Nottingham Forest left it late to record only their second win of the season on Wednesday evening, with the Reds defeating Coventry City 2-1 at the City Ground.
Lyle Taylor’s stoppage-time penalty secured an invaluable three points for Forest, who more than met their match after coming up against a resolute, battling Coventry City side.
After conceding the first goal in 12 of their last 13 games, Forest were under pressure to get the game’s first goal and get a foothold in the game – and they did begin on the front-foot.
It was Anthony Knockaert who was causing the early problems. On 10 minutes, following sharp link-up play with Joe Lolley, his powerful shot stung the palms of Marko Marosi, who could only put the ball behind for a corner.
Knockaert’s corner then met the head of Scott McKenna at the back post, but the defender’s effort subsequently missed the target from close-range.
Coventry did show what they could offer on the counter, though. A quick break saw Callum O’Hare play in Matty Godden, who got in behind the Reds defence and saw his left-footed blocked and put behind for a corner.
Luke Freeman’s misplaced five-yard pass led to Samba Sow hacking down Callum O’Hare moments later, with the midfielder receiving the game’s first yellow card, however it was Forest who were well on top in the opening 25 minutes.
On the half-hour mark, they did find that invaluable opening goal and take a deserved lead.
Knockaert’s free-kick was headed only as far as Freeman. His shot hit a Coventry man, with the ball falling to Samba Sow who also saw his shot blocked by an opposition defender.
The ball was to ricochet into the path of McKenna, though, who directed his first-time effort past Marosi from six yards and into the net. 1-0 to Forest, and the Reds taking the lead for only the second time this season.
Coventry offered very little in the first-half. They mustered their first shot on target on 39 minutes, but O’Hare’s long-range effort was held comfortably by Brice Samba.
That was to be the end of a rather quiet opening 45 minutes, with Geoff Eltringham blowing the whistle and bringing the half to an end.
Chris Hughton will have been pleased by his side’s solidarity and organisation in the opening 45 minutes, which ultimately limited the visitors to very few chances and gave them a platform to build on going forward.
But Coventry came out flying in the second-half, and perhaps should have got back on level terms in the 49th minute.
Quick build-up play saw Hamer drive forward and feed the ball through to Max Biamou. The striker was through on goal and only had Samba to beat, but his left-footed effort clattered the post and the hosts escaped.
The visitors were dealt a blow moments later, though, with leading goalscorer Matty Godden having to be taken off due to injury. It was Tyler Walker who replaced him, with the 24-year-old looking for revenge against his former club.
Coventry didn’t stop there, though, and on 56 minutes, they found a leveller.
Eyebrows were raised when left-footed full-back Sam McCallum started as a right-wing back, but the Norwich City loanee produced an expert delivery which caused plenty of problems.
His in-swinging cross from the right found the head of O’Hare, who fired past Samba with conviction. It was 1-1, and it was Forest who had threw away the lead despite looking comfortable for the majority of the contest.
Coventry were well on top at this point, and shortly after the hour-mark, Hughton made a double change, with Sammy Ameobi replacing Luke Freeman and Ryan Yates replacing the booked Samba Sow.
But Coventry continued to threaten, though. A dangerous free-kick from the right found the head of Biamou, whose header was saved by Samba at point-blank range.
Forest had Samba to thank on 75 minutes, too. Plenty of Coventry pressure inside the Forest half resulted in O’Hare skipping past a challenge and finding space six yards out, but his effort was expertly denied by the goalkeeper.
Forest needed to wake up and get themselves back into the game, and Hughton made his final change on 77 minutes – an attacking one, with Miguel Angel Guerrero replacing Knockaert. Forest subsequently switching to a 4-4-2 formation.
Walker was involved in a flashpoint moments later. The former Forest striker latched onto a long ball, as Samba raced out and looked to beat his former teammate to the ball.
Samba did clear the ball, but also clattered into Walker. No foul given, but plenty of furious shouts from the Coventry dugout.
Play continued. A flick-on from Taylor found Ameobi in space out on the left-hand side on 83 minutes, but his cross was headed well wide by the advancing Lolley.
It was Coventry’s turn to threaten with a header a couple of minutes later. A deep free-kick somehow found Leo Ostigard at the back post, with the defender getting down low and forcing a smart save out of Samba.
Six minutes were added on at the end of a frenetic second-half, as Robins made one final throw of the dice, bringing on Julien Dacosta for Ryan Giles at wing-back.
But as Coventry dominated, a loose pass allowed Lolley to win possession. The winger broke forward, and played in Lyle Taylor who was brought down inside the area. A penalty was given.
The six minutes had been played, and Taylor simply had to score if Forest were to end a run of four games without a win.
The striker nonchalantly strolled up to the ball and sent Marosi the wrong way. Jubilation for Hughton’s side, and even more so 10 seconds later, when Eltringham blew the final whistle. Game over. 2-1.
Coventry were left devastated after that late goal. They had been on top in the second-half, but left the City Ground empty-handed with nothing to show for their impressive performance.
Forest were far from their best in the second-half, but a hugely important smash-and-grab victory for the Reds. giving them huge amounts of confidence heading into this weekend’s fixture against Wycombe.
FULL-TIME: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Coventry City.