The last time I saw Alan in Merseyside was six years ago, he was over from Dublin for a stag do. He wasn’t an Evertonian then. Fast forward to now and his son Cian, at 12 years old, is a massive Evertonian. “Why did you become an Evertonian, Cian?” I asked, given neither his mother or father have that allegiance.

“When he went to watch Ireland games when he was younger, there was Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson and Aiden McGeady all playing for the Irish. So with all those Everton players in the squad he simply loved Everton,” interrupted Alan. “And I promised him I’d take him to Goodison Park, so here we are. We wanted to do this a few years ago but couldn’t due to Covid”. It was a great catch-up with Alan, his wife Judy and Cian over a couple of beers and some food at The Excelsior. “I’m now a converted Evertonian myself,” finished Alan.

My son Elliot came along also for only his fourth Everton match. Due to the industrial action, train travel was disjointed, so we all piled into a hackney cab and got out just near the Dixie Dean statue. It was about 2:15 pm by this point and we all eventually went separate ways, Dan and Alfie into the Top Balcony; Alan and Cian into the Family Enclosure; and poor Elliot, accompanying me in the raucous Lower Gwladys Street. “When will everyone sit down?” he asked some 15 minutes into the match as he tired of standing on his seat. I hate to break it to you, mate…

By this point, Everton were as frustrating as they were encouraging. There were some very good moments when you felt we were just opening the door, though also times when you were aghast at how easily Nottingham Forest were finding a way through us. It was an entertaining match, ably assisted by a quite brilliant refereeing performance by Andre Marriner, who let the game flow throughout. Credit where it's due.

We had plenty of moments around the Nottingham Forest penalty area, and Dean Henderson was certainly kept busy enough throughout, but so too were Everton’s defence and Jordan Pickford was also required to make saves. The wind was in our faces in the first half, which hampered James Tarkowski more than most. We got into the break all square which was about right, but there was enough there to make you think Everton might take the points.

I’d say that, in the second half, we were largely on top, but credit to Nottingham Forest, they kept on coming back. Lewis O’Brien and Brennan Johnson were particularly impressive and seem very capable of transitioning up to the Premier League, which is nice to see. Salomon Rondon came particularly close to scoring with a trademark low half volley which just drifted wide of the post… the drifting wide of the post also a bit of a trademark. He’d been pretty effective had Salomon, though I don’t think a change up top was a bad decision. Dwight McNeil made a decent introduction and the ball over the top, aided by the wind, was causing havoc time and again, including our goal of course. Yes, I’d rather we’d had a good striker to use, but the reality is we haven’t, so that was a good change-up.

I was baffled however by the other half of the double substitution. Tom Davies played well. He made countless interceptions and tackles and was positive on the ball. I wasn’t against Amadou Onana’s introduction; he needs opportunities and game time, but putting him on and removing a holding midfielder who was playing well was madness. We should have withdrawn one of our three centre-backs and gone four at the back, kept Tom where he was, allow Amadou to get into the game, and unleash the mercurial Alex Iwobi further up the pitch. With three pacey runners, he could have caused havoc.

Instead, Amadou put himself in trouble almost instantly. In a defensive position, he was quickly pounced on, which resulted in a dangerous Nottingham Forest attack which was thankfully exstinguished. He got a yellow card for his troubles and shortly after he could and, with a less lenient official would, have had his marching orders, and we could have had no complaints.

Nottingham Forrest grew in confidence and Everton were warned when Ryan Yates nearly scored with the help of a huge deflection, and then Nico Williams thrashed wide shortly after. Everton kept on probing but you felt the goal was coming for Nottingham Forest and, sure enough, it did when Ryan Yates’s drive was parried by Jordan Pickford, and in what almost felt like slow-motion, Brennan Johnson slotted in to give the visitors what felt at the time like a winner. Jordan certainly should have done better for me.

Credit to the lads though for scrapping hard and dragging themselves back into the game. Quite how we didn’t score amongst that crazy scramble, I'm not sure. However, Jordan Pickford made amends for his error with a quite brilliant pass for Demarai Gray to take the ball on and slot coolly past Dean Henderson. Everton were level with time still on the clock.

And in that time, both teams nearly scored. Ryan Yates thrashed a volley over the crossbar which would have been some goal had he connected well, and then at the death, Anthony Gordon nearly nicked the points for Everton when he nipped in following some poor defending from Joe Worrall. Anthony tried to dink it over Dean Henderson but couldn’t get it past him.

And that was pretty much it. On balance, I’d say a draw was fair as Nottingham Forest contributed a lot to the game. And to be fair, I was quite grateful for the draw at the end as it could have been a lot worse. We had plenty of chances and I wish for once we’d get the first goal, as I think we could see games out with the defenders we have. As it is, we’re always chasing the game at some point.

