Nottingham Forest have had a disappointing season to say the least, especially when you think that towards the end of the last campaign, they were battling for promotion alongside us.
After the restart, we were level with each other on 60 points and with six games to go, they were two points behind us before things started to go wrong.
They failed to win any of their last six matches, including a disastrous 4-1 home defeat to Stoke on the final day of the season which, coupled with Swansea’s 4-1 win at Reading, meant they missed out on a play-off spot to their Welsh rivals by a single goal on goal difference.
They suffered a hangover at the start of the season, losing their opening four Championship games, and that cost manager Sabri Lamouchi his job, with ex-Brentford defender Chris Hughton stepping in.
Hughton stopped the rot and Forest won three and drew three of his first seven games in charge, before losing six of the next seven matches – a run which finished with our 3-1 win at the City Ground in mid-December.
But they have improved overall and won seven and drew six of their next 15 games to pull away from immediate danger at the bottom of the table. Since then though, they have failed to win in five matches, including Wednesday night’s 2-0 home defeat by Norwich.
They arrive at the Brentford Community Stadium nine points above the relegation zone, although Rotherham, in 22nd, do have four games in hand over them.
Forest have had little to shout about in this season’s cup competitions either and only played Championship sides – losing 1-0 at Barnsley in the first round of the Carabao Cup, and beating Cardiff by the same score in the FA Cup third round, before tumbling out 5-1 at Swansea in round four.
Forest are now in their 13th 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, other than last season, have rarely challenged for promotion otherwise. In fact, they have finished in the bottom half of the table in five of the past seven seasons.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
As mentioned earlier, ex-Bee Chris Hughton took over as Forest boss in early October.
Hughton finished his playing career with Brentford in 1992. Signed near the end of the 1991/92 season in which we won the Third Division title, he played in the first 29 games of our campaign in Division One (now the Championship) before being injured in our December win at Sunderland and being unable to play again.
The former Tottenham and West Ham left-back also won 53 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
After returning to Spurs as coach and assistant manager for 10 years, he moved to Newcastle – leading them back to the Premier League at the first attempt in 2010.
Although he lost that job midway through the following season, he moved on to Birmingham – taking them into the Championship play-offs and the group stages of the Europa League.
In the summer of 2012 he moved on to Norwich but after nearly two years in charge he left the club in April 2014. with them battling against relegation from the top flight.
At the end of the year, he took over at Brighton – winning an FA Cup tie 2-0 at Griffin Park in his first game at the helm.
He led the Seagulls to promotion in 2017 and kept them there for two seasons, before he was sacked at the end of 2018/19.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Nottingham Forest are one of only four teams we have met in every season of our current Championship stay. (Birmingham, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday are the others).
We had the upper hand for the first four campaigns with six wins, one draw (our first meeting) and one defeat from our eight meetings. Since then, Forest have hit back with three wins compared to our two.
Past meetings in the Championship (Bees scores first):
2014/15 – (H) 2-2 (A) 3-1
2015/16 – (H) 2-1 (A) 3-0
2016/17 – (H) 1-0 (A) 3-2
2017/18 – (H) 3-4 (A) 1-0
2018/19 – (H) 2-1 (A) 1-2
2019/20 – (H) 0-1 (A) 0-1
2020/21 – (A) 3-1
FEATURED SEASON – 2015/16
Brentford earned our first home win over Forest for 66 years in November 2015, thanks to a dramatic late, late goal from Philip Hofmann, after fellow substitute Sergi Canos had put us ahead. Harlee Dean was sent off and Henri Lansbury equalised for Forest before Hofmann stole the headlines to give us a 2-1 victory.
Brentford completed our first double over Forest since the 1948/49 season when we won 3-0 at the City Ground at the start of April. Inspired by another international break, second half goals from Lasse Vibe, Nico Yennaris and Canos again secured a victory which many fans said was one of their highlights of the season – simply because it seemed to banish any fears of relegation.
It sparked our move away from the lower reaches of the table and a run of six wins in eight games in the month.
Brentford earned a 3-1 win at the City Ground in mid-December, to stretch our unbeaten run to 11 games.
Henrik Dalsgaard headed the opener from a Mathias Jensen corner and after the break, Josh Dasilva doubled the lead with a trademark left-foot curling shot after a Sergi Canos pass.
