Nottingham Forest are finally back in the English football big time after a twenty-three-year absence. They took on Huddersfield at Wembley, who finished third in the second tier after an excellent season, and edged the tie following an own goal from Levi Colwill. It finishes off a remarkable turnaround from the City Ground outfit, who will now take the step up alongside Fulham and Bournemouth.
The Championship playoff final, which is said to be the biggest prize in world football, worth in the region of £170 million, played out in front of over 80,000 fans at a packed Wembley Stadium. And it was two teams who undoubtedly deserved to be there. Huddersfield enjoyed a stunning turnaround from their 20th place finish last season. And, believe it or not, when Steve Cooper took the reins at the City Ground, Forest were bottom of the Championship in September.
The key moment across the ninety minutes came when James Garner, on loan from Manchester United, put the ball into the box from the left. Ryan Yates, who had a couple of opportunities in the game, moved to try and divert home but, in doing so, drew Levi Colwill into making a challenge, which inadvertently saw the on-loan Chelsea man put through his own net. It was a disappointing end to what has been a stellar season for the teenager, who has been one of the top performers in the second tier.
Huddersfield's best chances arguably came from a couple of occasions when decisions were referred to VAR. Harry Toffolo broke into the Forest penalty area and looked to be felled by Jack Colback, but referee Jon Moss booked the Terriers man for diving, and VAR controversially deemed the decision to be correct. There was further controversy when Lewis O’Brien also tumbled in the Forest box, this time after a challenge from Max Lowe. But again, there was nothing doing.
Huddersfield were always in the game, and more so after the break. But they failed to create any big chances of note. They threw on the likes of Jordan Rhodes, who has scored in recent games, as they looked to find an equaliser. But the quality was lacking in the final third, with the Terries recording no shots on target throughout the games, which is sure to have displeased head coach Carlos Corberan.
For Forest, the future looks bright. Their coffers will have been well and truly swelled after their playoff success. It’s now likely that star players such as Joe Worrall and Brennan Johnson, who had been linked with moves away from the club, will remain at the City Ground for their first shot at the big time in Forest colours.
Huddersfield, on the other hand, will have to put their Wembley disappointment behind them quickly. They will want to be in the mix next season, and after finishing just six points adrift of the automatics last term, the potential is there to take the next step and make a Premier League return themselves.