It was like the EFL Championship on steroids. Last year’s second-tier champions Fulham deservedly beat the play-off winners Nottingham Forest after a three-goal streak in six minutes of the second half. Forest lost their fourth consecutive Premier League game on the night Premier League football returned following Quinn’s death.
The fact that Aleksandar Mitrovic didn’t celebrate his 28th birthday with a goal shows that there is strength in Marco Silva’s attacking resources, but these are anxious times for Forest as they try to seal their 22-year-old contract.
The City Ground was unable to observe a full minute’s silence as players and managers stood respectfully around the wreaths laid in the centre.
A few childish shouts of “come on reds” during the silence soon sparked other less obvious breaches of protocol as the Premier League’s first chance to show respect for the late Queen briefly descended into chaos.
Thank goodness this game, moved to Friday night in deference to the one-day cricket final at Trent Bridge on Saturday, was not broadcast live. After a mixed start to the season for the clubs promoted to the top flight, it felt like a significant opportunity for both. The fare was sharp, in an old-fashioned way, tackles and tempers flaring in a volcanic first half.
Three straight defeats meant Forest were grateful to get their noses in front early on. However, having conceded two goals last time out to Bournemouth, the third-ranked Premier League club, they knew it was only the beginning. Morgan Gibbs-White earned a corner when his shot at the near post after Brennan Johnson’s electric strike down the right wing was deflected behind by Kenny Tete.
Forest’s record signing headed in a corner, Ryan Yates, captain in Joe Worrall’s absence, clicked over and Taiwo Awonii was recalled at the back post for his second goal since his £17m move from Union Berlin.
Ahead of this game, Steve Cooper admitted there was a “feeling of the unknown” about how his squad would fare with the 11 players he will select, while almost all of his new squad continue to get to know each other. So maybe it wasn’t much of a surprise Fulhamwho have won three previous visits to the Championship here, played with more cohesion for the rest of the half.
The in-form Aleksandar Mitrovic plundered from behind several times down the inside-right channel as Forest failed to take control of the game. Running onto Tete’s good pass, the Serbian striker uncharacteristically pounced and allowed his shot to be blocked in his bid to become the first Fulham player to score in five consecutive Premier League games.
The area was a rich groove for Fulham and midway through the first period Willian, on his full debut for the visitors, sped onto Mitrovic’s pass. Steve Cook, the Forest centre-back, decided to take one for the team and was probably relieved to see a yellow card when he brought down the Brazilian, especially when Andreas Pereira’s free-kick flew off the wall and over the crossbar.
Forest were the first Premier League side to take 100 shots this season and Dean Henderson, their on-loan keeper, showed why he deserves an England call-up, parrying Mitrovic’s header and deflecting Tete’s shot near the post.
Fulham may have been frustrated in the first half, but they soon recovered in the second as their dominance was rewarded with three goals in a six-minute burst. Les did not know what hit them. In the 54th minute, Tosin Adarabio, deftly losing to Yates, who was prevented from being marked by Mitrovic, headed in a Willian corner.
Then, after more good work from Willian, Polina got to the edge of the area to sideline Tete into the top corner. It was his second goal since joining from Sporting.
Forest had no chance to come to terms with the changing dynamics of the game as Tim Ream also came late from midfield to score a first-time goal after Bobby Decorado-Reid’s superb cross from the left flank followed Mitrovic’s superb pass from the halfway line. .
There was a minute’s applause to mark each year of the Queen’s reign as the City Ground honored her passing in more fitting style with 20 minutes remaining.
Cooper went bankrupt with attacking substitutions and Lewis O’Brien provided a thrilling finale when he scored from 15 yards after Adarabioyo could only nudge Johnson’s right-wing cross into his path, but Forest were unable to equalise.