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Fulham 3-2 Notts Forest Cham 31 1617 - Nottingham Post

last updated Wednesday 15th February 2017, 10:08 AM

Nottingham Post
Sarah Clapson at Nottingham Post

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

This was no Valentine's Day massacre. That took place a few days early. Instead, this was a simple heartbreaker.

Nottingham Forest twice put themselves in a good position to claim a result at Fulham. At one stage, it looked like they would go on to win comfortably.

As it is, they are left to reflect on a 3-2 defeat; the Reds players left looking crestfallen at the final whistle.

Pajtim Kasami had set them on their way, only for the Cottagers to turn it around by the break, with goals from Tom Cairney and Lucas Piazon.

Ben Brereton seemed to then have come to the rescue for his side again, only for substitute Neeskens Kebano to win it for the hosts and leave boss Gary Brazil to contemplate successive away defeats.

Injury, suspension and, perhaps, the desire to alter a team which fell 5-1 at Carrow Road on Saturday, saw Brazil overhaul his line-up for this game.

He made six changes in all, including dropping forwards Britt Assombalonga and Zach Clough to the bench in favour of a new-look strike duo; Ross McCormack making his full debut and teenager Brereton being recalled to the side.

It was a team selection which raised eyebrows. Not least the inclusion of Kasami – a man who had not featured since January 2.

But with little more than two minutes on the clock, it was he who had the travelling fans rising from their seats.

Forest were quick out of the starting blocks. Too quick for Fulham, who barely had time to organise themselves at the back.

Matty Cash had already dragged an effort wide within the first minute, before good work by Daniel Pinillos kept the pressure on. A loose ball then fell to Kasami on the edge of the area, and he lashed a superb half-volley into the far top corner, beyond the dive of David Button to give his side the advantage.

The midfielder did not celebrate against his former club, but the Reds supporters more than made up for that.

The visitors were good value for their lead, too. Bright in attack, they caused a hesitant Fulham defence no end of problems in the opening 25 minutes.

Brereton and McCormack harried the back line, and almost capitalised on some loose passes.

And Kasami looked the sharpest he has done since arriving at the City Ground in the summer.

It could have been 2-0 with 18 minutes gone. A terrible ball from Button went straight to Ben Osborn, who, noting the goalkeeper off his line, attempted a lob from about 35 yards. Button somehow got back to save it.

It was almost a mirror image of Saturday's horror show at Norwich – only this time, the Cottagers were the ones all at sea at the back, and Forest were all over them in attack.

How quickly that changed.

Brazil's men could not make the most of their dominance and paid the price; reverting to the kind of defending which reared its head in East Anglia.

Ryan Sessegnon twice drew Vladimir Stojkovic into action as the hosts upped the ante, then Sone Aluko fired over.

An equaliser looked like it was coming, and it duly arrived in the 31st minute.

Good play down the left saw Sessegnon pull the ball back for Cairney, who swept home with ease.

And if that was a little too easy, Fulham near enough walked in the second just two minutes later.

Piazon left Pinillos and Jack Hobbs for dead as he waltzed past them before coolly slotting beyond Stojkovic.

An Aluko strike was deflected behind soon after as the first period threatened to look a little too much like Saturday's.

Still, the second half began much like the first – with a quick Forest goal.

Danny Fox whipped in an inviting ball from the left and Brereton got on the end of it with a brilliant header to make it 2-2, two minutes after the restart.

Game on.

Fox and Brereton tried to link up again a few minutes later, but a through-ball by the former was just out of reach of the young striker.

Caught cold early on, the home side once again tried to summon a response; Aluko managing to wriggle his way through as he honed in on goal, but the resulting effort was blocked.

The visitors had a couple of decent opportunities of their own to retake the lead.

First, Brereton couldn't quite control a McCormack cross to get a shot away, and then Kasami could only find the side-netting after the Reds passed the ball around the box.

Still, this game looked like it wasn't done yet. And as the final 20 minutes neared, it was still very much in the balance.

Stojkovic spilled an angled strike from Sessegnon before gathering at the second attempt, and McCormack sent a free-kick sailing over the bar at the other end of the pitch.

Then came the sucker-punch.

Having worked so hard to get themselves back into the match, Forest found themselves trailing once more.

Stojkovic came in an attempt to collect a ball in; he didn't, Kebano beat him to it and found the back of the net in the 72nd minute.

With little more than 10 minutes to go, Brazil added Clough to the attack, with Kasami and Aaron Tshibola making way for the forward and David Vaughan.

And he then went for broke as time ticked further down; Assombalonga also joining the fray, in place of Pinillos.

The Reds pressed in the closing stages, trying to give at least one of that forward quartet a chance.

They worked the ball well, passing it around – leaving themselves vulnerable to conceding a fourth in the process.

But despite having the full force of Forest's attacking arsenal bearing down on them, Fulham held firm to clinch the win as the Reds' troubles on their travels continued.

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