FOREST 4 LATICS 3A pulsating and dramatic game at the City Ground ended up in agony for Gary Caldwell and his men after a dramatic injury time winner earned Nottingham Forest a win at the City Ground after Latics had come from behind three times.
It was one of those games that had everything and unfortunately for Latics, they just failed to get anything from it.
Will Grigg netted his 3rd and 4th goals of the season with two neat second half finishes, while Micheal Jacobs finished off a great move to side-foot a clinical first of the season to equalise the early goal from Britt Assombalonga.
Adam Bogdan pulled off a string of magnificent saves, including a second penalty save in as many matches, but his heroics counted for little in the end, a brace from Burke and a late winner for Thomas Lam sealing it for the home side.
Gary Caldwell made three changes from the side who drew at home to Birmingham City on Tuesday. Injury to makeshift left wing-back David Perkins allowed Luke Garbutt to make his debut following his loan move from Everton in midweek, Jacobs replaced Luke Burke while Shaun MacDonald made his first full start for the club, in place of Nick Powell.
The teams went in at the break level after a brilliant first half full of incident and drama.
Latics were a goal down after six minutes, seconds after hitting the side netting and threatening to open the scoring through Grigg. Assombalonga pounced on a poor back pass from Dan Burn to slot the ball past Adam Bogdan.
A bad start but Latics responded quickly, firstly when Jacobs saw his goal-bound shot deflected for a corner, and having taken it himself, Yanic Wildschut skewered the ball narrowly wide.
Close but the equaliser Latics were threatening materialised after 11 minutes. Wildschut, operating in a surprise position as a right-sided wing-back, exploded down the flank, fed the ball to Alex Gilbey who crossed low from the by-line, Jacobs meeting the ball perfectly to finish side footed into the bottom left of Stephen Henderson’s net. Brilliant response.
Assombalonga, whose 18 month injury nightmare began after he fell awkwardly when the sides last met at the City Ground in February 2015, limped off with barely a quarter of an hour gone but far from being a hindrance, Forest stepped up a gear.
The speedy Oliver Burke cut in from the right, his effort deflecting into the path of Matty Cash whose 25 yard shot came crashing back off Bogdan’s upright, Burn then doing excellently to block a follow up from Pajtim Kasami.
Forest went close again on 21 minutes, substitute Apostolos Vellios drawing out a superb save at full stretch from Bogdan. Latics had Bogdan to thank again after 27 minutes when Vellios found himself free and bearing down on goal, the Hungarian stopper spreading his body excellently to parry at point blank range. Then he was forced to block Burke’s effort, before Osborn broke clear and fired inches wide. Nervy times.
Forest were forced into a second substitution in the 37th minute. Defender Danny Fox, having put in a really hefty challenge on the half-way line that left Grigg lying on the pitch in a crumpled heap but was deemed legal by the referee, limped off having come worse off from his own challenge.
Having absorbed so much pressure , Latics had a couple of sniffs at goal in the lead up to half-time, Jacobs wriggling clear to put in a dangerous cross, then MacDonald attempted an ambitious first time volley from the edge of the box that failed to trouble Henderson.
Grigg almost found himself clear straight after the restart but lost his footing as he tried to turn.
Instead Forest were back in front on 53 minutes when Burke latched on to a long free-kick from Forest skipper Chris Cohen, running at pace through the heart of defence to put the ball past Bogdan.
Then further drama on the hour mark as the referee pointed to the spot when Cohen went down in the box under the challenge of Craig Morgan.
Bogdan stretched magnificently to his left to deny Burke a second, and the ball was bundled away, unlike on Tuesday against Birmingham.
Latics were on the back foot and Caldwell brought on Burke for Wildschut and Powell for MacDonald and it paid immediate dividends, Grigg sneaking in at the near post to convert Garbutt’s cross on 65 minutes. What a response. Now it was Latics in the ascendancy.
Burke almost scored his first goal for the club after 68 minutes, another Garbutt run down the left seeing the ball reaching him on the edge of the box and his volley flew just over. Max Power then tried his luck from distance, the shot a foot wide of the far post.
But in this see-saw game, it was perhaps inevitable that Forest would threaten again and it was the lightning fast Burke again who did the damage, latching on to Cash’s through ball on the right to fire in from an angle.
Caldwell responded by bringing on Craig Davies with ten minutes remaining – could he work up some magic as he did from the bench in midweek, Gilbey making way?
The answer was an emphatic yes, as he was in the area as Garbutt’s long throw was flicked on – it was difficult to see if he got the touch so crowded was the area, and Grigg slammed home from close range.
In another strange twist, Thomas Lam, who was already in the book, appeared to lash out at Grigg in an off the ball incident, but it was Grigg who was booked for remonstrating with the referee. What a game.
Five additional minutes were announced, surely there could be no more drama?
Unfortunately yes, Forest broke with 92 minutes on the clock, the ball fell to Lam on the edge of the box and he fired in. Agony for Caldwell and his men after a quite extraordinary match.