Nottingham Forest moved out of the bottom three after picking up a huge result — following 11 games without a win — beating Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 at home. George Edwards reports from the City Ground
Anfield offered optimism. Optimism that had to be built on as Nottingham Forest battle to retain their Premier League status. They returned to their home, hosting Brighton & Hove Albion, knowing a win would be massive.
Two changes were made from that away defeat as Serge Aurier returned to captain the side and Brennan Johnson was reinstalled to the starting XI. On the back of an FA Cup shootout exit, the visitors named debutant Facundo Buonanotte in their side as they aimed to soar further up the table.
Forest started fast and despite the Seagulls’ constant possession, they looked the better side. After just nine minutes the Reds won a penalty when left-back Pervis Estupiñán lost the ball in his penalty area and then hacked down the advanced Forest full-back Neco Williams.
Forest had missed their last two Premier League penalties and it would not be third time lucky, as Johnson went to the goalkeeper’s right, a good height for Jason Steele to push well away from goal.
This miss didn’t dampen early confidence as Danilo came close two minutes later, his dipping volley dropping just wide of the right post.
Keylor Navas has made some crucial saves over the past couple of games and was alert after 14 minutes to keep Brighton out. Tricky winger Karou Mitoma waltzed into the box before pulling the ball back for Julio Enciso, the Paraguayan seeing his strike tipped over by Navas.
Brighton would maintain tedious possession from this point, but it was Johnson who spurned another golden chance after 33 minutes. He was played through one-on-one and as defender Lewis Dunk chased him down, placed his curling shot wide.
Five minutes later the breakthrough came, the goal coming for the Seagulls. Solly March cut in on his left foot as his curling shot was parried poorly by Navas, allowing Buonanotte to grab a debut tap in — the youngest non-European to do so in the Premier League.
A penalty miss and falling behind after a positive start. It would have been easy for heads to drop, but not on this special night.
It was becoming inevitable the Reds would go into the break behind, but they grabbed an equaliser with virtually the last kick of the first half. Taiwo Awoniyi found Renan Lodi on the left and his deflected cross bounced off Pascal Groß, and in despite the best sprawling efforts of Steele.
There was a buzz around the City Ground. As the boys came out for the second period, Reds’ fans could smell blood and were almost sucking the ball into the Trent End goal.
Williams saw a low strike from in the box flash wide on 52 minutes before Brighton ought to have taken the lead six minutes later. On the counter, Buonanotte found Mitoma on the left wing, with only Williams in defence. However, the Japanese failed to find the target as he curled wide.
A lengthy stoppage for a concerning injury to Williams didn’t stop the chanting City Ground as the spine-tingling atmosphere continued. Halfway through the second 45, they would have something to cheer about.
Moses Caicedo lost out to Awoniyi in midfield, with the Nigerian releasing Danilo charging goalwards. Looking more assured and composed every game he plays, the Brazilian confidently strode into the box before astutely burying a right-footed shot across Steele and into the far bottom-right corner.
Forest hadn’t won a game when they’d conceded all season in the league, but were taking huge strides towards achieving that feat.
Brighton didn’t give in and Navas had to intervene again with 10 minutes to play, smartly tipping a vicious March volley over his crossbar.
Last night just felt like Forest’s night though (at last) and the Reds were awarded a second penalty of the evening when VAR stepped in, a clear handball from Dunk missed by referee Jarred Gillet.
With Johnson off the pitch, the responsibility fell to Morgan Gibbs-White. A nervous lull engulfed the City Ground as Nottingham held its breath.
Gibbs-White eyed up Steele, skipped forward and coolly slotted into the bottom corner — a raucous roar of ecstasy and relief let out by the Forest faithful.
Just the 10 minutes of stoppage time were awarded, with 15 eventually being played, feeling like a century. Brighton thought they’d pegged one back from a corner but the linesman spotted an offside that was confirmed by VAR.
Moments later the full-time whistle blew. Finally, a green W amongst a seemingly endless list of red Ls. Finally, a positive performance that resulted in a win. Finally, some momentum gathering, just at the right time.
A game where everyone was faultless. Danilo and Mangala looked solid in midfield. Awoniyi a constant thorn for the Brighton defence and Worrall slotting seamlessly into a rigid defence. It was also the first time Forest have scored three at home in the Premier League since 1996.
Much like the Liverpool performance was, this must not be an anomaly but with the fans, players and coaching staff all sharing the same goodwill and determination, it’s onto Brentford.