Bristol City extended their winning run in the Sky Bet Championship to four games on Saturday afternoon, as they defeated a struggling Nottingham Forest side by two goals to one at the City Ground.
It has been a contrasting start to the season for both of these sides. City arrived at the City Ground having won their first three games of the season, as they prepared to come up against a Forest side who had lost their first three games of the campaign.
With Sabri Lamouchi undoubtedly looking for an improvement from his team following a 1-0 loss to Huddersfield Town last Friday, the Frenchman made three changes to the side that suffered defeat at the John Smith’s Stadium.
One of those changes saw Alex Mighten come into the side and make his first league start for the Reds, and the young, exciting winger almost made an immediate impression only a couple of minutes into the encounter.
A quick break down the left saw debutant Nicholas Ioannou saunter down the line with blistering pace – the Cypriot’s cross was positioned expertly for Mighten to attack, and his header forced an outstanding save out of Daniel Bentley, who pushed the ball onto the crossbar.
Forest got themselves on the ball a lot in the opening 10 minutes of the encounter, but City’s first meaningful chance resulted in the game’s first goal.
Another quick break down the right, this time for the visitors, saw Jack Hunt break down the line and cut the ball back for Andreas Weimann inside the area. Weimann steadied himself and after taking a touch, curled the ball into the bottom corner.
This seemed to be against the run of play, but Forest had to respond. They nearly found an equaliser almost immediately, with Daniel Bentley having to parry away Harry Arter’s powerful volley from the edge of the area.
But City’s goal gave the high-flying Robins plenty of confidence going forward. Jamie Paterson was the orchestrator in midfield, and his delicious free-kick on 20 minutes found the head of Chris Martin, whose powerful header was stopped by the upper-body of a helpless Brice Samba.
Paterson was key once again, though, as City doubled their lead just two minutes later.
An exquisite cross-field pass by Paterson fell perfectly at Hunt’s feet on the right – the full-back’s cross was delivered towards the back-post, where the physical Chris Martin headed down for strike partner Nahki Wells to bundle in from close-range. 2-0.
The rain began to fall even heavier on Trentside, rather reflecting the mood around the City Ground at the moment. The pressure on Sabri Lamouchi was intensifying, and the Frenchman was desperate to see some sort of reaction.
They needed that bit of magic, and Luke Freeman was on hand to provide that on 35 minutes.
The summer arrival from Sheffield United found space 25 yards from goal, before firing an unstoppable right-footed effort into the top corner of Bentley’s net. There was no stopping that one, and Forest had got their first goal of the season out of nowhere.
A great way for Forest to open their account for the season, then, and the Reds found a bit of momentum after that goal, with Lewis Grabban’s shot deflecting just wide of the target.
Forest were playing with much more tempo and pace. Two bookings in quick succession subsequently arrived for City, with Jack Hunt and Alfie Mawson being shown yellow cards with the latter hacking down Mighten.
The half-time whistle blew, and despite a 20-minute spell where City played arguably their best football of the season so far, Forest were only a goal behind thanks to Freeman’s wonderstrike.
Forest had ended the first-half strongly, and Lamouchi would have been urging his players to move up a gear in the second-half.
The first real chance of the half did fall to Forest. On 56 minutes, Luke Freeman’s teasing delivery from the left found Lewis Grabban. The striker beat his market, got down low, but could divert his header wide from 12 yards.
Shortly after that chance, Lamouchi made his first change of the second-half – an attacking change, as Nuno da Costa came on to replace Sammy Ameobi.
As Forest searched for an equaliser, Bentley was there to deny Forest once again. Lewis Grabban found space 20 yards from goal. and his left-footed drive look destined to find the top corner before Bentley tipped the ball over.
Forest were beginning to assert their dominance on the game, as Lamouchi made his remaining two changes shortly after, with Samba Sow and Lyle Taylor replacing Harry Arter and the impressive Mighten respectively.
City had more than proved that they were a threat on the counter, though, and they refreshed their attacking armory with Antoine Semenyo replacing goalscorer Wells.
It was Taylor, though, who came extremely close to opening his Forest account and getting the Reds back on level terms. Another delightful cross from Nicholas Ioannou from the left found the striker inside the area, but his close-range effort was denied magnificently by an inspired Bentley.
City were seemingly panicking and had resorted to hitting the ball long as they looked to initiate several counter-attacks. As they looked to shore up their lead, Chris Brunt replaced the lively Jamie Paterson on 77 minutes. Famara Diedhiou also replaced Martin to add more physical presence to the attacking line.
Forest were now desperately searching for an equaliser, but frustrations were building. As City looked to run down the clock, Taylor could only shoot wide from the edge of the box after spinning away from his marker.
Five minutes were added on at the end of the second-half, but as Forest pushed forward, City countered. A four-on-two attack saw Semenyo break down the left-hand side, before taking a shot. Samba was down low, though, to tip the ball behind for a late corner.
Forest threw everything at City in the closing stages, but despite da Costa’s shot having to be cleared after being hit goalwards, that was that.
Undoubtedly a much-improved, positive display from Forest, who dominated for large parts of the second-half, but ultimately, they record their fourth defeat in four games.
City largely had Daniel Bentley to thank after making a host of incredible saves, but Dean Holden’s side now sit top of the Championship table after making it four wins from four, leaving Sabri Lamouchi’s future up in the air.