Everton drop vital points after twice being pegged back by Forest

05/03/2023 0comments  |  Jump to last
Forest 2 - 2 Everton

Demarai Gray made his first start under Sean Dyche and opened the scoring from the spot but missed another great chance as Everton twice gave up the lead to Forest

Everton spurned the chance to vault themselves out of the bottom three by twice giving up the lead to fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest in a feisty and often bad-tempered clash at the City Ground.

The Blues had the lead at the break thanks to a penalty by Demarai Gray and Abdoulaye Doucoure’s header but couldn’t find the nous or incisiveness in the final third to put the game beyond Steve Cooper’s side in the second half and they were pegged back 13 minutes from the end when Brennan Johnson scored his second of the game to level things at 2-2.

Both teams were coming off heavy 4-0 defeats but Everton’s need to bounce back was more acute than Forest's given that they began the day in the bottom three and in the knowledge that a defeat would have opened up a seven-point gap between the two clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Sean Dyche kept Michael Keane at centre-half alongside James Tarkowski, was forced into one change in the back four when he drafted Ben Godfrey in to deputise for Vitalii Mykolenko who was ill, and swapped Gray for Neal Maupay up front.

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Everton started on the front foot, looking the more confident and assured of the two teams in the early going and after Dwight McNeil had fired a speculative effort well over, Gray was handed the chance to put the visitors ahead in the 10th minute from the penalty spot.

The ball wouldn’t drop for Doucouré in the box but it fell to McNeil who was tripped by Jonjo Shelvey just inside the penalty area and referee John Brooks pointed to the spot, from which Gray made no mistake, sweeping it past Keylor Navas from 12 yards.

The lead last just nine minutes, however, as Everton were carved open through the middle by a one-two exchange between Morgan Gibbs-White and Chris Wood, with Jordan Pickford only able to parry the former’s shot into the path of Johnson who turned it past the prone goalkeeper.

A minute later, a header by Woods deflected off Tarkowski and dropped onto the roof of the net while at the other end, vociferous appeals for a penalty from Seamus Coleman were waved away after Jack Colback stepped across him in the box and forced the Irishman to kick the former Magpie’s standing leg as he tried to make contact with the ball.

The Toffees restored their lead in the 29th minute, though, with a nicely-worked set-piece move that saw a free-kick driven out to the right flank where Tarkowski headed it into the area, Keane nodded it on and Doucouré stole past his man to head it past Navas and make it 2-1.

McNeil prompted Navas into finger-tipping a rasping effort over the bar five minutes before the break but Everton had an excellent chance to make it 3-1 in stoppage time but Gray lacked conviction when the ball sat up for him in front of goal, and he could only side-foot weakly at a defender who easily blocked the shot.

Where Everton had been fairly impressive at times in the first half despite a curiously anonymous performance from Amadou Onana, they allowed themselves to get dragged into a scrap in the second period and they didn’t really threaten Forest’s rearguard until 20 minutes from the end when a much-improved Idrissa Gueye had the chance to cut it back from byline but his pass was comfortably cut out.

In the interim, a rash of yellow cards had threatened to see at least one side end the contest with fewer men than with they had started and Forest’s only threats seemed to come from set-pieces with which Everton were dealing comfortably despite the aerial presence of Wood.

The Blues failed to adequately manage the game, though, and when Doucouré’s all-advised pass inside was intercepted and substitute Andy Yates fed the ball to Johnson, the young Welsh winger stroked a shot into the top corner with his left foot that gave Pickford no chance.

The Everton keeper had to be alert in the 82nd and 84th minutes to, firstly, save from sub André Ayew and then divert a Johnson cross away from danger with an out-stretched leg while Dyche threw Neal Maupay on for the final few minutes of injury time but there would be no further chances to collect what would have been three precious points.

A victory would have been huge for Everton but it was imperative that they didn’t lose and from that perspective, Dyche will, no doubt, be taking the positives even though the club remains in the bottom three having played a game more than their rivals.

It was the first time the Blues had scored away from home in 2023 and the first match in which they had scored twice since October. The failure to take key chances or fashion enough clear-cut openings from open play continues to be a problem but the intensity and desire was at least there from a team that has put enormous pressure on its ability to win a significant number of their remaining six home games, starting with Brentford next weekend.


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