Nottingham Forest 4-3 Southampton: Steve Cooper's men edge thriller

Nottingham Forest 4-3 Southampton: Steve Cooper’s men edge thriller to move three points above the Premier League relegation zone and all but consign Saints to the drop

  • Taiwo Awoniyi scored twice in the space of three minutes to put Forest in control
  • Carlos Alcaraz pulled one back before Morgan Gibbs-White netted from the spot
  • Lyanco halved the deficit before Danilo restored his side’s two-goal advantage 
  • James Ward-Prowse scored a penalty in stoppage time but the hosts held on  

The only thing missing now is the big, fat R next to Southampton’s name in the Premier League standings. A drenched Ruben Selles trotted over to the away end with a look of guilt – he knows his work has not been enough to keep this team in the Premier League.

It would be unfair to blame Selles for this monumental mess of a season. He’s just one of three men to occupy the hot-seat and none of them won more than three league games, while questions will be asked of the previously sound recruitment department.

But the Spaniard has failed to even make survival look even slightly possible. They have ended 196 days in the bottom three this season and looked likely to be relegated all year but now the equation is simple: win every game and hope Everton do not pick up another point.

So as one 11-year stay in the Premier League comes to an end, another team made a case to extend their status at the top level. Forest played with pace, vigour and belief in the first half to score three goals, then showed valiant defensive steel to see out a vital three points.

Taiwo Awoniyi ended a goal drought with his first league brace for Forest, Morgan Gibbs-White added another from the spot and Danilo ended any fears of a late comeback to edge a match that felt like the dictionary definition of ‘relegation six-pointer’. 

Taiwo Awoniyi scored twice as Nottingham Forest claimed a massive win over Southampton

Awoniyi opened the scoring midway through the first half with his first goal since January

The forward then doubled the lead three minutes later with a fierce volley on the turn 

the result all but secured relegation for Southampton, who are seven points from safety


NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-3-1-2): Navas 7.5; Aurier 7 (Worrall 64, 6.5), Niakhate 7, Felipe 7, Lodi 6 (Toffolo 81); Mangala 6.5, Yates 7 (Kouyate 70, 6), Danilo 8; Gibbs-White 8.5; Johnson 7.5 (Boly 81), Awoniyi 7.5 (Surridge 81).

Subs not used: Hennessey, Lingard, Freuler, Ayew.

Booked: Lodi

Manager: Steve Cooper 7

SOUTHAMPTON (4-2-3-1): McCarthy 4; Walker-Peters 5, Bednarek 5, Bella-Kotchap 4 (Lyanco 38, 6), Maitland-Niles 3; Ward-Prowse 6.5, Lavia 6.5; Walcott 5 (Sulemana 61, 6), Alcaraz 5 (A Armstrong 76), S Armstrong 6 (Edozie 76); Adams 6.5 (Onuachu 76).

Subs not used: Bazunu, Caleta-Car, Mara, Elyounoussi

Booked: None

Manager: Ruben Selles 5

Referee: Michael Oliver 7.5

Attendance: 29,154

The City Ground was rocking before kick-off, with fan group Forza Garibaldi urging supporters to hold scarves aloft during a deafening rendition of Mull of Kintyre. It is hard to think of a better atmosphere in English football than this place at its raucous best.

Saying that, though, most in here were a nervous wreck in the opening 10 minutes. From an eavesdropping mission across the Trent Bridge, the general verdict was ‘do or die’ for Forest, with two tough away games and the visit of Arsenal to come.

That statement can be replicated with much more meaning for Southampton, though, who came here knowing a loss would all but relegate them. 

Saints started well and had a couple of half-chances in the first ten minutes, with Che Adams and Jan Bednarek having sights of goal.

But any early Forest anxieties were soon calmed as Taiwo Awoniyi opened the scoring on 18 minutes after a fantastic counter-attack started by a perfect Danilo pass and finished with Brennan Johnson squaring to the Nigerian to fire home.

It was Awoniyi’s first league goal since January 4, also against Saints, which was also Forest’s only away win of the season, with a staggering 27 of their 33 points this season coming at home. With two away games to come, that stat underlined the importance of this game.

They gave themselves a good chance and found themselves two goals up just three minutes after Awoniyi’s opener. After perhaps getting lucky with the finish for the first, the brace was emphatically volleyed past Alex McCarthy. 

Morgan Gibbs-White scored his side’s third from the spot after the Saints pulled one back

Gibbs-White had been at fault for the Southampton goal but made up for it with his penalty 

Forest were in dreamland and those Garibaldi scarves were soon being swirled above heads in celebration. Even the animated Greek owner Evangelos Marinakis slouched back in his seat and looked relaxed.

Southampton pulled a goal back against the run of play on 25 minutes. Morgan Gibbs-White cheaply lost possession and Ruben Selles’ side charged up the pitch, with Charly Alcaraz finishing off a tidy passing move that left one wondering why Saints are rock bottom.

Those thoughts didn’t last long, though, as more sloppy Southampton decisions saw Forest restore their two-goal lead just before half-time. Ainsley Maitland-Niles gave away a stupid penalty and Gibbs-White duly obliged with a decent spot-kick, straight down the middle.

But the pattern of this game turned drastically after the break. Forest now looked nervous and Southampton played with intent and less fear. Lyanco thumped home a header not long after the restart and the away team sensed a comeback.

Danilo finished off a fine move to make it 4-2 midway through the second half at City Ground

James Ward-Prowse set up a nervy finish with his penalty but Forest managed to hold on

Cooper’s side are haunted by a couple of second-half capitulations this season. They have dropped 23 points from winning positions this term, more than any team in the league but Leicester, and a league-high 15 of those coming at home.

James Ward-Prowse bombarded Forest’s six-yard box with fizzing set-pieces but Keylor Navas, a three-time Champions League winner, showed his experience to deal with the aerial onslaught.

But just as anxieties seemed to reach boiling point, Forest ventured forward – a rarity in the second half – and Danilo scored a fourth, after a clever flicked assist from £42.5million man Gibbs-White. From a long list, the former Wolves man is their best business since promotion.

Forest’s victory moves them three points above the relegation zone with three games to play

Forest thought they had added a superb fifth goal on 89 minutes after a clever first touch and finish from defender Felipe from a lofted free-kick from Gibbs-White, but it was chalked off for offside after a lengthy VAR consultation.

The folks at Stockley Park were called into action again seconds later to award Southampton a penalty when Sam Surridge was adjudged to foul Romeo Lavia. James Ward-Prowse fired home but it wasn’t enough to avoid defeat.

There were tears and jeers in the away end but, for the rest of the City Ground, those scarves were flying high to toast their biggest win of the season.

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