Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten run in the Sky Bet Championship continued with a 0-0 draw against Brighton at The City Ground this afternoon.
Stuart Pearce brought a number of players back into his starting line-up having made nine changes for the midweek Capital One Cup trip to Tottenham.
Michael Mancienne captained the side again and was joined by Kelvin Wilson, Jack Hunt and Danny Fox in defence.
In the middle, Forest lined up with Ben Osborn, Robert Tesche and Henri Lansbury, while their attacking options came in the form of Chris Burke, Michail Antonio and Britt Assombalonga.
Young midfielder Jorge Grant was handed a place on the bench after scoring his first professional goal on Wednesday night and was joined by Eric Lichaj, Lars Veldwijk, Jamaal Lascelles, Jamie Paterson and Dorus de Vries. David Vaughan was initially named in the starting 11 but sustained an injury in the warm-up.
Brighton had made a sluggish start to the season but they began the match the brighter of the two sides. Karl Darlow was forced into his first save on two minutes, holding on to the ball well from Joe Bennett’s shot, leaving the waiting Craig Mackail-Smith frustrated.
Forest’s first half-chance came two minutes later when Burke ran on to a loose ball in Brighton’s box. He struck the ball towards goal with the outside of his boot but his effort was blocked.
The home side were enjoying the majority of possession but Albion soon showed their threat on the counter attack. Spanish striker Adrian Colunga led a pacey Seagulls breakaway, leaving Wilson in his wake and crossing the ball low into the middle. Mancienne did well to turn it behind with a Brighton forward waiting at the back post.
Forest were the side looking more likely to take the lead, however, and there were half-chances for Lansbury, who headed the ball over from Fox’s excellent cross, and Assombalonga, who latched on to a blocked clearance before being crowded out in the area and poking the ball wide.
Tesche was next to have a go after latching on to a dinked ball into the area. Running away from goal, he took a touch before firing the ball goalwards. It deflected off a Brighton man and out for a corner, which Wilson stretched to meet but failed to make contact with the ball.
Brighton had made it difficult for Forest to break them down but a neat piece of ingenuity from Burke almost unlocked the door. He latched on to Antonio’s overhit cross before backheeling the ball to Assombalonga on the corner of the box. The striker had Lansbury to his left but decided to go for goal, curling the ball off Gordon Greer’s head and out for a corner.
Tesche’s tendency to shoot from range had already been highlighted in his fledgling Forest career, and the German nearly had his name on the scoresheet on the half-hour mark. He struck the ball from 22 yards and Danny Holla did well to get his toe to it. It looped into the air and Seagulls keeper David Stockdale had to be at full stretch to paw it away from the top corner of his net.
But Forest had to call on Darlow and Wilson to avoid going behind before the break.
On 35 minutes, Osborn was robbed in the middle. Kazenga Lua Lua took the ball down the left before squaring it to Colunga on the edge of the area. Darlow had to adjust his body to make the save from his first-time effort.
Lua Lua posed his threat again on the stroke of half-time, getting away from Hunt near the corner flag and crossing the ball low to the near post. Wilson slid in well to clear the ball under pressure from Mackail-Smith.
There were no changes for either side of the break, but Mancienne will have had his heart in his mouth within a minute of the restart. Colunga got away down the right, crossed the ball into the middle and Mancienne scuffed his clearance a yard or two wide of his own goal.
Forest had a half-shout for a penalty five minutes later when Lansbury tumbled over a Brighton player following a scramble to get on the end of Hunt’s cross. Referee Robert Madley was unmoved.
The Reds had been struggling for clear-cut chances and, after Antonio had blasted the ball over after a prolonged spell of pressure in Brighton’s final third, Pearce decided to make a change, Paterson replacing Tesche.
It was the sort of game where a set piece may have been required to break the deadlock, and Forest won a free-kick in a dangerous crossing position on 66 minutes when Bruno Saltor resorted to grappling Antonio as the winger attempted to skip past him. Lansbury whipped the ball towards the near post from the byline but Paterson was just too late with his run to make contact with his head.
Brighton were finding it a frustrating afternoon as well. They worked the ball into an excellent crossing position on 70 minutes but, with options in the middle, Joe Bennett could only balloon the ball high over everyone and away from danger.
Veldwijk replaced Lansbury on 77 minutes as Pearce opted for a change of shape, and the big striker came within inches of putting his side into the league straight away. Fox dinked the ball towards the back post with a free-kick but Veldwijk failed to make contact after giving Lewis Dunk the slip.
With the game in its final stages both sides were keen to find a winner. Mackail-Smith had an excellent chance on 85 minutes when he received a fantastic through ball from Jake Forster-Caskey. The striker opened his body up and curled the ball across the face of goal and wide of Darlow’s far post.
The spotlight then shifted to Forest’s Fox, who stood over a free-kick in a shooting position after Seagulls substitute Rohan Ince had been booked for a foul on Burke. Fox couldn’t keep the ball down, floating it harmlessly over Stockdale’s crossbar.
Forest’s final change came when Grant replaced Antonio with two minutes of normal time remaining.
The assistant referee indicated four minutes of added time, in the first of which Forest won a corner. Osborn’s sweeping delivery found Mancienne unmarked at the back post, but the captain could only head the ball down into the turf and over the bar - the final opportunity of a tight affair.
Forest: Darlow, Hunt, Mancienne (c), Wilson, Fox, Burke, Osborn, Tesche (Paterson 61'), Antonio (Grant 88'), Lansbury (Veldwijk 77'), Assombalonga
Subs not used: De Vries, Lichaj, Lascelles
Bookings: Fox 40', Tesche 56'
: Stockdale, Bruno, Dunk, Greer, Bennett, Holla (Ince 64'), Forster-Caskey (Gardner 88'), Crofts, Mackail-Smith, Colunga (McCourt 87'), LuaLua
Subs not used: Walton, Hughes, Teixeira, O'Grady
Bookings: Bennett 52', Colunga 79', Ince 85'
Referee: Robert Madley
Attendance: 23,811 (912 away)