Match Report With Everton having lost at home to Aston Villa and failed to get anything from their trips to Liverpool and Arsenal, an awful lot had been placed on this fixture at the City Ground. In the context of the need to keep as many clubs down there with them in the relegation dogfight, this was a game the Blues could not lose; in view of their need for points, particularly having played a game more than anyone else around them, it was one they really needed to win. It’s very difficult, then, not to feel massively disappointed and frustrated that, having twice been ahead, Everton passed up this chance to collect a precious victory against a rival to beat the drop. Everton don’t score twice very often (indeed, they hadn’t managed more than one in a game since October) but today, on the back of a pleasingly up-tempo and tenacious first-half performance, they got their noses in front on two occasions. Unfortunately, they couldn’t either kill Nottingham Forest off or, at least, see the game out at 2-1. Instead, while there was much to admire about the Toffees going forward, worrying defensive shortcomings persist, regardless of the personnel involved. Once more, they were the architects of their own downfall with 13 minutes to go as Abdoulaye Doucouré, the scorer of the winning goal to that point, attempted a sloppy blind pass in his own half, the ball was picked off and Brennan Johnson scored for the third time against Everton this season to grab a point for the hosts. It provided, sadly, another reminder of the kind of quality and clinical finishing that Everton are lacking in forward areas. Where Johnson steered an impressive finish well beyond the reach of Jordan Pickford for his second equaliser, Demarai Gray, so composed when he had originally put the Blues ahead from the penalty spot in the 10th minute, snatched at a terrific chance in first-half stoppage and wasted the opportunity to make it 3-1. On the whole, though, Gray’s inclusion at the expense of Neal Maupay, was the right one regardless of the Frenchman’s fruitless industry in the previous two games. The Blues’ #11 is quicker, more skilful on the ball and, importantly, is able to take the ball forward even if he isn’t quite as strong holding it up. And he takes a decent penalty. What appears to be the imminent return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin will make for an interesting selection dilemma for Sean Dyche in terms of his attack but at the back he is still searching for a reliable partnership and some solidity in front of his back four. He persisted with Michael Keane alongside James Tarkowski but the former got sucked into the hole left by Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana outside Everton’s box which allowed Forest to play around him and engineer their first leveller. And Keane dropped too far towards his own goal as Johnson collected a cross from the right which gave the young Welshman the space he needed. Perhaps the biggest question on the day, though, was why Dyche waited so long to replace some visibly tired legs and minds in the closing stages. Maupay and, inexplicably, Tom Davies weren’t introduced until the 89th minute, by which time the lead had irrevocably been lost. The manager would, no doubt, cite a shortage of quality options but the “Moyes sub” — or even the Ancelotti move — option of throwing Yerry Mina on as a third centre-half to shore things was there but it wasn’t taken. Perhaps he felt his team were comfortable but one of Steve Cooper’s changes reaped dividends for him. 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 Pickford making a smart one-handed save but he was only able to push 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 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. There is obviously mounting concern among Evertonians that the team is rapidly running out of games from which to pick up the points that will save them from relegation for a second season running and that this was another failure to win a “six-pointer” down the bottom against a poor side. While the defensive weaknesses are worrying, there were positives to take from this performance to go with a point on the road that keeps Forest within four points. On this evidence, the Blues are without question playing for themselves, the fans and the badge and with more belief. They are also getting more often, putting more men in the box and generally threatening the opposition goal more than at any time during the last three months of Frank Lampard’s tenure. That is a platform from which to continue getting better from an attacking viewpoint, being more clinical in front of goal and more purposeful in the final third, particularly when trying to increase a lead, something that continues to elude the players. Next weekend’s visit of a very tricky Brentford outfit appears a little daunting given the two points dropped today against an inferior team to the Bees — albeit one that hasn’t lost at the City Ground since September — but, as Dyche is no doubt reminding the players on a weekly basis, it’s one game at a time. Lyndon Lloyd top Matchday Updates Everton took the lead not once but twice at the City Ground, each time allowing Nottingham Forest to come back and ultimately gain a point in this relentless relegation battle for survival in the Premier League this season. