Ben Watson’s first goal for Nottingham Forest gave The Reds a 1-0 win over Barnsley at The City Ground and pushed them into the top six in the Sky Bet Championship.
The midfielder made the crucial breakthrough with 56 minutes on the clock to ensure Forest recorded back-to-back wins and left a sold-out City Ground with all three points.
Sabri Lamouchi made two changes from the 1-0 win at Swansea City with Joe Lolley and Tiago Silva comes into the side in place of Sammy Ameobi and Albert Adomah respectively.
The Reds made a bright start to the contest as Lewis Grabban saw a shot blocked from close range after he got on the end of Joao Carvalho’s pass before Joe Worrall fired over at the back post from Silva’s deep free-kick into the box.
Grabban had a golden opportunity to open the scoring midway through the first half as Watson’s terrific through-ball sent him one-on-one with goalkeeper Brad Collins but he could only guide his shot inches wide of the left-hand post.
Forest were finding plenty of space in behind Barnsley’s back four but struggling to exploit it fully. Yuri Ribeiro was left in acres of room down the left-hand channel and he swung a ball into the box but Lolley’s acrobatic effort didn’t trouble Collins.
Luke Thomas almost made the breakthrough for the visitors in the final minute of the first half as he surged into the Forest penalty area but Brice Samba made a strong save to deny the Barnsley midfielder and keep the scores level at half-time.
Barnsley began the second half on the front foot and but spurned a couple of early chances. Toby Sibbick drilled a shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area before Mallik Wilks saw his effort from a similar distance comfortably held by Samba.
Daniel Stendel’s men had been the superior team in the early stages of the second half but they were behind on 56 minutes thanks to Watson’s first goal in Forest colours. A superb one-two between Lolley and Matty Cash ended with the latter pulling the ball back for Watson to drill home the opening goal of the afternoon.
The Reds could have made it two goals in eight minutes as Adomah, fresh off the bench, made his way down the right-hand side but his excellent cross was headed over the crossbar by the onrushing Carvalho.
Despite having half-chances to extend their lead, the warning signs started to flash for Forest in the final ten minutes of the contest. Samba had to be alert to palm behind a powerful strike from Thomas before substitute Patrick Schmidt glanced a header inches wide of the far post.
The game had become open and stretched as it entered the final five minutes and substitute Semedo had an opportunity to seal victory for Forest but he could only find the side-netting having cut inside from the right.
Michael Dawson produced a stunning block with a minute of normal time to play as he prevented Mallik Wilks’s goalbound effort from hitting the target before Sibbick’s deflected shot fell inches wide of the target as Forest put their bodies on the line.
Barnsley continued to chuck balls into the Forest penalty area as they sought an all-important equaliser but The Reds saw out five minutes of stoppage time to secure victory as well as back-to-back clean sheets.
Forest: Samba; Cash, Dawson (c), Worrall, Ribeiro; Watson, Sow; Lolley (Semedo 81′), Carvalho (Ameobi 70′), Silva (Adomah 60′); Grabban
Subs not used: Muric, Figueiredo, Bostock, Robinson
Goal: Watson 56′
Bookings: Cash 24′, Samba 90′
Barnsley: Collins; Pinillos, Halme (McGeehan 77′), Andersen, Williams (Chaplin 71′); Wilks, Mowatt (c), Sibbick, Brown; Woodrow (Schmidt 71′), Thomas
Subs not used: Walton, Bahre, Oduor, Thiam
Bookings: Williams 29′, Halme 52′, Chaplin 90′
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Attendance: 29,202 (1,952 away)