Two first-half goals ensured the spoils were shared between AFC Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest in a 1-1 draw on the south coast, a much-needed point for the Reds in their bid for Premier League survival. George Edwards reports from the Vitality Stadium
With Everton and Luton Town both picking up a point each on Saturday, it was vital that Nottingham Forest showed up, facing a Bournemouth side who would be no pushovers. It’s a bit early on for must-wins, but, given the predicament, Forest had to get something off the Cherries for both positioning and psychological reasons.
Nuno Espírito Santo rung in the changes from Forest’s draw against Arsenal, six in all, including a debut in goal for deadline day signing Matz Sels and returns to the starting eleven for Anthony Elanga and Taiwo Awoniyi. Bournemouth, unbeaten at home against Forest since 2015, made two changes from their draw at West Ham as they aimed to maintain a comfortable distance between themselves and the bottom three.
In this crucial game, it was key that the Reds, playing in their changed blue and white strip, got off to a good start and set the tone. Somewhat unsurprisingly that didn’t happen, however, with the hosts taking the lead after just five minutes.
After some early possession, the Cherries won a corner on the left side, swung into the near post by Lewis Cook. Luis Sinisterra lost his marker and found space between Forest’s covering defenders, glancing towards the far post. His header was tapped in on the line by Justin Kluivert, showcasing Forest’s continuously calamitous defending of set-pieces and crosses.
Not the start the travelling supporters were after and given the fact that Forest had only won one game when conceding first this season, it was looking bleak.
The Reds did come forward as the half went on, a couple of tame efforts from Awoniyi failing to force Bournemouth skipper Neto into any meaningful saves.
Forest were looking threatening in the air and nearly levelled things up midway through the half after a deep Morgan Gibbs-White free kick was flighted to the far post. Murillo rose highest and headed back into the box with Ryan Yates in the middle to poke towards goal; his swivelling left-footed attempt was unluckily straight at Neto.
Despite Bournemouth’s reputation as a possession-based side it was Forest who were dictating play for large periods, failing to make a 10-minute spell of dominance in possession show on the scoreboard. It looked set for Forest to be trailing at the break but, Callum Hudson-Odoi had other ideas.
Another Gibbs-White free kick was played in, with Bournemouth scrambling to clear. Murillo was in the box fighting and emerged with the ball, getting a toe on it to direct towards Hudson-Odoi. On the left edge of the box, Hudson-Odoi controlled before taking a couple of touches infield and striking goalwards, curling majestically into the far bottom right corner with incredible accuracy and confidence.
Hudson-Odoi had been much better on the day, getting the ball in and being a lot more direct than usual. A goal he merited and his teammates alike, creating the better chances and deserving to be level at half-time.
Once again, Forest took a few minutes to get ticking in the second period, but once they did, it was they who looked the more promising. Murillo had Cherries’ danger man Dominic Solanke in his pocket all afternoon, the Brazilian defender not allowing Solanke a second on the ball and looking a class above.
Murillo’s defensive partner had a golden chance to put his side ahead midway through the second half, with another Gibbs-White delivery threatening. His deep free-kick landed just inside the penalty area where an onrushing Andrew Omobamidele connected, but instead of shooting first time, he elected to take a touch that took the ball out of his control as it sailed out for a goal kick.
The substitution of Philip Billing scared many-a-fan in the away end, his tendency to score against Forest a worrying omen. However, instead of netting against the Reds, Billing saw Red on 84 minutes after halting Hudson-Odoi’s forward run with an appalling stamp, right in front of referee Rebecca Welch.
Despite trying to run it off, Hudson-Odoi had to be substituted in the end, here’s hoping that his best performance in a while won’t be his last one for a while too. It did mean a debut for young Portuguese forward Rodrigo Ribeiro, coupled with fellow substitute Giovanni Reyna’s first appearance in the Garibaldi too.
Seven minutes of stoppage time were indicated for the 10 men of Bournemouth to hold on as Forest aimed to break them down. The Reds were left panicking with the concession of two late corners but the hosts failed to capitalise, meaning the points were rather justifiably shared at the Vitality Stadium.
Emotions were mixed at full-time. Forest had created better and more promising chances throughout the 90 while Sels had little to do on debut. Awoniyi wasn’t outstanding but still offered his strength and hold-up play — 90 minutes played by the returning striker.
But given that Bournemouth weren’t spectacular and that they were down to 10 for the closing stages, there was a tinge of disappointment that Forest couldn’t score the winner, as they move back above Luton and into 16th place.
Forest drew 1-1 at Bournemouth last year at this stage of the season and were in a similar position, going on to win just one of their next 14 games. This performance has the potential to be a platform for greater things as Forest look ahead to a rather difficult February: games against Newcastle, West Ham and Aston Villa to come, following an FA Cup replay against Bristol City on Wednesday night.