HENRI Lansbury scored a brace at the City Ground on Saturday afternoon as Nottingham Forest beat 10-man Wolves 3-1 to move into the Championship play-offs, writes Shaun Wheatcroft.
The Reds started well and were eventually rewarded with a goal from Lansbury, who struck a powerful effort past Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme to give the Reds the lead at the break, despite Wolves also hitting the crossbar in a busy first half.
After the interval Wolves improved and were back in the game with a headed goal from defender Matt Doherty - but Lansbury struck again before McGugan added a third to secure Billy Davies’ fifth successive win as Wolves were reduced to ten men.
Davies named an unchanged side for the match against the Championship strugglers, keeping his faith in the team that beat Ipswich 1-0 at the City Ground on Tuesday evening.
Reds’ defender Greg Halford was named amongst the substitutes after returning from a two-match ban for picking up his 10th yellow card of the season – while striker Billy Sharp also returned to the bench following a chest infection.
Forest were bidding for a fourth straight clean sheet and began the match with purpose – Jara Reyes surging down the right before finding a low ball that swept across the penalty area to roll wide and just short of Simon Cox.
The Reds had the ball in the net soon after, but it was quickly ruled offside. Andy Reid getting away from defender Kaspars Gorkss in the box before picking out Cox who tapped home - but the frontman had made his run too early.
Wolves’ first victory of 2013 came on Tuesday evening with victory over Millwall, and their first sight of goal here came on 20 minutes, when a long ball from Jamie O’Hara picked out Bjorn Sigurdarson who flicked the ball straight into the hands of Reds’ keeper Karl Darlow.
The Molineux club should have taken the lead when winger Dave Edwards had the first clear-cut chance of the game - Ebanks-Blake squeezed the ball to the Welshman in front of goal but his effort was off the mark.
But it was Forest who took the lead on the half-hour mark after some patient build-up play – Cox turned in the area to find Adlene Guedioura on the edge of the box and the former Wolves man squared the ball to Lansbury who drilled the ball low into the net from 18-yards.
Before the half-time whistle Dean Saunders’ men nearly grabbed a quick-fire equaliser when midfielder Bakary Sako hit the crossbar with a stinging free-kick from range – the rebound fell to Sigurdarson but his effort was well off target.
After the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second period the away side began a spell of possession of their own – Edwards threaded a ball through to Ebanks-Blake on the left channel but his effort hit the side-netting under pressure from Danny Collins.
And at the other end of the field Forest had their best moment of the second-half just after the hour-mark – Reid showcasing his pace down the left before crossing for Lewis McGugan at the back post whose volley flew just over.
Yet it was Wolves who equalised soon after, and deservedly so, when Sako’s deep corner was glanced in by Matt Doherty – the youngster grabbing his first goal for the club to offer the visitors a lifeline.
But their lead lasted for barely a minute as Lansbury hit his second of the afternoon – the former Arsenal man picked up the ball before turning on the edge of the Wolves penalty area and guiding the ball expertly into the corner of the net with the outside of his foot.
The visitors were then down to 10 men with seven minutes left - Greg Halford was brought down by Stephen Ward just as the former Portsmouth man looked to be clean through on goal and Ward was handed a straight red.
The Reds made their numerical advantage count with a third goal in the dying minutes. Cox and Jara combined well down the right and Jara slid the ball across to McGugan on left who took a touch before curling a sublime strike into the top corner of the goal.
The win sees Forest move into sixth position in the Championship table after Brighton lost 1-0 away at Bolton. In their next outing the Reds will take on an in-form Hull City side at the KC Stadium on Saturday 16th Match. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Jara, Ward, Collins, Cohen, Lansbury, Guedioura, Majewski (Moussi, 62) Reid (Halford, 75) Blackstock, (McGugan, 34) Cox.
Wolves: Ikeme, Doherty, Johnson, Gorkss, Ward, Edwards, Henry (Doumbia, 63), O’Hara (Davis, 61), Sako, Sigurdarson (Doyle, 68) Ebanks-Blake.
Man of the match: Henri Lansbury
Referee: Michael Naylor
Attendance: 23,350 (away: 2,267)