Referee: Michael Jones
Attendance: 21,300 (Away: 1,964)
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