Nottingham Forest 2-3 Brighton & Hove Albion (Premier League) 25.11.23
Despite an early lead, Forest’s lapse in concentration in crucial moments had major consequences; the idea that Forest are out of danger is simply optimistic – the fight goes on, and results must improve – a frustrating loss to a side who, if Forest had not suffered with complacency, could have faced a very different result.
The first half:
A fast start from Nottingham Forest became the difference between the two sides – an early development from Gibbs-White on the right-hand side sees him leave his man trailing, before firing in a pinpoint cross, for Anthony Elanga to run into, and head it home to open the scoring. Perhaps the most perfect start to a game – reminiscent of the start against the Villans just weeks prior.
Forest’s attacks seemed convincing; Cooper’s men utilised the “bounce” pass, a type of quick passing used to open up pockets of space, and did so effectively. Breakthroughs down either wing gave Forest fans a glimpse of hope, and caused some anxiety for the Albion fans who made the 4.5 hour trip up from the South Coast. Luckily for the Seagulls fans, redemption would come soon.
Despite Forest’s early lead, and perceived dominance at the start of the game, Brighton would soon take the game into their own hands. A misplaced ball leads to a Brighton counter, as Billy Gilmour finds Pascal Groß running to half-way into the Forest half, edging towards the box, before slotting a wonderful ball into recently-returned Evan Ferguson, who takes a touch, and with finesse fires it into the bottom-right hand corner. Vlachodimos couldn’t stretch further enough, Ferguson proved his excellence – equaliser 26 minutes in.
Forest’s afternoon wouldn’t improve however, at least in this first half, as roß would prove his worth again to Brighton, as a superb assist, his second of the afternoon, comes in the form of a cross – from the same position, right corner of the box, as his last assist – finds the head of Brighton’s record signing, Pedro, who, with superb composure, heads the ball past Vlachodimos. Lethal blow, Brighton flip the result on Nottingham Forest, of which the Reds had beat the Seagulls by just seven months prior. It must be said, Pascal Groß is one fine footballer – any team would be wise to put two men marking him, he is simply everywhere, all of the time. Crucial.
The Second Half:
Forest’s end to the first half certainly didn’t appease, but hope was still present; a one goal gap, with certain opportunities to come to equalise, and potentially beyond – but collective mentality was poor, and didn’t seem to look like getting better any time soon.
Brighton’s possession heavy strategy was more suited in the second half – Forest’s midfield seemed thin, weak, and unknowing – if it wasn’t for Orel Mangala performing, as he always does, to his incredibly high standards, and gluing the midfield together, on many occasions covering for his colleagues, Brighton could’ve scored far more than they did. Danilo, perhaps unfit, seemed completely ‘off it’, Dominguez unable to put his stamp on the game, despite showing positive glimpses in the first half, particularly around the defensive quarters evading the intense Brighton press. Alongside costly defensive errors, I felt the disjointed midfield cost Forest in the second half.
Ten minutes into the second 45 a header reaches the Forest penalty area and seemingly into the hands of Vlachodimos – only for VAR to check, and see that Chris Wood manhandles João Pedro to the floor, with no choice but to give a Penalty, Taylor – the referee – points to the spot. Pedro, the substitute (for Ansu Fati), steps up, slots it into the bottom-left of Forest’s goal – Brighton lead going into half time. An agonising way to concede minutes into added time. Chris Wood, and Nottingham Forest, devastated.
Forest’s night wasn’t over though, Hinshellwood’s tackle on recently-substituted Hudson-Odoi in the Brighton penalty area – similar to that of Wood on Pedro for the Brighton penalty – is disregarded by referee Anthony Taylor at first. Later however, Graham Scott (VAR Official) would call him to the VAR monitor, where he eventually calls for a Forest penalty. Lewis Dunk’s refusal to accept the decision, and abused towards Taylor, sees him sanctioned with a yellow card, with another following, meaning the Seagulls captain was forced down the tunnel – a huge loss with time still left to play, and Forest with a goal opportunity. Gibbs-White, already with an assist this afternoon, steps up, and hits it sweetly. Forest 2, Brighton 3 – to say the atmosphere was electric was simply the most vast understatement. Hostile.
Cross after cross, header after header – Forest through everything at the last twenty minutes of that half, but their efforts were simply too late on. Even with ten minutes added on, much to the delight of Forest fans & dismay of Albion fans, Forest couldn’t capitalise. They came close, but not close enough. A bitter pill to swallow for a struggling side. A win against Villa, positive, six goals conceded, and two leads lost, doesn’t sit particularly well with Forest fans. Football is a results based business, and points must be picked up – Forest aren’t out of danger just yet, work is still to be done.
There was certainly positives, particularly with the attacking of the early stages in the first half, and mentality towards the end of the fixture, but the timings were poor – and such a mentality was demanded game-wide, not just at the start, or the end. Forest face Everton next, and I’d argue its their toughest fixture since Liverpool away: Everton a team needing points, in good form, and hungry after a devastating points deduction last week, it’ll be a tough, tough game.
Nonetheless, lessons can be learned, and hopefully soon – a huge matchup awaits Trentside on the 2nd December. Can Forest kick off the Christmas month with a gift for their hopeful fanbase?
*Article provided by Jamie Martin (Head Nottingham Forest Correspondent).
*Main image @NFFC Morgan Gibbs-White at least got his goals tally off to a belated start v Brighton.