Nottingham Forest suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion on the final day of the 2013-14 season.Forest had taken the lead through Matt Derbyshire in the first half but Stephen Ward’s strike, plus Leonardo Ulloa’s injury-time header, secured The Seagull’s spot in the playoffs.
Gary Brazil, taking charge of his final game as temporary manager, made two changes to the side that was beaten by Bournemouth last weekend. Jamaal Lascelles and Greg Halford were both absent from the squad and the pair’s unavailability led to Lee Peltier dropping in at centre back, while Jamie Mackie started at right back.
Marcus Tudgay and Radoslaw Majewski were handed starts along with Stephen McLaughlin, making his home debut, while there was room on the bench for young midfielders Josh Rees and Jack Blake.
Brighton came into the match needing to better Reading’s result to make it into the playoffs, and they almost had the perfect start when top scorer Ulloa raced on to Inigo Calderon’s through ball to go clear on goal. The angle was slightly against the Argentine, however, and he could only bobble the ball across goal and just wide of the post.
Forest’s response came in the form of a wayward Mackie shot after he had run into space down the right, but they had a much better chance on 14 minutes.
Ben Osborn poked the ball through for Tudgay in the area. Approaching goal from the right, the striker tried to dink the ball over Tomasz Kuszczak with the outside of his boot but miscued his effort. As Forest tried to pick up the pieces, the assistant referee raised his flag for offside.
The Reds were enjoying a good spell of pressure and, after Majewski and Derbyshire had both sent the ball over the bar, the latter handed Forest the lead.
Derbyshire stooped to meet David Vaughan’s wicked cross from the left, heading the ball towards goal. Kuszczak appeared to be equal to it, but instead fumbled the ball over the line.
Forest were well in the ascendancy and nearly had a second goal courtesy of Osborn on 24 minutes. Derbyshire was involved again, knocking the ball down neatly for Majewski to play the young midfielder into space. Osborn had time to look up before drilling the ball just wide from 30 yards.
Brighton had the ball in the net three minutes later but Ulloa’s tap-in from a quick free-kick was ruled out for offside, and Forest pressed again with six minutes to go in the half, McLaughlin slicing the ball high over the bar from the edge of the area.
No doubt buoyed by the news Reading were 2-1 down, Brighton mounted a surge for an equaliser before the break. Gordon Greer should have done better with a free header from a corner - he sent the ball wide - before Peltier was forced into making an excellent last-ditch tackle to halt Will Buckley.
There were no changes for either side at the break, but within eight minutes of the restart the visitors had an equaliser.
Forest failed to clear Orlandi’s corner from the right and, after Ulloa had missed his kick, Ward pounced, sliding the ball low beyond de Vries.
Determined to restore their lead, The Reds went on the offensive. McLaughlin received the ball from Tudgay and struck it sweetly towards goal, forcing a strong save from Kuszczak, and four minutes later Tudgay sent the ball just wide of the near post after meeting Majewski’s cross from the left. That was to be his final action of note as, four minutes later, he was replaced by Simon Cox.
And the substitute was involved immediately. Greer misdirected his defensive header straight to Derbyshire, who played the ball to Cox first-time. The striker cut in from the right but was crowded out. From Osborn’s resultant outswinging corner, Danny Collins could only head the ball over on the stretch.
Forest had resumed control of the game and almost reaped the benefits of some intricate play by Majewski with 16 minutes to play. The Pole danced away from his defender in the area but saw his shot saved by his compatriot in the Seagulls goal.
Clear-cut chances had been few and far between for Brighton and, needing a goal after Reading had pulled it back to 2-2 at The Madejski Stadium, it looked like their top six hopes were slipping away. Kazenga Lualua, on for Jesse Lingard, went close with a speculative effort, fizzing the ball wide from range after skipping away from Mackie.
Shortly afterwards, Rees was introduced for his debut, replacing Majewski.
Brighton were in desperate need of a spark, and March provided one with five minutes to go, showing incredible pace to get away down the left. He cut the ball back from the byline for the onrushing Buckley. The forward couldn’t get his shot away and Forest snuffed out the danger.
Lualua was next to have a go, he blasted the ball harmlessly over from outside the area, before de Vries was forced into making a strong one-handed save from Calderon after the Spaniard sent the ball towards the top corner of his net.
The visitors’ momentum was building and, two minutes into the the five indicated by the fourth official, they booked their place in the playoffs. Craig Mackail-Smith, on for Buckley, crossed the ball from the left and Ulloa stooped to head the ball past de Vries from close range.
Forest: De Vries, Peltier, Collins(c), Harding, Mackie, Vaughan (Greening 87'), Osborn, Majewski (Rees 76'), McLaughlin, Derbyshire, Tudgay (Cox 69')
Subs not used: Evtimov, Fox, Blake, Henderson
Scorer: Derbyshire 22'
Bookings: Vaughan 63', Collins 71'
Brighton: Kuszczak, Calderon, Upson, Greer(c), Ward, Andrews, Orlandi (March 66'), Forster-Caskey, Lingard (LuaLua 59'), Buckley (Mackail-Smith 87'), Ulloa
Subs not used: Ankergren, Dunk, Chicksen, Ince
Scorers: Ward 53', Ulloa 90'
Bookings: Forster-Caskey 58', Orlandi 90, Ulloa 90'
Referee: Keith Stroud
Attendance: 22,209 (Away: 1,959)
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