Bent and Fahey cut through Forest

Birmingham City 2 Nottingham Forest 0
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Birmingham's form has been so patchy of late that this was only their third win in 10 games but it was still enough to take them back into the automatic promotion places in the Championship, three points behind leaders Wolverhampton with a game in hand.

A depleted and inexperienced Nottingham Forest resisted for more than an hour but succumbed as goals by Marcus Bent and Keith Fahey gave manager Alex McLeish an opportunity to congratulate himself on the wisdom of his team selection. In his only changes, McLeish recalled under-fire striker Bent after a five-game absence and gave Fahey only his second start since joining the club in November. "If you don't get the result you're a dud but if it comes off you're a great manager," McLeish observed.

Forest manager Billy Davies felt his side might have been two-nil up at half-time had they not "lacked a ruthless streak", but Birmingham could make similar claims and with greater justification, forcing the Forest goalkeeper, Paul Smith, into three saves and going close with three other attempts.

Kevin Phillips was the first to test Smith, and even though he limped off with a tweaked hamstring after 31 minutes, a header by Liam Ridgewell and a free kick from Seb Larsson provided more work for the visiting goalkeeper. Nathan Tyson, not helped by a rutted pitch, blasted wide from an early Forest opening and then set up James Perch for a chance that needed no more than a touch but otherwise Birmingham called the shots.

Their breakthrough came after 62 minutes when Kelvin Wilson failed to clear full-back David Murphy's tricky low cross and Bent pounced to score only his third goal of the season.

Fahey – a former Arsenal and Aston Villa trainee who joined Birmingham from Irish club St Patrick's Athletic for £300,000 in November – confirmed the victory 15 minutes from time with what looked every inch a deliberate chip over the head of Smith from a narrow angle on the left but which Davies dismissed as "a complete fluke" and even McLeish suspected was intended as a cross.