Brennan Johnson double earns Forest derby win over troubled Leicester
Brennan Johnson’s two goals enabled Nottingham Forest, bottom of the table and with Steve Cooper’s future as manager being questioned when they lost 4-0 at Leicester in October, to move five points clear of the relegation zone as they extended their unbeaten home record to eight games in all competitions.
How Forest’s faith is being rewarded. Cooper was awarded a new contract in the days following that fifth straight defeat and now, with a Carabao Cup semi-final with Manchester United to relish and momentum with them in the league, the City Ground is rocking.
Cooper revealed that he used that harrowing setback at the King Power Stadium as motivation for his players to forge this victory. “I showed a video to the boys before the game of our supporters when we were 4-0 down,” he said. “It was important we give a lot back to our supporters. For me personally to give that result back to the fans means a lot.
“Because of what happened in October and what happened in the week afterwards we had to give them something back. They’d been hurting at the King Power and to give us so much support, and me, that definitely felt like a defining moment.”
Leicester, hampered by having nine players out through injury, four successive league defeats since the World Cup with Brendan Rodgers accepting they are in a relegation fight. “Absolutely,” said the Leicester manager. “I said that to the players in the dressing room. Let’s not pretend you’re not. I have to be honest with you. Of course it’s a worry. But there are still so many games to go. If we can get the players back then we can push on again.”
Fresh from helping seal that quarter-final triumph over his old club Wolves, Morgan Gibbs-White was once again central to this victory as he brilliantly laid on both goals.
Leicester had the best chance of a tame first half but Harvey Barnes was guilty og sidefooting a volley wide from close range after Marc Albrighton’s superb cross.
Cooper demanded more from Johnson at half-time and shortly after the interval made a decisive switch when he moved Gibbs-White into a more advanced No 10 role from where he set up both goals.
Leicester were playing a high line, always a risk when the pacy Johnson is around, and thought they had done enough to play him offside as Gibbs-White played a cute pass in behind Wout Faes. Johnson did well to nick the ball past Danny Ward before slotting in to an empty net with Forest’s celebrations delayed by a VAR check for offside which went in their favour.
From there the whole tenor of the afternoon changed. Serge Aurier played a brilliant swerving cross into the area that a diving Sam Surridge could not quite get his head to. Leicester were fortunate that Daniel Amartey, the last defender when crudely felling Lewis O’Brien, was not dismissed, and Youri Tielemans could have received a second yellow for fouling the same player.
The second goal was a beauty as Gibbs-White spread the ball wide with the outside of his right foot and enabled Johnson, taking a superb first touch to advance into the area, to smash home his sixth goal of the season.