EPL

Everton ease worries with victory over relegation rivals Nottingham Forest

By Sports Desk April 21, 2024

Everton eased their relegation worries with 2-0 victory over fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest, who once again had reason to feel aggrieved about refereeing decisions going against them.

A rare goal from Idrissa Gueye was followed by a similar long-range strike from Dwight McNeil on his 200th Premier League appearance to secure a second-successive home win – sandwiching Monday’s 6-0 debacle at Chelsea – and lift Sean Dyche’s side five points clear of the bottom three.

But Toffees defender Ashley Young lived a charmed life after appearing somewhat fortunate to escape three penalty claims against him, which the visitors felt were all more than justified.

Both clubs have had cause to rail against the Premier League this season: the hosts had eight points deducted for breaches of profitability and sustainability rules, although they are appealing against the latest docking of two.

Forest, whose appeal against the four they had taken away will be heard next week, have been so incensed by some of the officiating against them they appointed former referee Mark Clattenburg as a consultant analyst.

He is likely to be over-employed again after Young’s tackles on Gio Reyna and Callum Hudson-Odoi, whose shot also hit the defender’s arm, were all waved on by referee Anthony Taylor with VAR offering no reason to reverse any of the decisions to leave them a point above the relegation zone.

Dyche made four alterations from the Stamford Bridge embarrassment but it was not the only change as the manager abandoned his usual matchday uniform of black mackintosh and black suit for training gear.

But if he was hoping to give off the air of a man confident of his game plan – having said on Friday he had told the players he would not allow them to get him the sack – it was not apparent for almost half-an-hour.

Former Liverpool defender Neco Williams had an early shot parried by Jordan Pickford; Everton’s first attempt on target – Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s weak header – did not arrive until the 27th minute.

Their next attempt proved far more valuable, however. Gueye had previously scored one Premier League goal from 99 attempts from outside the area so it was perhaps not surprising Forest’s defence were content to stand off the midfielder when he carried the ball forward previously, working on the assumption Everton had more dangerous players in possession.

But that tactic was misguided on this occasion as Gueye controlled Ola Aina’s poor header and found the gap low down between Matz Sels’ right hand and the far post from just outside the area.

It was only the Senegal international’s fifth goal in 187 league appearances across two spells for the club and his first in the league goal at Goodison since February 2017.

His only other strike this season was a late winner in the 3-2 victory at Crystal Palace in mid-November.

Pickford’s brilliant save from a Chris Wood shot – five minutes before the interval – ensured that lead was maintained, as did VAR’s insistence Young’s arm was in a natural position from Hudson-Odoi’s volley.

Calvert-Lewin squandered the chance to give Everton some breathing space early in the second half when he fired wide from James Tarkowski’s knockdown, before Young tested the officials’ judgement once again when he went into the back of Hudson-Odoi.

Forest were still dictating play when Morgan Gibbs-White guided a shot over Pickford but wide and that miss proved costly when McNeil, like Gueye in the first half, squeezed a low shot in between Sels’ outstretched arm and the post, the ball going in off the inside of the upright.

Striker Beto, on as a replacement for Calvert-Lewin, departed on a stretcher late on after a clash of heads but even 17 minutes of additional time were not enough for a toothless Forest to launch a comeback.

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