Ivan Toney made it safe when he slid home Vitaly Janelt’s lofted pass for his 15th goal of the season, before Joe Worrall headed a late consolation and Anthony Knockaert was sent off for a second yellow card.
BBC Radio Nottingham’s Nottingham Forest correspondent Colin Fray tells us why the side has struggled this season, the impact of manager Chris Hughton and reveals whether he thinks they will avoid the drop.
Q – From the outside, it appears to have been a rollercoaster season at Forest – how would you assess it?
A – As a rollercoaster ride, there seem to have been more downs than ups! I think most would agree that the season has been a big disappointment for Forest. A side that was in the top six for most of last season, before the embarrassing end to the campaign, was expected to challenge again this term. But in truth, Forest have been way off the standards they set last season, despite overhauling the squad during the summer.
Q – What contributed to the dramatic loss of a play-off place last season and how much did that affect the start of this one?
A – Forest’s big problem last season was those parts of the schedule where they had a lot of games in a short space of time. While the starting 11 was great, the strength in depth perhaps wasn’t there – leading to a number of tired players – physically and mentally. So the congested fixture schedule after the restart was never going to work in Forest’s favour. They also had an awful habit of conceding late goals, and those dropped points cost them.
Forest tried to solve their strength in depth issue in the summer, but the signing of 14 players didn’t help. Of those, some have already left the club, while the chances are only three or four will start on Saturday. So the strengthening didn’t work, and the hangover was evident in the early part of the season. Defeats in the opening four games cost head coach Sabri Lamouchi his job.
Q – What differences has ex-Bee Chris Hughton made since arriving at the City Ground?
A – The priority for Chris Hughton when he arrived was to make Forest more difficult to beat, and he’s achieved that. They don’t concede many goals, but their problem has been that they don’t score enough. But he’s brought change about slowly, and at some stage Forest went on a run of only two defeats in 15 games. That was enough to lift them clear of the relegation zone, at least.
They play some very nice football at times, but it’s the finishing touch which has been missing so far this season. He’s also made some shrewd signings, adding to Forest’s creativity.
Q – How confident are you that Forest have enough to avoid the drop?
A – That run to lift them a few points clear was vital in easing some of the pressure, but the job certainly isn’t done. Forest’s results this season, though, have been fairly consistent. It’s been a real struggle against sides in the top third of the table, they’re pretty evenly matched with sides in the middle third, and tend to beat sides in the bottom third. Looking at their fixture list, even if they can keep that form going, they should have enough to stay in the division.
Q – Forest’s joint top league scorer this season, alongside Lyle Taylor, is “own goals” with four! Why have goals been so hard to come by this season?
A – And that stat says it all about Forest’s troubles in front of goal this season. They create chances, but all too often don’t take them, and in several games, they’ve not managed a shot on target. Here’s another stat for you: Going into the midweek games, Ivan Toney had scored 26 goals. Forest, in total, had scored 29. So with four own goals in that Forest tally, Toney has scored more than Forest’s players put together!
Q – What do you remember of this season’s Forest-Bees match and do any other past encounters stand out?
A – The game at the City Ground this season was a real low spot for Forest. They produced a poor performance that day, and captain Joe Worrall came out afterwards and gave a brutally honest interview about how they need to improve. It was the sixth game in a row Forest had played against top-six sides, and as I mentioned earlier, their results have been poor in those kind of matches. Things did get better, though. Forest responded and went unbeaten in their next seven games.
As for past matches, Forest’s 4-3 win at Griffin Park in August 2017 sticks in the memory. Midfielder Andreas Bouchalakis scored two brilliant goals, and Brentford laid siege towards the end. Great game.
Q – Which Forest players should Brentford fans watch out for?
A – Forest have some players who are very pleasing to watch…with creativity improving under Chris Hughton. It’s his signings who’ve caught the eye in that department, with Anthony Knockaert and Filip Krovinovic giving Forest added threat. In addition, another newcomer, young midfielder James Garner, on loan from Manchester United, has put together a fine run of games since arriving at the club in the January transfer window.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible Forest formation and line-up please?
A – Forest don’t deviate much from a 4-2-3-1 shape.
Possible formation given the current injuries is:
Christie Figueiredo McKenna Bong
Knockaert Krovinovic Ameobi
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played at the Brentford Community Stadium at 12.30pm on Saturday, behind closed doors. The match is live on Sky Sports. Season ticket holders who froze their tickets have free access to watch the match on iFollow, and others can buy a match pass for £10.