Nottingham Forest further consolidated their place in the Championship play-offs as they beat West Bromwich Albion to make leaders Fulham wait for confirmation of their promotion.
Steve Cooper’s men had the game won before the break with three fortune-laced goals – Brennan Johnson’s penalty, for a handball which also triggered a red card for Albion defender Darnell Furlong, Ryan Yates’ header and an outrageous strike from Jack Colback.
Substitute Sam Surridge added a late fourth on a night when Albion’s own slim promotion hopes surely came to an end.
With just three games left, 12th-placed Albion trail sixth-placed Sheffield United by six points – and have five other clubs better placed ahead of them in pursuit of what looks like one remaining play-off place.
Forest, who still have five games left, including a trip to second-placed Bournemouth in early May, are looking upwards, knowing that they still have a chance of automatic promotion despite their Friday slip-up at Luton.
Their eighth win in nine home league games since the turn of the year also means that Fulham cannot confirm their promotion to the Premier League until Tuesday, when victory over Ryan Lowe’s Preston would take them back up.
After an Easter weekend which began badly at Kenilworth Road, then worsened with reports that on-loan Aston Villa striker Keinan Davis might be ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, Forest could be forgiven for thinking their luck was right out .
At Luton they lost to a debatable penalty, had a perfectly legitimate second-half equalizer chalked off and hit the woodwork. But they more than made up for it as the ball began bouncing their way in a one-sided first half at a bouncing City Ground.
The game first hinged on Forest’s opener from the penalty spot.
Furlong, booked just three minutes earlier for a daft, needless late challenge on Philip Zinckernagel, was lying prone on the ground when James Garner’s shot hit his arm. But referee David Webb decided that it was deliberate handball, sent off Furlong and awarded Forest a penalty.
Johnson struck it powerfully low into the left corner, beating Baggies keeper David Button’s despairing dive. And, just four minutes later, Forest had a second goal when the officials unquestionably made a mistake.
They awarded a throw-in the wrong way, and Albion’s defence, caught badly wrongfooted, were panicked into conceding the corner from which Yates headed home – from Garner’s right-wing flag-kick – to double the home lead.
Then came Forest’s biggest slice of good fortune on the stroke of half-time when Colback tried to launch a first-time delivery from the left touchline and could barely disguise his amusement when it sliced wickedly off the outside of his left boot to dip over the bamboozled Button.
With the game won and Albion’s spirited 10 men left running on fumes, Forest could have won by more but they could manage just a very late fourth.
January deadline day signing Surridge powered forward to drive home a low shot for his fourth goal for the club – to match last month’s 4-0 win over Reading as Forest’s best of the season
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper:
“To win a game 4-0, you have to do a lot of things well. We took real control. We forced them into a situation where they were down to 10 men. We forced the 1-0, the 2-0 and got the third.
“Jack Colback was excellent, man of the match. He is not a character who generally craves extra praise. He is a bit of a throwback on that front. I’m not going to argue with him if he said he meant it.
“It is one of the best goals we have seen at the City Ground this season, even if we have seen a few good ones. The fourth goal was good as well. I don’t know how many passes there were involved.
“The thing that mattered most was our attitude and approach. We felt really hard done by on Friday when a lot of the decisions and things did not go our way.”
West Bromwich Albion boss Steve Bruce told BBC Radio WM:
“It was an awful night that went against us. Is it a penalty? It’s debatable. Is it a red card? That was ludicrous.
“Then we got that linesman’s decision go against us, and the fourth official gets in the ref’s ear. And, within 20 minutes, we’ve got a red card, a penalty and another decision and the game’s over.
“Forest are the form team in the division and you can understand why. It was always going to be difficult for us.
“But, while you know you need to put in a performance, you also need the officials to do their job. I don’t usually complain as I know they have a difficult enough task as it is but you need them to be better and , unfortunately, they were awful.”
- 26McKennaSubstituted forS Cookdid 75′minutes
- 2SpenceBooked at 21minsSubstituted forLaryeadid 79′minutes
- 22yatesBooked at 60minsSubstituted forRibeiro Diasdid 79′minutes
- 18Ribeiro Dias
- 19Costa Silva
- 27S Cook
- 2FurlongBooked at 17mins
- 27mowattSubstituted forMolumbydid 54′minutes
- 15CarrollSubstituted forPhillipsdid 74′minutesBooked at 86mins
- 18grantSubstituted forGardner–Hickmandid 29′minutesBooked at 39mins
- David Webb
Match ends, Nottingham Forest 4, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Second Half ends, Nottingham Forest 4, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Goal! Nottingham Forest 4, West Bromwich Albion 0. Sam Surridge (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from the center of the box to the high center of the goal. Assisted by Philip Zinckernagel with a through ball.
Corner, NottinghamForest. Conceded by Matthew Clarke.
Corner, NottinghamForest. Conceded by Conor Townsend.
Offside, West Bromwich Albion. Dara O’Shea tries a through ball, but Taylor Gardner-Hickman is caught offside.
Corner, NottinghamForest. Conceded by Matthew Clarke.
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt blocked. Philip Zinckernagel (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Brennan Johnson.
Attempt saved. Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Cafu.
Attempt blocked. Jack Colback (Nottingham Forest) left footed shot from the center of the box is blocked.
Corner, NottinghamForest. Conceded by Kyle Bartley.
Substitution, Nottingham Forest. Cafu replaces Ryan Yates.
Substitution, Nottingham Forest. Richie Laryea replaces Djed Spence.
Substitution, Nottingham Forest. Steve Cook replaces Scott McKenna.
Substitution, West Bromwich Albion. Matt Phillips replaces Andy Carroll.
Foul by Jack Colback (Nottingham Forest).
Taylor Gardner-Hickman (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Philip Zinckernagel (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Ryan Yates.
Attempt missed. Ryan Yates (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by James Garner.