‘Buzzing to be back’ – but should Toney goal have stood?

“Big dog’s back,” said Ivan Toney before his return from an eight-month ban. And the Brentford striker proved he hasn’t lost any bite with a goal in their 3-2 win over relegation rivals Nottingham Forest.

It was a thrilling game with Toney making it 1-1 after Danilo’s early opener for Forest. Ben Mee put the Bees ahead with Chris Wood equalising, only for Neal Maupay to score Brentford’s winner.

But Toney’s goal from a free-kick was highly controversial. The 27-year-old moved the ball twice while Forest were setting their wall before bending the ball in the little gap between the wall and the right post.

He even moved some of the foam from the referee’s spray.

But his main focus after his side’s win was enjoying being back from a long ban for breaching Football Association gambling rules.

“It was a long time coming,” Toney told Sky Sports. “I manifested this win when I was at home during the time I was out, I am here now and buzzing to be back scoring goals and winning with the team.

“I 100% knew this would happen again. I manifest things like this. Before the game, before I left my house, I thought, ‘We’re winning today and I’m scoring.’ And I made it happen, which is good.”

The win took Brentford up to 14th, two places and two points above Forest.

What was the beef with Toney’s goal?

Forest captain Ryan Yates, on the end of the wall, turned round and gestured to goalkeeper Matt Turner that there was space for Toney to bend the ball round.

But as this was going on Toney moved the ball across slightly towards that space. He then moved it a second time and, this time, even moved some of the foam that shows where the free-kick should be taken to the new position of the ball.

He then found the gap that Yates had been worried about.

“You can move it half a yard either side,” Toney told BBC Sport afterwards. “If I’d missed nobody would really question it, but the fact it’s gone in everyone wants to make a noise. But it’s gone in the back of the net and we’ve won the game.”

Ex-England striker Alan Shearer told BBC Match of the Day: “He was integral to everything. He is back and Brentford will be a lot more comfortable with him in the team. As a player you are always trying to gain that advantage and he has done that there.”

Former Sheffield United midfielder Michael Brown was watching the game for BBC Radio 5 Live and wondered why no Forest players flagged it to the officials.

“All that situation needs is for someone to tell the referee, ‘Listen I think they moved the ball’,” Brown said.

“The amount of cameras and eyes on any situation, it is easy to sort. The ref is trying to sort everything, he’s got three or four people in his ear, and it is a key moment.

“If I’m in that wall, I am telling the referee he’s moved the ball. I’m not watching Toney move the ball and standing not saying anything, I’m making sure it is moved back.”

Former Wales defender Ashley Williams added on Match of the Day: Forest fans will be unhappy. The ball is placed, he moves it a little bit, then moves the foam. What bothers me is not one Forest player complains to the referee as it is happening.

“It is a good goal but that is just a poor piece of defending. We see people steal yards on the throw ins and I would have expected Nottingham Forest to have made the referee aware of it.”

Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo was not pleased at full-time.

“It is ball displacement so VAR should intervene,” he told BBC Match of the Day. “Every action that leads to a goal, VAR checks, and that situation led to a goal.”

Bees boss Thomas Frank had a different view, well no view.

“To be fair I didn’t see that, I don’t know about it,” he said. “I don’t know what to say to that. It’s a goal and it stands.

“He is a clever player. If you can’t do it, it is not good but it is in the back of the net.”

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‘Yeah I’m back, I’m back’

Toney is crucial to Brentford and his return comes at a key time with the club starting the day below Forest and only two points above the relegation zone.

This was their first win in any competition since 2 December.

Last season he scored 20 of their 58 Premier League goals, with nobody else reaching double figures.

This season in all competitions, Bryan Mbeumo, who is currently injured, is their top scorer with seven.

“It was an extremely impressive performance,” added Frank. “Of course he has been training and working really hard and he was on it. But besides the goal, his link-up play, his hold-up play, the presence and the character, wow.

“He set the stage in many ways. Classic Ivan. He loves the big stage. He thrives there.

“If you have good players and big personalities, it lifts your performance. He is one of our best players, if not the best.”

Toney added: “I’m grateful to be back playing with the lads, I’ve missed it so much. The fans, everyone. Yeah I’m back, I’m back.”

Now the question is can Brentford keep him? Toney has made clear he would like to play for a “big club” and he has many suitors reportedly including Arsenal and Chelsea.

His career was a bit of a slow-burner, playing in League One for Peterborough as recently as 2020. In just over two years’ time he turns 30.

“Ivan Toney has a real sense of loyalty towards Thomas Frank,” said ex-Bees boss Mark Warburton before the game.

“Given their relationship, I do believe Ivan Toney almost owes Brentford something now.

“The speculation about a £100m+ transfer bid will always be there, but there’s that sense of loyalty to the club, a club that has looked after him and his return.”


BBC Sport’s Simon Stone at Gtech Community Stadium

If it is possible to have a good eight-month ban, Ivan Toney had it.

When he took his seat for Brentford’s final game of last season against Manchester City, 11 days after he had been banned for eight months, club staff asked him how he was, aware looks can sometimes be deceptive, even with someone as outgoing as Toney.

‘All good’ came the reply. ‘Just back from a few days in Dubai, actually’.

It says a lot about Toney’s mental state that after suffering the devastation of having his career brought to a grinding halt, he should respond by taking the chance to chill out.

Weird as it sounds, it seems he didn’t spend months beating himself up or feeling he owed Brentford for his gambling folly. After all, it was Toney’s goals that got Brentford into the Premier League in the first place. Win some, lose some.

When Toney says he wants to play for a big club, there is irritation at questioning heading down that route, but not in the answer. Toney knows, just as everyone at Brentford knows, if a massive offer came in, the club would accept it. If they accept it, Toney will be off.

Brentford can only hope the offer doesn’t arrive before 11pm on 1 February. Providing it doesn’t happen, it is fair to assume they will have a fourth season in the Premier League in 2024-25.

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