Nottingham Forest ended 2016 with a defeat as Newcastle United won 3-1 at St James’ Park thanks to a Dwight Gayle brace.
Nicolao Dumitru equalised for Forest in the first half after Matt Ritchie’s early opener, but two yellow cards in a minute for Forest captain Matt Mills turned the game as Gayle struck twice to seal three points for Newcastle.
Head coach Philippe Montanier made three changes to the side that lost at Huddersfield on Boxing Day, with David Vaughan, Joe Worrall and Michael Mancienne being replaced by Thomas Lam, Pajtim Kasami and Dumitru.
The home side started brightly and immediately put the Forest defence under pressure. Christian Atsu got to the byline but his low cross was cut out at the near post and from the resulting corner, Newcastle won a free-kick which led to the opening goal on four minutes.
Ben Osborn collided with Paul Dummett on the edge of the box and Ritchie’s deflected effort from the set piece wrong-footed Vladimir Stojkovic and into the far corner of the net.
Forest responded well to the early set-back and could have been level had Nicolao Dumitru, making his first appearance since the defeat to Reading in October, shown a bit more composure on 12 minutes.
Eric Lichaj played a great pass across the edge of the box to Nicklas Bendtner who dummied the ball for Dumitru, but he dragged his shot wide of Karl Darlow’s right-hand post.
Dwight Gayle looked lively for Newcastle as he had a shot well blocked by Jack Hobbs and two headers saved by Stojkovic, but it would be The Reds who would find the next goal on 29 minutes.
The Reds had grown into the match and some neat play in the middle of the pitch led to the ball being played out to the right for Matty Cash, whose cross evaded Ciaran Clark at the near post and landed at the feet of Dumitru, who smashed the ball through the legs of Darlow to level the contest.
Forest looked dangerous on the counter-attack and were defending brilliantly to keep the Newcastle attack at arm’s length. Bendtner tested Darlow with a low strike on the break on 40 minutes, and Kasami couldn’t quite connect with his header from a free-kick to trouble Darlow as The Reds ended the first half strongly.
Newcastle came out of the blocks at the start of the second half and applied a lot of pressure on the Forest goal without creating anything clear-cut. But the turning point arrived on the hour-mark as Mills was shown his marching orders.
He was rightly booked for a foul on Ayoze Perez on halfway as the Newcastle man looked to lead a counter-attack, then after referee Keith Stroud had discussed an incident with his fourth official, showed the Forest captain a second yellow card for what appeared to be dissent.
The red card changed the game and Newcastle capitalised a few minutes later as Gayle pounced on a defensive error to volley home from a tight angle to put the home side 2-1 in front.
Newcastle were firmly in the ascendency and continued to press on a depleted Forest back-line. Isaac Hayden fired just wide from 25 yards out and Ritchie also tested Stojkovic, but Gayle would strike the killer blow with 10 minutes left.
Ritchie played a dangerous low cross along the face of goal for the arriving Gayle, who bundled the ball past Stojkovic to end the match as a contest.
A positive moment for The Reds saw Ahmed Ahmedhodzic make his debut as he came on for Thomas Lam for the final five minutes and looked assured at centre-half, but Forest left the North East pointless and ended 2016 with a defeat.
Forest: Stojkovic, Cash, Mills (c), Hobbs, Lam (Ahmedhodzic 84’), Lichaj, Kasami, Osborn, Pereira, Dumitru (Assombalonga 72’), Bendtner (Vaughan 81’)
Unused subs: Henderson, Carayol, Grant, Vellios
Goal: Dumitru 29’
Bookings: Lam 26’, Mills 59’, 60’, Pereira 61’
Red card: Mills 60’
Newcastle: Darlow, Clark, Lascelles (c), Dummett, Hayden, Colback (Diame 67’), Ritchie (Lazaar 83’), Perez, Atsu, Gayle (Mitrovic 88’)
Unused subs: Sels, Anita, Mbemba, Gouffran
Goals: Ritchie 4’, Gayle 63’, 80’
Bookings: Clark 11’, Colback 53’, Yedlin 65’