Hoping to end their run of three games without a win, Nottingham Forest faced in-form Preston North End, who had won three of their last four games — most recently inflicting Bournemouth’s first league defeat of the season.
Steve Cooper tinkered with his usual 3-4-2-1 formation — instead playing four at the back, allowing for an extra man in attack.
Alex Mighten was quick to make an impact in his first start under Cooper. The winger worked his way into the box and squared the ball to Lewis Grabban, but he was narrowly beaten to it by the incoming defender.
It wasn’t long before Preston had a chance of their own. A quick attack saw Brad Potts pick up the ball on the edge of the box, but Brice Samba pulled off a smart save to deny the visitors the lead.
The Reds began applying pressure on the Preston backline. Mighten and Philip Zinckernagel were linking up well to move the ball forwards, but the latter’s final effort was deflected wide.
Potts was still causing problems for Forest. The forward stayed slightly onside before making his way down the wing. He eventually got a ball into the area, but Samba managed to get on the end of it, with no Preston players around.
Ryan Yates was the next man to have an effort on goal. Yates leapt up to get on the end of an incoming free-kick, but his header sailed wide.
The Lilywhites were gradually getting on top. However, every attempt they had seemed to be cleared up by Joe Worrall, who is proving to be a rock at the back.
Brennan Johnson fell to the ground in the 18-yard box, shortly after the half-hour mark, with the referee pointing the spot under slightly questionable circumstances.
Nottingham Forest’s top goal scorer this season, Lewis Grabban, converted from the spot, earning his seventh goal of the season.
Just moments after the penalty, the Reds nearly added a second. A lofted ball found Yates in the area, who chested the ball down, but once again his effort went wide.
With just five minutes to go before half-time, the hosts doubled their lead. Another free-kick flew into the Preston box before being cleared away — but Jack Colback was on hand to volley the ball home.
Once again, Potts found himself with a great chance to reduce the deficit before half-time. The midfielder ran into the box and had the chance to slot the ball home, but instead he blazed his effort over the bar.
Preston started the second-half on the front foot, and came close to pulling a goal back. The away side worked their way into the box but Max Lowe was on hand to clear the danger.
Completely against the run of play, Forest added a third. Johnson made his way forward before crossing the ball into the box. The cross was deflected but still found Grabban at the back post, who found the far side of the net and extended the lead to three.
Forest ended the day with three goals and three points heading into the international break. It’s now 18 points from nine games since Coopers arrival.
It was another fantastic performance from Forest, who were finally able to seal all three points against Preston.
Colback has made a real turnaround in recent weeks and topped off a man of the match worthy performance with another goal.
Worrall has received his plaudits in recent weeks and rightly so. The defender has been phenomenal at the back, and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Even when mistakes were made, he was on hand to tidy it up.
A positive week for Steve Cooper’s side, who will feel confident of closing the gap between the top six when they face Reading in two weeks’ time.