Nottingham Forest Under 23s returned to the top of the Professional Development League after they produced an excellent first-half performance to beat Birmingham City 3-2 at The Impact Arena.
Goals from Alex Mighten, Kieran Hayes and Keith Asare helped Forest on their way to a three-goal cushion at the break, and although Miguel Fernandez and Adam George scored for Blues, the young Reds held on to stretch their unbeaten league run to nine matches.
Forest dominated the opening stages and created a couple of superb chances to take the lead within the first few minutes.
Firstly, Asare’s cut back from the right found Mighten, who skewed an effort just wide of target. Then moments later, Toby Edser’s corner was met by Ethan Stewart, but his header was clawed off the line by Blues ‘keeper David Stockdale, before the visitors hacked the ball away from danger.
The Reds were rewarded for their bright start as they eventually took the lead in the 13th minute. An excellent cross-field pass found Mighten on the left side who drove into the box before firing the ball into the bottom corner.
Another barrage of Forest attacks followed as they doubled their advantage just seven minutes later. Hayes got on the end of Asare’s low cross to steer home past Stockdale from close-range.
Chris Cohen’s side continued to press in an attempt to add another goal and their persistence paid off when they netted a third. Asare got himself on the scoresheet when his 25-yard effort flew into the corner via a deflection which wrong-footed the Blues keeper.
As the half wore on, Birmingham grew into the game and conjured-up a duo of half chances, but neither troubled Marios Siampanis in the Forest net, as the young Reds went into the half-time break with a three-goal lead.
Birmingham began the second period on the front foot and pulled one back, just 12 minutes after the restart. George’s low delivery from the right-wing found Fernandez, who slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Minutes later, the visitors were awarded a penalty after Reece Burke was bought down inside the 18-yard box. George stepped up and converted the spot-kick into the back of the net past Siampanis, who dived the wrong way.
Blues almost equalised when Burke jinked inside before unleashing a long-range effort which crashed off the crossbar. Gary Gardner tucked home the rebound, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Forest came close to scoring a fourth late on when substitute Will Swan found Liam Sole on the right. The winger did well to skip by his marker, but his low drive was saved by Stockdale.
Birmingham pushed to try and force an unlikely equaliser, but The Reds stood firm and secured the victory, which means they leapfrog their opponents into first place.
Forest: Siampanis, Barnes (c), Gallacher, Fornah, Benalouane (Sole 46’), Stewart, En-Neyah, Edser, Hayes (Swan 66’), Asare, Mighten
Subs not used: Wright, Walsh, Gomis
Goals: Mighten 13’, Hayes 20’, Asare 26’