Goals from Blackstock and Sharp guide Forest to comfortable win
NOTTINGHAM Forest returned to winning ways as goals from strikers Dexter Blackstock and Billy Sharp helped them to a comfortable 2-0 win over Burnley.
Manager Sean O'Driscoll named an attack-minded side – and was rewarded with a positive display at the City Ground, as Forest put back-to-back defeats against Ipswich and Hull behind them.
Forest had dominated for long spells in the first half, without managing to make the breakthrough as Burnley defended well.
But man-of-the-match Andy Reid delivered a fine ball for Blackstock to attack in the 59th minute, with the striker looping a precise header over the keeper and into the net.
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And Sharp secured all three points as he netted a trademark goal, slipping a simple finish beyond Grant after racing clear of the Burnley defence.
The result lifted Forest back into touching distance of the play-off places, as they prepare to make the long trip to Brighton next weekend.
Charlie Austin, the Burnley striker with 21 goals to his name already this season, had a chance to add another to his tally in the second minute, as he ghosted through on goal.
But, fortunately for Forest, his predatory instincts eluded him for once as he blazed his shot high over the bar and into Burnley fans behind the goal.
Forest had named an attacking line-up, with Henri Lansbury, Blackstock and Lewis McGugan all drafted in, with Adlene Guedioura, Chris Cohen and James Coppinger dropping to the bench.
And a flick from Blacktstock was integral to Forest's first chance of the game, as he gave the ball to Andy Reid who, in turn, fed McGugan on the edge of the box, from where the midfielder bent a shot narrowly high and wide of the target.
Alan Hutton then pushed forward with menace down the right and saw a powerful shot charged down just inside the box, after letting fly with his left foot.
Lansbury then surged into a dangerous position in the centre and, after being picked out by Reid, saw his shot from the edge of the box charged down.
Forest were looking lively and, when Dan Harding sprinted forcefully down the left, his neat footwork gave him the room to cross to the far post, where Sharp saw yet another effort well blocked by the hard working Burnley defence.
Martin Paterson offered a reminder of the visitors' own attacking threat as he side-footed a shot into the side netting following a well worked set-piece.
McGugan seemed rather fortunate to win a free kick 25 yards from goal, following what looked to be a fairly obvious dive.
But he almost managed to rub salt in Burnley's wounds as he drove the resulting free kick powerfully towards the bottom corner, with Lee Grant getting a vital touch to push it around the post.
Blackstock then planted a header wide as he stretched himself to connect with a lofted cross from Lansbury. Reid then picked out the striker with a cross from the left, as Forest piled on the pressure, but Blackstock, this time, could not properly connect.
Forest were producing a period of outstanding football and, when Reid demonstrated his vision again, this time to pick out Sharp in the box, the Reds were noisily appealing for a penalty when Brian Stock appeared to handle as he slid in bravely to block the striker's vicious shot.
It would have been a generous decision had it been given, as the Burnley man had been only a yard or two away from Sharp when he struck the ball.
Reid was at the heart of Forest's attacking play – and kick-started another dangerous move as he sent Sharp racing into space down the left. Sharp's cross was equally impressive, but Grant was well placed to hold Blackstock's powerful header.
Again, having soaked up the pressure, Burnley missed another chance to hit Forest on the break when Chris McCann flashed a shot wide of the post after eluding the Forest defence to burst clear.
Reid was Forest's most creative player again in the early stages of the second half, as he again found space to deliver from the left. Blackstock did well to win a header amid a melee of players, knocking the ball down for McGugan – who blazed a volley high over the bar.
McGugan was unlucky moments later, however, when good work from Harding saw him feed possession to the midfielder in the centre, where McGugan rode two tackles before finally being robbed by Michael Duff as he threatened to burst clear.
Forest were not as fluid as they had been in the first period and O'Driscoll opted to change things by bringing Chris Cohen into the action off the bench, in place of Lansbury.
He had only been on the pitch for a matter of seconds before the home side took the lead, with Reid again the instigator.
The Irishman looped in a deep cross from the left and Blackstock rose in the centre to send a header over the head of Grant and into the net.
A rampaging run from Sharp was only brought to an end when Duff clumsily felled him on the edge of the box, earning the Burnley man a booking – and giving McGugan the chance to drive in a free kick shot that was deflected wide of the post.
Burnley substitute Sam Vokes should have pulled his side level barely two minutes after coming on, but sent a free header wide of the post from eight yards.
Cohen's delivery from a free kick, bent towards the far post with pace, almost deceived Grant, with the keeper having to react quickly to save after waiting to see if Blackstock would apply a touch in the centre.
Forest looked to have the game sealed as Sharp provided a trademark finish to put them 2-0 up in the 76th minute. The striker powered through the centre of defence and provided a composed, placed finish beyond the advancing keeper to give the home side some breathing space.
Forest, who had made all three substitutions, suffered a nervous few moments in the 82nd minute as Blackstock, who has been carrying a shoulder problem for a few weeks, went down in some pain, needing extensive treatment before he was able to return to the pitch.
Forest: Camp, Hutton, Ward, Collins, Harding, Gillett (Moussi 66), McGugan (Guedioura 75), Lansbury (Cohen 59), Reid, Sharp, Blackstock. Subs: Darlow, Ayala, Majewski, Coppinger. Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Paterson (Stanislas 73), Duff, Wallace (Ings 82), Austin, Shackell, Marney, Lafferty, Stock (Vokes 65), McCann. Subs: Jensen, Edgar, Mills, Bartley. Referee; M Heywood Attendance: 19,672 (926 away)