Nottingham Forest are in the thick of the promotion race as they prepare to visit Griffin Park on Tuesday night.
In a bonus floodlit game in our final GP season, they arrive with a superb away record of six wins, six draws and only two defeats.
Forest are currently on a six-game unbeaten run (home and away) in the Championship, which started with three wins over the Boxing Day to New Year’s Day festive period.
They have drawn two of their last three matches – both strangely 1-1 against Reading, with the Royals quickly equalising Forest openers each time.
This is a crucial period for Forest’s promotion hopes, as after they play us they face Leeds at home and West Brom away on successive Saturdays in February.
Up front, they have the in-form ex-Brentford striker Lewis Grabban, whose 16 Championship goals make him the joint third-highest scorer in the division.
Forest have had two big cup games in London this season, but both ended in disappointment.
They lost 5-0 at Arsenal in the third round of the Carabao Cup, after wins over Fleetwood and local rivals Derby in the first two rounds. And then in the FA Cup third round, they were beaten 2-0 at Chelsea.
Forest are now in their 12th consecutive season in the Championship, after winning promotion from League One in 2008, and have not been in the Premier League since 1999, even though they were one of the competition’s founder members.
They made the play-offs in 2010 and 2011 but have rarely challenged for promotion otherwise. In fact, they have finished in the bottom half of the table in six of the past 11 seasons.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Sabri Lamouchi was appointed as Nottingham Forest manager in the summer, less than half an hour after the sacking of Martin O’Neill was announced.
The former France international has previously managed the Ivory Coast national team and French side Rennes.
He led the Ivory Coast to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, but resigned after they failed to progress beyond the group stages.
As a player, Lamouchi won 12 caps for his country, while playing in midfield for a variety of clubs including Auxerre, Monaco, Parma, Inter Milan and Marseille.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Nottingham Forest are one of only five teams we have met in every season of our current Championship stay. (Birmingham, Derby, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday are the others).
We had the upper hand for the first four campaigns with six wins, one draw and one defeat from our eight meetings. We also won last season’s home game, but have lost on our two visits to the City Ground since then.
In 2014/15, we earned a November midweek 3-1 away win and then drew the Easter Monday home return 2-2 with a “Jota in the last minute goal”, while the following season we did the double – winning 2-1 at home, with a last-minute Philipp Hofmann goal, and 3-0 at the City Ground the following April to start a late-season run that moved us away from any fears of being dragged into a late relegation scrap.
We also did the double in 2016/17, with an early-season 1-0 home win being followed by another midweek away triumph on the banks of the Trent – this time 3-2.
Mark Warburton’s Forest won a topsy-turvy game 4-3 at Griffin Park at the start of the following campaign, but Henrik Dalsgaard’s first Brentford goal, on a Tuesday night late in the season, earned us a 1-0 win in the return.
A late Ollie Watkins goal secured us a 2-1 win over Forest at Griffin Park at the start of September last season.
Lewis Macleod had headed us into the lead deep into first-half stoppage-time, but Matty Cash equalised just past the hour mark when his shot squirmed past Dan Bentley and into the net.
However, Watkins had the final say when he converted a Said Benrahma cross from close range to send the Bees up to fifth in the table and Forest down to 14th.
Brentford suffered our first defeat in 11 matches in the February return, as Forest recorded a 2-1 win.
Lewis Grabban gave Forest the lead in the 16th minute, when he pounced on a rebound to score his first goal in 10 games.
Debutant Molla Wague made it 2-0 when he headed home a corner eight minutes after coming off the bench, and although Sergi Canos set up a grandstand finish with his fourth goal in four games in the 89th minute, it was not enough to rescue a point.
The win took Forest up to ninth in the table and dropped us down to 18th.
Forest also won the first meeting of this campaign 1-0, thanks to Ben Watson’s volleyed winner from a corner in the 56th minute in October.
The match was also notable for Sergi Canos picking up the injury which has ruled him out for the rest of the season. When he limped off late on, we had used all our substitutes so had to finish the match with 10 men.
BBC Radio Nottingham’s sports presenter Robin Chipperfield tells us how Sabri Lamouchi is doing as manager, why Forest have proved so dangerous away from home and explains what he loves about Griffin Park and why he is going to miss it.
Q – How would you assess the job Sabri Lamouchi has done so far this season?
A – Sabri Lamouchi is tremendously popular amongst Forest fans. His quiet, determined nature means he’s quickly endeared himself to supporters – and combined with the success that he’s had means that he’s carving out a very impressive first season at the club.
Q – What were the expectations at the start of the season and has Forest’s good league campaign changed them at all?
