Brentford were beaten for the first time in almost two months as a goal in each half gave Nottingham Forest the points and a 2-1 win at The City Ground. The home side took the lead after a scrappy opening and held on to it despite The Bees dominating long stages of the first half. They had chances to seal the game after the interval, and Daniel Bentley saved a penalty, before a goal ten minutes from the end gave them breathing space and meant a late strike from Sergi Canós was not enough to give Brentford anything.
It was a patchwork performance from The Bees on a wild and windy day on the banks of the River Trent. They created plenty of chances and certainly should have gone in level at the break. They also hit the woodwork in each half and had a goal disallowed. But Forest were incisive enough in attack and resolute enough in defence to earn the win and hand Brentford a first defeat in ten, a run that started before Christmas.
It was an untidy start to the game with a lack of intensity all round. Brentford had more of the ball but that just meant they had the chance to make a few more mistakes in possession than their hosts. Forest tried to press high up the pitch in the opening 15 minutes, but Brentford’s errors were largely unforced while hopeful balls forward from the home side meant The Bees kept getting it back.
When the opening goal came 16 minutes in, it came out of nothing. Alexander Milošević played a ball in to the right channel and the pace of Lewis Grabban enabled him to beat Julian Jeanvier to it. There still appeared to be little danger as Jeanvier slid in to block but Bentley committed to saving the shot and when the ball rebounded in to space, Grabban had an empty net to put the ball in to. Brentford appealed that the striker was offside from the initial pass but will be disappointed that Grabban was able to score from the position he did.
The goal also came when Brentford had started to establish a rhythm and were testing Costel Pantilimon in the home goal. The goalkeeper saved unconvincingly when Saïd Benrahma curled in a shot from 22 yards and then inexplicably let a powerful effort from Henrik Dalsgaard through his grasp and was fortunate to see the ball bounce away. But Forest scored within minutes of those chances, which could have rocked The Bees.
The visitors, however, responded well and started to take control of the midfield. Romaine Sawyers and Kamohelo Mokotjo were finding pockets of space and although it was difficulty for Benrahma and Ollie Watkins to find room in the channels, Moses Odubajo and Dalsgaard, up from wing back, did have an impact. Pantilimon made a save low to his right from a Yoann Barbet free kick and Benrahma’s corner hit the outside of the post with the goalkeeper scrambling back. Watkins then fired across the face of goal from a Dalsgaard knock-down.
Neal Maupay had a great chance to level when a Jack Robinson slip enabled him to get on to a misplaced header from Ben Watson. The striker raced free and got away from Ben Osborn but lost control at the vital moment. A Barbet cross then just eluded Maupay before a low Benrahma corner was flicked narrowly over the bar. Referee Robert Jones, who was matching many players with an erratic start to the game, decided it was Dalsgaard and not Milošević that got the final touch.
Brentford’s pressure was mounting but Forest had the chances to have got themselves further ahead. The long throw of Matty Cash was being used whenever possible and from one delivery, Joe Lolley arrived late but could only shoot straight at Bentley from ten yards. A mistake from Ezri Konsa – keeping the ball in play and presenting it to Forest – also should have led to a goal when Lolley broke free and picked out Léo Bonatini but the striker poked wide from ten yards with the goal gaping.
Dalsgaard saw another shot saved as Brentford piled on the pressure and as half time approached the home side were being forced deeper and deeper, with Grabban’s ability to occasionally make something out of nothing their only bright spark. Maupay had a shot deflected wide and a long-range effort from Mokotjo hit Benrahma before a clever pass from Barbet put Odubajo in behind Saidy Janko, he beat Pantilimon with a lofted effort and appeared to be clattered by the goalkeeper but Mr Jones waved away appeals as Forest cleared.
There was a crazy passage of play in stoppage time, which extended well past the one minute signalled as a minimum, mainly because the windy conditions prevented Benrahma delivering a series of corners from the left. A superb piece of interplay between Benrahma and Maupay ended with the latter testing Pantilimon with a low shot and the resulting corner was only cleared as far as Sawyers but his shot was bravely deflected away. The corner took 30 seconds to deliver due to the wind and with the next also being delayed, when it eventually came in it flicked a Forest head and flew behind with Mr Jones then deciding the half was at an end.
Brentford tried to regain the rhythm of the first half early in the second but struggled to do so. The mistakes they made in possession in the first period were still present and they did not find a high tempo. With Forest bringing on an additional midfield player – Diogo Gonçalves - at the break, the centre of the field was more congested and, as a result, it was difficult for The Bees to get the ball in and out of that area to create chances.
The home side were playing on the counter-attack and should have got a second just after the interval. A Lolley pass put Gonçalves in with only Bentley to beat after a clever run from the left, he rounded the goalkeeper but was forced wide and Dalsgaard got back to clear the shot off the line. A quick free kick from Osborn then put Grabban in behind but with Bentley rushing out he poked his shot wide of the target.
There was an even better chance for the hosts just past the hour mark when Mr Jones awarded them a penalty. Konsa slipped, allowing Grabban to dispossess him and head towards goal, the striker got away from Jeanvier and ran wide before tumbling and the referee decided a foul had been committed. Grabban took the spot kick himself and drilled it low to Bentley’s left but the goalkeeper saved and then recovered to stop the follow-up header from Watson.
The Bees should have been out of the game by the 70-minute mark, but equally, they could have been level a few minutes earlier. A short corner was worked by Mokotjo and Benrahma to Sawyers and his shot deflected past Pantilimon but cannoned away off the post. And, unluckily for Brentford, it failed to fall for Jeanvier, who was waiting to tap in. Benrahma also fired a cut back from Dalsgaard over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
Substitute Sergi Canós blasted over from distance and a corner almost brought a goal when Dalsgaard met it, but he could not direct his header and Maupay fired acrobatically in to the side netting. Another burst in to the box from Canós led to a shooting chance for Watkins but that was blocked. The ball came back to Canós and his low cross was met by Maupay but Pantilimon made a low save by his near post.
The match-winning goal came just moments later when Lolley delivered a corner from and Molla Wagué rose highest in a crowded penalty area to nod in. Bentley came but was unable to get through the sea of bodies and Wagué got his head to it and watched as the ball bounced over the line.
That seemed to have sealed the game, especially as it took Brentford a while to regain their composure, but The Bees thought they had a goal back with four minutes left. Konsa challenged for a Sawyers free kick and the ball dropped for Watkins to lash in. But the assistant referee had his flag raised and Mr Jones ruled the goal out. The Bees did score with a minute remaining when Watkins burst free and found space to lay the ball off to Canós and his toe-poked effort beat Pantilimon.
The goal was a fourth in four game for Canós and gave The Bees renewed belief. There was almost no time left but Forest retreated and Brentford piled forward. A Barbet free kick sailed wide of the post with Pantilimon rooted to the spot and the goalkeeper then spilled a Watkins effort. That enabled The Bees to push everyone in to the box for the corner, including Bentley, but Forest cleared and that gave them the win.
Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon; Janko, Milošević, Robinson, Osborn; Cash (sub Wagué 70 mins), Watson, Yates, Lolley; Bonatini (sub Gonçalves h/t); Grabban (sub Ansarifard 87 mins)
Subs (not used): Steele, Murphy, Carvalho, Yacob
Bookings: Yates (62 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Konsa (sub Forss 90 mins), Jeanvier, Barbet; Dalsgaard, Mokotjo (sub McEachran 71 mins), Sawyers, Odubajo; Watkins, Maupay, Benrahma (sub Canós 63 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Sørensen, Dasilva, Ogbene
Bookings: Odubajo (58 mins) (second of season)