Bart-Williams 32, Freedman 44
Aston Villa 2
Joachim 58, 63
Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 25,753
IN HIS programme notes the Forest captain, Steve Chettle, expressed the hope that Dion Dublin's form could be made to dip to the point where he would manage only a goal a game.
Chettle and his defence did a rather better job on Dublin than that, denying him even the remotest sniff of a goal until injury time. Unfortunately, they were not as parsimonious with Julian Joachim.
Joachim, displaced by Dublin and only recalled to the starting line-up because a virus denied Stan Collymore a sentimental return to the City ground, twice capitalised on defensive uncertainties within five minutes of the second half.
Before that the league leaders, still smarting from their four goal beating by Liverpool last week, were being out-played and on their way to a second Premiership defeat. But then Lee Hendrie opened the way for Steve Watson to get a shot on goal. Although Dave Beasant got down to make the save, he could only push the ball out to the waiting Joachim and Villa were back in the match.
If that was careless, the equalising goal was positively irresponsible. Beasant came out to claim Craig Armstrong's under-powered back header from Michael Oakes' long clearance but he left the ball behind under pressure from Joachim and allowed Villa's saviour to stroll the ball into an empty net.
Although their manager, Dave Bassett, felt that both goals had a suspicious air of fouls about them, it was still a dismal way to lose a lead that had been so hard-earned.
Right from the start, despite not having won in the Premiership since August, Forest got on top of Villa in midfield and looked by far the more threatening side. This hegemony was officially blessed when Chris Bart- Williams put them ahead with his first goal of the season. Their attack appeared to have broken down on the edge of the penalty area, but the admirable Nigel Quashie picked up the loose pieces and Dougie Freedman fed them on to Bart-Williams, who beat Oakes from an angle.
Two minutes before half- time Forest took what should have been a match- winning lead. Their current problem child, Pierre Van Hooijdonk, had only flitted in and out of the first half, but it was his pass which invited Freedman to turn and shoot in one sweeping movement for a terrific second goal.
Forest could have been three up at the start of the second half if Watson had not blocked Quashie's shot. Freedman then had a wonderful chance to put it beyond doubt when sent away by Quashie's precise pass eight minutes later. But he delayed too long and then shot tamely past the far post. Retribution in the shape of Villa's goals was not long in coming, and indeed larceny nearly occured. In the 91st minute Dublin finally got free of his markers, met Alan Wright's cross a couple of yards from an empty net, only to slice wide like a man who had never scored a Premiership goal.
It is too early to talk of bubbles bursting, but Villa looked anything but title material in Nottingham.