Nottingham Forest inflicted Birmingham City’s first defeat of the season with a 1-0 victory at St Andrew’s this evening.
Dexter Blackstock’s close-range finish early in the second half was enough to seal a second successive away victory for The Reds on a night when they restricted their high-flying hosts to few opportunities.
Dougie Freedman made five changes to the side that beat QPR at the weekend.
In came Kyle Ebecilio, Jamie Ward, Chris Burke, Ben Osborn and Blackstock, with David Vaughan, Ryan Mendes, Chris O’Grady, Tyler Walker and the injured Michael Mancienne making way.
Vaughan, Mendes and O’Grady were handed spots on the bench alongside Dimitar Evtimov, Nelson Oliveira, Jack Hobbs and Jorge Grant.
Forest had the first half chance of the game on four minutes after Osborn made a strong run into Birmingham’s area and won a corner. Lansbury’s delivery was met by Matt Mills and the ball dropped down in front of the keeper. Ward was unable to make contact and Tomasz Kuszczak quelled the danger.
The Reds were making the early running and won a free-kick in a good shooting position on seven minutes when Ward was cynically tripped by Stephen Gleeson, who was booked. Lansbury lashed the ball over the bar.
Spectators had to wait until the 32nd minute to see the next action of note, when Birmingham captain Michael Morrison blocked Ward’s powerful strike from 25 yards.
And two minutes later the defender put his body on the line once again to deny Osborn. Mills sprayed a crossfield ball to Ward down the left. He beat his man and crossed the ball into the middle. It was slightly awkward for Osborn, who managed to meet it with a volley on his weaker right foot. Morrison positioned himself well to make the block.
Jon Toral became the second Blue in the book on 34 minutes when he was retrospectively punished for a late lunge on Lansbury.
And Eric Lichaj’s name was taken three minutes later for a foul on Jaques Maghoma.
Forest had done well to nullify their unbeaten hosts’ threat but suffered a scare on the stroke of half-time when David Cotterill got in behind The Reds’ back four. He cut the ball back for Maghoma, who slipped at the crucial moment. Birmingham kept the ball alive in the area, however, and Toral had time to turn before lashing it just over Dorus de Vries’ crossbar.
The two sides returned for the second half unchanged and it was Birmingham who claimed the first chance after the restart.
Cotterill, who a minute earlier had been booked for a foul on Lansbury, produced the perfect delivery for Clayton Donaldson at the back post. The big forward got his header all wrong, sending the ball over the bar.
But Forest made no such mistake when presented with a golden opportunity of their own on 54 minutes.
Mills sprayed the ball across to Ward, who capitalised on Caddis’ slip to burst into the area from the left. A number of options were available to the winger and he opted to roll the ball across the face of goal. Blackstock did brilliantly to outmuscle his marker and turn the ball home from close range.
Ward was making a big contribution to the match but found himself in the book shortly after his assist as he was punished for a clash with Kuszczak.
A minute later, Lichaj showed good composure to turn another dangerous Cotterill cross behind with Toral lurking menacingly behind him.
Freedman made a change shortly afterwards, sending Mendes on for Ward, before O’Grady replaced Blackstock on 64 minutes.
Birmingham had a chance to equalise when Mills misread Jonathan Grounds’ throw down the line. The run of the ball took Toral to the byline, where he checked inside the sliding Kelvin Wilson and readied himself for a shot. Mills recovered well to make a vital challenge.
The home side had another chance on 70 minutes when the ball dropped for substitute Demarai Gray on the edge of the area. He sidefooted it just wide of the post.
Forest’s response came from Ebecilio two minutes later who, after a near exchange with Burke, tried his luck from 25 yards. He sent the ball straight at the keeper.
The visitors were looking the more likely team to score and Birmingham’s Caddis had to be alert to hook the ball away from his goal after Mills met Osborn’s corner.
And a minute later Mendes capitalised on a mistake to burst into Birmingham’s half. He reached the penalty area and committed his defender before bursting towards the byline and rolling the ball across goal. Jonathan Spector managed to get goal side of Osborn to prevent the midfielder from tapping it into an empty net.
Mendes and Osborn were both off target with long-range efforts as Forest sought a second goal with the game entering its latter stages.
The introduction of David Vaughan, for Ebecilio, provided an injection of energy and composure late on as the visitors eased their way towards another impressive victory on the road.
Five minutes were added on at the end of the match but Forest were rarely troubled as the game ended 1-0 to Freedman’s men.
Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mills, Wilson, Lansbury (c), Ebecilio (Vaughan 77'), Ward (Mendes 61'), Blackstock (O'Grady 64'), C Burke, Pinillos, Osborn
Subs not used: Evtimov, Oliveira, Hobbs, Grant
Goal: Blackstock 54'
Bookings: Lichaj 37', Ward 56'
: Kuszczak, Caddis, Spector, Morrison (c), Grounds, Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Cotterill (Birmingham
Solomon-Otabor 80'), Toral (Brock-Madsen 69'), Maghoma (Gray 63'), Donaldson
Subs not used: Legzdins, Robinson, Shinnie, Davis
Bookings: Gleeson 7', Toral 34', Cotterill 49', Kieftenbeld 80'
Referee: Mark Heywood
Attendance: 16,601 (1,536 away)