Nottingham Forest 2-1 Birmingham: Blues lose fifth league match in a row
Last Updated: 03/03/18 6:45pm
Nottingham Forest heaped more pressure on under-fire Steve Cotterill as they secured a 2-1 win at the City Ground - but Aitor Karanka's side had to work hard for three points.
Michael Morrison's 87th minute header ensured a nervous finish, on an afternoon when Reds keeper Costel Pantilimon had to make some important saves to hold the Blues at bay.
That was Birmingham's first goal in five Championship matches, but it was not enough to prevent a fifth straight defeat, as goals from Joe Lolley and Matty Cash, either side of half-time, helped Forest notch up a fourth game unbeaten, to put a bit of breathing space between them and the bottom three.
But Birmingham remain in the relegation zone and Cotterill will continue to face questions about his future.
It took Forest only six minutes to take the lead, after Lolley had collected a ball from Lee Tomlin, before advancing powerfully toward the edge of the penalty area, where some clever footwork gave him the room to find the bottom corner with a crisp shot, albeit with the aid of a slight deflection.
Forest had a let-off when Jacques Maghoma cut a dangerous ball back into the area from the right, picking out Maikel Kieftenbeld, who skied his shot well over.
Harlee Dean had another chance to level from a free-kick, but guided his angled effort the wrong side of the post, as Forest appealed for an offside decision that never came.
Forest looked to add more attacking threat by replacing the youthful Ben Brereton with the experienced Daryl Murphy up front at half-time.
It was Cash who almost scored six minutes into the second half when he hammered a rising shot from 14 yards that looked to be bound for the net, until bouncing away off the underside of the bar.
Within a minute, David Stockdale had to make an adept save to push away a crisp strike from Tendayi Darikwa. Murphy was next to threaten as he flicked across goal and wide, following a low cross from Cash. Jack Colback then had a shot held by Stockdale at the second attempt.
Birmingham sub Lukas Jutkiewicz also forced an awkward save from Pantilimon with a long-range effort.
Forest gave themselves some breathing space with 11 minutes to go, as Ben Osborn's cross-field pass found Cash in space on the right. His first touch was good, but his next one was better, as he applied a precise finish from just inside the box, sending a low shot across goal and inside the far post to make it 2-0.
When Craig Gardner delivered a corner towards the far post, Morrison rose to power home a header and give Birmingham late hope with three minutes to play.
Another corner caused panic in the Forest defence, with Ben Watson sending an attempted clearance spinning towards his own net, but Pantilimon held on - and so did the home side.
Aitor Karanka: "The first thing I want to say is to thank everyone in the club, because I know how hard they have been working to get the game on today. There have been a lot of games called off around the country but people here understood how important it was to play today. The effort they put in has been amazing.
"I also want to say thank you to our crowd. Because it would have been easy for them to stay at home on days like today. But they supported us in difficult conditions and helped us to get a good win. It was not the best performance or the best game, but we have another three points on the table and that is important."
Steve Cotterill: "We have made a lot of individual errors throughout this season and it is hard to legislate for that. All I can do is keep a calm head. That is all the players can do as well. You saw a team today who know their manager is under pressure. But they were committed. There is no way they are not giving their all for me.
"The players ran their socks off and the support I have had from the staff as well has been humbling. You can only keep going and keep professional and that is what I have done. From the minute I came in right up until my time is up, I will remain focused and committed."