The striker, banned from football since May for breaching betting rules, was back on the scoresheet for the first time in 267 days.
Named captain for the day, Toney struck with an audacious free-kick to cancel out Danilo’s opener for Forest and thrust himself back into the spotlight for the right reasons.
April 2023 – Ivan Toney’s last goal, a free-kick vs Forest at the Gtech
January 2024 – Ivan Toney scores from a free-kick vs Forest at the Gtech on his return
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 20, 2024
Ben Mee headed Brentford in front but Chris Wood equalised before Toney’s strike partner Neal Maupay found the net as Brentford celebrated their talisman’s comeback with a much-needed win after five successive Premier League defeats.
Not that this was ever likely to be a low-key return – there was even a digital billboard over the road from the Gtech Stadium flashing up a picture of Toney and the words ‘he’s back’.
Yet Forest threatened to ruin the party when they went ahead with less than three minutes gone.
Vitaly Janelt made a mess of a clearance, twice, and when Mee attempted to tidy up his header flew straight to Brazilian Danilo, who took a touch with his thigh before volleying past Bees keeper Mark Flekken.
What. A. Hit.
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 20, 2024
Only one player was going to take it, and just as Toney had when he scored in the corresponding fixture last season – his last goal before the ban – the 27-year-old nonchalantly stroked the free-kick around the wall and inside Matt Turner’s left-hand post.
Forest captain Ryan Yates was furious with Turner for not spotting the gap that Toney found, although no one noticed the England forward subtly rolling the ball a few inches to the right as the keeper was lining up his wall.
The delight around the ground was palpable as Toney raced over to the touchline to celebrate with boss Thomas Frank and his coaching staff.
The Bees could have gone in ahead at half-time but Keane Lewis-Potter’s shot hit the crossbar.
Brentford’s pressure told in the 58th minute when Mee got in front of his marker and headed home Mathias Jensen’s corner.
Seven minutes later Wood glanced in a cross from Callum Hudson-Odoi for his fifth goal in four league matches under new boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
But Toney was involved again when Brentford snatched the victory in the 70th minute.
The 27-year-old switched the play out to the right from where Jensen crossed for Maupay to turn and lash the ball past Turner and lift the Bees above their opponents and into 14th place.