Nottingham Forest’s 2014-15 season came to an end with a 2-1 defeat against Cardiff at The City Ground.
Dexter Blackstock’s goal in second-half injury time wasn’t enough for Forest, who found themselves 2-0 down before half-time thanks to goals from Joe Ralls and Eoin Doyle.
Cardiff saw goalkeeper David Marshall sent off in the second half but Dougie Freedman’s men were unable to fully capitalise on their man advantage.
The result means The Reds end the 2014-15 campaign in 14th place.
Freedman made three changes to the side that faced Ipswich last weekend. Todd Kane, Gary Gardner and Chris Burke replaced Eric Lichaj, Ben Osborn and Chuba Akpom.
Under 21s captain Roger Riera was named in a Forest first-team squad for the first time, claiming a substitute’s place along with fellow youngster Tyler Walker.
Forest started the game on top but found themselves behind on 14 minutes. Joe Mason’s shot looped up off a Forest defender and the ball dropped perfectly for Ralls, who volleyed it into the top corner from six yards.
And it was 2-0 to the visitors ten minutes later. The danger appeared to be over after Karl Darlow, playing his last game before moving permanently to Newcastle, pushed Stuart O’Keefe’s shot away. But Cardiff kept the move alive and doubled their advantage when Doyle nodded the ball into the bottom corner from Matthew Kennedy’s cross.
Michail Antonio was the man who looked to turn Forest’s fortunes around, cutting in from the left and drilling the ball low and a yard wide of David Marshall’s near post.
He was joined by Henri Lansbury five minutes later but the midfielder could only curl the ball over the bar after David Vaughan saw his shot blocked.
And the Bluebirds were inches away from a third goal four minutes before half-time. Jamaal Lascelles, also playing his final match for The Reds ahead of his move to Tyneside, was booked after catching Aron Gunnarsson late 25 yards out. Ralls took charge of the free-kick, curling the ball just wide of the outstretched Darlow’s post.
Gardner’s loan spell at The City Ground came to a premature end as he was replaced by Akpom at the break, and the Arsenal loanee set about hauling his side back into the contest straight after the restart. He carried the ball into Cardiff’s half before striking it low towards goal from 22 yards. There wasn’t enough pace on the ball to trouble Marshall, however.
Darlow was soon called into action at the other end, pushing the ball away on his goal line after Ralls’ inswinging corner, before the keeper could only watch as Doyle sent his shot high over the bar following a mix-up between Vaughan and Jack Hobbs.
Freedman made his second change just before the hour mark, replacing Antonio with Jamie Paterson, before Osborn came on for Burke on 69 minutes.
It was Cardiff who threatened next though. A strong run by Doyle through the middle resulted in him laying the ball off to Mason on the edge of the area. Michael Mancienne, playing at left back, slid in well to divert the shot away from danger.
Forest’s response came from Lansbury a minute later. His powerful first-time strike was blocked well by Gunnarsson.
It was proving to be a tough afternoon for The Reds but they were handed a lifeline when Cardiff keeper Marshall was red-carded following an altercation with Lascelles, after which Lansbury was also booked. Reserve stopper Simon Moore was brought on in place of Mason.
Moore was called into action for the first time six minutes from time when Osborn threaded the ball into the area for Blackstock to chase. The keeper was out quickly to smother the danger.
And Moore was thanking his defender Ben Turner minutes later when he got back on to his goal line to deny what looked like a certain goal for Mancienne. Akpom couldn’t react quickly enough to capitalise on the loose ball.
Four minutes were added on at the end of the match, in the first of which Blackstock grabbed a consolation goal by turning home Paterson’s cross from close range.
And Paterson was involved again a minute later, racing to the byline and firing the ball across the face of goal. Former Red Lee Peltier did well to turn the ball away at the far post.
The Reds kept up their pressure, Kane flashing the ball just wide of the post with a powerful low effort.
But Freedman’s men were unable to find an equaliser as their season ended in defeat.
Forest: Darlow, Mancienne, Hobbs, Lascelles, Kane, Antonio (Paterson 59'), Gardner (Akpom 46'), Vaughan, Lansbury (c), Burke (Osborn 69'), Blackstock
Subs not used: De Vries, Fox, Riera, Walker
Goal: Blackstock 90'
Bookings: Lascelles 41', Antonio 45', Kane 66', Lansbury 76'
: Marshall (c), Peltier, Morrison, Turner, Fabio, O'Keefe, Gunnarsson, Ralls, Kennedy (CardiffPilkington 73'), Doyle (Revell 73'), Mason (Moore 78')
Subs not used: Noone, Adeyemi, Ajayi, Harris
Goals: Ralls 14', Doyle 24'
Bookings: Peltier 16', Gunnarsson 57
Sent off: Marshall 76'
Referee: Peter Bankes
Attendance: 21,988 (1,139 away)