Steve Cooper picked up his first win in charge of Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night, as the Reds produced an impressive second-half display to defeat Barnsley 3-1 at Oakwell.
Goals from Philip Zinckernagel, Brennan Johnson and Lewis Grabban completed a marvellous turnaround on the road, as the Reds stretched their unbeaten run to three games.
In the early stages of a first half which lacked quality from either side, it was the hosts who took the lead on 19 minutes.
Cauley Woodrow held the ball up inside the area before displaying quick feet and turning Tobias Figueiredo easily – the latter helpless, as he pulled at the striker’s shirt and brought him to the ground. Penalty given.
Woodrow stepped up and calmly sent Brice Samba the wrong way from the penalty spot to score his third goal of the campaign, having won the penalty initially.
Forest looked to ignite a quick response, and found themselves working the ball into dangerous areas but failing to apply any conviction to the final pass.
Liam Kitching did well to make a last-ditch clearance, with Ryan Yates lurking at the far post, with the defender also in the right place at the right time to cut out Djed Spence’s cross, after the wing-back burst into the area and tried to find Brennan Johnson.
Johnson, Joe Lolley and Philip Zinckernagel were leading a very fluid attacking line, and it was Lolley who had Forest’s next sight of goal. The winger was played in down the left-hand side, but fired his effort across goal and wide.
Forest were looking threatening in transition, however, with Woodrow being shown the game’s first card on the half-hour mark for a strong challenge on Ryan Yates.
The whistle blew to mark the end of a half which was lacklustre from either side, with Cooper looking for a response from his side in the second half.
Woodrow came close to double his and Barnsley’s tally inside five minutes of the second half, spinning before seeing a close-range effort denied by Samba’s midriff.
Kitching was called upon once again soon after, charging Johnson down and preventing the attacker from pulling a shot off after he was headed through on goal by Max Lowe.
Forest continued to knock on the door, though, and they were presented with a golden chance to equalise on the hour mark.
Lolley advanced down the left before squaring the ball and picking out Zinckernagel to his right. The Dane took a touch and composed himself, but couldn’t beat Collins from close-range with the goalkeeper getting down low and saving.
Cooper began to ring the changes soon after, introducing Lewis Grabban in an attack-minded substitution and Forest switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation. The striker made an instant impact, as Forest got themselves on level terms.
Grabban, with his second touch of the ball, slipped Johnson through on goal, beating the offside trap before squaring to Zinckernagel, who had the simplest of jobs rolling the ball into an empty net. 1-1, and game on.
But Forest didn’t plan on stopping there, and seven minutes later, they turned the game on its head.
It was Zinckernagel and Johnson who combined once again, with the latter played through on goal down the right channel.
Johnson broke away from his man before low across goal and into the bottom corner, before wheeling away to celebrate in front of a raucous away end. 2-1 to the visitors, with Barnsley left complaining for offside.
Forest were firmly in the driving seat at this point, and the introduction of Alex Mighten outlined their intention to push for a third goal.
Johnson displayed electrifying pace to latch onto another through ball, before being forced out wide and winning corner. From that, Zinckernagel stung the palms of Collins with a driven effort after a cross was headed away.
But before long, they found their third goal and put the game to bed, with Mighten the next substitute to make an impact.
The tricky winger started out wide before displaying a quick turn of pace, taking two Barnsley players out of the game and driving into the area.
His cross was fired across goal, with Grabban bundling in from close-range to find a third goal on 82 minutes.
An electric second-half display had knocked the stuffing out of Barnsley, with Forest looking to put the icing on the cake.
Jack Colback – who had been introduced just before Mighten – saw his low effort denied by Collins from the edge of the area.
Aaron Leya Iseka saw his effort kept out superbly by Samba late on, but the damage had already been done.
Forest held onto their first win under the new manager, winning at Oakwell for the first time in five years.