As players and fans exchanged applause at the City Ground, there was a mix of emotions among both groups. As explains Will Rooney (via LiverpoolWorld), a draw, on its own, would not have been a bad result for Everton prior to their game against Nottingham Forest. The team had only won one away game all season and three since the start of the 2021-22 campaign. They faced a Forest side who had made their home ground a fortress, despite being newly-promoted.
However, after the final whistle, there was a sense that Everton had dropped two points as they were held to a 2-2 stalemate despite leading twice in the game. Demarai Gray scored a penalty and Abdoulaye Doucoure headed in a goal to give the Toffees the lead. Despite improvements, especially after two consecutive defeats, the draw could only serve as a building block for Everton’s bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League. The team looked comfortable for most of the game, and Forest struggled to score after Brennan Johnson’s first equalizing goal. Jordan Pickford had a relatively easy time between the Everton posts.
However, Everton’s inability to increase their advantage due to a lack of a goal threat meant they were vulnerable to Forest’s pursuit of a second goal. The substitutes did not provide the injection of energy, guile, and craft required to keep Everton on the front foot and prevent problems on the counter-attack. In contrast, Forest manager Steve Cooper made a pivotal triple change in the 70th minute, turning to Ryan Yates, Emmanuel Dennis, and Andre Ayew to provide the verve needed to get a point. The trio did not disappoint, and the home side was level only seven minutes later.
Although Johnson’s equalizer resulted from a lackadaisical pass by Doucoure and Wales international Ayew was given too much room to shoot, forcing Pickford to make a good save before Johnson fired agonizingly wide. Everton’s commanding position soon turned into a perilous one. By the time Dyche made changes, with Neal Maupay and Tom Davies coming on in the 89th minute, it was a forlorn task.
Despite scoring twice in just their third Premier League game of the campaign, Everton struggled to create chances and remained hampered by their failure to recruit new players in the January transfer window, especially with Dominic Calvert-Lewin still injured. Dyche dismissed a question about Everton’s failures in the window as irrelevant, focusing instead on the situation at hand. However, the fiasco of January remains pertinent to those above Dyche in the Goodison Park hierarchy, especially director of football Kevin Thelwell, the Everton board, and majority owner Farhad Moshiri, who promised a new striker.
If Everton fails to avoid relegation to the Championship, supporters will remember fixtures throughout the campaign where opportunities went begging. The draw against Forest could be one of them.