Nottingham Forest 2-1 Brentford Six Things: Reds battle to victory

Lewis Grabban slides home the opener – bbc.co.uk

Nottingham Forest gave their feint play-off hopes a boost on Saturday thanks to a 2-1 triumph over Brentford, with goals coming from Lewis Grabban and Molla Wague. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Grabban grafts

It has been clear all season that Lewis Grabban is among Nottingham Forest’s best players and, with three midfielders who impressed under Aitor Karanka not in the eleven for varying reasons, he needed to be their star man once again. Grabban hassled and harried from the off in a powerful, tenacious performance, so the manner in which he scored the hosts’ 16th-minute opener came as no surprise. The former Bournemouth man chased a hopeful ball down the right channel from Matty Cash and, through sheer persistence, got the better of Julian Jeanvier – who, himself, is no lightweight – before sliding the ball past Daniel Bentley.

One-paced Brentford

The West Londoners had based their 10-match unbeaten streak on fluid, combination play, but we did not see as much of that as expected on Trentside, at least not in the first half. The narrow front-three of Said Benrahma, Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins were denied space by the hosts’ midfield duo of the experienced Ben Watson and the younger Ryan Yates, who embraced a more circumspect role than he enjoyed at Notts County and Scunthorpe. Brentford needed to use the wide areas better because, while wing-backs Henrik Dalsgaard and Moses Odubajo showed the will to get forward, their impact was limited. Dalsgaard lacked the pace to attack the flank while Odubajo, right-footed but on the left, had the instinct to cut onto his right foot, even when none of the forwards drifted out wide to restore width. Sometimes, when the space is not there for Benrahma, Maupay and Watkins to interchange, they need to be prepared to drift wider and utilize areas where there’s more space.

Bentley’s mixed 12-minutes

Daniel Bentley has not enjoyed the best of seasons for Brentford. He has made numerous high-profile errors which have proved costly and that’s before we consider the blunder in August’s reverse fixture, which the Bees won 2-1. The former Southend man saved brilliantly from Grabban’s spot-kick – and then Ben Watson’s follow-up – on 67 minutes, after the front-man was brought down in the box.

However, he attempted to claim for Joe Lolley’s 79th-minute corner but missed his moment, allowing Forest’s January acquisition Molla Wague to nod home a second. That proved an important goal for the hosts, who had missed earlier opportunities from Grabban and half-time substitute Diogo Goncalves to make the game safe.

Visitors’ late rally

Brentford responded well to going two goals behind. As Forest dropped deeper in the closing stages, we saw Romaine Sawyers enjoy more time on the ball than he had had for much of the contest, while Watkins came alive with a goal disallowed on 86 minutes. Moments later, the former Exeter man then went on a bright run to set up Sergi Canos, who completed a bright substitute appearance by wrong-footing Costel Pantiliman to pull a goal back. Alas, it was too little, too late for the Bees, who did not find their A-game early enough in the contest to merit a point.

All about the cup for Bees

Defeat at the City Ground ended two things for Thomas Frank’s side: firstly, the unbeaten run, which has been limited to an impressive 10-games. Secondly, any pipe dreams of a late play-off tilt have also been dismissed. The West Londoners can still however, have a very memorable campaign. Win at Swansea next week and they are in the FA Cup quarter-finals, which will contain at most two clubs from the Premier League’s top six, meaning a trip to Wembley isn’t yet out of the question. While Brentford did not play to their full capability on Saturday, late close-shaves meant they ended up having a greater volume of chances than their hosts, even if not all of them were clear-cut openings. That shows they have set a very high benchmark for themselves which they should continue to uphold, if not in the cup this season, then in the league in 2019-20.

Reds secure back-to-back home wins

This was a victory Martin O’Neill’s side just about deserved, mainly because their direct game plan came to fruition earlier in the contest and they defended well in places, with Alexander Milosevic’s performance at centre-back a major highlight. However, the performance also felt like one of a bottom half side mastering the basics, rather than one from a team set for a promotion charge. Saturday’s performance might not have been good enough to strike too much fear into Bristol City, or a certain other team from down the road, but it was good enough to merit three points.