Philipp Hofmann struck a last gasp winner as ten-man Brentford beat Nottingham Forest on a dramatic afternoon at Griffin Park. The German striker came off the bench to score the winner after fellow substitute Sergi Canós had earlier put The Bees in front. In between Harlee Dean was sent off after an altercation with another substitute – Forest’s Jonathan Williams – and Henri Lansbury equalised. But Brentford, despite being a man down, kept pressing for the winner and found it at the death.
And they probably deserved it on the basis of their second half performance. The visitors were the better side for much of the first 50 minutes but once Brentford got in to their stride – helped by the introduction of Canós and Hofmann – they produced some fine football. And they also showed their battling qualities to hold on defensively after being pegged back and then find a way to win it.
The visitors started the game with Liam Trotter playing just behind lone striker Nelson Castro Oliveira and in front of a solid four man midfield. They played with their wide players high up the pitch with the full backs also pressing on when they were out of possession. It made it hard for Brentford to get going. The Bees were able to maintain possession in defence but as soon as they tried to play the ball in to midfield, it had to be precise or Forest would be able to break.
With lots of players in the centre of the park, it took a while for any pattern to emerge. Brentford seemed capable of exploiting space in behind Forest in wide areas but every time the visitors won the ball in an attacking area, they flooded forward. The first chances fell to the visitors and to Oliveira. Both times he forced David Button in to low saves – firstly after good work by Jamie Ward and then after Trotter had won the ball.
After a low key start, the game began to open up as the first half reached the midway point. Brentford were dominating possession and starting to move the ball through the midfield to create chances. Alan McCormack saw a shot blocked after a cross was half cleared and Alan Judge fired wide after good work by Ryan Woods. James Tarkowski flicked a header from a Judge cross wide and then nodded a Jake Bidwell corner over the top.
Forest were forced to play on the counter attack but with David Vaughan providing a solid defensive shield and also starting their forward play they were dangerous. A Ryan Mendes de Graça shot deflected wide before Button reacted well to tip over an Oliveira effort after a short corner. Oliveira then had a shot blocked before Mendes fired well over and then saw a shot blocked.
As half time approached Forest were sitting deeper but conversely were looking very dangerous on the counter attack. Brentford were frustrated by the visitors’ resolute defence and superb discipline out of possession and were unable to turn their possession in to good chances. At the other end Button saved well from the dangerous Ward and then from Oliveira after good work from Mendes. That attacking trio were seizing on any loose Brentford possession and The Bees may have gone in at half time happy to be level.
And Forest continued to hold the upper hand at the start of the second half. Lansbury had a long range shot blocked and then fired over the bar after a run from deep. Button then made a superb save from an Oliveira header before Matt Mills nodded the resulting corner over the bar. Oliveira also fired over soon after. Brentford had to weather a storm in the early stage of the second period but came through it and started to regain control of the game.
Judge saw a shot blocked after cutting inside and John Swift let fly with a dipping, swerving shot that was well saved by Dorus de Vries. With the game starting to swing their way, Brentford then introduced Hofmann and Canós, and there was an immediate impact. Within three minutes of the change a corner was half cleared, Judge floated it back in, Dean nodded it down and Canós brought it down before firing home from close range.
Confidence started to flow through Brentford and they could have made the game safe. Judge fired narrowly over the bar after a great break from Canós and McCormack was just unable to turn in a Judge cross on the stretch after a fine ball from Toumani Diagouraga, making his 200th Football League appearance for Brentford. But the game’s controversial incident changed the flow soon after.
Dean went in to a tackle with Oliveira and protested as a free kick was awarded. As he picked up the ball to show referee Brendan Malone his arm came in to contact with Williams and the Forest player hit the floor. Mr Malone flashed a red card and Williams bounced up seemingly untouched as Dean marched angrily towards the dressing room.
Jack O’Connell came on to play in the centre of defence but from the resulting free kick, Forest levelled. The first ball was cleared but Brentford couldn’t clear the penalty area enabling Lansbury to find space and curl the ball home from the edge of the penalty area. The visitors would have expected to go on to win the game from that point. Dexter Blackstock flicked an effort across the face of goal and Button saved a Lansbury free kick but the onslaught never came.
Canós proved a livewire attacking outlet, pressing Forest back and Hofmann held the ball up well when Brentford got it. Forest also seemed reluctant to commit bodies forward and Tarkowski and O’Connell dealt with balls thrown forward. And it was Brentford that went looking for the winner. Canós produced a fine turn and shot and brought a save out of de Vries before Tarkowski headed a McCormack free kick against the post.
When the winner came, there were just seconds of the six minutes of added time remaining. While Forest dithered in defence, slow to recover as Brentford attacked, Diagouraga fed Woods, who cut inside Mills and let fly. The shot was palmed out by de Vries but only to Hofmann, the shot shouldn’t have had enough power to find the net but bobbled its way over the line to give Brentford the win.
Brentford: Button; Yennaris, Dean, Tarkowski, Bidwell; McCormack, Diagouraga; Woods, Judge (sub O’Connell 73 mins), Swift (sub Canós 60 mins); Vibe (sub Hofmann 60 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Kerschbaumer, Saunders, Gogia
Bookings: Woods (90 mins) (fourth of season)
Sent Off: Dean (71 mins)
Nottingham Forest: de Vries; Lichaj, Mills, Hobbs, Pinillos Gonzãlez; Ward, Lansbury, Vaughan, Mendes de Graça (sub Williams 67 mins); Trotter (sub Blackstock 67 mins); Castro Oliveira (sub Walker 87 mins)
Subs (not used): Evtimov, Mancienne, Wilson, Osborn
Attendance: 11,403 (1,633 away fans)