Nottingham Forest’s Hudson-Odoi and Gibbs-White give Fulham both barrels

Nottingham Forest’s best opening 45 minutes of the season proved sufficient for Nuno Espírito Santo’s team to climb three points clear of the relegation zone as Morgan Gibbs-White, making one goal and scoring another, gave them a winning platform.

In between, Chris Wood struck for a third successive game to resuscitate a season that appeared in danger of spiralling out of Forest’s control after the four-point penalty for falling foul of the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules.

Forest may be appealing against that ruling but their best bet is to keep performing like this. They blew ­Fulham out of the water in that opening period, meaning Tosin Adarabioyo’s goal early in the second half provided tension but no detriment.

Fulham were awful in the first half, the epitome of a mid-table team with no relegation fears and, on this ­evidence, no European ambitions.

Forest could not have asked for a better start. Two goals to the good within 20 minutes, news incoming that Everton were a goal down at Newcastle, they embarrassed Fulham into making three substitutions.

Callum Hudson-Odoi initiated this blitz. As so often, Gibbs-White was instrumental, this his 10th goal involvement of the season. He turned Palhinha inside out in the centre-circle before sending Hudson-Odoi away with a perfectly paced through ball. The former Chelsea winger used his speed before holding up, cutting back inside Kenny Tete and drilling in his fourth goal in his last nine league games with a low right-footed shot.

Hudson-Odoi should have made it two, allowing Bernd Leno to save after being put in by Gibbs-White, before Wood did so. Receiving ­Murillo’s ball to feet, the centre-­forward turned with ease before shooting early from 25 yards. Presumably, Leno was unsighted, as the keeper barely moved as Wood’s shot found his bottom-right corner.

After Anthony Elanga rushed in to receive Gibbs-White’s return pass and shot against the far post, Marco Silva decided he had seen enough. He withdrew Harry Wilson, Alex Iwobi and Sasa Lukic, sending on Adama Traoré, Willian and Tom Cairney. The impression was he could have replaced several more if he could have done.

Only Sheffield United have fewer than Fulham’s two away wins and, despite the European places being only five points off at kick-off, the beach looked a preferred destination for the visitors’ players. They had a spell of possession but, in the last seconds of first-half stoppage time, Gibbs-White struck the third.

Danilo, reintroduced into the midfield engine room as a more creative pivot than Ibrahim Sangaré, surged at the Fulham back line before slipping the ball left to Gibbs-White, who took a composed touch before ­slotting home.

Forest fans were scratching their heads to remember if their team had ever been 3-0 up at half-time in the Premier League. But they did not need to concern themselves with such luxurious notions for long as Fulham came out after the break with a gusto that might served a purpose at the first kick-off.

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Nottingham Forest’s substitute goalkeeper Matt Turner is booked by Michael Oliver. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Within four minutes, it was 3-1. Andreas Pereira’s corner was met by Adarabioyo, who headed on beyond Matz Sels’ dive into the far corner. Suddenly, notwithstanding the two-goal buffer, it was game on. With the rain pouring down, the ­tension was back. Matt Turner, Forest’s ­substitute goalkeeper, was cautioned for ­disputing a decision; once Michael ­Oliver’s back was turned, he took the ­opportunity to wave his arms to wind up the crowd even more.

The intensity was returning with a vengeance, the second half a series of traded attacks. When Neco ­Williams came back inside on to his left foot, he was unlucky to see his shot deflect off Cairney on to the bar; from the rebound, Danilo’s firecracker ­ricocheted off Wood.

At the other end, Adarabioyo had one header tipped aside superbly by Sels and another rebound off the underside of the bar. There was a sense at this stage that Fulham could still steal something from this game; only Brentford had dropped more points than Forest’s 28 in the Premier League this season. Thankfully for a relieved City Ground, this time they hung on.

The Guardian