Forest 2-1 Wednesday
The City Ground, Nottingham
06/02/10 - 3pm
DEXTER Blackstock hit a brace as unlucky Wednesday went down to a 2-1 defeat against promotion-hunting Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday.
The former Southampton striker converted a controversial first-half penalty, given for a handball against Owls' defender Darren Purse, before firing in the winner late on after Luke Varney had levelled for Alan Irvine's men.
The defeat still leaves Wednesday in the thick of relegation trouble but Irvine and the travelling Wednesdayites will be able to take plenty from the performance against the Championship's in-form side.
Irvine made just one change to the side that beat Plymouth last time out with Frank Simek making a welcome return at right-back in place of the injured Lewis Buxton, who's out sidelined for four weeks.
Wednesday were always underdogs going into the game, and although Forest lost their first game in 20 at rivals Derby County last time out, that defeat only acted as a wake-up call for a Forest side gunning for a return to the Premier League this season.
Irvine already enjoyed a victory over Forest boss Billy Davies going into the game after bagging the Manager of the Month award for the month of January in the Championship.
But, as everyone is aware, the accolade isn't always a welcome one, with the dreaded 'curse' of the award often making an impact in the following match.
It was more of same at the City Ground, although that would be taking something away from a Forest side packed full of talent thanks to a big spending budget.
It was the Owls that made a bright start to the game and Luke Varney was the first to test Forest stopper Lee Camp, but with no real threat to the home goal.
Wednesday were looking organised all over the pitch, something which Irvine has highlighted as room for improvement since his appointment as manager, and chances were rare at both ends.
That was until midway through the first-half when Forest took the lead in controversial circumstances.
Blackstock struck an effort against Owls skipper Darren Purse, and the referee deemed it to be against his arm, pointing to the spot.
Blackstock duly stepped up and tucked the ball away for the opener after Wednesday players had surrounded the referee to question his decision.
It was a blow to a Wednesday side that, although not testing Camp much, had started in determined fashion and had somewhat silenced the home support after an even opening.
It was now all to do for the visitors, and the goal gave Forest a significant confidence boost, settling them into their stride.
Chances fell to both Robert Earnshaw and Nathan Tyson as Forest upped their game, but the Owls defence kept firm to keep the visitors in the game until the break.
Half-Time: Forest 1-0 Wednesday
The start to the second half was key if Wednesday wanted to get anything from the game, and they made a bright start, taking the game to their hosts.
Chances were few and far between, as throughout the contest, but the Owls came close to finding the back of the net through a Darren Potter free-kick.
The midfielder stepped up and sent an effort which deflected off the Forest wall and looped onto the crossbar and to safety to the relief of Camp, who had no chance of keeping the effort out.
It was the best effort of the second half to date and an effort which visibly lifted the Owls, and their 4,000-plus strong travelling support.
If anything, the hosts were looking anything-but comfortable on their lead, letting Wednesday back in to the contest and not really troubling Lee Grant at the other end.
A second would have no doubt killed the game, but despite Forest's numerous attacking options, the Owls defence were looking comfortable.
Irvine looked to changed the game with the introduction of Etienne Esajas and Leon Clarke from the bench, and it worked.
Esajas sent a low, powerful shot across the goal which the Forest defence failed to deal with and Luke Varney was well-positioned to drill home the leveller on 73 minutes.
It should have given the visitors something to show for their efforts.
But as Wednesday had the momentum, and if anything looked the more likely to grab the winner, it was Forest who carved out the best chance and gladly took it to regain the lead with just over ten minutes remaining.
Chris Cohen's deep free-kick saw Grant alert to a Blackstock effort, but the Owls' stopper had no reply to the former Southampton striker's second effort which found the back of the net.
It was enough to give Forest the win, and although Wednesday will no doubt be disappointed with the defeat, they can take plenty of positives from the performance.
Full-Time: Forest 2-1 Wednesday