Nottingham Forest stormed to 4-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers at The City Ground this afternoon.
Chris Burke handed his side the perfect start by opening the scoring on eight minutes before Michail Antonio made it 2-0 with a brilliant individual effort.
The pace of the game was slowed by a serious-looking injury to Bolton defender Tim Ream, who clashed with his own post when defending a free-kick. But, in a twist of fate, Wanderers appeared to benefit from the change of tempo and made it 2-1 from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time.
A red card for Matt Mills within two minutes of the restart put the visitors on the back foot, however, and when their goalkeeper Andy Lonergan became the second Bolton player to be stretchered off, after conceding a penalty, the writing was on the wall.
Lansbury dispatched the spot kick and Burke added his second goal shortly afterwards.
Dougie Freedman made two changes to the side that drew 4-4 with Blackpool last weekend.
Jack Hobbs, who picked up a hamstring injury at Bloomfield Road and has since been ruled out for around a month, was replaced by Jamaal Lascelles, while Dexter Blackstock was handed his first City Ground start since December’s draw against Leeds.
He replaced Matty Fryatt, who took his place on a bench which also included Kelvin Wilson and Michael Mancienne.
Forest started the game brightly, winning a free-kick on the edge of Bolton’s area when Blackstock was fouled by Dorian Dervite with less than a minute on the clock. Lansbury took charge but he could only curl the ball straight into Lonergan’s arms.
Bolton had two half-chances to take the lead on five minutes, Liam Feeney skewing his shot and sending the ball to Barry Bannan who could only blaze it over the bar from the edge of the area.
But it was the side in red who were looking the more threatening of the two teams and they almost carved the visitors open on seven minutes. Antonio flicked the ball to Ben Osborn, who raced into the area where he was held up by two defenders. He cut the ball into the centre of the area where Lansbury slid in to nudge it over the bar from eight yards.
A minute later, however, Forest had the lead. Lansbury’s crossfield ball caused Wanderers left back Filip Twardzik to slip, allowing Burke to pick the ball up untroubled on the corner of the area. He carried it towards goal and saw his initial shot brilliantly saved low down by Lonergan before firing the ball high into the net on the rebound.
And Burke nearly had his second shortly after the restart. Antonio’s magnificent run down the left resulted in a cross that was just too high for Blackstock. But the ball fell to Burke at the back post, who saw his shot brilliantly charged down by Wanderers’ defence.
It was all Forest, and they made it 2-0 on 17 minutes thanks to an astonishing solo effort from Antonio. The winger picked the ball up near the halfway line, beat several Bolton defenders, shifted it on to his right foot as he entered the area and blasted it high past Lonergan.
Wanderers had struggled to trouble Forest up until this point but they nearly got their comeback underway in spectacular fashion on 21 minutes when Josh Vela sent the ball just wide of the post with an excellent effort with the outside of his boot.
But Antonio was quickly becoming the star of the show, racing down the left and this time chopping inside on to his right foot. He crossed the ball, which was flicked on by Blackstock for Burke at the back post. Two Wanderers defenders sprawled to block the shot at their near post.
Antonio’s pressure was relentless and it nearly told once more when he teased Bolton right back Tim Ream before crossing the ball into the middle. Lansbury, arriving late to great affect once again, saw his diving header superby saved by Lonergan.
Forest were rampant with both wingers playing pivotal roles, but the game was halted for a lengthy spell when Ream clashed with the post while defending Burke’s free-kick. The big defender was stretchered off, Moxey replacing him.
And the tempo of the match was slowed further when Blackstock required treatment for what looked like a mouth injury following an aerial challenge.
On 41 minutes The Reds set about resuming the fantastic football that had earned them their two-goal advantage. Eric Lichaj played the ball to Burke, who crossed it low into the area. Blackstock laid it off for Osborn but Bolton were able to produce another vital block to keep themselves in the contest.
But the flow of the game was noticeably different following the earlier stoppage, and Bolton were able to make it 2-1 in the fourth of six minutes’ added time.
Zach Clough showed excellent balance to continue his run into Forest’s area, where referee Carl Boyeson adjudged Fox to have tripped him. Le Fondre smashed the ball past Darlow from the penalty spot.
Wanderers made a change at half-time, replacing Twardzik with Emile Heskey, but Neil Lennon’s plans unravelled within minutes of the restart as Bolton were reduced to ten men.
Mills had been booked shortly before half-time for cynically halting Antonio’s run, and it was the same story again when the winger latched on to Blackstock’s header before being felled unfairly by the centre back. Boyeson had no hesitation in showing Mills a second yellow card. The dismissal saw Heskey fill in at centre back.
Forest resumed control of proceedings and won a penalty when Blackstock capitalised on Moxey’s poor back-header, nudging the ball away from Lonergan and clashing heavily with the keeper. The referee awarded a penalty and Lonergan became the second Bolton player to be stretchered off following lengthy treatment.
Substitute keeper Ben Amos’ first duty was to pick the ball out of the net from Lansbury’s successful spot kick, the midfielder sending the ball into the top right-hand corner.
And it was 4-1 on 68 minutes as Burke added his second. A high ball forward caused chaos, with Blackstock and Heskey battling for it but Antonio eventually gaining control. The winger went down under a challenge in the area but, with the rest of the stadium appealing for a penalty, Burke swept the ball home expertly from the edge of the area.
Burke had been outstanding all afternoon and was given a standing ovation when he left the field in place of Jamie Paterson.
Bolton were enduring a torrid afternoon and their frustrations were exhibited by Le Fondre who, after being muscled out of possession, lunged in wildly on Gary Gardner. Boyeson saw a yellow card as sufficient punishment.
Keen to put the game well and truly beyond the visitors, Forest pressed on. Paterson saw a shot saved by Amos before Lansbury fired the ball a couple of yards wide of the post.
Blackstock and Antonio became the next players to enjoy a round of applause their performances deserved when they were replaced by Lars Veldwijk and Matty Fryatt respectively.
Ten minutes were added on at the end of the game, in the ninth of which Paterson won a free-kick from which Lansbury hit the side-netting - the final action of a largely comfortably afternoon for The Reds.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Collins, Lascelles, Fox, Burke (Paterson 72'), Osborn, Lansbury (c), Gardner, Antonio (Fryatt 87'), Blackstock (Veldwijk 76')
Subs not used: De Vries, Mancienne, Wilson, Vaughan
Goals: Burke 8', 68', Antonio 17', Lansbury (pen) 65'
Lonergan (Amos 64'), Vela, Mills, Dervite, Ream (Moxey 34'), Danns, Twardzik (Heskey 46'), Bannan, Feeney, Clough, Le Fondre
Subs not used:, Gudjohnsen, Wheater, Slavchev, Janko
Goal: Le Fondre (pen) 45'
Bookings: Mills 44', Le Fondre 73'
Sent off: Mills 47'
Referee: Carl Boyeson