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Fulham 3-2 N Forest Cham 27 1415 Nottingham Post

last updated Friday 23rd January 2015, 5:45 PM

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Fulham (3) 3-2 (1) Nottingham Forest

Put simply, had Nottingham Forest possessed the cutting edge of Ross McCormack, this was a game they would have won.

The Fulham forward netted a first half hat-trick of impressive quality, as Stuart Pearce's side demonstrated costly defensive fragility, allowing the London club's most dangerous player the freedom of Craven Cottage.

But had Forest shown the same ruthlessness as the former Leeds player, they still might have emerged from the capital with a share of the spoils - or even three points, following a determined fightback that was every bit as good as their first 45 minutes had been bad.

Henri Lansbury had given the Reds hope with a free-kick in first half injury time and added a second goal with just over an hour gone, amid a second half that Forest had dominated every bit as much as Fulham had the first.

But Britt Assombalonga missed a flurry of opportunities, while Robert Tesche, Jack Hobbs and Michail Antonio all came close to helping Stuart Pearce's side complete a dramatic comeback in a 3-2 defeat.

Forest went into the game with an unchanged starting line-up, with both Antonio and Assombalonga having recovered from slight problems - and Pearce will have been hoping for an identical performance to the one his side produced at Derby.

The Rams had managed only one shot on target during the 90 minutes at the iPro and it took barely two minutes before Fulham matched that tally, with Dorus de Vries forced into an outstanding save to deny the home side the lead.

Fulham had already prodded and probed with a few dangerous forays into the Forest box and when McCormack cut in from the left side he was able to strike a curling right foot shot, which seemed bound for the top corner before the big Dutchman dived high to his left to flick the ball over the bar. It proved to be a warning Forest did not heed.

Forest responded as a clever back heel from Assombalonga set up Antonio for a shot, which was charged down.

But, from their next attack, the Cottagers took the lead. When Hugo Rodallega squared a simple ball across the face of the box, more than one Forest player seemed to be in a good position to cut it out, but while they hesitated McCormack did not, scooping up possession before sending a precise, crisp shot across de Vries and inside his far post, from 18 yards.

Assombalonga appealed for a penalty after Shaun Hutchinson had challenged him from behind in the box, as the striker looked to turn, with the former Peterborough man convinced he had been brought down.

Scott Parker, the former England man, then forced a save from his own keeper when he connected with an Antonio long throw at the near post, with Marcus Bettinelli reacting sharply to pounce on his header.

But again, after seeing Forest bare their teeth, Fulham bit for a second time, in almost identical fashion to the first goal.

McCormack was again given too much space and he again responded with a fine finish, sending the ball arrowing into the back of the net off the inside of the foot of the post.

With less than 20 minutes gone, it felt as though Forest had a mountain to climb.

A poor header from Konstantinos Stafylidis almost got them to base camp, however, as it gave Assombalonga a sight of goal, but keeper Bettinelli did enough to put the striker off, racing off his line to block.

And Forest still had defending of their own to do, with Kelvin Wilson producing one vital clearance at his near post after Ryan Tunnicliffe had whipped in a cross and de Vries having to race out his box to chest a bouncing ball away from Rodallega as he threatened to burst clear down the centre.

While de Vries had to make another outstanding save, diving to his left to push away a driven effort from Seko Fofana when a goal had seemed almost certain.

Forest responded by making a substitution, with Stephen McLaughlin coming on for Eric Lichaj, to slot into the left-back position. It did not seem as though the American had been carrying an injury.

Either way, the change did not stem the tide as, almost immediately, Fulham made it 3-0, through a familiar face.

McCormack enjoyed a touch of fortune as he completed his hat-trick, with his curling shot from the left side of the box taking a significant deflection, to steer it beyond de Vries and into the far corner.

It was harsh on the keeper, who had made some fine saves - but less harsh on a Forest defence who seemed incapable of denying McCormack the room to cause damage.

Forest hit back in first half injury time as a free-kick routine between Tesche and Lansbury gave Lansbury the chance to curl a lovely shot around the wall and inside the near post to give the Reds a glimmer of hope.

They also started the second half brightly, with Hobbs seeing a shot cleared off the line from a corner and Antonio forcing a smart save from Bettinelli with a looping header - and Assombalonga then leaving the keeper in a heap as he challenged ruggedly for the loose ball. Antonio blazed over the bar after Ben Osborn had carved out space for him on the edge of the box.

After Antonio had cut the ball back, Forest did make it 3-2 in the 62nd minute however, as Lansbury drove home his second of the game from just inside the box, to provide more reason for optimism. Within a minute, Assombalonga hit a shot that went just over.

And, in the 65th minute, the striker perhaps should have scored when an Antonio cross picked him out in the centre, but he could not react quick enough to steer the ball towards goal.

Forest were a revived force, with Assombalonga lifting yet another effort wide, following a swift counter. Assombalonga then flicked a header wide of the post, as he found himself with another half chance.

Antonio's pace down the left won a free-kick, with Jack Grimmer booked for a clumsy challenge - and Forest piled on yet more pressure, with Antonio firing long throw-ins into the box dangerously. One of which led to a header from Tesche, which Bettinelli looked, for a moment, to have let creep into his net, before recovering to claim.

Forest's second half display had deserved an equaliser but they were left to rue their lack of cutting edge - and the first half freedom they had granted McCormack.

Fulham: Bettinelli, Stafylidis, Hutchinson, Bodurov, Parker (Ruiz 57), Kacaniklic, Fofana, Tunnicliffe, Rodallega (Woodrow 77), Grimmer, McCormack. Subs: Kiraly, Roberts, Dembele, Williams, Burn.

Forest: de Vries, Kane, Hobbs, Wilson, Lichaj (McLaughlin 31), Lansbury, Antonio, Gardner, Tesche, Osborn, Assombalonga. Subs: Darlow, Veldwijk, Lascelles, Paterson, Vaughan, Burke.

Reds man of the match: Henri Lansbury - the midfielder stepped up to the plate to hit the back of the net twice and spark a dramatic revival from Forest, even if there was to be no equalising goal.

Referee: Andy Haines (Middlesbrough).

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