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Nottingham Forest survive thanks to Britt Assombalonga brace against Ipswich
Nottingham Forest secured their Sky Bet Championship status with a 3-0 home victory against Ipswich, condemning Blackburn to relegation.
Either Forest, Rovers or Birmingham were set to join Rotherham and Wigan in League One next season and the early indications were it would be the two-time European champions, who previously spent three seasons in the third tier between 2005 and 2008.
However, the nerves and tension eased at the City Ground as the afternoon progressed as two goals from Britt Assombalonga, the first from the penalty spot, either side of Chris Cohen’s strike kept Forest up on goal difference despite Blackburn winning 3-1 at Brentford.
The hosts could even afford to see a second Assombalonga spot-kick brilliantly saved by Bartosz Bialkowski.
It means Forest head into the summer on the cusp of a new era still in the Championship as Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis works on a deal to buy the club from Fawaz Al Hasawi.
Forest set about their task with gusto, putting Ipswich under pressure immediately as the visitors were forced to make a string of last-ditch tackles and blocks before Jamie Ward curled an effort just wide.
The City Ground crowd were buoyed and full of optimism as they roared on their team. However, Ipswich weathered the storm and then threatened themselves for the first time after eight minutes, with Grant Ward bringing a good save from Jordan Smith who got down well to his right to push away the shot from the edge of the penalty area.
If Forest manager Mark Warburton was hoping for some help from former club Brentford it soon became apparent it was not forthcoming as news filtered through of two early Blackburn goals. Birmingham were also ahead at Bristol City. Forest were going to have to save themselves.
The news from Griffin Park and Ashton Gate coincided with a lull in the game – and the atmosphere inside the City Ground. The early enthusiasm appeared to have been sucked from the stadium and Forest’s players were now looking nervy and struggling to get a foothold in the match, as Ipswich dominated possession.
Eric Lichaj poked a golden chance high over the crossbar just after the half hour, before perhaps the most pivotal five minutes of Forest’s season.
In the 38th minute, Smith produced a superb reaction save to push Dominic Samuel’s deflected shot against the crossbar. Then, at the other end, Lichaj’s quick throw-in caught Ipswich napping and Ward was clattered by goalkeeper Bialkowski. Forest had a penalty.
Assombalonga confidently stroked the ball high into the roof of the net to give the hosts a 43rd-minute lead. The relief was tangible. As things stood, Forest were safe by the slenderest of margins – by virtue of goals scored.
There was still time in the first half for Ipswich to provide another heart-stopping moment as Christophe Berra glanced a header inches wide from a corner.
Forest began brightly once more after half-time and Cohen’s deflected shot after 57 minutes, which flicked off the head of Jordan Spence and into the top corner of the net, sent the City Ground wild.
Suddenly Forest looked calm and assured and confident of adding to their two goals. Assombalonga had the chance to but saw his penalty brilliantly diverted over the crossbar in the 66th minute. However, he soon had his second goal of the game when he turned in the ball from close range.
The striker almost claimed a hat-trick but Bialkowski smothered his far-post volley, as news of Blackburn’s third goal filtered through. But it was irrelevant. Forest survived and they had done it in style.
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