Nottingham Forest 2-2 Everton (Johnson 19′, 77′ | Gray pen 10′, Doucoure 29′)
Brennan Johnson was the standout performer in a feisty contest that left Everton still in the bottom three and fretting.
He cancelled out Demarai Gray’s early penalty opener before ensuring Abdoulaye Doucoure’s first goal of the season would not be a winner, with Everton staying third bottom but now only on goal difference.
Forest, who stay 14th, have been propelled to safety by an impressive unbeaten home run dating back to September. They were bottom then and contemplating whether to jettison manager Steve Cooper.
Johnson’s goals – five in his last four outings at the City Ground – are a big reason why sticking with the status quo is paying off so far.
“[Johnson] is on an upward curve,” said Cooper. “He is performing well and getting numbers but as always it is about continuing to improve. He knows there is still a long way to go because of his age and it’s his first year in the Prem but he is a local boy who loves the club and it is great to see him banging two in today.”
Everton, demolished 4-0 at Arsenal in midweek, made by far the slicker start and were rewarded with a 10th-minute lead, although gifted would perhaps be more appropriate.
Forest’s only hope of a reprieve following Jonjo Shelvey’s clumsy challenge on Dwight McNeil was on a technicality but VAR ruled that Doucoure had not handled in the build-up and Everton’s lone frontman Gray sent Keylor Navas the wrong way from the spot.
Forest pepped up and stepped up immediately and drew level nine minutes later. Morgan Gibbs-White raced on to Chris Wood’s lay-off and saw his shot parried by Jordan Pickford, but Johnson was quick to despatch the loose ball.
The hosts were caught out by some head tennis from Pickford’s free-kick missile just before the half-hour mark. James Tarkowski headed it across goal, Michael Keane flicked it forward and Doucoure was able to nod past Navas for his first goal of the season.
Nottingham Forest (4-3-2-1): Navas 6, Aurier 6, Worrall 7, Felipe 6, Lodi 7; Freuler 7 (Dennis, 4), Shelvey 7, Colback 7 (Yates, 5); Johnson 8, Gibbs-White 7; Wood 6 (Ayew, 4)
Everton (4-1-4-1): Pickford 7, Coleman 7, Keane 7, Tarkowski 7, Godfrey 6; Gueye 6; Iwobi 7 (Davies, 3), Onana 6, Doucoure 7, McNeil 7; Gray 6 (Maupay, 3)
It was a contest that deserved to end with a moment of brilliance and Johnson provided it in the 77th minute.
Doucoure was dispossessed in his own half and Johnson exchanged passes with substitute Ryan Yates before curling a shot high into the Everton net. It was so perfect Pickford didn’t even move.
The draw nevertheless meant Everton had ended a sequence of four straight away defeats in all competitions. “This was a really good away performance,” said manager Sean Dyche. “It’s a great building block to carry on the journey with.”
It was also a wild, unruly contest featuring angry shoving contents that resembled chucking out time on Friday night in Nottingham city centre rather than an elite sporting contest.
Both managers took time afterwards to lay into referee John Brooks. Dyche’s main gripe was the non-award of a penalty at 1-1 when John Colback brought down Seamus Coleman. “I asked the referee and he said he didn’t think it was a penalty and I said I don’t know what is then,” he said.
Cooper slated Brooks for an overall performance that repeatedly saw him told by the home fans that he didn’t know what he was doing.
“He had too much impact on the game and because of his decisions there were some defining moments,” he said. “The free-kick for their second goal there was a foul the other way and he blew up for a foul on Renan Lodi when Brennan was one-on-one. That cannot happen at this level.”