Assombalonga brace inspires Forest to Championship survival
Blues edged the first-half and it took a brilliant save to deny Dominic Samuel putting Mick McCarthy’s side ahead but just before the break, Assombalonga converted from the penalty spot.
Forest skipper Chris Cohen cracked home a priceless second for the home side before the hour, his 30 yarder taking a deflection. Assombalonga then saw a penalty brilliantly saved by Bart Bialkowski but the former Peterborough striker wouldn’t be denied and grabbed his second and his team’s third with a vicious finish to seal the win and their place in the Championship.
A neck injury saw David McGoldrick miss out on the clash against his former club, with Tom Lawrence back at Leicester after an ankle problem ended his loan spell a few days early. Samuel and Danny Rowe coming in.
Forest, buoyed by a full house, were quickly out of the traps and Jamie Ward and Assombalonga both threatened a breakthrough inside the first two minutes.
At the other end Jordan Spence’s excellent pass released Rowe down the right, Forest ‘keeper Jordan Smith gathering the cross at the second attempt.
Smith was at full stretch to keep out Grant Ward’s effort from the edge of the box as Town began to settle into the game, Bialkowski forced to head clear after Assombalonga had got on the end of a long ball, then Spence was in the right place to clear from Ben Osborn.
Rowe had a shot blocked before Forest were forced into an early change with Zach Clough replacing the injured Mustapha Carayol.
Christophe Berra timed his tackle to perfection in the box as Ward posed a threat, Bialkowski then showing a cool head to clear from Assombalonga.
Smith ended the danger from Myles Kenlock’s cross, Bialkowski doing the same after Assombalonga had worked some space for himself inside the Town box.
Eric Lichaj couldn’t control his shot six yards out after the full-back got on the end of a cross, the ball flying over the bar from his flick, Berra then doing brilliantly again to beat Assombalonga to a cross when the striker looked favourite.
It needed a brilliant save from Smith to deny Samuel opening the scoring five minutes before the break after Rowe had threatened again after bursting in from the right.
Berra stayed strong again to deny Lichaj after the defender’s 50 yard run took him into the box but on the stroke of half-time Bialkowski was judged to have fouled Assombalonga and the striker did the rest from the penalty spot.
Berra could and perhaps should have levelled before half-time, the Scotland international getting on the end of a corner but his header drifted wide of the far post as Forest went in at the break out of the bottom three by a single goal.
Josh Emmanuel replaced Kenlock as the final 45 minutes of Town’s season got underway, Rowe immediately testing Smith with a left foot curler.
Spence, not for the first time, came to Town’s rescue as he prevented Assombalonga muscling his way to goal, Ward then firing over as Forest looked for a second.
David Vaughan’s ambitious effort from 30 yards flew high and wide, Smith holding firm again from Emyr Huws’ free-kick before Forest struck again on 57 minutes, Cohen’s long ranger taking a deflection before nestling in the top corner.
Forest had a gilt edged chance to make it three on the hour when Emmanuel was penalised for a challenge on Ward but Bialkowski produced a brilliant save to keep out Assombalonga’s penalty.
Kieffer Moore replaced Sears midway through the half but seconds later the game was all but over, Assombalonga showing pace and power before firing left footed into the roof of the net.
Moore was inches away from Ward’s cross as Blues looked for an immediate response, Bialkowski saving well again from Assombalonga’s excellent volley from a narrow angle.
Adam Webster made his first appearance since January after recovering from an ankle ligament operation, Berra receiving a warm ovation from the 1500 strong travelling Blue Army as he made way in what could be his last appearance in a Town shirt.
Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Mancienne, Mills, Cohen (Cash 85), Assombalonga, Osborn, Carayol (Clough 16), Ward (Brereton 78), Vaughan, Worrall. Subs not used: Evitmov, Tshibola, Lam, Vellios.
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