McGugan nets twice as Forest beat Villa 3-1
LEWIS McGugan came off the bench to fire two spectacular goals and steer Nottingham Forest to an encouraging 3-1 win over Premier League Aston Villa.
This was the Reds first public outing under the tenure of Sean O'Driscoll and Forest fans will have left the City Ground feeling a quiet sense of optimism.
Barry Bannan had fired an almost immediate equaliser in the 72nd minute from a free kick, after McGugan's first – a ferocious, curling strike from the edge of the box – had put Forest ahead two minutes before.
Fellow sub Marcus Tudgay restored Forest's advantage with a fine, individual goal in the 78th minute.
And McGugan struck again in the 84th minute with a trademark, precision free kick of his own to secure an encouraging pre-season win for the Reds.
Adlene Guedioura provided a few decent touches playing down the right side of midfield, as Forest began with a 4-4-2 formation.
Andy Reid was on the left, with new signing Simon Gillett sitting deep in the centre, just in front of the back four, and Raddy Majewski playing more advanced, behind strikers Dexter Blackstock – who was wearing the captain's armband – and Ishmael Miller.
Right back Brendan Moloney was the only one of the back four who was not a new face, with Greg Halford and Danny Collins partnered in the centre and Dan Harding playing at left back.
Gillett was the first to get a shot away, following good work from Guedioura and Majewski, although he failed to properly connect with his effort, which skimmed harmlessly across the turf and wide from just outside the box.
Forest were temporarily reduced to ten men as Majewski received extensive treatment for a facial injury on the sidelines, but Ron Vlaar failed to make the most of a shooting chance from 25 yards, sending the ball high into the Forest fans behind the goal.
Nathan Delfouneso did find the back of the net in the tenth minute, but he had clearly strayed into an offside position before applying the finish. Villa began to apply some pressure to the Forest goal, however, with Brett Holman coming close with a curling shot that was deflected narrowly wide of the post.
And, when the resulting corner was cleared to the edge of the box, Karim El Ahmadi forced an outstanding save from Lee Camp with a driven effort that the keeper acrobatically pushed around the post.
A slip from Halford allowed Delfouneso to angle into the box from the left, but fortunately Collins was able to charge down his shot.
Forest's midfield was very fluid, mirroring the approach O'Driscoll favoured at Doncaster, with only Gillett really retaining the same position in front of the back four and Guedioura, Reid and Majewski all encouraged to roam around the pitch.
Reid, who looked to have put in significant fitness work over the summer, caused chaos in the Villa defence with a high, looping ball that Brad Guzan did well to claim. But Villa broke quickly and it took an outstanding sliding block from Moloney to thwart Holman as the Villa midfielder let fly with a powerful shot.
Reid instigated a Forest attack with a burst of pace down the left, drawing the Villa defence before feeding Miller on the overlap. The striker, in turn, lifted a cross to the far post where Molonley headed the ball back across goal and Forest wanted a penalty when Majewski felt his subsequent header had been blocked with the aid of a hand.
Bannan hit a crisp, dipping long range shot as half time approached, but Camp always had his body comfortably behind it.
Forest introduced David McGoldrick at half time and the striker almost had an immediate impact, weaving his way through two challenges and into the box, before firing the ball into the centre and seeing the ball deflected, off a Villa defender, and wide of the post.
The visitors also made a change, bringing on Darren Bent for Delfouneso, who had picked up a knock just before the interval.
Reid picked out Moloney with an outstanding cross-field ball and the defender responded with an impressive cross of his own, which Ciaran Clark headed out at the expense of a corner, as McGoldrick dived to make contact at the near post.
Reid then roamed over to the right to combine with Moloney, before bending an in-swinging ball towards the far post where Blackstock narrowly failed to make contact as he slid in unmarked.
A surging burst from McGoldrick saw him charge into space down the right hand channel, before squaring a ball that very nearly reached Reid at the far post, before Vlaar made a timely, stretching interception.
Forest gave trialist Franck Moussa chance to impress in the 66th minute, with the former Leicester man brought on, along with Guy Moussi, in place of Majewski and Gillett.
McGoldrick almost caught out Guzan with a looping header that landed on the top of the bar before bouncing over.
But it was to be Forest who took the lead, following a spell of positive play. Harding powered forward down the left, before feeding the ball to substitute McGugan on the edge of the box. The midfielder took a touch to steady himself, before lashing a powerful, bending shot forcefully into the back of the net, beyond the dive of Guzan.
The advantage was to last only two minutes however, as a spectacular free kick from Bannan hauled the visitors level. Camp was left helpless by the strike, which would have beaten most keepers, as the midfielder sent a shot curling over the wall, away from the Forest number one, and high into the corner of the net.
Tudgay, who had barely been on the pitch for four minutes, hit back with a perfect response for the home side, with a sublime goal of his own. There seemed to be little danger when the striker collected possession on the periphery of the area, but he showed deft footwork to leave two defenders in his wake before slotting a calm finish beyond the advancing keeper to make it 2-1 in the 78th minute.
Forest found themselves with a free kick in a dangerous position when McGugan was brought down from behind 20 yards out – and the midfielder took full advantage.
McGugan regained his feet and took his time about taking the kick, which he slotted low, around the foot of the wall and into the back of the net, with Guzan unsighted and unable to get across goal quick enough.
Only the reactions of Guzan denied McGugan a hat-trick as Moussa's trickery allowed him to lay on a half-chance for the midfielder, who side footed a shot low towards the bottom corner, but saw the keeper pounce on it at full stretch.
Forest: Camp, Moloney (Tudgay 74), Halford, Collins, Harding (Freeman 78), Gillett (Moussi 66), Guedioura (McGugan 60), Reid (Greening 74), Majewski (Moussa 66), Blackstock (Lascelles 74), Miller (McGoldrick 45).
Villa: Guzan, Warnock, Vlaar, Clark, Ireland, El Ahmadi, N'Zogbia, Holman, Delfounso (Bent 45), Bannan, Lowton.