EPL

Steve Cooper hails Nottingham Forest’s ‘upward trajectory’ despite stalemate

By Sports Desk October 07, 2023

Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper believes his side are heading in the right direction despite their trip to Crystal Palace ending in a “disappointing” goalless draw.

Cooper’s men had their chances at Selhurst Park, where Morgan Gibbs-White saw a shot come back off a post and a sprightly Murillo was denied more than once by Eagles goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

In the end, it was a closer result than some had perhaps expected from a Palace squad that, already mired in an injury crisis, saw both Jeffrey Schlupp and Jairo Riedewald forced off either side of half-time.

Cooper said: “We’re definitely the team that, if anyone deserved to win it was us. That was clear, with the chances in the game, so there’s a little feeling of disappointment in the dressing room for sure, but also knowing that performances and results like this last year were so hard to come by.

“So the fact that we looked like that tonight and the way we have played means that beyond the small disappointment of not winning, we see a team that’s growing and hopefully on an upward trajectory.

“I have to bear that in mind. We want to be winning games, especially when we have chances like we did tonight, how we played in the first half and how we ended the game.

“But I think we’ve also got to respect that we kept a clean sheet, and for us to play like that I think is something that overall will be a real positive.”

Roy Hodgson, who managed his 400th Premier League contest on Saturday, admitted he has rarely, if ever, experienced an injury crisis quite like the one plaguing the Eagles.

Having already been forced to make three changes to his line-up from Palace’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United due to injuries to Eberechi Eze, Joel Ward and Cheick Doucoure, the 76-year-old was forced into two more on Saturday evening.

As Schlupp hobbled off the pitch, Hodgson elected to bring on 21-year-old Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, who before the Forest encounter had played just nine Premier League minutes for Palace.

Rak-Sakyi, who had a disappointing Carabao Cup outing at Old Trafford last week, was a silver lining for Palace and received a warm reception from the home support after he delivered dangerous crosses into the area and tried twice to hand his side an opener.

Ultimately neither side could take advantage of what few chances they had created, but the Palace boss was full of praise for his young substitute, who returned from a loan spell at Charlton at the end of last season.

Hodgson, who compared Rak-Sakyi to the injured Michael Olise, said: “I was delighted for him. There were a lot of clubs interested in taking him again.

“I had to fight with him a little bit to persuade him that if he really wants to be a Premier League player he is in the best place and chances will come, and today he got that chance and I think he took it extremely well.

“He didn’t just do well on the ball, he also did his defensive work. Of course when you’ve got wingers, talented wingers, that is one of the things you ask questions about: is he going to be good on the ball for those few moments he’s got it, but also what is he going to be like when we’re working hard to stop them doing something with it?”

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