Steve Cooper’s second game in charge of Nottingham Forest saw a rampant side put three past Barnsley at Oakwell. Despite going a goal down, the Reds were a side transformed and turned the game around in the second-half. Francis Moore reports
Nottingham Forest travelled to Barnsley hoping to extend their unbeaten run to three, whilst the hosts were chasing their first win in seven games.
Steve Cooper’s second Forest line-up came with a bit of a surprise, with a fluid front three of Joe Lolley, Phillip Zinckernagel and Brennan Johnson starting up top.
In the early stages Forest came close to opening the scoring — Johnson played an excellent ball into the box but the Barnsley keeper, Bradley Collins, was first to it.
Another chance fell Lolley’s way shortly after a Barnsley mistake. The winger took aim 35 yards out — with Collins nowhere near the goal — but his effort sailed well wide.
Barnsley were gifted an early penalty, after a needless foul from Tobias Figueiredo on Cauley Woodrow, which gave Geoff Eltringham no choice but to point to the spot. The Tykes striker sent Brice Samba the wrong way, and gave the hosts the lead inside 20 minutes.
The Reds still looked dangerous on the counter, but they were unable to find that final pass into the box. Forest soon broke quickly again, with Ryan Yates playing a fantastic ball forward to Djed Spence, who pulled the ball across for Lolley but it was cleared for a corner by Liam Kitching.
Cooper’s side were quickly becoming the side on top. Scott McKenna opened up the Barnsley backline with a pass through to Lolley — but the winger’s effort failed to hit the target.
The choice of a front three seemed to be playing to Forest’s advantage. The trio were each playing off the last man, using their pace to get in behind.
Forest went into half-time undeservedly a goal down. The Reds’ plan to get in behind was working, but there was a clear struggle to test the Barnsley keeper; definitely work needed on the final ball.
It wasn’t the best start for Forest in the second-half as some sloppy passes at the back resulted in Woodrow having a shot in goal, but Samba was on hand to prevent the Tykes from extending the lead.
The hosts really came back out as the better of the two sides, penning Forest into their own half and not allowing them to transition through midfield.
The Reds were trying to play out from the back, but were struggling to do so at times with Samba often failing to play the ball to his defenders.
Cooper changed system on the hour mark, as Figueiredo made way for Lewis Grabban, switching to four at the back. And Forest were finally level soon after. Grabban played Johnson through on goal who selflessly squared the ball to Zinckernagel who couldn’t miss from 10 yards out.
Within 10 minutes this game has turned on its head, as Forest grabbed a second goal. A quick throw from Samba allowed Forest to break, Zinckernagel played Johnson through and he converted past Collins; his second of the season.
The game was over in the 82nd minute as Forest added a third, Alex Mighten did well to beat his man before pulling the ball across the box for Grabban, who tapped home into an empty net.
Barnsley came close to grabbing a consolation game in the final minutes, but Samba was able to push Leya Iseka’s header wide for a corner.
In the end it was a comfortable win for Forest, who came from behind to win 3-1, a fantastic performance for the Reds who are now unbeaten in three and are finally out of the relegation zone.
It was a breath of fresh air to see Cooper’s team getting forward so well. Their exciting, counter-attacking football wreaked havoc on the Barnsley backline and started to pay dividends in the second-half.
Johnson continued his excellent start to the season and was probably the best player on the pitch. Grabban also made a positive impact after coming on, but despite grabbing the third goal it wouldn’t surprise me to see Zinckernagel, Lolley and Johnson starting again on Saturday.
Had Figueiredo not committed the foul in the first-half this would have been the perfect performance from Forest, who really outclassed their opponents tonight. It’s been a very positive start for Cooper, and he’ll hope for another three points on Saturday — Birmingham City, after their bright start to the season, have failed to take the lead in their previous four games.