Promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest came from 2-0 down with a storming second-half perfformance at the City Ground to beat Watford 4-2 as all of Billy Davies’ substitutes scored the goals to satisfy the home crowd on a cold and wet Thursday night.
REPORT BY TOM WALKER
As Forest started the game with showcasing their trio of new signings, the main talking point was the fact The Reds started again with Greg Halford up front, despite having five recognised strikers on the bench.
It was however Watford that had the first opportunity on their opponents’ goal just three minutes in. Troy Deeney receiving a neat one two from Forestieri before firing over the top from 18 yards out.
Forest though came even closer on the eleven-minute mark. Halford drew the foul, and skipper Andy Reid whipped in the subsequent free kick to the back post towards Guy Moussi, who headed it square to Danny Collins only for the Welshmen’s effort to crack off the bar.
As the game went on, it was Watford who started to have the lion’s share of possession, and although they did not totally penetrate the Forest backline initially, they were the slightly brighter side in what was a pretty even opening half an hour.
Jamie Paterson tested Almunia for Forest, cutting inside on his weaker left foot, only for Watford to go up the other end and put the Hornets in to the lead.
From a corner, aerial presence Angella - who had missed a couple of headers earlier - flicked home a corner in the most audacious fashion. His mid air heel flick rose goal wards and Gonzalo Jara was unable to head the ball clear off the line.
In their attempt to level Forest again threatened from a set piece. Reid found Halford in oceans of space just seven yards out only for the makeshift striker to balloon his header over the bar.
The first half finished with Angella’s threat being the difference at half time in what was a balanced game. Billy Davies’ response was to substitute the struggling Greg Halford for Irish international Simon Cox, looking to add to his five goal haul so far this season.
Forest came out all guns blazing, a turn up in tempo and a raise of noise from the crowd saw Andy Reid sting the palms of Manuel Almunia from distance. However almost instantly it was double delight for Angella.
Totally unmarked following poor marking by Collins, Angella rose high to head past the helpless Karl Darlow. The City Ground was stunned and in dire need of a lift.
They had to wait until the 58th minute for that lift as Simon Cox scored his first goal in nine games. A wonderfully flighted ball from Jara to the back post saw Moussi head square again for Cox to tap home. The comeback was on as Cox grabbed the ball and raced back to the halfway line, 1-2.
Forest continued to hunt an equaliser and with Jara keeping the Reds ticking in midfield, Djamel Abdoun looking a constant threat out wide and Simon Cox looking alive as the focal point of the attack.
Forest probed the Watford penalty box without really carving open a blatant opportunity. Billy Davies then sent on former Watford man Darius Henderson in the place of Abdoun. A change of shape for the Reds as they switched to 4-4-2.
With 18 minutes to go, Andy Reid’s cross with the outside of the foot found substitute Henderson’s head as he planted his effort home to tie the score at 2-2.
It began to look as though Watford would do well to escape The City Ground with any points at all. Although Christian Battochio did fire a warning, the alert Karl Darlow pushed the ball around the post.
Forest then introduced Jamie Mackie in to the fray on the 80th minute as the game entered its conclusion. Billy Davies then had a hat trick of goal scoring substitutes as Mackie put the Reds in front after being on for just a minute and a half.
As the ball came in from the right, it found its way all the way to Reid on the left who hung up a tantalising ball for the on-the-move Scotsman to head home and put the Reds in front for the first time in the game.
Watford though had a shot from nowhere which almost levelled the match again, Lloyd Doyley shooting goalwards and Diego Fabbrini touching it just wide. The tides suddenly turned and it was Watford who pushed for the next goal, wave after wave of probing - but no goal.
It was to be Forest’s night as Simon Cox expertly put the result beyond doubt. Jara looked to slot in Cox on the inside left channel via Henderson, and Forest’s number 31 cut in and finishing with aplomb. Placing the ball side footed passed Almunia.
A superb victory for the Reds as they showed sublime character, determination and quality to come back from a major setback to extend their unbeaten run to 12 games - the longest current steak in the Championship.
Result: Nottingham Forest 4-2 Watford
Angella ‘33, ‘47 (Watford)
Cox ‘58, ‘90
Man of the Match: Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest) - sublime passing ability and variation in central midfield role.