A – I’m not really sure what expectations were at the start of the season. Lamouchi was unknown to the Championship, and many of the players that were brought in were unknown in the Championship. But slowly, but surely, optimism and faith has increased, and suddenly automatic promotion is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Q – Forest have the third best away record in the Championship this season, but only the 10th best home record. Why is that?
A – Forest are very dangerous on the counter-attack. It really suits them to be playing away from home – hence they’ve only lost twice on the road, at Wigan and Huddersfield. But they do struggle to break sides down at home, and consequently the number of goals they score at home is comparatively low.
Q – What transfer activity have Forest been involved in during the January transfer window and what last-minute deals do you expect?
A – So far, only one player has come in – pacy winger Adama Diakhaby on loan from Huddersfield. He didn’t appear in the squad for last week’s draw with Reading, but I’d expect him to be involved in some capacity against Brentford.
They do need a striker though – everyone knows it! But because everyone knows it, it’s proving difficult to find the right player. They’ve been linked with Glenn Murray, Matej Vydra, Dwight Gayle etc etc. But then, so are Leeds, Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday etc etc. I think that Forest will probably get someone in before the deadline, but with all of the brinksmanship, it might take until the final hours for it to happen.
Q – Ex-Bee Lewis Grabban is by far and away Forest’s top scorer this season – why are other players not finding the net?
A – Grabban has played virtually every League game this season, because for the most part, he’s been the only striker available. Forest did have Rafa Mir on loan from Wolves earlier in the campaign, but that really didn’t work out. Goals have been in short supply, though Joe Lolley has seven to his name – but Forest feel very much like a 1-0 kind of team, rather than a 4-3 outfit.
Q – It’s Forest’s last-ever visit to Griffin Park – what memories do you have of previous visits?
A – I love Griffin Park, so very sad that its time is coming to an end. You know when you go to some grounds, you’re in for a belter of a game. And it so often is between Brentford and Forest. You go to Reading, or Middlesbrough – and you don’t expect a thriller. But go to Griffin Park, or Craven Cottage (sorry!) and you know it should be a good game. So I shall look back at a friendly ground (please don’t lose that when you move), a cramped old press box (please lose that when you move!), a belting little atmosphere and some good games.
Q – What style of football should Brentford fans expect to see from Forest?
A – The football is good to watch, nothing gets lumped forward very often. It’s patient, but good to watch, and when on the break it can be exhilarating. But there are players giving absolutely everything, the commitment is total. Whatever the result, you know they’ve given their all. As a fan, you can ask for no more.
Q – Which players should we watch out for?
A – Grabban is obviously the danger, though Joe Lolley is often dangerous, Tiago Silva is very composed on the ball. Joe Worrall and Michael Dawson have provided a very formidable centre-half partnership, while Matty Cash’s recent links to AC Milan come about because of his energy, workrate, and quality going forward. And keep an eye out for the goalkeeper Brice Samba – unorthodox at times, but a very important addition last Summer.
Q – Finally, can you give me a possible Forest starting line-up and formation?
A – I’d be amazed if Forest moved away from their 4-2-3-1 formation and if I was to guess, I’d suggest Samba – Cash, Dawson, Worrall, Ribeiro – Watson, Sow – Lolley, Silva, Ameobi – Grabban.
I’d like to thank Robin for his contributions to my Nottingham Forest previews over the past four seasons as he is leaving BBC Radio Nottingham next month, and I wish him all the best for the future.
BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS
Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their predictions for the score and Brentford line-up for Tuesday’s game.
2-1 Bees. A tight encounter with Brentford carrying a couple of injuries, but Bees come out winners after fresh impetus from Dervisoglu’s league debut as a second half substitute. Matt Allard
1-0 Bees. Watson referees the match. Forest kick everything that moves. The referee stands and admires them. Hardfought win. Greville Waterman
2-0 Bees. A tight and niggly game with both sides tense in the early approaches. Bees defence to hold firm with two late goals securing the win. Cham de Silva
2-1 Bees. Forest prove a tough test for the Bees, especially after a busy schedule, but Thomas Frank’s men battle hard to serve up another home win. Damien Flenley
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Forest fans coming to Griffin Park for the final time, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be). As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the newly-opened and renamed The Brook pub – which has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon – are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’. The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields.
The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles. There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave) – right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
If you decide to get off at South Ealing station, we’ve heard a few people pop into Roddy’s Bar. If you like your craft beer, another fairly new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, which is fairly busy before and after the match. There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889. There is also The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. If you sit in the garden, you can see Brentford’s new stadium towering over you.
There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy – just take a walk down Strand On The Green. A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around. Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look out for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
The reality is the tube is easier and quicker (and cheaper). It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (even less from Paddington) on the Piccadilly Line and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station (turn LEFT outside the station) to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops – 5 minutes).
If you get off at South Ealing, you can get the 65 from the bus stop across the road – right outside the station.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.