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Brentford 3-2 Nottingham Forest: Ivan Toney scores on his return from an eighth month ban… as the Bees win thriller to end a five match losing run in the Premier League

So the Big Dog has not lost his bite. Ivan Toney used that nickname to describe himself last week and he produced in style by making the perfect return to Premier League action.

‘When it matters, I deliver,’ Toney declared after this triumph and who could argue? Despite eight months on the sidelines for 232 breaches of FA betting regulations, Toney played like he had never been away. He scored a comeback goal, bullied Nottingham Forest centre-back Andrew Omobamidele and was at the heart of every positive attacking move.

Toney is probably not quite as good as he thinks but that does not really matter. Brentford’s self-belief had been eroded by five straight defeats that had taken them to the cusp of the relegation scrap. In that situation, a player who considers himself the Bees’ knees is exactly what you need. 

‘He makes us a better team,’ said Neal Maupay, who scored the winner. Brentford boss Thomas Frank played this one to perfection by making Toney captain and he responded spectacularly.

Frank’s men had to work hard for it against a Forest side fearing a points deduction and missing numerous key men. They even took the lead through Danilo and after Toney and Ben Mee had put Brentford ahead, Chris Wood equalised. Three minutes later, though, Maupay hit the third and Toney’s welcome home party had its dream ending.

Ivan Toney scored on his return from an eight month ban as Brentford beat Nottingham Forest

Ivan Toney scored on his return from an eight month ban as Brentford beat Nottingham Forest

Toney equalised for the hosts with the forward's free kick going through the Forest wall

Toney equalised for the hosts with the forward’s free kick going through the Forest wall

The visitors had taken a third minute lead with Danilo volley in from the edge of the Bees box

The visitors had taken a third minute lead with Danilo volley in from the edge of the Bees box

Brentford and Toney had milked the attention during the week like Mick Jagger before one last comeback tour and neither were about to stop here. During his time in exile, Toney’s status has grown from ‘admired Premier League striker’ to ‘£100million guarantee of the title’, apparently without the man himself needing to kick a ball. Rarely has expectation on a returning player been so great. 

MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS

Brentford (3-5-2): Flekken 6; Collins 6, Pinnock 6, Mee 6.5; Roerslev 6 (Ajer 90), Damsgaard 7 (Baptiste 74, 6), Janelt 6.5, Jensen 6.5 (Yarmoliuk 90+7), Lewis-Potter 7 (Dasilva 90); Toney 8.5, Maupay 6.5 (Reguilon 74, 6)

Subs not used: Strakosha, Zanka, Peart-Harris, Olakigbe. 

Scorers: Toney 19, Mee 58, Maupay 68

Booked: Toney 

Manager: Thomas Frank 7

Nottingham Forest (4-2-3-1): Turner 6; Montiel 5 (Aguilera 86), Omobamidele 5, Murillo 6, Tavares 6.5; Mangala 6.5, Danilo 7; Dominguez 5.5, Yates 6.5 (Williams 62, 6), Hudson-Odoi 6; Wood 7

Subs not used: Vlachodimos, Worrall, Toffolo, McKenna, Osong, McDonnell, Gardner

Scorers: Danilo 3, Wood 65 

Booked: Mangala, Montiel, Rui Silva (coach) 

Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo 6

Referee: Darren England 6

Attendance: 17,077 

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Perhaps Diego Maradona or Eric Cantona had this level of anticipation when they came back from bans and while Toney certainly talks the talk, even he might concede he is not quite of their standard. His importance to this club, however, is beyond doubt, and they must surely resist all offers to take him away this month.

An hour before kick-off, a breathless announcer delivered the team news excitedly to a near-empty stadium and the build-up accelerated from there. We saw Toney’s last Premier League goal – against the same opponents – from nine months ago on the big screen. Then the inevitable pre-kick-off montage – more goals, this time with vocals from Eminem.

All this and still a football match to play – and of course, it was Forest who seized the advantage. Vitaly Janelt’s clearance was wild and when Ben Mee’s header barely cleared the area, Danilo controlled it on his left knee and volleyed into the corner with his right foot.

The travelling supporters loved that, just as they enjoyed baiting Toney about his gambling suspension. In case you hadn’t noticed, Toney is the sort of bloke who likes to prove people wrong and he did just that in the 18th minute.

Orel Mangala was booked for a foul on Mikkel Damsgaard just outside the box. As Toney stood over the ball, Forest formed a four-man wall with Danilo as ‘draught excluder’ behind it to stop the low shot. Then Toney appeared to move the ball twice with his hands, a fraction each time, to give himself a better sight of goal. 

Neither the referee nor VAR spotted it and Toney promptly curled around the wall and inside Matt Turner’s near post. The Big Dog has learned a new trick but Nuno was perplexed. ‘The ball was displaced, it was clear,’ he said. ‘Every incident before a goal should be checked and I was surprised the players did not complain. We should have been more mature.’

The 27-year-old raced to hug Frank and his staff and then held up a Bees shirt bearing the message ‘For You Uncle Brian’. ‘The scorer, of course, Ivan Toney!’ bellowed the announcer.

Ben Mee gave the hosts the lead in the second half by heading in from Mathias Jensen's corner

Ben Mee gave the hosts the lead in the second half by heading in from Mathias Jensen’s corner 

The in-form Chris Wood levelled for Nottingham Forest with the forward glancing in a header

The in-form Chris Wood levelled for Nottingham Forest with the forward glancing in a header

Brentford restored their lead three minutes later with Neal Maupay volleying in on the turn

Brentford restored their lead three minutes later with Neal Maupay volleying in on the turn  

Maupay's effort ensured Brentford ended a five match losing run by winning on Toney's return

Maupay’s effort ensured Brentford ended a five match losing run by winning on Toney’s return

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

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Having claimed the first, Toney was a inches from creating the second. The forward hooked an overhit corner back into the box and after the ball had rebounded off Ryan Yates, Keane Lewis-Potter smashed it against the underside of the bar. Toney’s influence was growing now and Brentford did not have to wait long to move ahead. Ben Mee drifted away from Montiel and ran in front of Murillo at the near post, just in time to head home Mathias Jensen’s corner.

That should have set the stage for Brentford to cruise clear as Forest were struggling for rhythm. Then Jensen missed a tackle on Danilo in midfield, Callum Hudson-Odoi crossed from the left and the unmarked Wood glanced it past Mark Flekken.

Forest’s optimism did not last long. Toney was again at the heart of the move, spreading play to the right where Mads Roerslev delivered and Maupay held off Omobamidele before volleying in impressively. When the goal stood after a VAR check, Forest were furious and though replays suggested it was a fair call, Nuno felt differently. ‘From where I stood, it looked like handball,’ he said.

There was still time for Mangala to shoot just wide and the 10 added minutes produced anxious cries among the home fans but the Big Dog had had his day. He needs a few more displays like this now – and nobody would bet against him.

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