Nottingham Forest's play-off hopes all but ended by 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday

Forest star Joe Lolley.
Forest star Joe Lolley.

Goals change games so the old adage goes - and nowhere was this more true than at Hillsborough as Nottingham Forest's faint promotion hopes were all but crushed as they crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

The first half was an open, end-to-end, entertaining affair as both side enjoyed chances.

Jack Colback was captain for the night.

Jack Colback was captain for the night.

However, once Forest gifted the Owls the lead within two minutes of the restart, there was only ever team which was going to win it and Wednesday scpred two more goals to make sure of the three points.

Martin O'Neill had made five eye-catching changes to his starting XI for the return to South Yorkshire following the disappointing defeat at relegation strugglers Rotherham three days earlier.

Luke Steele came in for his first Champiopnship start of the season in place of Costel Pantilimon in goal, while there were changes at full-back as Ben Osborn and Saidy Janko were replaced by Jack Robinson and Sam Byram, Byram making his first appearance since August following a serious injury. The diamond midfield was ditched in favour of 4-2-3-1 with Ryan Yates recalled to midfield in place of Ben Watson and young winger Arvin Appiah given his first Forest start in place of Daryl Murphy. Watson and Osborn were among the travelling party, but neither made the bench.

However, it was Wednesday who started brightest and Lucas Joao was denied by a fine save by Steele after just four minutes as his header looked bound for the top corner. At the other end, Joe Lolley shot rom 20 yards, but his effort flew low past Kieren Westwood's left-hand post as he scarambled to get across.

Forest defender Yohan Benalouane.

Forest defender Yohan Benalouane.

Lolley did bring Westwood into action three minutes later as the keeper dived to his right to push away Lolley's free-kick from the corner of the area, after Michael Hector was penalised for clumsily bringing down Lewis Grabban.

In an entertaining game, it was Steele who was called upon next, diving to his left to turn away Marco Matias's defected drive after a well-worked corner from Wednesday.

At the other end, Westwood reacted smartly to block the influential Lolley's poke goalwards after Matty Cash's right-wing cross was missed by the Wednesday's derfenders.

Lewis Grabban then wasted a great chance to put the Reds ahead as Forest broke two-on-one, pulling a weak shot wide from the edge of the box wide, when Lolley was open and unmarked to his right.

Nottingham Forest manager Martin O'Neill, left, and his assistant Roy Keane.

Nottingham Forest manager Martin O'Neill, left, and his assistant Roy Keane.

At the other end, Steven Fletcher missed a good chance for the Owls, heading Matias's right-wing cross over the bar, under pressure from Molla Wague, as the first half ended goalless.

However, it did not stay that way for long as Wednesday took the lead within 70 seconds of the restart. Steele's poor clearance was not dealt with and Matias's volley seemed to catch Steele unaware, as it found an unguarded half of the net.

Wednesday's confidence grew massively with the goal and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead after 57 minutes with a fine strike from former Forest loanee George Boyd. Westwood's quick delivery after a comfortable save from Cash's long-range free-kick saw Joao head the ball on to Boyd who drilled the ball across Steele into his left-hand corner of the net to the delight of the majority of the 23,931 fans inside Hillsborough.

With a two-goal lead, the Owls were transformed and Forest were on the rack as the hosts mounted attack after attack, Joao causing Benalouane in particular a lot of problems.

Matias then got his second of the game after 66 minutes, volley into the empty net after Steele had pulled off a stunning first save when Matias ran on to Joao's back-heel flick.

Forest threw on strikers Murphy and Karim Ansarifard, for Grabban and Colback - the armband passing to Robinson - with 12 minutes to go as they looked for a consolation and Cash was denied by a fine block as Tom Lees threw himself in front of a goalbound shot, while Murphy headed Robinson's cross just wide.

However, it was too little too late as Wednesday held on comfortably to leave Forest with no points from two trips to South Yorkshire in a few days and still without an away win since November.

Next away game? A trip back to South Yorkshire and the Steel City and a visit to promotion-chasing Sheffield United...