Once we get this striker position fixed, I’m confident results will come pretty quick. I don’t feel we need to change an awful lot otherwise, though I wish we would show more adaptability in defence. Do we really need three centre-backs at home to Nottingham Forest? Would changing that to a 4-3-3 really be too much to ask in a ploy to force the game? It feels like it's three centre-backs no matter what, which I don’t really understand.

Following the game, we met Alan and Cian at the statue and bid our farewells. It’s always great to meet Evertonians from overseas, and this was no exception.

Hopefully next time they come, they may even take 3 points back with them.

Player ratings:

Jordan Pickford: He dealt with most of what came his way pretty well, but was culpable for Nottingham Forest’s goal, though I guess you could ask where the defenders were? But at least he made amends with a quite brilliant assist. And the commentator on Match of the Day was right. Had Ederson have played that pass, you’d never hear the end of it. 6

James Tarkowski: I’m not convinced it’s the greatest idea to bring Conor Coady in to play at the heart of the defence if it means shifting James to left-side centre-back. His performance against Chelsea, bang in the centre was colossal. I’m not saying Conor is a bad defender or anything like that, but I’m not sure it’s the best move if he can only play in the middle of a back three, because from today’s evidence, and granted it was windy, some players just can’t hack the wind. And James is not half the player on the left as he is in the heart of the defence. 5

Conor Coady: He shouts a lot and he gets rave reviews about his character, which is obviously good. However, I’m yet to see this world-class defender everyone was so excited about. Though he has only had two games and needs more time, of course. 6

Mason Holgate: I thought he was the pick of the centre-backs. He also got forward well and made some important tackles. 7

Vitalii Mykolenko: He’s a handy defender and very committed, though if we’re to persist with this system, I’d really like to see a more attack-minded full-back (ie, Ruben Vinagre). Particularly with the opportunity to use five substitutes now, it feels we could have given him more minutes. Surely he’ll start at Fleetwood Town on Tuesday evening. 6

Nathan Patterson: Probably the least effective of his three games so far this season, but he’s certainly suited to the right-wingback role and should be kept in the team. 6

Tom Davies: He was doing very well and I can’t understand why he was substituted. I also can’t understand the attitude towards Tom. If he does something good, it almost feels like the crowd make a noise like “Ah, that was OK I suppose”, though if certain other players do a similar thing, it's roundly applauded. That said, he was given a good reception as he left the pitch which was pleasing. The Goodison crowd know a good performance when they see one. 7

Alex Iwobi: We might as well give him player of the season already. Had that chip have gone in, it would have brought the house down. If we can get him further forward, I’m convinced we’d be creating a lot of opportunities, particularly once our forward line has been remedied. My Man of the Match. 8

Demarai Gray: Not everything he did worked and most of his set-plays were questionable, but he kept on going and was a constant thorn down Nottingham Forest’s right side. He took his goal incredibly well. A good effort overall, and a marked improvement on the last home game. 7

Anthony Gordon: He represented our biggest goal threat throughout, which begins to make me wonder if selling him is actually the best thing to do. I guess it depends on how much a difference selling him will make to who we can bring in. His finishing wasn’t on-song, and end product is the issue, as we know, but it's something that can get better. Two second-half efforts - one the shimmy and drive from the edge of the box; the other the dribble into the penalty area and low drive, were both the correct plans, just wrong execution. The chance late on – I bet if he had the chance to do it again he’d have chosen a different option. He represents our biggest goal threat right now, and like Frank said in his press conference on Friday – wouldn’t it be better if we could have both - Anthony Gordon and a good striker to compete with Dominic? I could get on board with that. 7

Salomon Rondon: Salomon did quite well and was a good presence. I still think the change in attack was a good one, I just wish we had made the other substitution differently. It was a good effort from Salomon in all, and he was a shade unlucky not to give us the lead. 6


Dwight McNeil (for Salomon Rondon): He began quite well but generally faded, though I think my opinion is swayed by that quite terrible corner kick he put into the side netting. 5

Amadou Onana (for Tom Davies): It was the wrong substitution and he struggled with the defensive aspect of what he was asked to do and was lucky to stay on the pitch. He needs time. 5

Reader Comments (11)

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Danny O’Neill
1 Posted 21/08/2022 at 14:29:15
I tend to agree with most of those ratings, Paul.

I'm not sure anyone thinks of Coady as World Class. Decent and an improvement and giving us a bit of leadership, I would say.

Someone brought out a really good point on Pickford. As good a shot-stopper as he is, he does need to catch / gather or at least parry it out for a corner. On more than one occasion yesterday and this season already, he makes what looks like a great save but palms it back into the danger area. Just defend the corner.

Agree with you on Mykolenko and, to repeat myself, maybe have him on the left of the 3 with Tarkowski on the right. That might work.

Iwobi was my Man of the Match too, but I'd like to see him further forward and, to do that, the manager would need to change the system.

Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
2 Posted 21/08/2022 at 14:37:39
Apologies, Paul, the system ate your original title. Let me know what you wanted, and if anything else needs fixing.

Thanks for the report!

Martin Mason
3 Posted 21/08/2022 at 14:41:39
I agree about Tom Davies, he really had a good game. Iwobi too, what a player he is now and what a saving in finding what I see as possibly an £80M midfielder.

I found no real negatives yesterday apart from Tarkowski and Coady possibly not being as good as we perhaps believe and perhaps need them to be. But they are all fitting in and what we should see is a very gradual improvement which will span the whole of this season.

Will our dreadful boo-boys please get off Davies's back? He is a good player and a very good asset, even if it's only as a very good squad player.

David Hallwood
4 Posted 21/08/2022 at 15:13:43
Good report Paul and fair ratings, but I would have knocked a couple of points off Pickford for the spill, mainly on account that he is one of the better keepers out there and that was a rookie mistake.

Agree about Tom Davies too, but what will he have to do to get certain fans onside? Just like last week vs Villa, I thought he came on and give shape to the midfield and obviously playing to orders to recycle the ball from the back; receive it, pop it off, make the angle, receive it again etc. which nullifies the press.

Coming onto the forum, and he was shite, he did nothing, posters were 'surprised' and it 'beggared belief' that he came on before Onana. a 20-year-old who had been in the country for less than a week, probably trained once and he's supposed to instantly adapt to the most competitive league in the world. It's opinions like that which beggar belief.

I'm not saying Tom should start, in fact I think his game would be more suitable to Italy or Spain, but in that role that Ancelotti first put him in. I've got no worries that he will do the unspectacular donkey work.

All in all, I'm seeing the green shoots of recovery, we're playing with a plan that's a bit wonky at the moment; the players especially the wingbacks need to be a bit braver because 3-4-3 can very quickly become 5-2-3, and I agree that one of the centre backs should have be replaced by Onana, and gone 4-3-3, but Frank seems to be building the team around 3 centre-backs.

Paul Traill
5 Posted 21/08/2022 at 17:51:30
Hi Michael, how's it going?

I can't recall exact title, not without opening up my laptop at least.

It was some sort of complaint about our three centre back system. Let's go with...

Three at the back - is this the only way?

Thanks 👍

Derek Thomas
6 Posted 21/08/2022 at 22:57:32
Paul @ 5; I always look for your take on things, as much for the social side as the football.

I'm not a big fan of 3 at the back, unless it's done very, very well, by top class players at the back and even better players in front of them (Man City?)

We're not equiped at midfield and upfront to do it right... and we're not equipped in midfield and up front to even finish 7th or 8th.

I hope this is not a hill a stubborn Frank wants to do a Custer on... in the manner of stubborn Benitez and his Zonal Marking etc.

It's been said before – why go to a 4 at the back to chase the game? Try starting with it.

Ciarán McGlone
7 Posted 21/08/2022 at 23:11:36
Interesting that a lot of people are wanting to move Iwobi forward now that he's hit a purple patch.

The problem with that is that he seems to be more comfortable with players in front of him – finding the outlet rather than being the outlet. The major issue with him playing further forward was blind alley syndrome. Not knowing what to do with the ball when he's the furthest forward.. often turning back or into trouble or generally just panicking.

He's found his spot – coming from the deeper central position – what is it our American friends say about fixing things that aren't broken?

Neil Copeland
8 Posted 21/08/2022 at 23:20:11
Ciaran, that's a good point. A really positive aspect of Iwobi's play at the moment is that he is always looking to move the ball forward and make something happen. It doesn't always come off but is good to see. I thought him and Tom played well as a pair and played to each other's strengths.

The jury is still out with Tom of course but very encouraging to see him play with confidence. Particularly after his injury.

I am another who would like to see a midfield 3 with Iwobi playing the advanced position. It will take time for Onana to adjust and Gueye would be a good move to help him and give our midfield some steel.

Tom and Doucoure plus young Warrington gives us a few much needed options I hope.

I just pray that we bring in 2 strikers, it would make such a difference.

John Raftery
9 Posted 21/08/2022 at 00:03:48
As I mentioned on another thread, it was interesting to note our best players yesterday were already at the club when Frank arrived. They included Iwobi, Holgate and Davies all of whom had been written off by many fans.
Jerome Shields
10 Posted 22/08/2022 at 04:33:20
The substition of Davies was terrible, I think the defence in the second half is as it is due to being pushed deep, not helped by a tendency to play deep anyway. On Tarkowski, you are spot on.

Thank you for your report Paul.

Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 22/08/2022 at 06:01:55
That's actually a good counter-point to wanting Iwobi further forward Ciaran – fair one.

I guess we'd feel a bit more comfortable with someone like Gueye in there. Well I would anyway.

Credit to Iwobi and Holgate. I wonder if they are playing with more freedom and belief because of the new coaching staff? Their upturn in from seems to have coincided.

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