Nottingham Forest 3-1 Brighton: Cooper’s side stop the rot with huge win in relegation fight

News Desk
Gibbs-White Forest

Nottingham Forest gave their Premier League survival hopes a much-needed shot in the arm after beating Brighton 3-1 at the City Ground.

Forest were on a seemingly irreversible slide back to the Championship after a horror run of 11 games without a win going back to February, but they stopped the rot and moved out of the bottom three.

Another defeat had been on the cards after the Seagulls went ahead through Facundo Buonanotte’s goal on his first Premier League start after Brennan Johnson had missed an early penalty for Forest.

But an own goal by Pascal Gross on the stroke of half-time followed by second-half efforts from Danilo and Morgan Gibbs-White gave them a vital win.

This will renew belief that they can avoid the drop in their first season in the top flight in 23 years and also probably ends any lingering doubts over Steve Cooper’s future.

Brighton were looking to bounce back from the heart-breaking FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United, but this loss hurt their European ambitions as they dropped to eighth, but they do have games in hand on the teams above them.

With their exertions on Sunday at Wembley, Forest sniffed an opportunity and they started brightly in the hope of catching their visitors cold.

They forged the perfect chance to get the advantage they needed when they were awarded an early penalty after Pervis Estupinan clumsily fouled Neco Williams.

Jason Steele was on the bench for Brighton at Wembley and watched on as Robert Sanchez failed to save any United penalties in the shoot-out and he showed his team-mate how it was done, beating away Johnson’s effort in the 10th minute.

There was a sense that Forest really needed that to go in as Brighton began to take control.

Kaoru Mitoma was a constant threat and he almost created an opener as he skinned Serge Aurier and Felipe down the left and teed up Julio Enciso, whose shot was spectacularly tipped over the crossbar by Keylor Navas.

Forest had struggled to recreate that early energy, yet they had another brilliant opportunity to go ahead in the 32nd minute when Danilo sent Johnson clear on goal but, under a challenge from Lewis Dunk, the Wales international put his shot wide.

There was no way that Forest were going to get away with missing two such golden opportunities and Brighton went ahead five minutes later.

They had Navas to thank as a double blunder allowed Buonanotte to enjoy the perfect full league debut.

The Chilean goalkeeper’s poor goal-kick handed possession straight back to the visitors and then he could only palm out Solly March’s shot into the danger area, giving the 18-year-old the easiest of tap-ins.

But to their credit, Forest kept going and crucially got themselves level deep into first-half stoppage time.

A nice move saw Taiwo Awoniyi set up Renan Lodi on the left and his cross was turned in by Gross at the near post, with Steele only able to get a hand on it.

To go into the break level was huge for Forest, though they almost fell behind just before the hour as Brighton sliced them open on the counter attack.

Buonanotte was sent clear and he cleverly held onto possession before slipping in Mitoma, who put his first-time effort agonisingly wide.

A lengthy delay after a nasty injury to Williams, who was carried off on a stretcher after clashing with Johnson, seemed to change the atmosphere in the City Ground and the lid was lifted off in the 69th minute as Forest took the lead.

Danilo did well to close down Moses Caicedo on the halfway line and then raced on to Awoniyi’s pass before slotting into the far corner to send the home fans wild.

Gibbs-White had the chance to make it a more comfortable final 20 minutes, but he shot over from the edge of the area and Forest had some defending to do.

But any nerves were settled in stoppage time as they were awarded another penalty after VAR spotted a handball by Dunk from a corner and Gibbs-White did what Johnson failed to do by sending Steele the wrong way.