This was a big result. On the back of the hammer blow of the points deduction and last weekend’s harshly emphatic defeat at the hands of Manchester United, this game against Forest at the City Ground was a bigger game than perhaps many of us wanted to admit out loud.

Had we lost, there still would have been another 24 matches to go in the season but, psychologically, to be bottom of the Premier League table, five points from safety with just four points from 14 games, and with Newcastle and Chelsea up next at a Goodison Park that has not been a fortress of any kind lately… well, let’s just say we would have been in a fairly demoralised place.

Thankfully, Sean Dyche has fostered unity and grit from the shattered group he inherited from Frank Lampard 10 months ago and they ground out a laudable victory over a team that had only lost once at home all season and, until today, hadn’t lost successive fixtures at the City Ground in 15 months.

And they did it without either Amadou Onana or Dominic Calvert-Lewin after both players were ruled out with calf problems. The absence of the latter may have been painfully acute at times as Beto struggled with the demands of leading the line and missed a glorious chance to open his league account for the Blues, but Dwight McNeil stepped up with a lovely finish to score the decisive goal while James Garner ran the midfield with a man-of-the-match display. Divock Origi, a late sub for the hosts, was, for once, rendered a mere footnote on the proceedings.

Forest came into the game on a run of just one win in nine and with Steve Cooper’s job once again a topic for speculation and, for long periods, they were simply off their game. Dyche would, no doubt, have singled out Morgan Gibbs-White and Anthony Elanga as threats on the flanks as well as his former charge, Chris Wood up front playing instead of the injured Taiwo Awoniyi but all three largely contained by Everton’s back line, with Wood in particular snuffed out as an aerial danger by Jarrad Branthwaite.

Felipe hit the post in the second half and Cooper moaned about what he deemed to be a strong claim for a penalty in the second half when Abdoulaye Doucouré seemed to pull Ryan Yates back by the shirt in the area but it was one of those decisions that hardly ever gate called anymore (ask Onana), particularly when the player makes a meal of the “foul”. Cooper also neglected the fact that Felipe probably should have seen red had the same rules as those applied to Ashley Young at Anfield been applied and replays showed that Willy Boly was fortunate to get away with a handball in his own box in the first period.

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Ultimately, the Forest boss could have few complaints; his team were a shadow of the one that beat Aston Villa here a month ago and that allowed Everton to control the contest for long periods in the first half, even if they struggled to execute in the final third.

With Onana also missing from the starting XI, Idrissa Gueye continued in central midfield alongside the ceaselessly industrious Garner in an otherwise unchanged line-up from last Sunday. The former Forest loanee had a “sighter” on the half-volley comfortably caught in the 18th minute before Beto had a great opportunity to fire Everton ahead in the 22nd minute.

Odysseas Vlachodimos spilled the ball at the Portuguese striker's feet but, trying to steer it wide of the keeper and the last defender into the empty net, he scooped his shot over the bar.

As the game passed the half-hour mark, Forest finally started to come alive and Elanga swept Serge Aurier’s cross wide of the post but both sides went very close to going into half-time a goal up.

First, Abdoulaye Doucouré played McNeil in with a neat pass but Murillo did superbly to get back almost to his goal line to hack a shot searching for the far corner off the outside of the opposite post and behind.

Then, in stoppage time, when James Tarkowski was caught dallying in a dangerous area, Forest took possession and Ibrahim Sangare moved the ball on to Gibbs-White but, thankfully, he lashed a first-time effort into the side-netting.

Cooper’s side had been well below par during the first 45 minutes and could only have improved in the second as they came out from the interval in more purposeful mood.

And they came within inches of taking the lead when a couple of red shirts went down in the box under the attentions of Everton players from a corner and the ball ended at the feet of half-time substitute Felipe who smashed a snap-shot off the outside of the woodwork.

