OPINION: Best yet to come as Brereton proves he is a fast learner

IN PICTURE: Ben Brereton.'STORY: SPORT LEAD: Nottingham Forest v Derby County.  Sky Bet Championship match at The City Ground, Nottingham.  Sunday 11th March 2018.
IN PICTURE: Ben Brereton.'STORY: SPORT LEAD: Nottingham Forest v Derby County. Sky Bet Championship match at The City Ground, Nottingham. Sunday 11th March 2018.

Nottingham Forest youngster, Ben Brereton continued his City Ground education in what proved to be a topsy turvy week for the 19-year-old striker.

The Reds were well on their way to breaking an unwanted record by the time Brentford arrived a week last Tuesday, as they edged closer to 636 minutes without scoring a solitary goal.

So, obviously all eyes were on the strikers and in this case, Brereton who’d been given a start ahead of Apostolos Vellios.

Vellios had started the previous two games but failed to make a telling impression, so nobody could have any complaints that Brereton was picked ahead of him against Brentford.

Many Forest fans have campaigned for the Greek striker to be given a chance this term, especially off the back of his pre season form.

I was one of those calling for the selection of the former Everton man. All I asked was that he be given a chance to prove himself, having been completely shunned by former Reds boss Mark Warburton.

Since the arrival of Aitor Karanka, Vellios has indeed been granted some decent game time, but has unfortunately failed to make the impression we all thought he was capable of.

So, from a personal standpoint, I have no issue with his return to bench of late, I’m just relieved he finally got the minutes he deserved.

However, as the Brentford game got underway, it was clear to see that Brereton was lacking in confidence.

I watched him off the ball for sustained periods and although he looked to demand the ball from his team mates, I got the feeling that he didn’t really want it when it arrived.

His confidence seemed to dissipate as the minutes ticked by, as he half-heartedly ran at defenders, as if knowing he wasn’t going to beat them.

The clincher came midway through the second half when he went clean through on his own, with just Daniel Bentley to beat in the Brentford goal and, uncharacteristically, Brereton cut across the box and waited for the arrival of Joe Lolley.

The chance had gone and with it the last drop of confidence in the youngster’s veins.

Given the fact that the Bees went onto snatch an undeserved late winner, and that the Forest goal drought continued for yet another 90 minutes, I wondered how Brereton would bounce back from such disappointment.

So I have to say that the youngster’s reaction come the following Saturday against Ipswich was exemplary.

From the outset, he looked like a different player as he played on the shoulder of the last defender and made some intelligent runs off Lolley.

He was mightily unlucky as his 25 yard effort was brilliantly saved by Ipswich keeper Bart Bialkowski, a stark contrast to his last performance.

Despite the early positivity, Forest followed their script to perfection and went a goal down which stirred some very restless natives in all four City Ground stands.

The dreaded record-breaking minute edged ever closer as Brereton and co tried in vain to chalk up an equaliser.

Ironic applause rippled around the stadium in the 84th minute as Nottingham Forest sank to a new low.

It was official, they had surpassed the 636 minutes without scoring and, as supporters, we wondered if we’d ever score again?

Then came an amazing finale which was beautifully orchestrated by Brereton.

He went from zero to hero as he drove into the box and deservedly won a penalty, which he smashed home with aplomb in the 88th minute.

The same player had attempted to fool the referee by taking a disgraceful dive just minutes earlier, and was rightly yellow carded for his theatrics.

Brian Clough would turn in his grave if he were to witness such deception.

But, it’s testament to the development of Brereton that he acknowledged the error of his ways and atoned for it like a professional.

That professionalism emanated further still, as the 19-year-old turned provider, crossing perfectly for Lolley to win the game with virtually the last kick of the afternoon deep into stoppage time.

Despite not yet being the finished article, Brereton proved to me that he’s a very quick learner and that he is capable of great things in a Nottingham Forest shirt.