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Steve Cooper hails ‘brilliant win’ for Forest against champions-elect Fulham
The Reds are three points behind second-placed Bournemouth.
Steve Cooper hailed his Nottingham Forest players for keeping their hopes of automatic promotion alive by denying Fulham a Sky Bet Championship title party.
Philip Zinckernagel took advantage of a mix-up in the home defence in the 15th minute to poke home the only goal of a frantic and entertaining match.
That moved Forest up to third, three points behind Bournemouth, who came back from 3-0 down at Swansea to draw 3-3.
Head coach Cooper said: “It’s a brilliant win in the toughest game of the season – I’m sure Fulham will be champions.
“We attacked the game from the start and forced them into a mistake.
“Fulham had more of the ball, which is not what I normally like but I will accept it as we made as many chances as they did.
“It was a case of doing everything right in terms of defending. We showed heart and soul with blocks to keep the ball out of our net.”
Forest travel to Bournemouth on Tuesday, May 3, which means automatic promotion alongside Fulham – who clinched that on April 19 – is in the hands of both teams. The pair also now have identical goal difference totals of +30.
Cooper, whose side cannot now finish outside the play-off places, insisted he was only thinking of the fixture before that one however.
He said: “Swansea on Saturday is the only thing on our minds. We have to recover and look at what we can improve on. It has been our approach up to now and there is no need to change.”
Fulham needed only to better Bournemouth’s result to clinch the title, but their potential party date now moves to Monday, May 2 when Luton, another club in the promotion frame, are due at Craven Cottage.
Fulham manager Marco Silva admitted his side only had themselves to blame for the loss.
He said: “It wasn’t a good game to watch. The players wanted to get the job done tonight but we didn’t perform at our best level at all.
“But the pressure of completion is the best pressure to have. We have to learn from this.
“At certain moments we didn’t do the basics. We had to control the game in our way and in the first half we didn’t do that.”
Captain Tim Ream and goalkeeper Marek Rodak got in a tangle to allow Zinckernagel, the on-loan Watford playmaker, to take advantage.
Silva insisted a foul on Neco Williams should have been awarded in the build-up.
“The goal was strange,” he said. “It was a clear foul, the player jumped on Neco. I saw it and the fourth official has to see it as well.
“It was our fault the goal we conceded, but it was a foul on Neco.”