James Garner goal secures Forest victory against Cardiff

James Garner’s first-half goal rewarded Nottingham Forest with an excellent away victory against Cardiff City, after a brilliant defensive performance. James Edginton reports

Nottingham Forest travelled to South Wales to face promotion-chasing Cardiff City hoping to make their Friday a good one. The trip to Cardiff, their first game since the international break, was the last of a challenging run of fixtures against teams at the top of the table.

Forest made just two changes from their last match — a 1-1 draw with Brentford — as Tyler Blackett and Ryan Yates replaced Gaëtan Bong and Filip Krovinović.

Cardiff City have been propelled up the table this season by Mick McCarthy and the Bluebirds’ last match was a 1-0 victory over South Wales rivals, Swansea. Forest were winless in their last six matches and were aiming to guarantee their Championship safety in their final eight matches.

Cardiff started brightly; however, they struggled to create chances against a disciplined Forest back four in commanding form. It was the hosts, though, who mustered the first shot on goal with Brice Samba denying Leandro Bacuna.

Alex Mighten said, pre-match, that Forest wanted a strong finish to the season, and they took the lead with half an hour played, with on-loan Manchester United midfielder James Garner scoring his second goal for Nottingham Forest.

Will Vaulks responded with a shot that whistled just wide for the Bluebirds, but Forest held on and led 1-0 at the break.

Cardiff City upped the pressure in the second half in a bid to get themselves back into the game, however, they struggled to find a way past Forest’s excellent centre-back partnership of Joe Worrall and Scott McKenna.

Despite all of Forest’s brilliant defending, Cardiff almost snatched a point, when Aden Flint had a headed opportunity, unmarked, from seven yards out, but planted his header over the bar. However, that was the closest they came, and Nottingham Forest held on for an excellent victory and a valuable three points.

Chris Hughton said after the match: “It feels like a huge win because of the manner of it. We were up against a good side and you can see why they’ve had the ran they’ve had because they play in a way which is difficult to combat. They’ve got very good players and we had to battle really hard and sometimes you can get a better feel by grinding out a win like this than you can by playing a really open game.

“You have to be switched on for 90 minutes and I thought we were. We spoke about the fact that for however many long balls you deal with, if you get one wrong or if you lose your man then that can give Cardiff the goal they need so your concentration levels and determination have to be very high. On top of that you’ve got to be able to play and sometimes it’s difficult because they’re stop-start games and it’s hard to get into a rhythm.

“After that you have to try and produce that moment of quality that is going to win the game and of the two teams today, we were the ones who were able to find it with a fabulous goal. We spoke about the fact that high crosses wouldn’t work today as they’ve got big defenders who can deal with them so our crossing had to be slightly lower and we were fortunate today that we got it right with a wonderful execution.”