Ben Watson’s first goal for Nottingham Forest – his first in more than three years – was enough to help Sabri Lamouchi’s side extend their unbeaten run to nine games with a narrow 1-0 win over Barnsley at the City Ground.
The veteran midfielder swept home early in the second half to break the resolve of a young Tykes side who have now gone eight games without a win – but were slightly unlucky not to take a point from this Sky Bet Championship contest.
Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba had to make three big saves to hold Daniel Stendel’s Barnsley at bay, even amid a game in which the Reds were on top for long spells.
Three points were enough to lift Forest into the top six – and to leave Barnsley stranded in the relegation zone.
The first chance of the game fell Forest’s way, with Joao Carvalho cutting a dangerous ball back into the box from the left – but Lewis Grabban’s first-time shot was poorly struck and Brad Collins was able to pounce on the ball simply.
Joe Worrall sent an awkward volley over the bar when the home side threatened with a free-kick delivery into the box.
Forest should have taken the lead in the 26th minute when a fine ball from Ben Watson sent Grabban racing clear down the middle. But the striker’s touch took him slightly wide as he sprinted into the box and, when he shot, he clipped his effort wide of the upright, as Collins rushed off his line.
Joe Lolley sent a spectacular volley well wide, following a Yuri Ribeiro cross, then Collins had to get a sliding challenge absolutely right when he raced out of his box to deny Grabban.
Forest won a flurry of five corners in quick succession but could not make them count – and Barnsley almost took the lead late in the first half, with their first meaningful attack, as Brice Samba brilliantly kept out a driven effort from Luke Thomas, following a rapier counter-attack from the visitors.
Former Forest man Dani Pinillos was denied by another smart save from Samba, at his near post, as Barnsley started the second half brightly.
The home side made the decisive breakthrough in the 56th minute, as Matty Cash found space on the right side of the penalty area to deliver a perfect ball into the centre for Watson, who applied the kind of confident first time finish that belied the fact that it was his first goal since April 2016.
Forest came close again as a Lolley shot took a wicked deflection, carrying it just wide.
But Samba had to make another big save to preserve the Reds’ lead, denying Thomas for a second time in the game.
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P