Ashley Young hit the wall with a disappointing direct free-kick and Beto ballooned one into the stands before McNeil took centre stage. Harrison and Gueye exchanged a tidy one-two down the right flank and the winger clipped a teasing ball to the back post where McNeil took one touch and then despatched it across the keeper and into the top corner.

Predictably, Cooper’s men stepped up their efforts in the final quarter of the game as they battled to avoid what would have been a second successive home defeat for the first time since September 2022.

Elanga could only find the side-netting off a clever free-kick routine and an important touch by Vitalii Mykolenko to force him to the byline, Garner flung himself into an excellent defensive block to deny Ryan Yates, and Jordan Pickford was called upon to execute a fine sliding tackle to clear his lines.

The England keeper was alert again to push Murillo’s low drive away to safety and with just a minute left, Elanga had one last chance to scratch out a point but missed the far post with a curling shot.

The final whistle, when it came, was sweet relief to the travelling Blues, most of whom have now witnessed Everton win three successive games on the road for the first time since the “lockdown” season under Carlo Ancelotti. Were it not for the overly punitive sanction from the Premier League, they would be sitting in 11th place ahead of the Sunday fixtures; as it is, they moved up to 18th and to within two points of Luton Town in 17th.

Dyche still needs to solve the team’s issues at home where they have only one twice in the League since March and opponents don’t come much more difficult than a Newcastle side packed with ability and an insatiable desire to get forward but it would be the idea time for the Toffees to pick up a rare win in front of their home fans, under the lights on Thursday night.


Reader Comments (6)

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Jerome Shields
1 Posted 03/12/2023 at 12:43:23
Newcastle may suit Everton, because Everton find it difficult to break down sides, playing better on the counter.

Thought Beto did Ok giving the opposition plenty to think about.

Brent Stephens
2 Posted 03/12/2023 at 18:59:36
"Thankfully, Sean Dyche has fostered unity and grit from the shattered group he inherited from Frank Lampard 10 months ago and they ground out a laudable victory over a team that had only lost once at home all season and, until today, hadn’t lost successive fixtures at the City Ground in 15 months."

Unity and grit is what's needed to carry us through to the end of the season and safety. I suspect it will feel like it's going to the wire - until the sanction is reduced to 6 points.

"And they did it without either Amadou Onana or Dominic Calvert-Lewin after both players were ruled out with calf problems."

And yellow cards starting to mount with Doucoure and Branthwaite on 4?

John Connor
3 Posted 03/12/2023 at 20:47:34
Really important result yesterday and much deserved, at least the team looked together and played some good stuff, albeit against a poor Forest side. If we had lost and been adrift of Luton, then I would have started worrying about the rest of the December fixtures, and in January when the transfer market re-opens would any of our 'stars' jumped ship. Just pleased we have some optimism around the club after yesterday and hope it continues into the new year. I have actually predicted us to finish mid-table this year ( even with the 10 points not reinstated). I'm either delusional or one of the more optimistic Evertonians
Frank Wolfe
4 Posted 04/12/2023 at 01:31:51
Great result. However, our big issue is our home form. We are far better with our backs against the wall and with lower expectations than when trying to break teams down and the pressure of the home support.

Newcastle should be interesting. They look really good lately but a night game against a tough team might suit us. COYB

Ian Linn
6 Posted 04/12/2023 at 02:07:24
Having finished watching the game, I'll add that Beto always seems to be the wrong side of his man and doesn't seem to get in the right place in the box. Hopefully he'll get a couple of goals in his next few games.
Danny O’Neill
7 Posted 04/12/2023 at 11:40:05
As always, thank you, Lyndon.

Very good point about us being without Onana and Calvert-Lewin. I know not everyone is a fan, but Onana could have made a difference against Man Utd.

I agree with Brent. When in the face of adversity, the only thing you can do is demonstrate unity, defiance and determination.

Your war face helps, but that is probably a bit dramatic.

The Prisoners of Prince Rupert's Tower.

1878, The Originals. Remember who we are and the city we come from.

We're not going anywhere without a fight.


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