Nottingham Forest will head into Saturday’s opening clash with Bristol City in high spirits after Aitor Karanka’s side ended a strong pre-season with a 2-0 win against AFC Bournemouth.
It’s been a busy summer of recruitment at the City Ground with ten arrivals including the marquee signings of Gil Dias, Joao Carvalho, Diogo Goncalves and Lewis Grabban. On the pitch, results have also been promising with three wins out of five friendlies going into Saturday’s encounter against Premier League Bournemouth.
Forest went into the break with their noses in front, holding a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal in the 36th minute by Tendayi Darikwa. Good play down the left by Diogo Goncalves resulted in the Portugese winger driving a ball across goal and Darikwa was on-hand to convert from a matter of yards.
Shortly after the break, Forest doubled their lead. 21 year old Gil Dias showed the quality he possesses with a cool, curling finish from the right of the area after the winger, on-loan from Monaco, had done well to get back to his feet after initially being brought down.
The Reds operated a 4-2-3-1 formation with six of their ten summer signings in the line-up. Costel Pantilimon started in goal after returning to the club on a full-time basis. He was protected by a defence that included centre half Michael Dawson who captained Forest on his first game at the City Ground since 2005. Tendayi Dawrika, Danny Fox and Ben Osborn completed the backline. Ahead of them, Jack Colback-on loan from Newcastle United- joined Adlene Guediora in central midfield. Behind lone striker Daryl Murphy, Aitor Karanka went for the exciting, Portugese trio of Gil Dias, Joao Carvalho and Diogo Goncalves who were all looking to make an impact after their recent arrivals.
Both teams attacked down the flanks in the opening stages of the game but were unable to produce a chance on goal.
In the fourth minute, a powerful kick upfield by Forest ‘keeper Costel Pantilimon caused havoc in the Bournemouth defence with Nathan Ake having to concede a corner under pressure from Reds’ striker Daryl Murphy.
Bournemouth showed a glimpse of their quality in the 13th minute when both David Brooks and Lys Mousset saw efforts on goal blocked by Forest bodies following the Cherries first venture into the home area.
It was Bournemouth who had the game’s next chance. A corner was only partially cleared and Harry Arter slid the ball to Callum Wilson just outside the six yard box but he snatched at the chance and it never troubled Pantilimon.
Bournemouth were beginning to apply some strong pressure on the Forest goal and in the 15th minute, a Ryan Fraser freekick from just outside the box proved to be problematic for Pantilimon but thankfully, a Forest defender was on hand to hack the ball away.
Forest were almost punished for a sloppy pass in midfield as the lively David Brooks intercepted before advancing and slipping through striker Callum Wilson but Wilson’s chipped effort was saved by Pantilimon.
Bournemouth were looking dangerous whenever they went forward and in the 22nd minute, Wilson saw a strike from just inside the area parried away by Pantilimon.
Just before the half hour mark, Diogo Goncalves- a summer arrival on loan from Benfica- almost scored a terrific opener but his curling effort from 20 yards out just lacked the accuracy to test Artur Boruc in the Bournemouth goal.
Goncalves was involved again moments later as Forest almost hit the Cherries on the counter-attack. Joao Carvalho, who Forest paid a club record fee for this summer, was found on the right-hand side and he switched the play for Goncalves who looked to feed another new arrival, Gil Dias, but unfortunately his headed pass had too much pace on it.
Forest had refound a foothold in the game after a period of Bournemouth pressure and in the 36th minute, they took the lead. Goncalves did well to get down the left flank and from the by-line, he fired a ball across the face of goal which found Tendayi Darikwa at the back post, the Forest right back having the simplest of tap ins.
It could have been two for the Reds minutes later but Goncalves could only find the grateful hands of Boruc with a low, well-struck effort.
Despite playing at full back, Darikwa almost scored his second of the afternoon. A cross from the left was poorly dealt with by the Bournemouth defence and Forest’s goalscorer was able to meet the loose ball but he could only head over the bar.
With half time approaching, Forest were enjoying their best spell of the game so far. A deflected effort from distance by Adlene Guediora almost doubled their advantage but Boruc got down well to his right to smother the chance.
Forest had 13 substitutes on the bench but there was, somewhat surprisingly, only one change at the break. Ben Watson was brought on to replace Jack Colback.
Within three minutes of the restart, Forest were 2-0 ahead. Gil Dias showed great tenacity to get back up after being brought down on the right wing and he then produced a moment of brilliance to charge towards goal and bend the ball past Boruc from a tight angle.
Bournemouth were looking to get back in the game and they almost unlocked Forest’s defence with a fine through ball, but centre half Danny Fox produced a brilliantly timed interception to stick out a leg and win the ball back for the home side.
Diogo Goncalves had been lively all afternoon and he tried his luck from 25 yards after the ball rolled kindly to him from a Forest free kick but his effort skewed off target.
At the other end, Bournemouth’s David Brooks cut inside from the right wing before curling a shot wide of the far post.
Forest’s young Portugese trio were starting to really enjoy themselves, causing Bournemouth problems at every opportunity and constantly rotating roles in the attacking midfield three. In the 62nd minute, Goncalves skipped down the right wing but his pass across the box was cut out before it could reach Daryl Murphy.
With 20 minutes to go, Forest manager Aitor Karanka shuffled his pack by replacing his entire front four. Gil Dias, Joao Carvalho, Diogo Goncalves and Daryl Murphy were all taken off to a standing ovation whilst Matty Cash, Joe Lolley, Hillal Soudani and Lewis Grabban were all introduced, Grabban facing the side he recently left to join Forest.
Bournemouth’s first substitution arrived in the 77th minute, David Brooks going off to be replaced by Connor Mahoney.
Two minutes later, Forest made a further change. The hard-working Adlene Guediora came off whilst Ryan Yates was given another opportunity to impress with Reds boss, Aitor Karanka, admitting he is still unsure whether to send Yates out on loan this season or not.
After scoring at the start of the second half, Forest almost grabbed another in the last few minutes of the game. Substitute Joe Lolley charged down the left wing, outmuscling Bournemouth captain Simon Francis and he slid the ball across for Hillal Soudani who blasted an effort just over the bar.
Soudani had another opportunity moments later but this time he was denied well by Boruc, the former Poland number one tipping the ball round the post.
In the end, a goal in either half was enough to give Forest the win in their final pre-season friendly, with attention now turning to the start of competitive action away at Bristol City next weekend.
FOREST XI: Pantilimon (GK), Darikwa, Osborn, Fox, Dawson ©, Colback (Watson 45’), Dias (Cash 70’), Guedioura (Yates 79’), Murphy (Grabban 70’), Carvalho (Lolley 70’), Goncalves (Soudani 70’)
SUBS NOT USED: Smith (GK), Figueiredo, Worrall, Robinson, Bridcutt, Lam, Brereton
BOURNEMOUTH XI: Boruc (GK), Francis ©, Gosling, Ake, Arter, Mousset, Daniels, Wilson, Brooks (Mahoney 77’), Fraser, Simpson
SUBS NOT USED: Travers (GK), Worthington, Hyndman, Mahoney, Hobson, Surridge, Ofoborh, Dobre
REFEREE: Steve Martin