THE NOTEBOOK: Taiwo Awoniyi makes history, and a club legend says goodbye to the City Ground
THE NOTEBOOK: Taiwo Awoniyi makes history, a club hero says goodbye to the City Ground, and Serge Aurier joins an elite club… as Nottingham Forest celebrate another season in the Premier League
Nottingham Forest puts their relegation fears to bed after beating Arsenal 1-0 at the City Ground to the delight of the home crowd on Saturday evening.
A goal from Taiwo Ayoniyi was all that was needed to snuff out the dwindling hopes that Arsenal could sneak the title from Manchester City, who were handed their third-consecutive Premier League trophy as the whistle blew on their rivals’ capitulation.
But movement at the top of the table was the furthest thing from the minds of the Forest players, who celebrated staying up in front of their fans.
With victory against Arsenal, Forest will see out back-to-back seasons in the top-flight for the first time since 1997.
Here, Mail Sport’s NICK CALLOW fills you in on the sights and scenes at the City Ground that you might have missed.
Steve Cooper celebrated with delight after Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 win over Arsenal
The former title-challengers had no response for Taiwo Awoniyi’s first-half strike
After fears of relegation, Forest players can breathe a sigh of relief before the season’s end
Awoniyi turns history-maker
Taiwo Awoniyi has now scored five goals in his last three games and joins an elite Forest class of goalscorer to have scored in three successive league games. Only Dougie Freedman have achieved that feat before for the club – but perhaps this crucial strike by the Nigerian will go down as one of the most important in the club’s history.
Club hero Colback watches from the stands
No place in the Nottingham Forest squad for club hero Jack Colback – on the day it was announced he will leave the club when his contract expires this summer. The midfielder, 33, ends a five-year stay at the City Ground having made just shy of 140 appearances. Colback played an integral part in last season’s memorable promotion-winning campaign which saw Forest return to the Premier League.
Jack Colback (top) is one of the promotion-winning heroes still left at the City Ground
Head Coach Steve Cooper said: ‘Jack has been more than a player to me. Before I started working with him, and even before his time at Forest, he’s had a good career having played in the Premier League many years. When you think about last season, everybody played a massive part, but when I think about Jack’s contribution, it was huge, especially with some of the goals that he scored. The contribution goes to his experience, his leadership. He’s a real man.’
Aurier joins the 100 Club
Serge Aurier celebrated a significant milestone as he made his 100th Premier League appearance. The much-travelled Ivorian international was one of Forest’s many recruits last summer when he came in from Spanish side Villarreal. This is his tenth club in a professional career that started with Lens in 2009. The defender made 77 of his top flight starts in this country in a four year spell at Arsenal’s north London rivals Tottenham.
Gustovo Scarpa’s leave of absence
Gustavo Scarpa officially missed this match with a calf problem, but the Brazilian was also given leave of absence to appear at court in South America having been the victim of a £1m cryptocurrency scam. Forest’s January signing has taken legal action in his homeland and has been diplomatically left out of the side by Steve Cooper since the start of last month so he can try to recover his money.
Haaland’s Forest connection
Footballer of the Year Erling Haaland and his dad Alf-Inge had more than a passing interest in this match – and not only because the outcome crowned Manchester City champions. The Haalands also have a close affinity with Forest. The Midlands club’s only victory in 11 Premier League meetings with Arsenal before this match came at the City Ground in December 1996 – thanks to Daddy Haaland’s 89th-minute winner. Arsenal last played a league game here in 1999 when they came away with a win after Martin Keown scored the only goal.
A frustrating day for Ramsdale
Awoniyi’s 19th minute goal sparked amazing celebratory scenes but also deprived Aaron Ramsdale of a record. The Arsenal keeper was after an 11th Premier League clean sheet away from home fa feat only achieved before by Petr Cech (2004-05) and Ederson (2018-19). The Arsenal No.1 will now have to wait to challenge for the record until next season as their last game of the season is at home to Wolves next Sunday.
Aaron Ramsdale missed out on the chance to make history between the sticks for Arsenal
Forest’s biggest fan
England Test cricket star Stuart Broad is a Forest regular and would have been able to hear the roars here while bowling for Notts against Essex just around the corner at Trent Bridge. And he revealed he always keeps the umpires on side to make sure he can keep up to speed with Forest’s fortune in their relegation battle.
Speaking in the matchday programme, he said: ‘I ask the umpires as they’re always mic’d up. I actually did it at Lord’s. We were playing Middlesex and Leeds were playing at the same time. I said to the umpires “can you find out the Leeds score for me?”
‘It takes about three or four minutes so I bowl three or four balls and then they ended up telling me the score and I just went ‘yes!’ I don’t think any of the younger players would be thinking about football at the time but my mind just drifts off slightly and it helps me stay relaxed.’