Martin O’Neill secured his first victory as Nottingham Forest manager as The Reds defeated Wigan Athletic 3-1 at The City Ground this afternoon.
Goals from Joe Lolley – on his 50th appearance for the club – Matty Cash and Adlene Guedioura secured a vital three points for The Reds as they returned to winning ways in front of a packed Trentside crowd.
Josh Windass had levelled for Wigan in the first half and Costel Pantilimon had to be on hand to save a late Joe Garner penalty but it was a determined and accomplished display from The Reds to secure the win.
There was a fairly subdued opening to the game with neither side looking to commit too many men forward. Reece James fired a free kick wide of the target on 14 minutes for the visitors and on 19 The Reds took the lead with their first effort of the game.
Ben Watson, recalled to the starting line-up, played a raking pass out to the left which Lolley controlled. After a one-two with Ben Osborn, Lolley found himself in acres of space and crashed a low shot from 25 yards in off the post to score the first goal under Martin O'Neill and give Forest an early advantage.
The visitors had a couple of opportunities to level before the half-hour mark, however, as Kal Naismith hit a free kick which forced Pantilimon to parry over the crossbar and then Nathan Byrne missed a glorious chance as he headed over when unmarked in the six-yard box.
On 33 minutes though, they levelled as Windass pulled Wigan back on terms. The former Rangers man hit a crisp, low shot from outside of the area which Pantilimon got a hand to but couldn't prevent it from nestling into the corner of the net.
Cash fired just wide of the target on 35 as The Reds looked to immediately restore their lead and he then had an effort from close range deflected over the bar when it looked destined for the back of the net.
Cash did get his goal, however, just three minutes after the restart as Guedioura's excellent pass found him on the right-hand side. Cash cut inside his man and hit a low, left-footed effort which proved too much for Jamie Jones to handle as it sneaked inside the post.
There was almost an immediate response from Wigan as Pantilimon had to be brave to deny Byrne, but the goal had given The Reds a lift and it could have got better for Cash and Forest on 56 as he met Lolley's inviting cross at the back post, somehow heading wide of the mark from the corner of the six-yard box.
It did get better with 10 minutes to go though as another shot from outside of the box, this time from Guedioura flashed across Jones and into the net via the far post to give The Reds a two-goal cushion.
The visitors responded well again, this time as Reece James curled a free kick on to the post on 83 and from the loose ball, substitute Claudio Yacob hauled down Windass in the area to give The Latics hope.
However, former Red Joe Garner was denied by a fine stop by Pantilimon from the penalty spot, with the Romanian keeper alert to keep out the follow-up effort from Sam Morsy too, as Forest held out to secure a big three points on Trentside.
Forest: Pantilimon, Janko, Benalouane, Robinson, Osborn, Watson (c), Cash, Guedioura (Yacob 81'), Colback, Lolley, Murphy (Grabban 72')
Unused subs: Steele, Carvalho, Goncalves, Yates, Appiah
Goals: Lolley 19', Cash 48', Guedioura 80'
Bookings: Watson 27', Cash 30', Benalouane 41', Colback 90'
Wigan: Jones, James, Dunkley, Kipre, Naismith, Gibson (McManaman 78'), Morsy (c), Byrne, Windass, Jacobs (Roberts 89'), Vaughan (Garner 73')
Unused subs: Walton, Macdonald, Connolly, Evans
Goal: Windass 33'
Bookings: Morsy 58', Byrne 70'
Referee: Andy Davies
Attendance: 28,848 (1,436 away)