Nottingham Forest claimed a much-needed three points in The Championship as they beat Burton Albion 2-0 at The City Ground on Saturday afternoon.
Everyone connected with the club was aware of the significance of this match following the 2-0 defeat to local rivals Derby County last weekend. It was a poor first-half performance from the Reds but goals from Barrie McKay and Eric Lichaj in the second-half were enough to secure the win.
An uninspiring first-half
There was some big team news prior to kick-off as influential Forest midfielder David Vaughan was recalled to the starting line-up by Mark Warburton after missing the last few weeks through injury. This saw him start in midfield alongside Liam Bridcutt as Everton loanee Kieran Dowell saw himself dropped to the bench.
Forest could have taken the lead very early on but Albion keeper Stephen Bywater was able to push Jason Cummings' shot away from danger. It was a big chance and one that Forest really could have done with taking against a side as defensively sound as Burton.
Nigel Clough had to deal with an early injury blow as full-back John Brayford was forced off. He was replaced by Tom Flanagan. This was followed by another injury but to the home side as Armand Traore was taken off holding his hamstring and was replaced by Joe Worrall.
Despite Forest coming into this match as favourites to win the match, it was Burton who had the better chances in the first-half. The biggest one came when Lloyd Dyer looked certain to score from inside the area, only for his shot to be superbly blocked by Lichaj on the line.
The home side did muster up one more opportunity before the half-time whistle as Vaughan tried his luck from distance but his shot was easily held by Bywater. This effort was met by sarcastic cheers from the home support after seeing their side go so long without creating any chances.
Reds produce much-improved second-half display
Forest started the second-half at a much faster tempo and it began to cause Burton's defence problems. Bridcutt's curling effort from range was saved well by Bywater as he clawed it away for a corner. The way Albion were playing was almost inviting Forest onto them which will not have gone down well with Clough.
The home side were finally able to get themselves in front just two minutes before the hour mark through McKay. Cummings' challenge on Bywater forced him to punch the ball away, only for it to fall perfectly for McKay before he volleyed the ball into the top corner to make it 1-0. It was a superb finish from the former Rangers winger and noticeably gave the home side more confidence.
Shortly after going ahead, Warburton decided to make two changes which saw Vaughan and Cummings replaced by Dowell and Andreas Bouchalakis. These changes did make a significant difference as they provided fresh legs in midfield against a tiring Burton defence.
The substitutions had a key part to play in Forest's decisive second goal which saw McKay's clever flick expertly finished off by full-back Lichaj who proceeded to run around the whole stadium in celebration with the home support. It was a superb goal which rounded off a Man of the Match performance from the right-back and was enough to secure Forest the three points.