Centre back Matt Mills bagged a brace as Nottingham Forest’s recent revival under Dougie Freedman continued with a comfortable victory over managerless Fulham at the City Ground.
Peter Grant, who revealed after the final whistle that he hoped had taken charge of the club on a temporary basis for the full time, would have actually have been pleased with the way the Cottagers began by the banks of the Trent. Fulham looked eager to try and secure a first win in five games with both Ross McCormack and Matt Smith denied by superb saves from Dorus de Vries.
The Dutch goalkeeper thwarted a clever glancing header from McCormack and then denied the towering Smith from Ben Pringle’s ball in – although the second header was a little too close to de Vries. Mills nearly headed into his own net as he attempted to clear a cross from James Husband, before Eric Lichaj turned another delivery from the left back onto the roof of the net. de Vries denied McCormack an opener showing great agility and awareness to keep out the Scot’s effort after a wicked deflection.
Forest threatened in patches with Ben Osborn particularly lively along the left flank. The winger saw one splendid run and low cross force a scrambling Richard Stearman into desperate defending to prevent Ryan Mendes from opening the scoring. Chris O’Grady’s low long-ranger was well held by Joe Lewis, but just as a watchable contest appeared to be heading for a half-time stalemate, the home side went ahead.
Right on the stroke of half time, Nelson Oliveira returned an overhit corner with a brilliant bicycle kick that located Mills, still stationed at the back post, and the centre back planted a powerful header beyond Lewis. O’Grady almost doubled the lead straight after the resumption but the striker couldn’t quite connect with Henri Lansbury’s cross and Lewis kept out a Lichaj volley from eight yards as the hosts piled out the pressure.
The critical second arrived seven minutes after the break when Lewis failed to hold a low drive from Lichaj and O’Grady reacted quickest to sweep home the rebound from six yards out. Fulham probed patiently in response but found de Vries in unbeatable form, with the goalkeeper producing a stupendous save to palm a long-range effort from boyhood Forest fan Tom Cairney over the bar. The midfielder then missed the target completely with a free header and Mills made him pay with a thumping header from David Vaughan’s corner three minutes later. The defender was only denied a hat-trick by the crossbar in stoppage time.
Fulham, who had been looking upwards when they sacked Kit Symons last month, have now slipped below Forest into sixteenth. There is much for American supremo Shahid Khan to consider, especially with Grant wanting to relinquish control over first-team affairs.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-4-2): de Vries; Lichaj, Pinallos, Mills, Mancienne; Mendes (Trotter 79), Osborn (Tesche 87), Lansbury, Vaughan; Oliveira (Grant 79), O’Grady. Subs (not used): Evtimov, Wilson, J. Williams, Blackstock.
GOALS: Mills (45, 78), O’Grady (52).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Lewis; Fredericks, Husband, Stearman, Ream; Parker (Hyndman 71), O’Hara, Cairney, Pringle (Kacaniklic 68); McCormack, Smith (Woodrow 67). Subs (not used): Rodak, Voser, Garbutt, Hutchinson.
REFEREE: Carl Boyeson (Yorkshire).