Despite Steve Cooper’s side dominating the relegation clash, a late away goal meant the points were shared between Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers. George Edwards reports from the City Ground
Five changes were made from last time out against Newcastle, including starts for full-back pair Neco Williams and Harry Toffolo and midfield trio Remo Freuler, Danilo and Orel Mangala. For this key basement battle, Wolves’ side contained captain Ruben Neves, veteran Joao Moutinho and winger Adama Traore.
With strong rumours that this could be the manager’s last game, the City Ground was in full voice to vocally back their man, their leader, Steve Cooper in front of an onlooking Evangelos Marinakis.
A group of players certainly playing for Cooper, Forest came out flying and had their first real chance after seven minutes. Morgan Gibbs-White drove forward from deep and slotted the ball to the right wing for Brennan Johnson, who skipped past his man and darted into the box. He then cut back onto his left foot but saw Jose Sa tip his effort over the bar.
This was the only clear chance of the opening stages but it was a period of Forest dominance, with neat passes, confident forward runs and belief. The visitors had to do something and sustained the ball for long periods, denting Forest’s early momentum.
Their first chance of the half came out of nothing when Matheus Nunes found space on the left and curled a cross into a dangerous area. Six yards out, Wolves’ striker Matheus Cunha challenged Moussa Niakhate and his header cannoned off the crossbar before Moutinho stretched to put the rebound wide.
Two minutes later, the visitors had another rare flurry forward, this time down their right. Traore found his full-back Nelson Semedo advanced on the right wing and the Portuguese sent a low ball across the box. Keylor Navas allowed the ball to go past him leaving Williams at the back post to scramble the ball clear with pressure from behind.
With 10 minutes until the break, Forest came forward with pace through Gibbs-White, as the midfielder found Emmanuel Dennis on the left wing. Dennis meandered infield before sending a tame shot into the hands of Sa.
Gibbs-White, coming up against his former side once again, was having a sparkling start to the game, with everything Forest were doing well going through the Englishman.
He would be at the heart of another free-flowing move that finally gave the hosts their lead after 38 minutes.
Danilo and Gibbs-White exchanged passes before the former lifted the ball over to the right flank. Sa thought about coming but no one was stopping Johnson latching onto it, clinically blasting below the goalie and sending the City Ground into raptures.
Forest’s star man showing his importance once again, having now scored six of Forest’s last eight home goals.
Just minutes later, the Reds and Johnson surged forward once again and after wrestling with left-back Toti, the Welshman went down in the box but was adjudged to have dived, much to the bemusement of many inside the ground.
A late acrobatic effort from Dennis that flew over the bar was the final moment of action in a first half well and truly dominated and controlled by the hosts, with every player putting in a performance they’d be happy with. But they had to kick on and convert this advantage into three points, something they’ve struggled with in recent times.
The second half started with controversy, as Traore dribbled goalwards but was stopped by a recovering Felipe. Appeals for a penalty got out of hand, with scraps both on and off the pitch resulting in a red card a piece for a member of each bench.
It was clear that a second would probably sink any remaining Wolves threat and that chance came in the 58th minute when Gibbs-White sent Dennis bearing down on goal. Gibbs-White continued his run forward in unison with the Nigerian, but Dennis chose to go alone when Gibbs-White was screaming for it in the middle, who had an open goal in front of him.
With half of the second period to play, Joe Worrall was introduced in place of Dennis, a move which appeared to halt Forest’s forward drive and invited the visitors onto them. Defender Max Kilman had the game’s next opening, as he saw a shot from the edge of the D fall just wide of Navas’ post, a decent strike for a centre-half.
Forest had a few chances on the counter attack over the next 10 minutes, but chances often fell to Danilo who unfortunately was the wrong man in the wrong place on occasions. Wolves had their only shot on target with seven minutes to play, and you can guess where it ended up.
A hoisted cross from the right was brought down by substitute Diego Costa, with his back to goal, and the striker managed to find fellow sub Pedro Neto on the edge of the box. His deflected effort fell kindly to Daniel Podence, who after a neat first touch hammered home from eight yards on the left, sinking spirits around the ground.
Podence would be lucky to remain on the pitch after it appeared he had spat at a Forest player, in the aftermath of a foul on returning Reds midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate. And Wolves were lucky to snatch a point from a game in which, despite having 72% of the ball, they failed to stamp their name on.
The draw leaves Forest without a win in seven and just two points above the relegation zone in 14th. Steve Cooper’s side now go to Elland Road on Tuesday in yet another crucial game in the fight for survival.
Cooper said: “Result wise, we are really frustrated. Based on the chances we had, it’s a game we should have won. We’re really disappointed with that.
“We scored the first goal and managed the game well and created four or five really good counter attacks which we know we should have done better with. It’s frustrating that we’ve not scored more than one goal. Their goal is a harsh deflection from a good block and fallen to the wrong place.
“I thought our performance was good. Wolves have not had an opportunity on goal before the goal and we looked like the threatening team. If we keep replicating that kind of performance, we’ll give ourselves a chance of having good days.
“The dressing room is frustrated as we know we should have won the game comfortably, but the reason why we should have won is because we played well.”