Nottingham Forest debutant Nelson Oliveira came off the bench to score a late winner in front of Forest’s jubilant supporters at QPR’s Loftus Road this afternoon.The Reds won the match 2-1 but they had to come from behind after Charlie Austin put the home side ahead in the second half.
Henri Lansbury equalised from the penalty spot after Rob Green was sent off following a calamitous incident.
That left the match poised for Oliveira, who came on after 69 minutes, to play the hero as he linked up with the impressive Ryan Mendes to score a dramatic winner.
Dougie Freedman handed debuts to two loanees: Lille left winger Mendes and Brighton front man Chris O’Grady.
Kelvin Wilson partnered Matt Mills in central defence and they were shielded by Michael Mancienne, with captain Lansbury and David Vaughan occupying central midfield.
Young forward Tyler Walker was handed a start down the right, while new striker Nelson Oliveira was named among the substitutes.
Both Mendes and O’Grady made positive starts to the match, the former drawing a booking from former Red James Perch before the latter claimed the first half chance of the game on 25 minutes.
After being central to some neat build-up play on 25 minutes, the forward tried to get his head on Eric Lichaj’s cross but could only glance the ball across goal and well wide of the far post.
O’Grady was pivotal again two minutes later as roles were reversed. He received a pass from Lichaj, held off his marker strongly, span and slipped Lichaj into the area one-on-one with QPR keeper Rob Green. The American opted for power with his low shot and Green made a strong save before claiming the ball at the second attempt.
It had been an impressive start to the match for Forest, with Mendes continuing to play a big part in his side’s attacking play. On 29 minutes, the Cape Verde international elegantly skipped away from his man in the middle before dragging the ball a yard wide of the post with a low shot from 25 yards.
Hoops boss Chris Ramsey was forced into his first change of the afternoon on 32 minutes when Gabriele Angella was forced off the field with a head wound. Grant Hall replaced him.
The home side worked their first real opening on 36 minutes when Massimo Luongo pulled the ball back into the area. Tjaronn Chery looked like he would have enough space to shoot from eight yards but Mancienne positioned himself brilliantly to fend off the attacker and nullify the danger.
Despite that minor scare, Forest were playing with confidence. Vaughan exhibited that with a speculative 30-yard effort which saw the ball sail a couple of yards over the bar before, in the first of two added minutes at the end of the half, he nearly played a big part in putting Forest ahead.
After seeing his shot deflect wide for a corner, Vaughan delivered the ball low towards the near post. Mills peeled into space to meet it but couldn’t make contact properly, presenting Green with an easy claim and ensuring a relieved QPR side went into the break level.
Freedman made one change at the break, sending Jamie Ward on for Walker, and within 15 seconds of the restart Forest had a chance to take the lead.
Mendes was blocked off on the corner of the area and Lansbury took responsibility for the resultant free-kick. He struck the ball low through a crowd of bodies but it was well held by Green on his line.
Freedman was forced into another change on 52 minutes when Mancienne went to ground with what looked to be a hamstring injury. Kyle Ebecilio replaced him.
Ebecilio’s former Arsneal team-mate, Lansbury, was the next to go close for Forest. He fed off scraps 25 yards out to fire the ball goalwards. It took a slight nick of a defender on its way just wide of the post.
QPR chances had been few and far between so far but, while Forest adjusted to the change in midfield personnel, they set about taking the game to the visitors.
Perch headed the ball wide from Daniel Tozer’s cross before Nedum Onuoha also failed to test de Vries, this time with a volley from a corner.
O’Grady’s hold-up play was still causing problems at the other end, however, with Ebecilio benefiting on 63 minutes. In space 22 yards out, the Dutchman opened his foot on the shot and sent the ball over the bar.
And Forest were left ruing their missed opportunities when Austin handed the home team the lead on 65 minutes.
The striker skipped away from Vaughan in midfield before firing the ball goalwards from 22 yards, beating de Vries down low.
The goal prompted Freedman into making his third switch as Ebecilio returned to the bench in place of Oliveira. The striker joined O’Grady up front as The Reds switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
And it wasn’t long before Forest capitalised on a terrible QPR error to regain a foothold in the game.
Hoops keeper Green took a heavy touch from an awkward backpass and O’Grady nipped in to take the ball round him. Green clattered into the forward, leaving referee Keith Hill with no option but to award a penalty and send the keeper off.
Alex Smithies was sent on to face the penalty but dived to his right as Lansbury struck the ball low down the middle to equalise.
Forest were firmly back in control with O’Grady and Mendes continuing to prove themselves as a menace to QPR’s defence.
And the pair, along with fellow new boy Oliveira, combined to give Forest the lead with eight minutes to go.
O’Grady did brilliantly to head the ball to Mendes on the left. He sprinted away from his defender and slipped a beautifully measured ball into the area for Oliveira to race on to. The Portuguese forward coolly slotted the ball low past Smithies in front of Forest’s jubilant travelling support.
Oliveira had no intention of stopping there as he forced Smithies into a good save shortly after the restart, curling the ball towards the bottom corner from 22 yards on 84 minutes.
Six minutes were added on at the end of the match but Forest encountered few problems in seeing the game out to record an impressive victory.
: Green, Perch, Onuoha, Angella (QPRHall 31'), Konchesky, Tozser (Gladwin 85'), Henry, Phillips, Luongo (Smithies 74'), Chery, Austin
Subs not used: Hill, Doughty, Hoilett, Emmanuel-Thomas
Goal: Austin 65'
Booking: Perch 22'
Sent off: Green 72'
Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mancienne (Ebecilio 52' (Oliveira 69')), Mills, Wilson, Lansbury (c), Mendes, Vaughan, O'Grady, Pinillos, Walker (Ward 46')
Subs not used: Evtimov, Blackstock, Hobbs, C Burke
Goals: Lansbury (pen) 75', Oliveira 82'
Bookings: Lansbury 88', O'Grady 90'
Referee: Keith Hill
Attendance: 15,424 (1,376 away)