Coming away from the Hawthorns, on a wet and windy night, with a point would’ve felt like a good result before kick-off — and it felt like a good result at the final whistle. A solid performance while holding the team sat in third place in the Championship at home. But there was a feeling the Reds could’ve taken all three points — and Steve Cooper clearly felt more disappointment than relief at the end.
There were four changes for Forest from the team that drew 1-1 against Luton Town on Tuesday — with Jack Colback’s suspension and Max Lowe out until the New Year with injury, Gaëtan Bong made his first start of the season while Ryan Yates returned after suspension and Lewis Grabban replaced Lyle Taylor up front.
West Bromwich Albion had been somewhat out of form — although unbeaten in nine at home — while the Reds were yet to beat a team in the top seven places this season. With the formations matched in 3-4-3, the first half reflected the difficulty in scoring both sides have had of late.
The Baggies penned Forest back in the early stages, breaking quickly in the fifth minute with a shot blocked and a shot well wide. Conor Townsend was attacking down their left, linking well with Callum Robinson.
Matthew Clarke was booked after 10 minutes for tripping Brennan Johnson down the right, as Forest began to find some space in the game. Grabban was proving his worth against West Brom’s centre-backs, holding the ball and trying to bring the midfielders into play.
But while the home side continued to have the upper hand, and the visitors looked to play on the break, they were guilty of being sloppy in possession at times — particularly as Forest pressed and harried them.
Tobias Figueiredo was booked after 16 minutes for a crunching challenge on Robinson, just before Brice Samba saved from Grady Diangana as he cut in on his left foot inside the box, and Scott McKenna cleared.
It was a disjointed first half-hour for Forest — who definitely seemed to be missing Colback in midfield and the assurance of Lowe on the left — as they sat too deep to bring their game to West Brom.
The half finished in a similar fashion, with the Baggies looking unlikely to score despite 10 attempts on goal — just the one on target — while the Reds remained solid at the back despite lack of scoring opportunities. With 50/50 possession, and both sides containing each other, it was not an impressive half for either side.
There was a much more attacking start to the second half from Forest, committing more numbers, with Cooper’s half-time talk clearly having an effect. Worrall began to push up further, Yates snapped at heels and James Garner increasingly looked like the player we know he is.
Forest’s front three were pressing higher and creating more space in midfield by keeping the West Brom defence in their own half. It was end to end stuff now, with the Reds looking much more like themselves — although the final pass for both sides was still lacking.
Jayson Molumby was booked for a rugby tackle on Garner, and as Joe Lolley came on for Philip Zinckernagel after 65 minutes the balance began to shift. A few minutes later Yates passed to Lolley who released Johnson on the break, and the Welshman forced a save as he shot from just inside the area.
Molumby was then sent off for a second yellow — a harsh tackle on Lolley — and Cooper brought Alex Mighten on for Figueiredo as the away side sought to take advantage with a switch to a back four.
Forest searched for a goal in the last 15 minutes, with Grabban shooting from a Mighten pass and then headers from corners going wide and over the bar. The Reds were commanding the game, as they often fail to do against 10 men, but were unable to break West Brom down.
Jordan Hugill missed a golden chance in added time, after a high ball dropped to him in the area, and the home side almost snatched all three points. And then Worrall’s looping ball into Grabban was just inches away from connecting.
It was a good point, with West Brom remaining unbeaten at home, but despite the strong finish there was definitely a sense that Forest could’ve nicked a goal given their dominance. Worrall quite rightly received the man of the match award, his imperious performance in defence and driving forwards was one of his best this season.
With just one defeat in 12 games for Cooper it’s still a very strong record for the new manager, but he knows some goals and some wins are important to get momentum going again.
He said: “It was an average game, I thought we were average at best particularly in the first half. We’ve got to play with more belief, we’ve got to play with more intensity, got to be braver on the ball, got to make more passes and take the game to the opposition.
“I never really that felt we were ever under any threat. They had some good moments, but we’re a better team than that. We played better in the second half, played a lot higher up the pitch, made some more passes and looked a bit more threatening, but I’m disappointed really.
“I said to them at half-time that we needed to play with the ball, make passes, switch play and move it around. If you do that, then spaces would arrive so we could go and be the team that we can be with our attacking threat. We just didn’t do it well enough.”