|Forest fired four past Gillingham this evening to extend their unbeaten run to eight games and climb in to third spot.
Darren Huckerby got the first two goals to set the Reds up for this emphatic 4-1 victory - which duplicated the score line from the City Ground in September - Marlon Harewood and John Thompson bagged the others.
The game stated slowly as both sides struggled with the appalling state of the pitch but the breakthrough was spectacular when it arrived on seven minutes. Jim Brennan aimed a long ball at Harewood on the edge of the Gillingham area, the defender beat him to it but the ball fell to Darren Huckerby who volleyed it into the net from 25 yards out.
Five minutes later Brennan was involved again, this time getting in a crucial block after some pressure from Gillingham forced Ward into making a fine save. Roland Edge blasted in the loose ball, but Brennan managed to throw his body in the way.
On 14 minutes, Harewood forced his way into the area. He cut the ball back for Andy Reid, who somehow managed to fire wide of the near post when he had the whole goal to aim for.
Another long ball – this time from Eoin Jess – was fired in to the Gillingham area. Huckerby’s marker was first to the ball but as he tried to clear it, he hit Huckerby, who after one touch slotted it into the bottom corner of the net.
Forest then had a good shout for a penalty as Harewood was tripped inside the area – the ref wasn’t interested though.
Gillingham went close to getting one back on 20 minutes when, after some good work from Mark Saunders, Tommy Johnson found himself in space but could only smash the ball into the side netting.
Ward was called on less than two minutes later as Paul Shaw fired in a shot from 25 yards, it took a deflection on the way in and a grateful Ward gathered it up.
The Forest defence was looking resilient and they were restricting the Gills to long-range efforts. Nyron Nosworthy tried his luck from 20 yards out but blasted it wide.
Seconds later Huckerby played Harewood in, but finding himself surrounded by blue shirts, he laid the ball off for Reid whose shot was straight at Jason Brown in the Gillingham goal.
Gillingham were at it again with their long-range efforts, this time Rod Wallace tried his luck from 20 yards out but missed the target. Then Tommy Johnson had a free kick 22 yards out which he took quickly, but the ball didn’t come down quick enough and a back-peddling Darren Ward was relieved to watch it fly over the bar.
The first half ended with a final chance for Forest as Scimeca took a clever free kick to Andy Reid on the edge of the area. Reid fired toward goal but the ball struck Harewood on the heel before hitting Nosworthy on the head and dropping into the arms of Brown.
Though Gillingham had looked good going forward, they had been poor at the back and I imagine most of Andy Hessenthaler’s half time talk would have been directed at the defence. He must have been impressed by what happened next.
Hessenthaler hadn’t even sat down for the second half when Forest got the third, only 12 seconds in. The move started at the kick off and Huckerby ran from the centre circle riding four challenges before trying his luck from the edge of the area. His shot was blocked, but the ball fell to Harewood who had run all the way with him and he made no mistake, placing the ball in the bottom corner.
Gillingham were stunned and for the next five minutes they struggled to get going. Then, on 50 minutes, Tommy Johnson fired wide from the edge of the area after some good build up work.
The game was over on 54 minutes when Harewood was fouled as he shielded the ball in the corner. Reid took the free kick and John Thompson rose to meet it, directing the ball into the far side of the net.
Forest started to drop back now and allowed Gillingham to run at them. This gave the Gills some shooting opportunities, with Wallace firing wide, Saunders heading wide and Johnson shooting straight at Darren Ward.
Darren ward then pulled off another fine save as a cleared corner was fired back in through the sea of bodies.
Harewood was still running the Gills defence ragged though, and on 77 minutes, he pulled the ball back for Bopp who blasted his shot wide.
Gillingham finally got their consolation goal in the 78th minute after more good build up play saw Rod Wallace fire in past Ward.
The last 15 minutes of the game saw more pressure from Gillingham but Forest were happy to soak it up and hit them on the break.
After the game a happy Paul Hart said: “We were bright, quick and aggressive. Our tactics were different as the pitch was a quagmire.
“Huckerby and Harewood were terrific as were all the lads.”