In Focus: Five stars who can fire Forest into the top flight

Sean Wilson
LiveScore
Brennan Johnson has spearheaded Nottingham Forest's promotion charge this season
Brennan Johnson has spearheaded Nottingham Forest's promotion charge this season

Nottingham Forest are on the cusp of a Premier League return after 23 years away — but they will need to be on top form to beat Huddersfield at Wembley.

Steve Cooper’s team reached this season’s Championship showpiece by edging past Sheffield United on penalties in their play-off semi-final. 

But they are up against a Terriers outfit who finished a place higher and only lost 10 games all season — the same as champions Fulham. 

Ahead of this afternoon’s clash, we take a look at five Forest players who could give their side the edge under the famous arch.

Brennan Johnson

The most likely hero for Forest is none other than local boy Brennan Johnson. 

Having returned to the club last summer after a successful loan spell at Lincoln, the 21-year-old has been a revelation this season. 

And his former boss Michael Appleton is unsurprised by the impact he has had at the City Ground. 

He said: "You could tell straight away he was a match winner [while at Lincoln] — defenders were scared stiff of him. 

"He’s got electric pace but it’s one thing having that, it’s another knowing how to use it. 

Brennan Johnson is Nottingham Forest's top scorer and top assister this season
Brennan Johnson is Nottingham Forest's top scorer and top assister this season

"We played over 60 games and he wanted to play in every one of them. That gives you a little bit of a feel for the lad. 

"All we tried to do was give him a bit of freedom. As long as we got the ball to him he’d do the damage." 

The Wales international is Forest’s top scorer, netting 16 times in the regular Championship campaign and twice more in the play-offs — striking once in each leg against Sheffield United. 

Johnson also leads the club’s assist chart with 10, so Cooper will certainly be hoping his young star can have a decisive impact in the final.

James Garner

Forest’s last two meetings with Huddersfield across all competitions have been decided by a single goal — and things could be similarly tight today. 

So James Garner’s set-piece wizardry may prove decisive in a game of fine margins, with seven of the 21-year-old midfielder’s eight league assists coming from such situations. 

The Manchester United loanee’s ability to deliver a dead ball has made him one of the division’s elite chance creators. 

That quality service could make all the difference at Wembley.

Manchester United loanee James Garner has been a creative threat for Nottingham Forest
Manchester United loanee James Garner has been a creative threat for Nottingham Forest

Djed Spence

Another loanee who has excelled — this time from Middlesbrough — is Djed Spence. 

The wing-back’s directness down the right flank has been a dangerous weapon for Forest all season — and he will be hoping to strike fear into the Terriers’ defence today. 

Spence, 21, has proven himself to be one of the league's most devastating high-volume dribblers, with Cooper's side relying heavily on the wide man to progress play upfield.

Joe Worrall

Spence is not the only Forest defender to have caught the eye this term. 

Joe Worrall has been outstanding as part of the Championship’s second-best defensive unit, which has shipped just 40 goals all season. 

The centre-back, 25, reads the game superbly and has a knack for timely interceptions, regularly snuffing out opposition attacks in his own third and emerging with the ball. 

However, Worrall is more than simply a ball-winner. He is heavily involved in his side’s build-up play, too. 

As Forest look to play through the thirds under Cooper, there is increased responsibility on the team’s central defenders to take more touches and play a high number of passes — and Worrall has excelled in that role.

Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates is a tough-tackling midfielder who poses an aerial threat from set-pieces
Ryan Yates is a tough-tackling midfielder who poses an aerial threat from set-pieces

Forest’s goal threat extends beyond the members of their forward line. 

Midfielder Ryan Yates has netted eight times in the Championship this term, with only Johnson and Lewis Grabban managing more for the club this season. 

While his midfield partner Garner takes set-pieces, the 24-year-old looks to get on the end of them. 

Four of his eight strikes have been headers and just one has come from open play. 

Out of possession, Yates’ role is that of a traditional midfield destroyer, with a focus on making tackles and winning the ball back — an unglamorous but crucial job in any balanced and successful side.

Tags

ChampionshipNottingham ForestHuddersfield Town
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