Forest 1-0 PrestonNottingham Forest secured a 1-0 victory over Preston North End at The City Ground this evening.
The game was decided shortly before the break when Nelson Oliveira capped a classic counter attack with a simple finish at the Bridgford End.
Forest had a number of chances to double their lead early in the second half but in the end one goal was enough to secure the three points.
Dougie Freedman made three changes to the side that slipped to a narrow defeat at Ipswich on Saturday. Bojan Jokic, David Vaughan and Dexter Blackstock came out of the starting 11 and were replaced by Chris Cohen, Robert Tesche and Chris O'Grady.
20-year-old Lithuanian winger Deimantas Petravicius made his Forest debut at Portman Road and he was named on the bench once again, alongside fellow youngsters Jorge Grant and Gerry McDonagh.
The first shot of the game came from Oliveira on six minutes. He received the ball in plenty of space 25 yards out but dragged it low and wide of the left-hand post.
Preston almost had a fortuitous lead nine minutes later when Daniel Johnson's dangerous corner caused the ball to flick goalwards off a man in the middle. Dorus de Vries reacted quickly enough to make the save, recovering the ball at the second attempt.
Half-chances came and went for both sides during a quiet opening period, O'Grady miscuing a shot across the face of goal before Preston's Paul Gallagher saw the Forest wall deflect his free-kick up and over the crossbar.
But the game sparked into life on 37 minutes when a Preston move broke down on the edge of Forest's area, leaving Ryan Mendes with plenty of space to race into. He had the pace to ride a cynical challenge and Forest were three-on-two. Mendes delayed his pass to perfection, laying the ball to his left for Osborn who in turn rolled it to Oliveira at the back post for a simple tap-in.
The visitors sought a quick response and nearly had one when Calum Woods' powerful strike from the corner of the area forced a good save from de Vries.
And the Reds keeper was called into action again minutes later after Adam Reach took the ball down nicely, dropped his shoulder and curled it towards the bottom corner from the edge of the box. De Vries got down to his right to make the stop.
Former Forest forward Joe Garner was leading the line for Preston and an ongoing battle between him and Forest centre backs Michael Mancienne and Matt Mills was providing referee Michael Brown with plenty to keep his eye on. Garner, who had earlier been booked after clashing with de Vries, went down under Mancienne's challenge on the stroke of half-time and the referee took the defender's name.
Garner's involvement was curtailed at the break as Preston boss Simon Grayson opted for a double change. The forward was replaced by Callum Robinson, while Jordan Hugill took the place of Bailey Wright.
Forest had a good chance to double their lead within seconds of the restart when Osborn got away down the left. He cut the ball back from the byline but despite Mendes' best efforts he couldn't find a route to goal.
There was an even better opportunity for The Reds five minutes later when Mendes was fouled by Greg Cunningham in a dangerous crossing position. Mendes escaped his marker to meet Cohen's dinked delivery six yards out but he could only direct his glancing header straight at goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
The home side kept up their pressure and created another opening a minute later. Ben Osborn's cross from the left was misjudged by a Preston defender, allowing Oliveira to trap the ball at the back post. The Portuguese forward had options in the middle but he opted to go it alone and saw the ball smothered by Lindegaard.
Forest were well in the ascendancy and there was another chance for Mendes on 54 minutes. He let a long ball bounce up and over his shoulder before half-volleying it powerfully over the bar from a wide angle.
Preston managed to temporarily stem Forest's flow but on 65 minutes they were hit on the break in similar style to how they were for the opening goal. Again Mendes was the man to carry the ball deep into Preston territory and again Osborn was the man to receive the lay-off, but the visitors were not as vulnerable this time. Osborn held the ball up and waited for the run of O'Grady, who saw his low shot blocked by Lindegaard's legs.
Forest had Lindegaard's opposite number to thank five minutes later, however. Woods dug out a cross from the right and Hugill sent the ball towards the bottom corner with a towering header. De Vries somehow got down to it to make the save and Mills reacted quickly to slide in and block a shot on the rebound.
Freedman then made a double change as Cohen and Oliveira were replaced by Jokic and Grant.
The Reds were looking comfortable and had another opportunity to kill the game off when Mendes pounced on a defensive error to race into the area. He tried to square the ball for Grant but a Preston defender recovered to block. The ball came back to Mendes but his shot was deflected out for a throw.
But Preston, still harbouring hopes of securing a play-off place, were left to curse de Vries once again on 81 minutes when the keeper made an acrobatic save to pluck Adam Reach's strike away from the top corner. Freedman's final change followed as Mendes made way for David Vaughan.
Gary Gardner came close to doubling the home side's lead with a left-footed effort from 20 yards, the ball taking a nick on its way just over the bar, shortly before three minutes were added on at the end of the second half.
Lindegaard went up for a corner in the first added minute but it came to nothing and Forest were able to see the game out.
Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mancienne, Mills (c), Cohen (Jokic 72'), Mendes (Vaughan 83'), Gardner, Tesche, Osborn, O'Grady, Oliveira (Grant 73')
Subs not used: Evtimov, Wilson, McDonagh, Petravicius
Goal: Oliveira 37'
Bookings: Mendes 33', Mancienne 45', Tesche 66'
: PrestonLindegaard, Cunningham, Clarke, Wright (Robinson 46'), Huntington, Woods, Gallagher (Doyle 77'), Johnson, Pearson, Reach, Garner (Hugill 46')
Subs not used: Kirkland, Vermijl, Smith, Welsh
Bookings: Garner 39', Johnson 56', Huntington 90'
Referee: Mark Brown
Attendance: 16,747 (525 away)