Billy Davies maintained his unbeaten record as Nottingham Forest manager on Saturday afternoon as Henri Lansbury netted a last-gasp equaliser to earn the Reds a 2-2 draw with Brighton, writes Shaun Wheatcroft.
A first half that was dominated by a buoyant Forest side ended goalless as the visitors were left thanking goalkeeper Casper Ankergren for producing some fine saves to keep the Seagulls in the game at the City Ground.
But after the interval it was Albion who took the initiative, taking the lead through striker Leonardo Ulloa before Lewis McGugan came off the bench to equalise in style eight minutes from time.
And in a dramatic finale Will Buckley struck again to regain Brighton’s lead for what looked to be the winner - but Ankergren’s heroics were soon undone when his stoppage-time blunder allowed Lansbury’s effort to bobble into the net, meaning the Reds snatched a late point.
Billy Davies made just one change to the side that overcame Hull City 2-1 a fortnight ago, Sam Hutchinson coming in to replace Gonzalo Jara.
In his programme notes ahead of the game the Reds’ boss said he believed the international break would ‘prove to be of benefit’ to his men. And it certainly looked that way in the opening stages as his side put early pressure on the Brighton defence, in search of a seventh successive win, to equal a club record set back in 1921.
Forest came close first, when former Arsenal man Lansbury hit the target with his effort from range - producing a good stop from Ankergren to clear the ball to safety.
Hutchinson looked sharp down the right for the home side early on, and he found a neat ball over the top for Simon Cox – but his looping header was slightly misjudged and failed to dip in time to trouble Ankergren.
The Reds should have been a goal to the good with 15 minutes on the clock when a quick break through the middle left Andy Reid through on goal down the left – however, with the goal gaping, the winger could only fire off target.
Gus Poyet’s men had lost their last two away matches coming into this one against their fellow promotion hopefuls and struggled to get any real foothold in the game, with Forest producing another good spell of pressure on the half-hour mark.
Radi Majewski hit an effort towards goal that was well stopped by the stout Ankergren before the ball rebounded to Henderson who was also denied with another point-blank save from the keeper.
The first period came to an end with some controversy as Brighton midfielder Kazenga LuaLua appeared to push Hutchinson, but after speaking with his assistant the referee only produced a yellow card for the brother of the former Newcastle striker.
After the two sides emerged from the tunnel for the second half it was Brighton that looked to finally break the deadlock. Argentinean striker Ulloa found himself in space on the edge of the box but his shot skewed wide of the target.
And Brighton did open the scoring soon after, following a spell of pressure that began when a controversial free-kick was awarded to the away side. Buckley’s in-swinging corner fell loose in the box and amidst the scramble Ulloa pounced to tap home past Reds’ keeper Karl Darlow.
The south coast side gained confidence from the goal and Ulloa had another chance when he found himself in space to shoot just after the hour-mark – but his strike flew wayward.
McGugan was brought on to replace Majewski with 20 minutes remaining and his corner found Cox who could only direct the ball wide before Henderson was also thwarted by another stop from Ankergren, as Forest looked to strike back.
But super-sub McGugan did put the Reds level with just nine minutes remaining when he somehow managed to squeeze the ball into the goal from the tightest of angles wide on the right for his fourth goal in as many games.
Yet, Albion were straight back in the game in less than three minutes when winger Buckley looked to have netted the winner - scoring after finding himself with just the keeper to beat thanks to a fine ball from the in-form Ulloa.
However, the Reds were not done and equalised at the death to secure a share of the spoils. The late goal coming after Lansbury picked up the ball 25-yards from goal and unleashed a shot that should have been easy pickings for Ankergren - but the keeper fumbled it into the net.
Forest now sit in fifth position in the Championship table, one point above Brighton on 61 points. In their next outing they face a trip to Turf Moor to take on Burnley on Monday 1st April. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Hutchinson (Jara, 68), Ward, Collins, Cohen, Guedioura (Sharp, 79), Lansbury, Majewski (McGugan, 73), Reid, Cox, Henderson.
Brighton: Ankergren, Greer, Crofts, Orlandi, Calderon, Ulloa. Upson, Lopez, LuaLua (Hammond, 45), Bridge, Buckley.
Man of the match: Henri Lansbury
Referee: James Linington
Attendance: 28,124 (2,771 away supporters)