Nottingham Forest claim fun win over West Ham on Premier League return to City Ground

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Nottingham Forest have more reason than most to know that one goal can be enough. They won two European Cups with 1-0 wins and, once again, they can taste the result. Even though Taiwo Awoniyi’s goal won’t be remembered for as long as the biggest moments in the careers of Trevor Francis and John Robertson, it provided another moment in Forest’s history. After a 23-year absence from the top flight, the Nigerian scored his first Premier League goal, securing a maiden victory this millennium.

As West Ham hit the post twice, missed a penalty, had a header deflected off the line and a goal disallowed, Forest’s only goal could have come in a rout. However, if they took advantage of their luck, they also succeeded.

A revamped squad of 14 signings and counting has offered the first indication that an outlay in excess of £100m is building a team to hold on to. Newcomers appeared updates for a club on the rise. Forest, an anomalous presence in the Football League for 23 years, was outclassed in Newcastle last week but has begun to feel at home in the top flight.

They were the football blast of yesteryear, beating West Ham in the scorching heat. Awoniyi has established himself as the successor to Chris Bart-Williams, who scored Forest’s last top-flight goal in 1999. One of that day’s substitutes, Dave Beasant, is now 63, underlining how long they’ve been away.

A much younger goalkeeper, Dean Henderson, marked his home debut with a penalty save and a string of great stops. Orel Mangala displayed good passing range in midfield, while Moussa Niakhate’s City Ground arc was reduced as he went off injured. He was a reassuring presence in defence.

Each was among eight summer additions that started for Forest, compared to none for West Ham. That speaks to David Moyes’ struggle to sign, although with four newcomers on the bench, he’s been slow to integrate them. Steve Cooper doesn’t have that luxury and has attracted the commitment and cohesion of a collection of strangers.

Taiwo Awoniyi scored the worst of goals


In her first match, Awoniyi turned into the main act. The worst of the goals was, however, a fair reflection of the threat from the former Union Berlin striker. Powerful and determined, he had the strength and pace to unsettle West Ham, all coupled with frankness and the will to keep running. A looped header could have brought his first goal back to this level. Instead it came when Jesse Lingard took a shot, the ball bouncing off Awoniyi. The fact that it was Lingard, who West Ham wanted, to whom they made a generous offer, added to their annoyance.

It was a timely intervention by Awoniyi. His record signing status at Forest may not last long and they signed another striker, Emmanuel Dennis, even before he made his first start. His display made a compelling argument for building the attack around him. Alongside him, Brennan Johnson appeared to have added a symbolic goal: Born in Nottingham, two years after dropping out of the Premier League and the son of a former Forest favourite, he kicked Lukasz Fabianski, only to be ruled offside.

Awoniyi made headlines with his winning goal


And yet, most of the action in the mouth of the goal took place close to Henderson’s net. West Ham could consider themselves unlucky. A little more precision could have brought five goals: instead, they have yet to open their account for the season.

In short, they thought they led. Said Benrahma ended a counterattack that started with a kick from Declan Rice. Forest complained that Michail Antonio had tackled Mangala in a shaky collision and referee Robert Jones, who had initially awarded the goal, changed his mind and ignored him after looking at the monitor.

From there, West Ham’s quest for an equalizing goal involved similar bar-shattering efforts, from Pablo Fornals in open play and Benrahma from the free-kick, with Henderson rising from the ground to deflect Tomas Soucek’s header in the first occasion.

Dean Henderson saved Declan Rice’s penalty


The good saves weren’t limited to him: if it was a goalie competition, Scott McKenna did his best Peter Shilton impression with a wonderful save to deny Soucek. The problem was that the Scotsman was playing as a centre-back and, after reviewing a replay, Jones scored the Scotsman and awarded a penalty. However, Henderson has a reputation for excellence from 12 yards, West Ham haven’t had a high-class penalty taker since Mark Noble’s retirement, and Declan Rice’s effort lacked conviction.

The impression that it wasn’t their day was reinforced when the indefatigable Neco Williams cut Kurt Zouma’s head off his own line and Forest was able to party like it was 1999.

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at

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