Martin O’Neill delighted as ‘big win’ keeps Nottingham Forest in play-offs hunt ahead of Aston Villa visit

Nottingham Forest manager Martin O’Neill described Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Hull as a “big win” as his charges go into Wednesday’s crucial clash with Aston Villa two points off the Championship play-off places.

Monday, 11th March 2019, 4:54 pm
Updated Monday, 11th March 2019, 4:58 pm
Karim Ansarifard (37) of Nottingham Forest scores a goal to make it 2-0 during the Sky Bet Championship match between Nottingham Forest and Hull City at the City Ground, Nottingham on Saturday 9th March 2019. (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nothing could separate the sides for the opening 70 minutes.

However, Joao Carvalho’s stunning half-volley put the home side ahead before a Karim Ansarifard goal and a Joe Lolley penalty sealed the victory.

O’Neill was clearly delighted with the performance of his side and the state of the league table heading into the final 10 games.

“It was great to fight back after defeat last week, it was a big win,” said the former Celtic manager.

“It was a tough, old first half. I said to the players, if it has to be a grind then let us win the games instead of getting beaten in them.

“The game was drifting, it just needed a spark and it was provided by Joao Carvalho’s magnificent goal.

“I thought there was some excellent performances out there today. Pele starting his first game for us, he was absolutely outstanding.

“Tendayi Darikwa probably had his best game since I’ve been here, Ben Osborn did great and I think Joe Lolley’s an outstanding talent.

“Things (in the play-off race) can change again but we’re in battling and why not?

“The players have good confidence about themselves.

“It’s a long road still and these next two games before the international break are big for us, but that’s three points today and we’ll take them and we’ll be delighted with them.”

Joao Carvalho opened the scoring for Forest only four minutes after coming on as second half substitute.

The Portugese playmaker, who arrived at the City Ground for a club record fee in the summer, has found playing time hard to come by over recent weeks but his manager spoke highly of him following his goal.

“I’m ecstatic about Joao’s goal and he is as well. That’ll give him a massive boost of confidence,” said O’Neill.

“He wasn’t in the side when I arrived at the football club. “He has shown glimpses in training of that sort of ability. “Whatever comes and goes, he’ll be a miles better player when he’s used to the physicality of this league - and it is very strong, he admits that himself.

“It was a great goal. That was the spark that was necessary today and he provided it.”