Nottingham Forest’s Under 18s maintained a four-point lead at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Swansea City on Saturday.The Reds dug deep in their penultimate game, grabbing maximum points at Swansea’s training complex in the Welsh countryside thanks to another goal for Walton in a clinical campaign for the striker, and a second goal in four matches for 16-year-old Kieran Hayes.
Fellow challengers Huddersfield won 3-0 at Millwall while Birmingham and Coventry dropped points at Charlton Athletic and Crystal Palace respectively.
The likes of Gerry McDonagh and Matty Cash joined up with Jimmy Gilligan’s Under 21s on Saturday after their involvement in last Tuesday’s Under 18s’ success against Sheffield Wednesday in South Yorkshire.
Both Swansea and Forest were intent on keeping the ball on the ground in blustery conditions.
The Reds had the upper hand in the first period but it was the second half that saw the visitors turn their dominance into goals.
Ryan Yates saw a long-range drive sail over the bar and the forwards linked up well for the next opportunity, Walton failing to convert after a good knockdown from Hayes.
Luke Thomas then came close with a curling effort from distance before Forest eventually took the lead on 68 minutes. Elvis Otim was brought down in the box and Walton stepped up to take the penalty. He needed a second bite at the cherry after seeing his spotkick saved, getting to the rebound first to open the scoring.
And only seven minutes later Lester’s side gave themselves breathing space with another goal. Andreas Karo galloped forward from right back and delivered the ball excellently for Hayes, who saw his first attempt saved before reacting well and producing a poacher’s finish.
Richard Dearle had little to do in the Forest net but looked assured when called upon as he secured his second clean sheet in his last three games, supported well by defenders Karo, Frederik Nielsen, Alex Iacovitti and Jermaine Worthington.
The work ethic of Yates and Dylan Burns in the centre of midfield spurred The Reds on to their fifth win in a row and continued a five-month unbeaten run.
Forest's victory eased them closer to a place in the end-of-season play-offs ahead of their meeting with Queens Park Rangers at The Nigel Doughty Academy on Saturday 11 April (kick-off 12pm).
Forest: Dearle, Karo, Nielsen, Iacovitti, Worthington, Otim, Burns (Adams 83’), Yates, Thomas (Austin 87’), Walton, Hayes