Ivan Toney made a goalscoring return to football after an eight-month ban as Brentford ended their five-game losing run with a crucial 3-2 victory over fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest on Saturday Night Football.
Toney – who was fined £50,000 and warned about his future conduct for 232 breaches of the FA’s betting rules – impressed on his first competitive outing for 260 days, but Forest silenced the home crowd when Danilo’s third-minute half volley broke the deadlock.
Brentford responded well, and with the spotlight on one man in particular, it was their returning talisman who crowned his second coming in style as it was his 19th-minute free-kick that restored parity.
The hosts completed the turnaround just shy of the hour-mark as Ben Mee – on his 50th Brentford appearance – met Mathias Jensen’s corner to find the inside of the near post with a firm header (58).
Their lead would only last seven minutes, however, as Chris Wood scored his sixth goal in as many games after glancing home Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross (65).
But in this topsy-turvy affair, Brentford would wrestle back control and regain the advantage when Neal Maupay collected Mads Roerslev’s cross, losing both Murillo and Andrew Omobamidele with his touch and turn before reversing his shot into the bottom corner (68).
The result moves Brentford up to 14th in the Premier League table and six points clear of the relegation zone. They leapfrog Forest, who drop to 16th and only four points off Luton in 18th having played a game more.
How Toney turned on style
“It was a long time coming,” Toney said. “I manifested this win when I was at home during the time I was out, I am here now and buzzing to be back scoring goals and winning with the team.
“I 100 per cent knew this would happen again. I manifest things like this. Before the game, before I left my house, I thought, ‘We’re winning today and I’m scoring.’ And I made it happen, which is good.”
Toney’s previous top-flight goal came in the corresponding fixture last season, as Brentford came from behind to win. They have never lost to Forest in the Premier League, and given their perilous position in the table, it was vital they extended that run on Saturday.
But Forest, who were charged with Everton last Monday for breaching Premier League profitability and sustainability rules, had not read the script as they led inside three minutes.
Vitaly Janelt hooked his attempted clearance into the sky and after Ben Mee’s header fell to Danilo, the Brazilian brilliant cushioned the ball on his thigh before crashing a 20-yard half volley past Mark Flekken.
Brentford were struggling until Mikkel Damsgaard was fouled by Orel Mangala on the edge of the Forest box. The stage was now set for Toney, not far from the very spot where he last scored a competitive goal, ironically against Forest in April last season.
Matt Turner appeared unsighted as the ball was curled low into the bottom corner. Ryan Yates began the inquest into how the wall had been formed.
Toney had manipulated his placement, but did not hang about, wheeling away to the dug-out to dedicate the moment to his uncle Brian by lifting a shirt bearing a message.
Toney savoured the moment, and he was sharp again at a corner to hook Mathias Jensen’s delivery back across goal but somehow Keane Lewis-Potter was unable to convert as his shot came back off the underside of the bar and landed in the gloves of Turner.
Brentford’s pressure told in the 58th minute when Mee got in front of his marker and headed home Mathias Jensen’s corner.
Seven minutes later Wood glanced in a cross from Callum Hudson-Odoi for his fifth goal in four league matches under new boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
But Toney was involved again when Brentford snatched the victory in the 70th minute, switching the play out to the right from where Jensen crossed for Maupay to turn and lash the ball past Turner.
Frank: Toney a man for the big occasion
Brentford boss Thomas Frank:
“They’re three big points. It was a massive game for us. We played a fine game. Of course Ivan is important but there are 10 other players on the pitch. One other player I would like to praise is Neal Maupay. That was a top goal. I’m very pleased.
“We faced a good team but in the first half we struggled to get on top of the game. We didn’t create enough in open play. We talked a little bit about taking less touches. We were much better in the second half.
“It’s a boost to have Ivan back but we showed great character to stay in the game. He was impressively good. He’s been out for eight months. He’s a man for the big occasion. He doesn’t feel the pressure. He played the football he loves. He was ever-present with his link-up play.”
Nuno: Toney goal is clear ball displacement
Nottingham Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo:
“Of course, I have [an issue]. Everyone in this room can see it was a ball displacement. The law is clear. Every goal must be checked. Every situation that leads to a goal must be checked. I don’t know if this was checked. It’s ball displacement.
“I think we have to be a little bit more mature in these situations. It changed the position of the wall. It was a soft goal but everyone thinks it’s a mistake from the wall. But it’s not only inches but a yard almost.”
When asked about Toney’s comment that you’re allowed to move the ball a yard either side, Nuno added: “That’s the first time I’ve heard that one.”