Nottingham Forest suffered a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Birmingham City this afternoon.
A brace from Clayton Donaldson had added to an earlier strike from David Cotterill to give the Blues a 3-0 lead at half-time and despite Britt Assombalonga’s late consolation strike, Forest were well-beaten at The City Ground.
Stuart Pearce made three changes to the side beaten 3-0 at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day as Henri Lansbury, Jamie Paterson and Jamaal Lascelles returned to the team in place of Ben Osborn, Chris Burke and Kelvin Wilson respectively with the latter missing out through suspension following his red card at the Riverside Stadium.
Forest opened up with plenty of attacking intent on a cold afternoon at The City Ground but it was the visitors who almost caught them out with a swift counter-attacking move with only five minutes on the clock.
Andrew Shinnie burst through a gap in the Forest midfield and slid a precise ball through to the feet of Demarai Gray. The striker’s snap-shot was deflected deviously into the air but Karl Darlow was able to get back onto his line to turn the ball over the crossbar.
The Reds were warming nicely to the task of taking the lead and they were inches away from hitting the front on 13 minutes. A smart one-two from Michail Antonio and Henri Lansbury opened the Birmingham defence up before the latter struck a low shot narrowly wide from 25 yards.
Robert Tesche had netted a stunning effort against Charlton earlier in the month and sought to repeat the feat on 25 minutes. After picking up the ball 25 yards from goal, the German fizzed a low shot along the ground but wide of Darren Randolph’s right-hand post.
Pearce continued to prowl the touchline as his side battled hard to break down a resolute Birmingham back line and a double chance came their way shortly after the half-hour mark.
Assombalonga moved menacingly into the Birmingham penalty area on the left-hand side and after he was challenged fairly inside the box, the ball came out to Lansbury 25 yards from goal and his shot was deflected over. Michael Mancienne then headed wide when unmarked from the resulting corner.
Forest had enjoyed the majority of the chances but they were hit by a sucker-punch on 35 minutes as Cotterill inflicted a hammer blow on the Reds.
As Gray charged towards the Forest penalty area on the left-hand side, Lansbury cynically brought the winger down and was cautioned for his troubles. From the free-kick, Cotterill fired a low effort all the way through the penalty area and into the far corner of Karl Darlow’s net.
The trouble was doubled just three minutes later as Donaldson was on hand to give Birmingham a two-goal advantage. A quick corner fell to the feet of Cotterill and as he drove the ball through the penalty area once more, the former Crewe and Brentford striker was on the spot to turn the ball into the far corner.
A partizan City Ground crowd had been firmly rocked and on the stroke of half-time they were in disbelief as Donaldson made it 3-0. Darlow had to be alert to palm away a stinging effort from Shinnie but Donaldson was in the right place for a second time to prod home past the stranded Forest stopper.
The Reds could have immediately pulled a goal back just before the half-time whistle as Assombalonga caused problems on the edge of the Birmingham box, the ball fell kindly for Tesche. The midfielder struck a breathtaking volley which bounced off the underside of the crossbar and away to safety.
Despite their dazed ending to the opening 45 minutes, Forest came out with renewed vigour at the start of the second half with the strong backing of the home crowd. Eric Lichaj’s header to the back post was a good one but both Assombalonga and Jamie Paterson were unable to turn it home from close range.
Lichaj was proving elusive in the right-hand channel during the early stages of the second half and could have reduced the deficit three minutes in but the American could only send a piledriver inches over the crossbar.
The Reds should have had a goal back five minutes into the second half as their lack of a cutting edge was exposed. Lansbury’s pinpoint corner fell perfectly onto the head of Tesche inside the six-yard box but he could only nod the ball inches wide of Randolph’s far post.
Both sides made changes as the second half wore on as former Birmingham winger Burke replaced Paterson while the visitors swapped Shinnie for Callum Reilly.
Birmingham had an opportunity to extend their lead even further with 15 minutes to play through the ever-dangerous Gray. After exploiting a gap in the Forest defence, the tricky forward ploughed on towards goal and Darlow did well to get down and palm away his curling effort.
The two managers then introduced their respective tall strikers to the contest as Lars Veldwijk replaced Danny Fox for Forest as Nikola Zigic came on for Cotterill for the visitors.
Gray had caused problems for the home defence all afternoon and he could have added gloss to the scoreline with five minutes to play. The youngster made a 40-yard run into the Forest penalty area but after ghosting past Jamaal Lascelles he shot wide of the far post.
With time running out for Forest, Birmingham were sensing a chance to inflict further misery on the home crowd but Darlow produced a smart stop at his near post to prevent David Davis’s low shot from sneaking in.
Ben Osborn replaced Lansbury with a minute to play and it was from his cross that Assombalonga grabbed a late consolation. As the game entered stoppage time, Osborn hung up a cross to the back post and Assombalonga was on hand to head home past Randolph to give the home faithful something to cheer on a disappointing afternoon.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Mancienne (c), Lascelles, Fox (Veldwijk 76'), Antonio, Tesche, Lansbury (Osborn 89'), Paterson (Burke 60'), Fryatt, Assombalonga
Subs not used: de Vries, Hunt, Laing, Vaughan
Goal: Assombalonga 90'
Booking: Lansbury 34'
Randolph, Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds, Cotterill (:BirminghamZigic 79'), Gleeson, Davis, Gray (Moussi 87'), Shinnie (Reilly 71'), Donaldson
Subs not used: Doyle, Edgar, Thomas, Arthur
Goals: Cotterill 35', Donaldson 38', 45'
Booking: Donaldson 74'
Referee: Simon Hooper
Attendance: 26,212 (1,865 away)