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is still absent but James Garner is included in the squad after a prolonged spell out injured. Ben Godfrey replaces Vitalii Mykolenko at left-back and Demarai Gray starts ahead of Neal Maupay. The kick-off was executed by Alex Iwobi but little of note in the 8 turnovers before 1 minute of the game had passed. But Everton did work an attack Keane blocked but McNeil firing over. Godfrey left his mark on Brendan Johnson early on with a decent shoulder charge. Pickford was deemed to be fouled in a strange challenge with Wood. Everton played forward again and won a penalty when that ugly Kopite Shelvey clipped McNeil and he went down like a dying swan. Demarai Gray did very nicely from the spot. Everton get the first goal! Everton had started quite well and were getting the run of ball a little better than recently but it was pretty scrappy stuff. Doucoure did well to block Gibbs-White on the end of a good low cross from Johnson but Gray was a bit too enthusiastic in his challenge. Pickford punched the ensuing free-kick out. After a dominant quarter of an hour from Everton, the home side got into the game a little more and in their first half-decent attack, Gibbs-White forced a parry from Pickford which went straight to Brendan Johnson and he made no mistake. Forest were back in the Everton area straight from the kick-off, Tarkowski getting a wicked cross behind for a corner, followed by Onana giving up another that eventually was fielded by Pickford. But Everton had rather cheaply surrendered their initial advantage and had it all to do again, if they could regain sufficient focus. But Gray went down and writhed around in pain for a good while. Coleman drove in well along the line but was clearly fouled from behind by Colback, this time no second penalty, and Forest surged up the other end, somehow failing to create another chance. Gray was again heavily challenged but no yellow card while Coleman had some serious words with Aurier. It was very competitive in midfield, McNeil getting mugged but then claiming the ball back. From the restart, a cross was swung in from the right and Doucoure glanced a dropping header on from Michael Keane downward past Navas for Everton's second goal. The frenetic pace resumed in midfield but Everto eventually built another attack, McNeil doing brilliantly to play in Iwobi who then artlessly scooped his cross into the body of a Forest defender with potential developing before him. Everton were doing well to control the midfield a little better and trying to build, mostly from the right, McNeil cutting in to fire at Navas, who palmed his dipping shot over the bar. But no-one could make much of the corner. Godfrey took out Johnson after he had kept a lost ball in play, earning the inevitable yellow card. Keane had to clear the ensuing set-piece delivery to the far post. Iwobi actually committed a tackle that was deemed a foul, giving up a dangerous free-kick on Everton's right but the Blues broke well only for Gray to have possibly the most feeble sidefoot shot imaginable in such a position that went straight into a defender when he had the goal at his mercy. But at least Everton went in at the break with a nice lead to hold onto for the second half. Aurier went in on Gray soon after the restart, much to Demarai's annoyance, but no reprimand from John Brooks. Everton then had to defend Shelvey's free-kick. Johnson and Godfrey were in constant combat, the Everton man winning on points so far. Another flare-up saw Gibbs-White and McNeil get yellow cards, with another dangerous Forest free kick headed away by Keane. A return cross in was deflected behind for a Forest corner that Johson drove along the goal-line but then crossed over everyone and the pressure was relieved somewhat. Another mutli-part flair-up saw cards for Lodi and Gray before Tarkowski wiped ot Lodi for another yellow. Spikey stuff! Everton looked to break and Coleman had a great chance to play in Iwobi but overhit his forward ball. Gibbs-White slid in on the stretch, taking out Onana, and easily worth a second yellow but John Brooks bottled it. Iwobi played a good ball forward but straight at Gray, giving Worral a chance to stick his foot in. Forest kept coming forward without really threatening, Everton doing a good job generally in protecting Pickford's goal and transitioning to forward play but that too was lacking in end-product. Everton pushed up with Gueye looking to get in on goal before his cross was blocked and it was a counter on the gallop that fortunately broke down Iwobi and McNeil did very well to force a corner at the other end, Keane just failing to get on the end of it. Everton broke down the right but Gray dithered until Iwobi lost the ball without putting in a cross. Another Shelvey free-kick was repelled briefly only for Doucoure to shamelessly gift the ball back to to Forest who quickly worked it to Johnson who finished well past the unsighted Pickford. Felipe cut down Gray for Forest's third yellow card but the free-kick was badly overhit. Johnson pulled back McNeil – why wasn't that another yellow card? Onana and Doucore could not get the right bounce at one end and Forest were quickly up the other end, Pickford parrying Ayew's shot like he did for the first Forest goal but this time not. Doucoure conceded another free-kick in midfield and the Everton goal came under a serious siege with at least three chances not going in the somewhat charmed Everton goal. Iwobi did well to get forward but Yates was so much quicker than him to get to the ball first. Maupay and Davies came on for the last 5 minutes, hopefully an attacking move. Davies did well to win a corner as the last few minutes ticked away, swung in by McNeil but a foul was given Forest's way in the loss ruck. Gibbs-White was allowed to mess about with the ball on an Everton goal-kick, the ref showing again far too much leniency to the players of the home side. Not so for Davies who was booked for wrestling with Dennis. And the game ended with a foul throw by Forest. Honours even, if that's the word in this last-man-standing battle of belligerents. Nottingham Forest: Navas; Aurier, Worrall, Clback (70' Yates), Felipe [Y:79'], Lodi [Y:55']; Shelvey, Gibbs-White [Y:51'], Clock, Freuler (71' Dennis); Johnson, Wood (71' Ayew). Subs not Used: Hennessey, Mangala, Williams, Lingard, Toffolo, Surridge. Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Tarkowski [Y:57'], Godfrey [Y:42'], Onana, Gana, Doucoure, Iwobi (89' Davies [Y:90+4']), McNeil [Y:52'], Gray [Y:56'] (89' Maupay). Subs not Used: Begovic, Holgate, Mina, Vinagre, Coady, Garner, Simms. Michael Kenrick top Match Preview Everton travel to the City Ground for the first time in 25 years to face Nottingham Forest in a match that has taken on uncomfortable importance in the context of the bid to survive in the Premier League this season. The Blues travel to the East Midlands having lost their last two games to Aston Villa and Arsenal and are once again sitting in the bottom three thanks to a chronic lack of goals that has them as the lowest scorers in the top five divisions of English football. Dominic Calvert-Lewin appears to be close to making a much-anticipated return to action but the trip to Forest may come too soon for him as he works his way back from a troublesome hamstring injury. Sean Dyche was non-committal in his press conference at Finch Farm yesterday, telling Sky Sports’s Vinny O’Connor, “we’ll see” when asked whether the 25-year-old will be involved this weekend but it is expected that he will sit this one out, with a place on the bench perhaps the best that Evertonians can hope for. If so, it will leave Dyche with the same options from which to try and find solutions to the crippling attacking deficiencies that he inherited from Frank Lampard in January and he continues to express his confidence that things will turn for Neal Maupay. The former Brighton forward has scored just one goal in 20 games since moving north last summer but Dyche says he is happy with Maupay’s workrate and that in terms of metrics like “distance covered, more efforts on goal, more chances, more crosses,” Everton have made “factual progress” since he came on board as boss five games ago. “Neal is doing the right things at the minute,” Dyche said. “He keeps getting in the box and finding chances, and it’s not easy just to find chances in the Premier League. They will go in. “We want other players to do the same. We want wide players driving in on the back post because we’re flashing crosses across the six-yard area and not quite dominating the back post. They are basics but they still have to be done. We are trying to mix our game and affect the game in as many different ways as we can.” Dyche admitted that Demarai Gray “adds something different” to the team but his suggestion that it’s about trying to find the “right balance” to the side was an indication, perhaps, that he doesn’t see the club’s top scorer this season being named in the starting XI on Sunday. The manager also brushed off talk that Alex Iwobi is unhappy at Everton now under the new regime and could make a loan move to Fenerbahçe before Sunday’s Super Lig transfer deadline. The Nigerian is expected to be in a team that will likely be unchanged from the one that started at Arsenal in midweek even though Seamus Coleman has been playing with a slight knee issue and Idrissa Gueye was hooked at half-time for his dreadful error that led to the Gunners’ second goal. Forest had a rocky start to life back in the top flight as Steve Cooper grappled with integrating a dizzying number of new signings into his squad and there was talk at one stage in the autumn that he might lose his job. The Tricky Trees now sit four points but five places above Everton coming into the weekend’s fixtures thanks to a home record that is the ninth best in the division. They’ve only been beaten three times on home turf all season, haven’t lost at the City Ground since mid-September and in their last game in front of their own supporters they held champions Manchester City to a 1-1 draw. That outlines the task facing Everton who will face a team without Willy Boly, Scott McKenna, Taiwo Awoniyi, Moussa Niakhate,, Serge Aurier, Dean Henderson and, perhaps, Renan Lodi and Ryan Yates, but one boasting the aerial threat of Chris Wood, the midfield creativity of Morgan Gibbs-White and the speed in transition of Brennan Johnson. If Everton can get amongst them early and grab an early goal, it would allow them to then settle into the kind of compact and hard-to-break-down shape that they employed against Arsenal and Leeds in Dyche’s first two home games. Certainly, a goal for one of the forward players like Maupay or McNeil would provide a big shot in the arm for them personally but Dyche will take goals however they come at the moment — via a set-piece, a deflection, an own goal — because while he wouldn’t admit as much in his presser, this has something of a “cup final” edge to it for Everton who could move back out the bottom three with a win but will likely see Forest disappear over the horizon for good this season with a defeat. Kick-off: 2pm, Sunday 5 March 2023Referee: John BrooksVAR: Paul TierneyLast Time: Nottingham Forest 0 - 2 Everton (September 1998) Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Gueye, Onana, Doucouré, Iwobi, McNeil, Maupay Lyndon Lloyd top * Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.