Nottingham Forest returned to winning ways in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday afternoon, defeating Blackburn Rovers 1-0 at the City Ground.
The Reds – looking to respond following their late defeat to Swansea in midweek – took a deserved lead in the opening 45 minutes through Alex Mighten, with Adam Armstrong missing a penalty kick in the second half.
Blackburn set the tone for what would be an entertaining opening 45 minutes early on, with Taylor Harwood-Bellis being shown the game’s first yellow card with only two minutes on the clock for a strong challenge on Filip Krovinovic.
It was Forest, though, who had the first real chance of the contest. A quick one-two between Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert resulted in the latter dancing his way around a few challenges, before having an effort from six yards superbly kept out on the line by Ryan Nyambe on 13 minutes.
But the hosts didn’t have to wait too much longer to score the game’s opening goal. It was Knockaert who caused havoc again, with his dangerous free-kick being cleared away only as far as Alex Mighten.
The winger brought the ball down with a cute first touch on the edge of the area, before firing an effort towards goal which flew past Thomas Kaminski via a Lewis Travis deflection. 1-0 to Forest, and a first ever City Ground goal for academy graduate Mighten upon his reintroduction to the side.
Forest almost doubled their lead on the half-hour mark, too. Another dangerous in-swinging Knockaert delivery from the right found Glenn Murray in the area, who fired just wide of the far post with his second attempt on goal.
The woodwork was called into action for both sides as two minutes were added on at the end of the first half. Knockaert, again, putting a delicious ball into the area, which was subsequently met by the head of James Garner who saw his effort hit the crossbar.
Straight down the other end, Adam Armstrong – keen to add to his tally of 19 goals for the season – cut inside from the left, before firing a swerving effort which beat Brice Samba, but rattled the far post before both teams made their way down the tunnel at the interval.
The second half began and Tony Mowbray began to urge his players to be braver on the ball having been shy in possession in the opening 45 minutes. The manager did see a brief response from his side, as Armstrong forced Samba into action with a driven effort on 53 minutes.
Armstrong had another sight of goal 10 minutes later, receiving Harvey Elliott’s pass and turning sharply before flashing an effort wide on what was becoming quite a frustrating afternoon for the forward.
Forest began to ring the changes as they looked to get back on the front foot. Before Armstrong’s effort, Glenn Murray made way for Lyle Taylor, with Ryan Yates and Luke Freeman replacing Cafu and Mighten soon after. Rovers had been asserting their dominance in the middle of the park before those changes, with Hughton looking to combat the visitors’ threat.
Those changes seemed to spark Forest into life, as they went in pursuit of a second goal to kill the game off. Cyrus Christie’s low, driven effort had to be turned onto the post by Thomas Kaminski, with Taylor unable to hit the target on the rebound.
Blackburn looked to make Forest rue those missed opportunities, as they were awarded a penalty moments later.
A poor defensive header by Knockaert left Brice Samba helpless, as the goalkeeper was beaten to the ball by Ryan Nyambe who was subsequently brought down inside the area. Penalty given on 73 minutes.
Armstrong was given the chance to score his 20th goal of the campaign, then, but Samba more than made amends for the awarding of the penalty, diving to his right and getting a firm hand onto the striker’s spot-kick.
Blackburn continued to search desperately for an equaliser, making a double change with five minutes of normal time remaining; John Buckley and Joe Rothwell adding fresh legs in midfield. Forest looking to protect their lead, with Knockaert making way for defender Tyler Blackett.
Four minutes were to be added on at the end of a lively second half, with Elliott Bennett becoming Rovers’ fifth player to be introduced, replacing Nyambe. But Rovers were unable to deliver a sucker punch similar to what Forest received in midweek in a 1-0 defeat to Swansea, and the final whistle blew.
A frustrating afternoon for the visitors, who had plenty of chances to find an equalising goal, including a golden opportunity from 12 yards.
Forest, though, did enough to hold onto their lead, getting their just rewards for a fine first-half display.