A first visit to the Amex in five years for Nottingham Forest, as they arrived on the south coast desperate for points in the hunt for survival. Steve Cooper made three changes from his team’s defeat at Molineux last weekend, with Serge Aurier, Jesse Lingard and Orel Mangala brought in, and Neco Williams switched to left-back. New Seagulls boss Roberto De Zerbi was looking for his first victory as manager, as they looked for their first win since beating Leicester 5-2 in early September.
From the start, Brighton’s intent to keep the ball became clear, as they’d go on to have 70% possession in the match. Forest’s only real threat was through Brennan Johnson — playing as the striker for the night — feeding on scraps but failing to get away from centre-half Lewis Dunk on many occasions.
Leandro Trossard has been Brighton’s star man all season, and he had the first half’s best chances. Firstly, with 12 minutes gone Solly March delivered from the right wing and Trossard collected on the edge of the box. From the left, the Belgian curled towards goal but saw his effort neatly tipped over by Dean Henderson.
After a frustrating half hour from the hosts, they had a flurry of chances just after 30 minutes. Trossard was involved again, this time receiving the ball from a blocked Danny Welbeck shot and bending towards the far corner from the left of the box. Unluckily for him, his attempt bounced off the bar and over.
Forest then gave the ball away from two following goal kicks, being quickly pounced on by the Seagulls, but attempts from March and Lallana couldn’t be converted from close range. Lallana particularly should have scored, with a header from six yards out dropping wide.
Just before the break, Adam Webster missed a chance 10 yards out, sliding with Ryan Yates to get there first, but smashing Pascal Groß’s cross over the crossbar.
The Reds grew into the half but failed to have a shot on goal in the opening 45, but a foundation to build on nonetheless, despite Brighton’s intense passing and pressing football.
Welbeck will be annoyed he failed to bag a goal, as he had the second-half’s first opportunity. With three minutes of it played, a Groß corner landed on his boot but he couldn’t get a good enough strike on the ball, finding an alert Henderson to clear. Three minutes later, he rose to meet a cross from Joel Veltman, but headed wide of Henderson’s far post. Brighton, much like Wolves days earlier, lacked a clinical striker to convert their possession and chances into goals.
A stop-start period followed, where Forest had a few good spells of possession, but couldn’t muster any real sights of goal. Their first shot was skied by Johnson at a tight angle, eventually going out for a throw in with 57 minutes played. Their best attempt was through captain Ryan Yates after 65, played in by substitute Cheikhou Kouyaté right of the box. His low driven shot powered just past the bottom left corner, to the relief of Brighton stopper Roberto Sanchez.
The hosts dominated the closing stages, but could only muster one real chance in the final 20 minutes. That was through Groß, latching onto a cute Welbeck flick but he sliced his shot goalwards and allowed Henderson to dive away to his right and parry away.
A point a piece was looking almost certain, and well merited for the visitors’ battling, determined and focused display. They did have a half-chance to win the game in stoppage time, as substitute Guilian Biancone attacked down the right wing. His cross was cleared by Dunk straight into fellow sub Taiwo Awoyini, but bounced just wide.
Positives were to be taken from a point on the south coast. Despite lacking any attacking threat or potency, the defence looked assured and the midfield looked more vibrant than it has been. Confidence that must be taken into the next two tough looking games.
Cooper said: “It’s a good point. If we were higher up the table and coming away from tonight with a point we’d be pleased but we continue to strive for those wins.
“We stuck to the game plan really well and challenged the players after the weekend to be better with and without the ball and I thought we played some decent stuff and showed signs of where we want to go.
“We want to be winning games but we have to accept we’ve been on a poor run and a point at a team like Brighton, who’ve had a great start to the season, is a good one.
“We could’ve drawn at Wolves on Saturday and that was a kick in the teeth for the lads, so to come out and show that attitude, spirit, desire and commitment to the game plan was really pleasing.
