Nottingham Forest ended their 23-year wait for Premier League football with a narrow victory over Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final at Wembley – a win worth around £170million .
Promotion back to the top flight capped a brilliant turnaround in their season, which started with six defeats in seven.
Levi Colwill’s own goal from a James Garner cross was the decisive moment.
Town improved after the break but struggled to create a big chance.
Their best opportunity saw Harry Toffolo booked to dive into the area by umpire Jon Moss, last officiating before retiring, and, although replays suggest Jack Colback had made contact, it didn’t. was canceled by VAR.
Forest have resisted growing pressure to spark scenes of jubilation and end their two-decade exile from the Premier League.
Steve Cooper has completely turned the club’s situation around after taking over from the sacked Chris Hughton in September.
They weren’t at their best in their first appearance at Wembley in 30 years, but the big moment of the game went in their favor before the break.
Impressive James Garner, on loan from Manchester United, fired a dangerous ball from inside left and Town defender Colwill was only able to deflect the ball past goalkeeper Lee Nicholls under pressure from Ryan Yates.
The Terriers had more possession and carried more of a threat after half-time but couldn’t force Brice Samba or his replacement Ethan Horvath into a notable save.
Third chance for Forest Cooper hero
Forest’s promotion to their first-ever play-off final comes at the end of a season that started disastrously.
The two-time European Cup winners took a point from their first seven games – their worst start to a season in 108 years – and when Hughton was sacked in September it looked like the side would likely spend the campaign fight against relegation.
However, Cooper, who had taken Swansea to the play-offs in his two seasons in South Wales, quickly turned things around and they finally entered the top six for the first time this season on February 9.
There were also impressive home FA Cup wins over Arsenal and local rivals Leicester City before being narrowly beaten by eventual winners Liverpool in the quarter-finals, as the momentum around the team and the city was growing.
Like his counterpart Carlos Corberan, Cooper has thrived on good recruitment, including the addition of a season-long loan of Middlesbrough full-back Djed Spence and Manchester United midfielder Garner by his predecessor, and a great workout, with Wales striker Brennan Johnson enjoying a breakout campaign.
There was some disappointment however when their bid to see their automatic promotion fight through to the final day ended in defeat at second-placed Bournemouth in their penultimate game of the season.
They regrouped and appeared to be heading for a play-off semi-final victory over Sheffield United before conceding two second-half goals in the second leg at the City Ground to draw on penalties, where Samba saved three kicks from the Blades to send. them at Wembley.
It was by no means a vintage performance at the National Stadium, but they won’t care and start next season as a top flight team for the first time in this century.
Corberan burrows fall at the last hurdle
Huddersfield, who were also denied a penalty when Lewis O’Brien fell in the area under a challenge from Max Lowe, will have to reflect on a terrific season that didn’t get the fairy tale ending they were hoping for. .
As with the campaign in which they were promoted to the Premier League in 2017, not much was expected of them at the start of the season.
The Terriers finished 20th in 2020-21 and suffered a 5-1 loss to Fulham in their first home game of the season – the first in front of their own fans since February 2020.
However, they put that behind them and put together a series of results that propelled them into the top six before a 17-game unbeaten streak – the longest of any side in the Championship all season – between November and March. saw them consolidate their promotion qualifications. .
The team thrived on excellent recruiting and a strong collective spirit. Goalkeeper Nicholls has been superb since joining MK Dons, while compatriot Tom Lees has been brilliant as a centre-back and former Boreham Wood man Sorba Thomas has provided plenty of assists both in open play and on set pieces.
At the heart of it is Spaniard Corberan, who joined in 2020 after two years working alongside Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds. The meticulous nature of his preparation saw him nicknamed “The Professor” by Town players, and his ability to improve players deemed insufficient by other second-tier teams.
City fans are now hoping star players O’Brien and Thomas, who weren’t fully fit at Wembley after a knee injury, can be retained and can challenge at the top of the table again.