Relegation rivals in stalemate
Brennan Johnson’s double helped Nottingham Forest twice come from behind to earn a vital point in a 2-2 draw against Everton in a crunch clash at the bottom of the Premier League.
First-half goals from Demarai Gray and Abdoulaye Doucoure had put the Toffees on course for a third win in six games under Sean Dyche at the City Ground.
But Johnson, who cancelled out Gray’s early penalty, ensured his side earned a share of the spoils with his second 13 minutes from time and kept Everton, and the other sides below them in the relegation battle, at arm’s length.
The Wales international is enjoying a hot streak as he took his tally to five goals in his last seven Premier League games, with an assist also thrown in.
The draw also ensured Forest’s unbeaten run at home extends to nine matches, and the City Ground will be where Forest’s fate is decided this season.
Everton, who had beaten Arsenal and Leeds at Goodison Park under Dyche, were eyeing a first away win in the league since October but had to settle for a point which keeps them in the bottom three, behind Leeds on goal difference.
Things had started promisingly for the Toffees.
Dyche, who still lives in Nottingham, has spent plenty of time at the City Ground this season having watched several games and his side also felt at home as they started the better.
Their strong start was rewarded with a 10th-minute lead as Gray, handed his first start under the new boss, made an instant impact as he scored from the spot.
Dwight McNeil had been tripped by Jonjo Shelvey and Gray sent goalkeeper Keylor Navas the wrong way with his penalty.
Forest’s response was a good one and they only needed nine minutes to get back level.
A nice move saw Morgan Gibbs-White and Chris Wood combine, with the former seeing his shot from the edge of the area palmed away by Jordan Pickford, with Johnson on hand to fire home the rebound.
That gave Forest impetus and they were pushing for a second, with Wood seeing a header deflected over, but Everton regained their lead against the run of play just before the half-hour.
A contested free-kick, which Forest felt should have gone their way, was played into the box and Doucoure ghosted in onto Michael Keane’s knock down to head home from close range.
That changed the outlook of the game and Everton could have added to their lead before the break.
First McNeil saw a curling effort from distance tipped over by Navas and then Gray spurned a fine opening on the stroke of half-time as Doucoure teed him up perfectly at the far post but Gibbs-White put in an important block.
The pressure on the match could be felt by both sets of players as an ill-tempered affair unfolded, with several confrontations and rash tackles after the break.
The regular stops helped Everton no end as Forest were unable to build any momentum.
The visitors looked in control, but Forest found an equaliser out of nowhere in the 77th minute.
Substitute Ryan Yates found space down the right and he pulled it back to Johnson, who was unmarked in the area and found the top corner expertly.
He could have had a matchwinning hat-trick but drifted an effort just wide from a tight angle after Gibbs-White had burst into the box and the game ended all-square.Published: by Radio NewsHub