Super-sub Lewis McGugan sinks Hull City to boost Nottingham Forest’s play-off hopes

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Lewis McGugan came off the bench to score the winner on Saturday afternoon as Nottingham Forest beat Hull City 2-1 to record a sixth straight victory under Billy Davies, writes Shaun Wheatcroft.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Reds in Yorkshire, and they found themselves a goal down at the break after Forest’s January target George Boyd struck against his former club to give the Tigers a merited lead.

But in an enthralling second period the visitors equalised courtesy of a Darius Henderson goal before substitute McGugan drilled home the winner six minutes from time, grabbing his side all three points despite constant Hull pressure.

Reds’ boss Billy Davies made just one change to the side that overcame Wolves last Saturday – striker Henderson starting in place of Dexter Blackstock, who was relegated to the bench.

Steve Bruce’s men were looking for a fifth successive home win and began the game brightly, causing an early scare for the visitors when winger Robbie Brady’s free-kick flew just inches wide.

At the other end of the pitch it was versatile midfielder Chris Cohen who created the first chance on goal for Forest – the fullback picked out Simon Cox in the area but his header was gathered well by Tigers’ keeper David Stockdale.

And Cox could have scored again following another impressive break from the Reds. Algerian midfielder Adlene Guedioura’s driven shot was parried away by Stockdale before falling to Cox who blazed over on the volley.

There was some great end-to-end football being showcased at the KC Stadium and next it was Hull’s turn to again come close. Slovenian midfielder Robert Koren’s free-kick deflected fortunately off Boyd before just clearing the crossbar.

Egyptian winger Ahmed Elmohamady had looked dangerous for the home side from the off and his guided cross to Jack Hobbs was nearly headed home by the defender – but he was denied by Reds’ keeper Karl Darlow, who palmed the ball over the bar before also thwarting a Gedo attempt.

Yet, in first-half stoppage-time former Reds’ winger Boyd did open the scoring as he looked to haunt the club that failed to sign him in January. The ball fell to the Peterborough loanee in the box and he looped a nifty shot over his shoulder and beyond Darlow.

After the teams emerged from the tunnel following the interval Hull went on the attack again as they looked to add to their lead. Gedo spun away from Forest defender Danny Collins before cutting the ball back for Boyd whose effort was well blocked by Elliott Ward.

But it was Forest who grabbed an equaliser with nine minutes played in the second period. Majewski’s pin-point ball picked out Cox in the area and although the frontman’s effort hit the crossbar Henderson was on hand to shrewdly flick home the rebound.

Brady and Elmohamady continued to look a threat for the hosts on the wings as Hull went forward in search of another goal. And the former Manchester United youth Brady nearly netted another free-kick when his curling effort from 25-yards fizzed just wide.

And Darlow was called into action again in the Reds goal as promotion-hopefuls Hull looked to restore their lead – the Northampton-born keeper reacting quickly to make a fine save with his legs from Stephen Quinn’s shot on goal.

On 72 minutes McGugan replaced Majewski in the away side’s midfield and within minutes the substitute had scored. Collins’ hit a long ball forward towards Blackstock and the frontman headed down, teeing up McGugan whose left-footed effort went through Stockdale’s legs and into the net to give Forest the lead.

Steve Bruce’s side had some late chances of their own to grab an equaliser but Forest did well to twice clear off the line. The first after Brady had struck the crossbar with another well hit free-kick before Jay Simpson’s effort from the rebound was well cleared by Cohen.

And again when Henri Lansbury was on hand to frustrate an unfortunate Tigers by clearing acrobatically after Hobbs’ header from Brady’s delivery looked to be heading for goal.

After Leicester City also lost away at Derby County, the Reds now move up to fifth position in the Championship table and are eight points adrift of the automatic promotion places. Following the international break, Forest will take on Brighton at the City Ground on Saturday 30th March. Kick-off is at 3pm.

Hull City: Stockdale, Chester, Hobbs, Koren (Proschwitz, 90), McShane (Bruce, 28), Gedo, Elmohamady, Quinn (Simpson, 78), Brady, Meyler, Boyd.

Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Jara, Ward, Collins, Cohen, Lansbury, Guedioura, Majewski (McGugan, 72), Reid (Sharp, 55), Henderson (Blackstock, 83), Cox.

Man of the match: Karl Darlow

Referee: Graham Scott

Attendance: 19,848 (away: 3,238)