• And, while his match-winner against West Ham was slightly fortunate as Jesse Lingard’s pass bounced into him via a deflection off visiting defender Ben Johnson, the goal was reward for an industrious performance.
• It followed confirmation that Watford forward Emmanuel Dennis and midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate, who left Crystal Palace at the end of last season, had joined the club. And, according to Cooper, the club are not finished yet.
Dean Henderson produced one of the ‘big moments’ Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper wants from his goalkeeper to ensure the club’s first Premier League home game in 23 years ended in victory.
However, with England boss Gareth Southgate watching from the directors’ box and his parent club Manchester United reeling after their embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Brentford, Henderson couldn’t have picked a better time to back up his bold pre-season statement.
The 25-year-old drew criticism from a lot of ex-players when he revealed former United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had gone back on a pre-season promise to install him, rather than David de Gea, as the number one at Old Trafford last term.
Less than 24 hours after De Gea’s admission he cost United any chance of victory with his mistakes at Brentford, Henderson’s second-half penalty save from Declan Rice proved as important as Taiwo Awoniyi’s first-half goal in securing victory for newly-promoted Forest against West Ham. And while Cooper did not intend it, in praising one United keeper, the Forest manager highlighted the deficiencies in another.
“At times, you need goalkeepers to have big moments,” said Cooper. “The obvious thing was the penalty save but his distribution was good and his decision-making was good.
“We are a team that want to play with the ball but we had to play with a bit of caution in the second half and Dean handled that really well and he was good with his positioning. He did well, as he did well last week. Now he has to do well next week.”
Henderson is not the only Forest newcomer with a point to prove this season. Awoniyi spent six seasons as a Liverpool player after joining the Reds as an 18-year-old in 2015.
However, work permit issues condemned the Nigerian to seven different loan moves before he was eventually sold permanently to German side Union Berlin last summer. A haul of 15 goals in 31 Bundesliga games persuaded Forest to spend a club record £17m on Awoniyi, 25, in June.
And, while his match-winner against West Ham was slightly fortunate as Jesse Lingard’s pass bounced into him via a deflection off visiting defender Ben Johnson, the goal was reward for an industrious performance.
“It was a dream for me to score and for the team to win,” Awoniyi told BBC Sport.
And Cooper feels the frontman deserves plenty of praise as he added: “Hopefully he has got a few headlines. He was a real handful, particularly first half with his movement and tenacity.
“He was a real threat and had a big impact on why we managed to play as far up the pitch. Scoring will help in being the player he will be.”
Forest took their summer recruitment campaign to 15 new players with the signing of Atalanta’s Swiss international midfielder Remo Freuler, 30, on Sunday.
It followed confirmation that Watford forward Emmanuel Dennis and midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate, who left Crystal Palace at the end of last season, had joined the club. And, according to Cooper, the club are not finished yet.
“We have had no choice,” he said. “We would have loved to have carried on with the squad from last year and added a few players but it was never going to happen. We are still in that process of becoming the team and with a couple of weeks left in the window, there will definitely be some ins and outs.”