A solid 3,000+ Forest fans made the short trip to Burton-upon-Trent to watch the fourth game of the Reds’ pre-season. Steve Cooper fielded Harry Toffolo just hours after being announced as his ninth summer signing (with fellow Huddersfield Town arrival Lewis O’Brien following suit), in a strong initial XI.
Having lost to East Midland rivals Derby County four days earlier, it was the visitors who got things started. Two minutes in, Neco Williams played a ball from the right wing into Taiwo Awoniyi’s feet who spun away from his man and got a shot away on his weak foot, but failed to beat the goalkeeper Rune Jarstein from 12 yards out.
The Reds dominated the early exchanges and got a goal to show for it after just seven minutes. A free-kick deep in the Berlin half was played to Williams on the right wing by Brennan Johnson. Williams sent an inviting ball to the back post on his weaker left foot towards the head of Scott McKenna. The Scot headed square across goal where Lyle Taylor was waiting for a tap-in to give Forest an early lead.
A feature of the game was the transitions. Forest were able to turn defence into attack with a few one- and two-touch passes to get beyond the defence and send striker Awoniyi and Taylor through on goal. In the opening stages, both teams pressed the other very effectively, full of energy and drive making for an entertaining watch.
On 20 minutes, this quick transition paid dividends. After Colback gave the ball away, the ball ended up in Dean Henderson’s arms. The Manchester United loanee bowled the ball quickly out to the right-hand side. Williams played a ball down the right channel for Awoniyi to chase but it looked like keeper Jarstein would win the race. He did but fumbled, with the ball dropping kindly for Taylor on the right wing. From a tight angle, he was able to curl into an empty net to double the lead and his goal tally.
Henderson was called into action when, halfway into the half, tricky winger Derry Scherant danced inside Joe Worrall on the left wing and got a shot away towards the top right corner from just inside the area. Henderson was at full stretch to deny the German, tipping over his crossbar.
A free-kick from the left wing from Marvin Plattenhardt was met by Lucas Tousard six yards out but he failed to convert as he skied it over the bar with five minutes until the break.
Just before the break, danger man Scherant bagged the visitors a goal as another Plattenhardt free-kick from the left wing was taken this time towards the back post. Six-foot Scherant shrugged off Williams to head past Henderson as the half-time whistle followed five minutes later.
The second half was much less eventful with Hertha Berlin not being very ‘friendly’ as many late challenges and dirty fouls tested the referee.
With an hour played, all 10 outfield players were replaced as Cooper gave some younger players a run out, alongside Steve Cook and Guilian Biancone. The loudest cheer of the night came from a crowd full of beans, amused by the substitution sponsors Doggy Day Care.
Sixteen minutes after the changes, a free-kick left of centre and 25 yards out was delivered to the back post by Billy Fewster. This was met by left wing-back Aaron Donnelly who couldn’t beat the keeper from a tight angle.
In the 82nd minute, a Berlin free-kick from the left corner failed to be cleared by the Reds when the ball ricocheted into the path of Linus Getcher on the volley, who completely missed the target from close range.
Forest punished that miss just minutes later as Oli Hammond threaded the ball through to Donnelly who was jetting down the left wing. His ball found no one in Red, however, ‘old lady’ defender Lukas Ullrich was caught in two minds and ended up neatly slotting into his own net.
That would do as Forest bagged their second pre-season win at the Pirelli Stadium, with valuable minutes in the bank and momentum gained.
Henderson: Top quality distribution which started many attacks. Made a couple of good saves and looked assured at the easy stuff as he commanded his penalty area. 8/10
Worrall: Seemed to lack pace and look shaky in places. However, made a couple of important blocks and was always vocal as the captain. 7/10
Niakhate: Articulated like a leader and played like a warrior. He always wanted to be involved and read the game well, making some neat interceptions while winning his many headers. Knew when to hold off and when to go in for the tackle as he was also comfortable on the ball. 8.5/10
McKenna: Did what he does. Went largely unnoticed but positional play was outstanding as no real attacks came down his and Toffolo’s side. Strong when needed to be and picked out some good passes. 7.5/10
Williams: Very tidy full-back performance. Made excellent runs down the wing and knew when to go forward. Looked very assured with his left foot, where he assisted the assist for the first goal. Could maybe have been stronger to defend Scherant’s header. 8/10
Cafu: Linked the defence and attack brilliantly. Always available wanting the ball and made some good recoveries. A classic midfielder’s performance with a bit of skill and flair as always from the Portuguese. 8.5/10
Colback: Failed to have much of an impact on the game and looked a bit lightweight at times as he returned to the Reds’ midfield. He battled hard nonetheless. 6.5/10
Toffolo: A solid debut from the wing-back. Not heavily involved but kept out the threat on his wing and got in once down the left wing but his cross didn’t find anyone in Red. Provided width very well. 7/10
Johnson: deployed in the number 10 role where he struggled to get on the ball. Made some excellent through balls when he did get on the ball and only managed a couple of sprints down the wings. Was also on set pieces where his delivery was inconsistent, but no howlers. 7/10
Awoyini: Had a good turn of pace. Looked very strong and held the ball up well. Didn’t get a clear-cut chance to show his finishing ability but ran the channels effectively. 7.5/10
Taylor: In the right place at the right time twice to ultimately win the game for Forest. Linked up well with the midfield but struggled to win aerial duels against his German counterparts. 8/10
Second XI: Youngsters caught out by the pace of the game at times but some neat play in the midfield and a controlling performance from Braian Ojeda pulling the strings. Solid defensive displays from Loic Mbe Soh and Biancone and great attacking play from Donnelly down the left.