Henri Lansbury’s goal gave Nottingham Forest a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday as The Reds kept their place at the top of the Sky Bet Championship.
Lansbury struck eight minutes before half-time on his return to league action to give Forest their third straight 1-0 win at Hillsborough.
Forest manager Stuart Pearce made three changes from the side that had beaten Reading in the last league outing. Danny Fox, Dan Harding and Matty Fryatt made way for Eric Lichaj, Jack Hobbs and Lansbury, who was making his first league start of the campaign.
Backed by a vocal Hillsborough crowd, the home side come out of the blocks quickly. Liam Palmer broke through the offside trap and raced through on goal but, in the process of squaring the ball to Stevie May to tap home, Michael Mancienne got back to squeeze it behind for a corner.
The Reds hadn’t had chance to settle into the game but carved out their first opportunity on eight minutes. Britt Assombalonga brought the ball under control before racing into the box but his low shot was well held by Wednesday keeper Keiren Westwood.
Assombalonga had made a lively start and was causing the home defence some nervous moments. Former Wednesday man Michail Antonio floated a cross into the area looking for the head of Assombalonga but the striker was inches away from connecting.
Pace down the flanks was proving a useful outlet for both sides and it created another chance for the home side on 24 minutes.
Jacques Maghoma cut in from the left-hand side and fired a low effort towards goal which Karl Darlow was forced to parry away. Jack Hobbs cleared the danger with the rebound bouncing around the Forest area.
The game was being played at a frenetic pace and referee Graham Salisbury had to pull out a number of yellow cards to keep events under control. Jose Semedo, Glenn Loovens and Joe Mattock were all cautioned for Wednesday with Antonio also seeing yellow.
With eight minutes to go until the interval, Forest edged in front. Antonio stood up an inviting cross into the box and Lansbury timed his run to perfection to arrive late and nod the ball home past Westwood and into the far corner of the net.
Soon after the break the home side were piling on the pressure in search of an equaliser. Wednesday striker May broke through the Forest offside trap and headed towards goal but his stinging effort went wide of the near post.
Stuart Gray’s side were soon on the attack again. After Forest failed to clear their lines from a Wednesday corner, Darlow had to make a smart save to prevent Chris Maguire from drilling the hosts level from 20 yards. Wednesday had been enjoying their best spell of the game and Pearce responded by making his first substitution of the afternoon as Robert Tesche came on to replace goalscorer Lansbury.
Six minutes later and Jamaal Lascelles took the place of Hobbs before Antonio left the field with Matty Fryatt on in his place.
Forest had a late opportunity to double their advantage in what had been a quiet end to the contest. Andy Reid swung over a free-kick into the box but Assombalonga couldn’t keep his header down as it drifted over Westwood’s crossbar.
The missed chance wasn’t to matter though as Forest saw out five minutes of stoppage time to record a fourth win in five league matches and maintain their spot at the summit of the Sky Bet Championship.