A change of manager and a change of fortune for Nottingham Forest.
Chris Hughton was able to celebrate his first match in charge with a win after Joe Lolley’s speculative long ranger took a huge deflection off Bradley Johnson and crept inside a post as the clock ticked onto 90 minutes at a dank Ewood Park.
Seconds earlier, it appeared as though the 61-year-old was to be denied such a happy ending to his first return to the dugout since being sacked by Premier League Brighton 17 months ago when Sammy Ameobi’s toe-poke took a nick that re-directed the ball onto an upright.
Joe Lolley’s injury-time strike earned a dramatic victory over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday
Blackburn: Kaminski, Nyambe, Ayala, Lenihan,Bell, Buckley (Chapman 68), Johnson, Evans, Dolan (Gallagher 53), Armstrong, Brereton (Brennan 81).
Subs Not Used: Stergiakis, Davenport, Carter, Wharton.
Booked: Johnson, Gallagher.
Nottm Forest: Samba, Christie, Tobias Figueiredo, McKenna, Ioannou,Yates, Colback (Arter 50),Lolley (Sow 90),Freeman, Ameobi, Grabban (Taylor 74).
Subs Not Used: Mbe Soh, Smith, Jenkinson, Mighten.
Booked: Tobias Figueiredo.
Goal: Lolley 90.
Ref: Jarred Gillett (Australia)
At the final whistle, though, there were handshakes all round from Hughton, the man tasked with turning around a team that had gone 11 competitive matches without victory under Sabri Lamouchi – a period in which they relinquished their place in the play-off places at the end of last season and plunged into the relegation zone at the start of this.
Equally pleasing to Forest fans would have been that the result not only lifted them out of the relegation zone but elevated them above rivals Derby.
It was a performance of great resolve. Blackburn began the weekend as the division’s leading goalscorers but were poorer for the absence of two creative sparks in the former Germany midfielder Lewis Holtby, who flew back to his homeland to spend time with his wife and newborn daughter, and Joe Rothwell, the former Manchester United trainee who was forced to self-isolate at home due to coronavirus protocols.
Without them, Tyrhys Dolan, a livewire teenage attacker who has lit up the Championship since release by Preston last summer, appeared the likeliest creator of chances. Dolan was everywhere in the opening exchanges, even appearing on the edge of his area to snuff out a Forest raid.
He eventually ran out of puff courtesy of a a visiting team whose industry and physical commitment to deny opponents would have pleased Hughton.
Lolley’s speculative long ranger took a huge deflection off Johnson and crept inside a post
When Blackburn did open up space beyond the Forest defence just before the quarter hour, indecision between Amari’i Bell and Corry Evans, called in for his first appearance of the season, proved costly.
Meanwhile, Ben Brereton failed to punish his former club when his curled effort from 20 yards lacked the power or direction to trouble Brice Samba three minutes before the interval.
And as the game developed, it was goal-shy Forest who looked like doubling their tally for the season and altering the scoreline.
Thomas Kaminski, who sat on Belgium’s bench for the 2-1 defeat to England last week, was almost caught out by Cyrus Christie’s dinked cross that found its way to safety via the goalkeeper’s fingertips and the top of the crossbar.
Chris Hughton’s first game in charge at Forest brought a dramatic win at Ewood Park
Kaminski would have had no chance had Ryan Yates kept down his flying header from Lewis Grabban’s chip from the byline five minutes into the second period – a sign of things to come as confidence coursed through the visitors’ veins.
Tobias Figueiredo’s header was flopped on at the second attempt, Sammy Ameobi’s drive was beaten out at the near post and substitute Lyle Taylor’s viciously swerving effort had to be guided around an upright via some improvisation as Kaminski became Rovers’ most important player.
But he was left flat-footed twice by deflections in the final stages, the second of which provided Hughton with the perfect start.