Radoslaw Majeswki’s first-minute strike was enough to earn Nottingham Forest a 1-0 win over Mansfield Town at One Call Stadium.
On a sun-drenched afternoon in North Nottinghamshire, Billy Davies’ side made the perfect start as they opened the scoring inside 60 seconds.
Matt Derbyshire slipped an intelligent pass through to Majewski, who saw his 25-yard strike creep between the legs of Alan Marriott.
Marriott, however, atoned for his early error with a brilliant save from Derbyshire’s point-blank header following Stephen McLaughlin’s right-wing cross.
Derbyshire was again denied by Marriott prior to the midway point in the first period – a low shot from distance being comfortably held by the Stags custodian.
The talented Derbyshire was the chief tormentor for Paul Cox’s side, and was involved in another free-flowing move which almost saw Forest double their lead on 24 minutes.
A clever one-two with McLaughlin allowed him to whip a high ball towards the back-post, from where Majewski blazed narrowly over the woodwork.
The Stags had to wait over half-an-hour for their first opening, which saw Lee Stevenson put the ball in the net after Sam Clucas’ lobbed pass, but the strike was ruled out for offside.
Clucas then speculatively blazed wide on 36 minutes, before the lively Derbyshire did likewise at the other end as the Championship side continued to dictate play.
Prior to the break, burly frontman Matt Rhead also came close with an acrobatic attempt that flew just inches wide of Karl Darlow’s left-hand post.
The Stags made four changes at the interval with Louis Briscoe amongst those to be introduced and the winger almost made an immediate impact.
Briscoe’s right-sided cross was sliced wide by Greg Halford, before Antony Howell was narrowly off-target with a powerful header from James Jennings’ corner.
Following more good work by Briscoe, substitute Jake Speight also saw an effort saved by Darlow as The Stags attacked with real venom.
However, Forest still looked dangerous on the counter-attack and after McLaughlin saw a near-post attempt saved by Marriott, team-mate Derbyshire fired well over.
As the hour mark passed, Mansfield were enjoying much more possession, but the visitors still looked just as dangerous on the counter-attack.
But it was The Stags who had the next chance as Clucas’ saw his bullet header expertly tipped over by a full-stretch Darlow following Briscoe’s sublime long cross.
From the resulting corner, Briscoe’s 30-yard thunderbolt through a crowded area was somehow beaten away by Darlow, before Forest eventually cleared the danger.
After a lengthy period of little goalmouth action, Briscoe came even closer with a swerving strike that had the visiting ‘keeper beaten, but crashed against the woodwork.
Ryan Tafazolli glanced a header wide from a Paul Black set-piece on 85 minutes, and it proved to be the last chance as the Championship side came out on top.
Attendance: 3,993 (1,482 away supporters).