LUKE BECKETT staked his claim for a recall to the starting line-up for Saturday’s trip to Port Vale in the best possible fashion.
The 31-year old striker’s textbook header 11 minutes from time, coupled with teenager Lewis Nightingale’s first goal for the reserves, ensured Town’s second string ran out 2-0 winners over top of the table Nottingham Forest.
Victory ended Forest’s 18-match unbeaten run in the Pontin’s Holidays League Central Division and the goals were the first at the Galpharm in seven matches at reserve team level.
Tom Clarke continued on the comeback trail with a commanding display at the heart of the Town defence alongside Frank Sinclair.
Clarke nullified the threat of the dangerous Will Hoskins and restricted the on-loan Watford front-man to just the one opportunity all game.
Hoskins mustered the first clear-cut opportunity of the match in the 37th minute finding space in the penalty area but couldn’t angle his shot past Alex Smithies in the Town net.
Sinclair was substituted two minutes before half-time and was replaced by first-year scholar Spencer Harris.
Joe Skarz revelled in his central midfield role and almost capped off a fine display with a goal. The customary left-back rose to meet Malvin Kamara’s deep cross but couldn’t beat the 38-year-old goalkeeping coach Barry Richardson in the Forest goal.
The visitors should have taken the lead in the 51st minute when Mark Byrne’s free-kick was headed towards goal by Hamza Bencherif which forced Smithies to parry straight into the path of Matt Thornhill who crashed his effort against the crossbar.
Six minutes later Town came equally close to breaking the deadlock when Lucas Akins’ left foot half-volley from the left corner of the penalty area cannoned back off the woodwork when it looked destined for the back of the net.
Tom Clarke almost gifted the visitors the lead when his short back-pass to Smithies presented Felix Bastians a clear run on goal, but captain Aaron Hardy got across to block the left winger’s effort.
With the game seemingly petering out into a goalless draw, Beckett pounced to head home Danny Racchi’s right wing cross into the top right-hand corner of the net and send a defiant message to caretaker manager Gerry Murphy.
With two minutes remaining impressive substitute Nightingale sealed victory getting on the end of a Danny Schofield cross following a mazy dribble from the tricky midfielder.
A crowd of 145 witnessed a fine display from Town’s second string including Martin Allen and Forest first team manager Colin Calderwood.
Town – Smithies, Racchi, Skarz, Hardy, Sinclair (Harris 43), Clarke, Kamara, Bailey (Nightingale 67), Beckett, Akins, Schofield. Subs not used: Roberts, Eastwood, Codman.