Strikes from Hayden Mullins and Marlon King put the St. Andrew’s outfit firmly in control at the City Ground, with 19 minutes left on the clock – but goals from Simon Cox and Dan Harding meant the spoils were shared in the East Midlands.
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Lee Clark’s men made a solid enough start, knocking the ball around nicely, but the early chances fell to the hosts.
After Lewis McGugan’s free-kick evaded everyone in the box, the midfielder forced Jack Butland into the first notable save of the contest on 17 minutes, when the ‘keeper smartly tipped McGugan’s effort behind for a corner.
Blues defended stoutly in the following exchanges and then carved out an opening of their own during a promising period of possession.
Leroy Lita intricately linked up with his new strike partner King, who was denied thanks to Lee Camp quickly leaving his line.
And shortly afterwards it was Lita’s turn to go for goal, but the 27-year-old dragged his shot wide.
The Reds still posed a threat, however, and Butland pulled off another fine save to stop Andy Reid’s free-kick from floating in at the far post.
There was time for another opportunity before half-time with King using his strength to hold off Danny Collins, but the former Forest marksman couldn’t prevent the ball from sailing over the bar.
Clark made an early second-half substitute as Wade Elliott replaced Peter Lovenkrands on the left wing.
The former Burnley man almost made an immediate impact – only for Camp to collect Elliott’s attempt at the second time of asking, with Lita ready to pounce.
But Camp could do little to stop Mullins’ fabulous volley in the 69th minute, as King’s deflected shot was met by the sweetest of strikes.
Moments later and substitute Nathan Redmond played in King – who guided the youngster’s cross into the bottom corner to double the visitors lead.
Although Sean O’Driscoll’s team raised hopes of a comeback through Cox’s smart finish, and then Dan Harding restricted Blues to a draw, when coolly slotting home from close range despite Pablo Ibanez’s best efforts on the line.
Nottingham Forest (in numerical order): Lee Camp, Sam Hutchinson, Simon Gillett (Radoslaw Majewski 81), Danny Collins (C), Adlene Guedioura (Dan Harding 74), Lewis McGugan, Andy Reid, Greg Halford, Dexter Blackstock (Simon Cox 60), Billy Sharp, Daniel Ayala.
Subs not used (in numerical order): Guy Moussi, Karl Darlow, Brendan Moloney, James Coppinger.
Goals: Cox (73), Harding (86)
Bookings: Ayala (22), Hutchinson (54)
Blues: Jack Butland, Paul Caddis, Pablo Ibanez, Steven Caldwell (C), David Murphy, Chris Burke (Nathan Redmond 70), Hayden Mullins, Jonathon Spector, Peter Lovenkrands (Wade Elliott 50), Marlon King, Leroy Lita (Keith Fahey 79).
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Curtis Davies, Ravel Morrison, Nikola Zigic.
Goals: Mullins (69), King (71)
Referee: Mark Halsey
Attendance: 22, 738 (2,021 Blues fans)