Three things we learnt from Everton v Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest lost once again on the road as two Everton goals in either half secured the three points, with refereeing decisions the main talking point. George Edwards assesses the performance

Away travels haven’t been particularly fruitful for Nottingham Forest since their Premier League return. The worst record in terms of points and games won of all ever-present teams since their promotion.

However, Everton’s troubles at Goodison Park reflected the Reds’ away woes, the Toffee’s boasting the worst points and matches win record in the same period.

Something had to give.

Everton sat just a point ahead of Forest pre-kickoff but their 2-0 win over Forest elevates them five points clear of the relegation zone, while simultaneously dumping the Reds right into the battle.

Idrissa Gueye’s distance strike was followed by Dwight McNeil’s 25-yard scorcher to secure the points – Matz Sels will not be particularly pleasured at not getting the first. Forest’s lack of fight and yet more refereeing controversy saw them unable to fight back, and here’s three things they learned from that defeat.

They played into Everton’s hands

Everton’s game plan was clear: lump it forward. Particularly in the first half, there was little desire to get the ball down and play. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was fit so he was the target, with an incredible amount of set pieces conceded in the opening exchanges.

For once, Forest didn’t concede a set-piece goal at Goodison. Instead, two free shots from outside the box weren’t closed down, both kissing the post on the way in. Those situations summed Forest up, with little desire to challenge, close down or get stuck in from midfield.

However, the way they set up didn’t help things. There was little structure to Forest attacks, and they seemed to try everything, nothing paying off.

As mentioned, Everton sent the ball in at every given chance. They showed Forest exactly how to play.

And the Reds didn’t take that lesson. They were slow to build up and hesitated to get the ball into the box from wide areas, baffling when Chris Wood was doing reasonably well in the air.

They had their moments, the biggest when Morgan Gibbs-White tried to find the far corner following a poor backwards header from James Tarkowski, failing to hit the target. Jordan Pickford made a big save in the first period to deny Wood too, so Forest did have their chances despite their set-up.

But in the end, 2-0 down, there was no real belief from anyone in the stadium that they’d get back level, and they went down with a whimper.

Refereeing let them down again

Their efforts weren’t aided by the men in black, another recurring theme in this rather torrid season.

You’ll have seen the damming statement from the club by now, as it emerged post-match that both VAR Stuart Attwell and fourth official Keith Stroud were allegedly Luton supporters.

One thing’s for certain, they got a few things wrong yesterday

Ashley Young was the culprit for all three incidents that Forest’s Twitter touted as “extremely poor”. All three are largely open to interpretation, but there’s a very solid argument for two.

In the first half, Gio Reyna got to the ball first and saw his heel clipped by the 38-year-old from behind — nothing from referee Anthony Taylor, nor the VAR.

A handball decision followed Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross which hit the defender’s outstretched arm, the proximity possibly saving Young there.

Finally, Young brought down Hudson-Odoi in the second period with a desperate lunge from behind, connecting with the man rather than the ball, and again, nothing given.

There wasn’t even any indication in the stadium that anything was being checked. Little delay or thought that Forest might have a penalty.

Anthony Taylor gave pretty much everything in the first few minutes, so for not one of the three to be given on field also seems odd.

Nuno made a slight suggestion that something suspicious is going on at PL HQ after the game. It’s getting close to double figures now and while set-piece defending and losing leads have cost Forest, officiating is certainly getting close in the tally.

Forest are in trouble

And don’t we know it.

A result that all but confirms Everton’s Premier League status is one that plunges Forest’s into disarray.

The most concerning thing was the nature of the defeat. There were very few, if any, positives to take from the game and the fight didn’t seem to be there.

The 50/50, even 60/40, challenges weren’t attempted by many, and Forest looked lost when going into Everton’s final third.

Forest now have to pick up points in their final four games. Anything gained against Man City will be a bonus, perhaps even if they can come away with a shred of credibility, so results in the final three games will be crucial.

Luton’s final four look winnable, but their form is abysmal and that Brentford defeat could cause monumental damage. The Reds must focus on themselves and believe they can string a run of form together, and visiting the bottom two, they should be able to do that.

If they don’t, then, points deduction aside, they’ll deserve to drop down a division come May 19th.

Player ratings

Matz Sels: should have done better with Everton’s first and struggled to claim crosses. Perhaps his most shaky game. 4/10

Neco Williams: the best player on the pitch for Forest again. Got stuck in, forced Dwight McNeil to find joy in the middle and never stopped running down the line. 7.5/10

Moussa Niakhate: the strongest of the two central defenders. Seemed confident in himself and looked up for the fight. Should have headed the initial cross away for the ball that fell to Gueye, instead ducked under it. 6.5/10

Murillo: looked rattled by Calvert-Lewin and was wasteful on the ball, particularly going long. Given his age, you can’t expect him to be outstanding every week. 5.5/10

Ola Aina: coped well with Jack Harrison and only got skinned by him once. Did okay going forward, but was always on the side of defensive caution. 6.5/10

Danilo: pretty anonymous throughout but was involved in a few neat moves that didn’t blossom. The main culprit in backing out of challenges, however. 5.5/10

Nico Dominguez: started well but faded, much like his side. Some nice cross-field balls but not much forward drive, occupying the ‘Yates role’ for large periods. 6/10

Gio Reyna: is just not a winger. Didn’t help out defensively and offered Williams no support going forwards. Too safe with his passing as well. 4/10

Morgan Gibbs-White: always looking forward but a lack of runners ahead of him. Should have scored in the second half. 5.5/10

Callum Hudson-Odoi: frustrating would be the word to sum him up. So many chances to go on his left foot and cross but turned away, and struggled to impose his pace into the game. 4.5/10

Chris Wood: did fairly well in the air to say he was against two giants. Dropped deep and created openings a few times and could maybe have done better with his chance in the first half that Pickford smothered. 6.5/10


Anthony Elanga: should have started if fit and would have been better suited against Young on the left, which is where he ended up. 5/10

Ryan Yates, Divock Origi and Rodrigo Ribiero: 20-minute cameos for the three once the game was gone, maybe Yates from the start would have provided the missing fight and drive in the side.

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