Nottingham Forest returned to winning ways this afternoon with a solid 2-0 victory over Burton Albion at The City Ground.
Second-half goals from Barrie McKay and Eric Lichaj handed Forest all three points on an afternoon when they had to show patience to break down a stubborn Burton side.
Mark Warburton made one change to the side beaten at Pride Park in the East Midlands derby as Kieran Dowell was replaced by David Vaughan. Dowell took his place on the bench alongside Ben Brereton who was brought back into the squad.
The Reds made a bright start on a gusty afternoon at The City Ground and Albion goalkeeper Stephen Bywater had to be alert to palm away a low right-wing cross from Ben Osborn after he had escaped the attentions of the visitors’ defence.
Nigel Clough’s side had been under the cosh during the opening exchanges but had a decent opportunity on 11 minutes. Former Huddersfield man Sean Scannell created space for himself on the right-hand side but his low cross fizzed across the face of goal and out to safety.
Both teams were then forced into substitutions through injury. John Brayford had to make way for Tom Flanagan for Burton before Armand Traore left the field with an apparent hamstring problem as he was replaced by Joe Worrall.
Forest had seen more of the ball but it was the visitors who had the best chance of the half on 28 minutes. The ball was pulled back to Lloyd Dyer inside the penalty area but the former Leicester winger was denied by a terrific block on the goal-line by Lichaj as The Reds scrambled away the danger.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Forest had their first shot on target. The ball fell kindly for David Vaughan 25 yards from the Burton goal but Bywater had no troubles as he comfortably held on to the Welshman’s long-range drive.
Warburton had seemingly delivered a strong half-time team talk as Forest came out of the blocks quickly in the second half. Liam Bridcutt curled an effort towards goal which Bywater had to turn over the bar before McKay’s shot was deflected wide.
Forest didn’t have to wait much longer to go in front as McKay netted his third goal of the campaign. Bywater came out to punch the ball under pressure from Jason Cummings but it only fell as far as McKay and he rifled a shot into the top corner of the net.
The opening goal of the game gave The Reds a visible lift and they began to take control of the contest. Bywater had to be at full-stretch to turn Osborn’s powerful drive over the crossbar before Daryl Murphy headed a corner straight at the Burton goalkeeper at the near post.
Warburton made a double substitution on 74 minutes with Dowell and Andreas Bouchalakis coming on for Cummings and Vaughan and that was a prequel to two key moments which would eventually decide the game.
At one end, Burton had a penalty appeal turned down as Jordan Smith challenged Lloyd Dyer in the air and referee Keith Stroud adjudged that the Forest goalkeeper had got to the ball first.
A minute later and Forest had doubled their advantage and sealed the three points. Lichaj latched on to a ball through from McKay and raced on into the penalty area before he calmly slotted the ball beyond Bywater to put clear daylight between The Reds and their visitors.
There was to be a late chance for Albion as Scannell slalomed through the penalty area and set up Dyer but he could only drill a shot wide of the far post as Forest held on for a vital three points and a clean sheet.
Forest: Smith; Lichaj, Mancienne (c), Fox, Traore (Worrall 23’); Vaughan (Bouchalakis 74’), Bridcutt; McKay, Cummings (Dowell 73’), Osborn; Murphy
Subs not used: Henderson, Brereton, Ward, Darikwa
Goals: McKay 58’, Lichaj 78’
Burton Albion: Bywater, Brayford (Flanagan 14’), Buxton (c), McFadzean, Warnock; Scannell, Murphy, Allen, Turner (Varney 80’), Dyer; Akins (Sordell 46’)
Subs not used: Ripley, Lund, Naylor, Akpan
Bookings: Turner 47’, Murphy 57’
Referee: Keith Stroud
Attendance: 24,686 (1,139 away)