Nottingham Forest’s Under 18s took a four-point lead at the top of the table after goals from Kasheme Walton and Gerry McDonagh gave them a 2-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday.Walton’s 13th of the season and McDonagh’s second in as many games saw The Reds come back from a goal down to show tremendous grit and take away all three points from South Yorkshire.
Jack Lester’s men have their remaining games against Swansea City and Queens Park Rangers while second-placed Huddersfield Town, on a run of one win in five matches, have three games in hand.
Forest made two changes from the side that beat Crewe Alexandra 1-0 at the weekend, with Richard Dearle and Jermaine Worthington displacing Tim Erlandsson and Matty Cash, following the latter’s involvement with the Under 21s in Monday’s victory over Bristol City at The City Ground.
The visitors got out of the blocks uncharacteristically slowly and let The Owls control the opening exchanges, but despite that, they struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities.
Forest grew into the game gradually and Elvis Otim had a headed chance after a teasing cross from Worthington, but keeper Brad McDonagh got down well to deny. And The Reds received a blow minutes later when the opposition took the lead.
Mason Duffy found room in the area and struck it low into the bottom corner of Dearle's net to notch his tenth of the season. The last time Forest went behind in a league game was on January 23, which eventually finished 1-1 thanks to an injury-time leveller, and they would need the same spirit to pull them back into this one.
But battle on they did, and Luke Thomas nearly scored a wonder goal after a superb flair run, but his shot curled wide. Ten minutes after they conceded, the equaliser was found with Lester’s side really stamping their authority on the encounter.
Thomas delivered a lovely ball from wide and McDonagh rose highest in the box to powerfully head past the keeper for his fifth goal of the campaign. The hosts, who had won three of their last four, could’ve conceded a second shortly after they lost their lead but Luke Thomas struggled to control a bouncing Ryan Yates cross.
Cash replaced an injured Adam Crookes at the break and The Reds continued in the same vein, looking to impose themselves early on. Frederik Nielsen came close with a header that glanced wide, before McDonagh turned in the box and produced a thunderous effort well saved by his namesake.
Defender Andreas Karo searched for his third goal this season when he strode forward and unleashed a testing drive from distance that could’ve crept in.
The thrilling competitive contest between McDonagh and Owls’ centre half Jack Lee would dictate much of the second period, with the former holding up the play well and bringing the likes of Cash, Thomas and Otim into play.
It was McDonagh’s strike partner that put Forest ahead though with some fine composure. Thomas took the ball down on the left-wing and fiercely lashed across the six-yard-box and Walton used the ferocity well, guiding it past a helpless goalkeeper.
The Reds proceeded to do what they do brilliantly, strangling the opposition and ensuring them little time on the ball. Walton nearly turned in Worthington’s ambitious effort from range, but Brad McDonagh made an excellent instinctive stop to deny him a second goal of the day.
Cash then showed impressive spring to run through the heart of the midfield and fire a well-directed shot into the corner, which was palmed away.
Substitute Jonathan Fusco hit a stinging free-kick that rapidly cannoned off the crossbar, but that was to be the best chance for The Owls in the final ten minutes. Irish forward McDonagh came close to putting the ribbons on a workmanlike, efficient team display with a third, but he saw his looped header drop just wide.
But Forest did more than enough to claim maximum points with selfless performances all-round to give themselves a real chance of reaching the Professional Development League Two North play-offs.
The charge continues in Wales as Lester’s side take on Swansea City on Saturday, March 28 (12pm kick-off).
To see the latest Professional Development League Two North league table, please click here.
Forest: Dearle, Karo, Nielsen, Iacovitti, Worthington, Otim, Crookes (Cash 45’), Yates, Thomas (Austin 86’), Walton, McDonagh