“The training ground is a good place and the boys are working really hard to get better and become a team. That can be harder to do after losing games but we’ve made small progress and we need to keep going.
“Towards the end of the game I was thinking at least get the point for the supporters because they were amazing again and dominated the stadium. They sang their hearts out again and we needed that support.”
Dean Henderson: Certainly one of his best performances of the season. The Englishman made seven saves, commanded his penalty area and despite poor distribution, was alert to stop everything that came his way. 8.5/10
Neco Williams: Struggled to get to grips with playing on the left-hand side early on. Gradually looked more solid as the game grew on but failed to add anything going forwards. Part of a defence with a clean sheet nonetheless. 6.5/10
Scott McKenna: Played a shadowing role in Forest’s second clean sheet of the season, holding the line well and making a few good sliding challenges and winning his headers consistently. 7.5/10
Steve Cook: Outstanding defensive performance from the 31-year-old. Won his individual duels, made some quality tackles and clearances and kept up with his opponents when backtracking. Had the most touches of the ball and was solid both on and off the ball. He had one moment where he lost the ball, but Brighton couldn’t score from it. 9/10
Serge Aurier: Played 60 minutes as he returns from a slight knock. Attacked well on the right in the first half, the side that Forest’s attacking threat was throughout. Struggled to keep Trossard quiet but wasn’t helped much defensively on his side, showing some good recovery pace on the transition. 7.5/10
Remo Freuler: Was the deepest of the three midfield players. He was heavily involved in Forest’s midfield play, connecting the defence to the forward players especially when Forest attempted to play out from the back. He was constantly on the move and always looking to be involved, something we can only want more of. 8/10
Orel Mangala: Went under the radar but still performed well on his return to the starting XI. Linked up well with Freuler and put in some good tackles all around the park, while also pressing high with the team on the odd occasion Forest pressed. 6/10
Ryan Yates: Seemed to be everywhere, but didn’t really get on the ball as much as he’d have liked. He was a presence, got forward well when needed and led the team well as captain. I’d just have liked to see him link up with Freuler and Mangala more as opposed to going missing at times. 7/10
Morgan Gibbs-White: Didn’t have any impact on the game apart from his set piece delivery. Failed to get his head up when he was driving forward the ball, but still did drop into midfield to collect the ball on occasion. 6/10
Jesse Lingard: Again, the attacking players were starved for the duration, but he did move the ball quickly when he got chance to. Looked lively cutting in from the left wing but a lack of forward options limited him. 7.5/10
Brennan Johnson: Despite having very few touches of the ball, one of his best performances this season. His job was to run around all afternoon which he did constantly, harrying Brighton’s defenders when trying to slow the game down. That’s not an easy job when you have no service, so credit to the young Welshman. 8/10
Cheikhou Kouyaté: Slotted into the midfield nicely off the bench. By that stage, Forest were chasing Brighton around so he just had to get involved and in their faces. 6.5/10
Harry Toffolo: A sub who got subbed. Not down to performance but injury. But for the 20 or so minutes he survived, he did really well to keep quiet the hosts’ quick and skilful full-back Tariq Lamptey — who had no space to drive into. Hopefully the injury is just fatigue and he’ll be back for Liverpool. 7/10
Guilian Biancone: Another cameo appearance from the Frenchman, replacing Toffolo and moving to the right. Had two attacking bursts down the right wing, and got a great cross in the second time round, after embarrassing himself with a shocking forward ball earlier on. Kept the clean sheet ticking over until the end. 7/10
Joe Worrall: Brought on to see out the point and helped Forest get over the line as they moved into a back three for the closing minutes. 6.5/10
Taiwo Awoniyi: Added some height for the final few minutes but with Forest on the back foot, couldn’t have any impact on the game, apart from that ricochet off Lewis Dunk that could have gone anywhere. 6/10
Supporters: Forest shirts flooded Brighton and overpowered the minimal vocal home support — 3,000 of them making a 300-mile round-trip on a Tuesday night. That’s this fanbase for you. 10/10