Three things we learnt from Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace

Chris Wood’s second-half header cancelled out Jean-Philippe Mateta’s 11th-minute opener to ensure the points were shared at the City Ground, a draw that saw Forest move out of the relegation zone. George Edwards assesses the performance

After a touching period of applause for European Cup-winning defender Larry Lloyd, Nottingham Forest were unable to grab victory in a game they would have been confident that they could, leading to mixed emotions at the final whistle. Forest had all of the ball and control but Crystal Palace had the better of the chances; both sides able to make a claim that they merited victory, a draw was perhaps the fair result then.

Here are a few things that Forest can take away from the point:

Chris Wood’s on fire

With six goals in four games at the end of last season, this year was meant to be Taiwo Awoniyi’s year. Forest’s feared and fierce number nine, on his day, can out strengthen any Premier League defender — proven by that turn and finish against Arsenal in January.

However, it hasn’t been his day enough this term, starting just 12 of Forest’s 30 league games this season.

The void had to be filled and, this season, Chris Wood has stepped up. Words many Forest fans never expected to be spoken last season, when the striker offered very little to the Reds’ attacking threat.

Yesterday’s deft, looped header over Dean Henderson from three yards out adds to a catalogue of fine finishes from the New Zealand international, who himself has struggled with injury. He too has now started 12 league games this season but has featured in 23 compared to the Nigerian’s 17.

Wood is perhaps more clinical than Awoniyi. Very rarely do you see Wood miss the target from promising positions, compared to Awoniyi and Divock Origi, who can be seen squandering chances when they have too much time to think, rather than an instinctive finish.

That’s now 10 goals for Wood this season and the striker has one of the best goals per 90 minutes ratios in the league. He feeds off service; no surprise that his goal came after the introduction of Anthony Elanga, who replaced Origi, leading to a more balanced attack and better balls in.

It seems that Wood will have to do the job Awoniyi did last season and score the goals to keep the Reds up. He did look more threatening, confident and fit when the pair were both available at the beginning of the club, and the chemistry between him and Forest’s attacking players is flowering every week.

If Wood can keep clear of injury, then Forest stand a huge chance of survival, without him they would look soulless.

Defence needs some clarity

Forest have an array of defensive options — and don’t we know it?

There seems to be three nailed at the moment. Matz Sels made yet another crucial save from Eberechi Eze — just think of the extra points Forest may have if he had been between the sticks for the entirety of the season. Murillo is never a doubt and Neco Williams’ recent displays have made him a mainstay.

Ola Aina was always likely to come back in once fit and it made sense to play him at left-back. He impressed and looked solid but wasn’t bombing down the outside like we saw pre-AFCON, and the limp off the pitch in the 84th minute casts more doubt on that position.

In the middle, Felipe looks to be the first-choice partner for Murillo. The defender struggled for the first 20 minutes of the Palace game and was frankly a liability, but did improve in the second half, as did the team.

However, his ageing legs mean that regardless of his performance, he’s unlikely to start against Fulham on Tuesday. Willy Boly managed just the one game in a red shirt before another international injury, a shame as the Ivorian was outstanding in that fixture against Luton.

Andrew Omobamidele’s inexperience and lack of height make him a sceptical choice for Murillo, and the manager seems to be overlooking Moussa Niakhate at this moment.

All this, alongside the fact that the two players in front of the back four change every week, means it’s very hard for cohesion and a solid defence, shown by how easy it was for Crystal Palace to wander through them for their opening goal.

Until this settles, it seems very difficult to imagine a solid Forest defence, withstanding the fact that they have only conceded one goal in each of their last five games, an achievement by their standards.

Nuno blows hot and cold

We all want to like Nuno.

Upon arrival he changed a few things that made the Reds look stronger, shown by the early form against Newcastle and Manchester United.

Yesterday Forest dominated possession, something very rarely said before his arrival or indeed since. He recognised that and switched things up, allowing Morgan Gibbs-White to play deeper with the pitch in front of him.

Oliver Glasner is regarded as a possession-based coach, so for Forest to dominate in this area, albeit after an early and woefully defended Palace lead, shows a clear plan from the gaffer.

However, it seems there’s something to question him about every game. Callum Hudson-Odoi was dropped after his best form in a Forest shirt, earning his first start in three against the Eagles and arguably looking like Forest’s most threatening option in the first half.

It’s happened again, now with Nico Dominguez. Possibly Forest’s most reliable and consistent performer this season, Dominguez couldn’t even get off the bench yesterday, when Forest were crying out for some mobility and flair in midfield.

The manager clearly wants to test the waters with Ibrahim Sangare, seemingly unimpressed with what he saw given his half-time hooking, but to sacrifice Dominguez for that seems odd. They are very opposing players, which is why either Sangare or Ryan Yates would complement Dominguez in the middle of the park, rather than two similar players being deployed, which looks unbalanced, elaborated by the showing from Sangare and Yates in the first period.

Gio Reyna was finally used and put himself about, quickening up Forest’s attack, but the big question mark remains around Rodrigo Ribiero. With Origi playing out wide and Wood’s injury record, Ribiero looks a good option to be tried off the bench, but after yet another game, still nothing.

“Bring the noise” was the message from Nuno before the game. The noise will come again on Tuesday night, but patience with the manager looks to be very split in the fanbase, making the Fulham game on Tuesday night appear so crucial.

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