Chris Wood came off the bench to win the game in the 89th minute for Nottingham Forest as they defeated Sheffield United 2-1 at the City Ground.
Taiwo Awoniyi had headed Forest in front inside three minutes as the hosts started brightly but the Blades came back into it and scored the equaliser early in the second half thanks to Hamer’s brilliantly curled effort into the top corner of Matt Turner’s net.
With the game in the balance, Steve Cooper sent for Wood and his superb header from another Serge Aurier cross restored the home side’s advantage late in the game. There was to be no comeback this time, Paul Heckingbottom’s team beaten again.
Nottingham Forest: Turner (8), Boly (6), Worrall (5), McKenna (5), Aurier (8), Danilo (6), Mangala (6), Williams (6), Gibbs-White (7), Johnson (7), Awoniyi (8).
Subs: Yates (7), Elanga (7), Wood (8), Niakhate (6), Kouyate (6).
Sheffield United: Foderingham (6), Ahmedhodzic (7), Egan (6), Robinson (6), Osborn (6), Norwood (7), Souza (6), Lowe (5), Hamer (8), Osula (6), Traore (7).
Subs: Larouci (7), Basham (6), Brooks (6), Hackford (6).
Player of the match: Serge Aurier
Sheffield United’s first two fixtures looked a little inviting relative to what lies ahead but they have failed to claim a point from games against Crystal Palace and Forest. The next two matches before the international break are against Manchester City and Everton.
They will surely view this as a chance missed given that Turner had to pull off a fine save to stop Benie Traore putting them in front when confusion between Scott McKenna and Joe Worrall allowed him through. Instead, it is Forest who are off the mark for the campaign.
How Forest won it – early and late
It had looked likely to be a straightforward evening for Forest early on. Awoniyi’s header from Aurier’s inviting cross was made to look routine – and that is how scoring goals has become for the Nigerian striker after adjusting to the Premier League late last season.
This was the sixth consecutive appearance in which Awoniyi has found the net for his team, scoring eight goals in that sequence of games straddling this season and last. In doing so, he has equalled Stan Collymore’s record for the club in the competition.
Forest played with verve in those opening stages, maintaining that spirit of the City Ground that helped them to stay in the top division last season and has been such a feature under Cooper. What will concern the Forest boss is how the tempo was allowed to drop.
- Taiwo Awoniyi came into the Nottingham Forest team after stepping off the bench to score at Arsenal. Neco Williams was also added to the starting line-up, with Ola Aina missing out and Ryan Yates dropping to the bench.
- Sheffield United made two changes from the side which lost at home to Crystal Palace last weekend, with Gus Hamer making his debut following his arrival from Coventry. Vinicius Souza came in for his first start. George Baldock and Chris Basham dropped out.
The Blades came into the contest as the first half progressed, although when the opening 45 minutes was over, Paul Heckingbottom’s side had still only mustered one of the game’s 10 shots – Vinicius Souza’s curled effort comfortably saved by Turner.
The second half was a different story as they went close even before Hamer’s stunning strike. A corner found its way to the new signing from Coventry and he angled the shot into the far corner of the net to spark wild celebrations among the away support.
The visitors then dominated for a period early in the second half, although it did briefly allow Forest to play their favoured counter-attacking game. Awoniyi thought he had his second of the game following an accomplished finish but was clearly offside.
Still, the final quarter was marked by two chances – one clear, the other more awkward. Traore was unable to take his opportunity after racing through on goal. Wood managed to contort his huge frame to divert the ball into the net. Fine goal. Fine margins.
FPL Stats: Nott’m Forest 2-1 Sheff Utd
|Goals||Awoniyi, Hamer, Wood|
|Bonus points||Aurier (3), Wood (2), Awoniyi (1)|
Player of the match: Serge Aurier
Nottingham Forest usually rely on the counter-attacking speed of Brennan Johnson or the cute play between the lines from Morgan Gibbs-White. While there were glimpses of both on Friday evening, they won the game thanks to two crosses to their strikers.
Both were supplied by Serge Aurier. The 30-year-old wing-back enjoyed the freedom of the right flank and delivered a series of teasing balls into the box and might have made it a trio of assists had Awoniyi converted a good chance for his second of the night.
Since the summer of 2017, the only player to score more headed goals in the Premier League than Chris Wood is Harry Kane. With an aerial threat like that on the pitch, Sheffield United had to cut out the crosses better than they were able to do at the City Ground.
Cooper: We were far superior – but might not have won that game last season
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper: “The last sort of 30 minutes of the game, I thought we were by far the superior
team, played high up the pitch, played good football, and created real dangerous moments in the game.
“We took the game to try and win it. Of course we were by far the better team, of course we deserved to win, but I really liked the attitude of the team in getting over the line and getting the goal late on.
“I’m not sure we win that game last year at times, especially at the start of the season. It reminded me a little bit of (the 3-2 home defeats against) Fulham and Bournemouth, so hopefully that is a bit of growth in the mentality of the
“I really liked how we stuck to the task, there was only one team who deserved to win tonight. We took our foot off the pedal and gave Sheffield United a chance in the game. I am really glad we regrouped and did what we did in the last 30
Heckingbottom on difficulty of losing key players and signing new ones late in window
Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom: “I just feel for the players a little bit because they deserved more than this.
“If you sign players in June or July, you have two or three months with them by the end of August. If you sign them in August you are looking at September, October into November before you are really happy. It is something I have prepared for. I wish we weren’t doing it in the Premier League, but it can’t scare us, it can’t be an excuse.
“There is a commitment to get the players in, we will get them in, but it’s tough.
“It’s tough recruiting, we could go and get one tomorrow, but it wouldn’t be the one I want. I am playing my part in that, part of my brief is to develop players and make money for the club as well. I have to believe in a player and he has to be able to come and add. We will get them, I just wish we had them.
“But it’s no one fault, we can’t control when clubs come and take our players. Circumstances have meant we have been vulnerable.”
Forest’s win in stats
- Nottingham Forest’s winner was their latest winning goal in the Premier League since Alf Inge Haaland also netted after 89 minutes against Arsenal in December 1996.
- Taiwo Awoniyi became the second Nottingham Forest player to score in six consecutive Premier League appearances, after Stan Collymore in the 1994-95 season.
- Sheffield United have now lost each of their last 16 Premier League away games when conceding the opening goal, their worst ever such run in the competition.
- Nottingham Forest have conceded 17 goals from outside the box in the Premier League since the start of last season, the most of any team still in the competition.
- Prior to Chris Wood’s winner, Taiwo Awoniyi had scored each of Nottingham Forest’s last six Premier League goals.
- Gustavo Hamer became the sixth player to score on their Premier League debut for Sheffield United, and the first since Jayden Bogle against Brighton in 2020.
- Serge Aurier has assisted two goals in a single game in one of Europe’s major leagues for just the second time in his career – the previous instance was also against Sheffield United.
Nottingham Forest’s next game is away to Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday August 26 – kick-off 3pm.
Steve Cooper’s side then host Burnley in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday August 30 – kick-off 7.45pm.
Sheffield United are next in action on Sunday August 27 when they host Manchester City in the Premier League, live on Sky Sports – kick-off 2pm.
The Blades then host Lincoln in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday August 30 – kick-off 7.45pm.