Demarai Gray pounces to salvage draw for Everton against Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest had just won their first Premier League away point since 1999 but their manager, Steve Cooper, walked into a silent, deflated dressing room at Goodison Park. His players’ post-match reaction was another sign of his team’s rapid progress. The raucous Forest faithful were in the midst of telling the ex-Derby manager Frank Lampard he was getting sacked in the morning when their other target, the former Leicester winger Demarai Gray, pounced on a superb Jordan Pickford pass to rescue Everton’s first point of the season in the 88th minute. Brennan Johnson had put the visitors on the cusp of a second successive league win seven minutes earlier and, but for a late defensive lapse, they would have condemned Everton to a damaging third consecutive defeat.

Amid Forest’s disappointment, however, was an encouraging performance in which the club’s record signing, Morgan Gibbs-White, impressed as a second half substitute. Cooper rightly embraced the positives.

“We should have won, we were the better team,” the Forest manager said. “It was a poor goal to concede, we shouldn’t concede a goal like that at this level, but let’s not lose sight of all the good things we did. It is a disappointed dressing room, the players feel we should have won and missed an opportunity but at the same time it is a first away point. I won’t be narrow-minded not to see our team has grown again this week.”

Everton cannot grow without the striker needed to replace Richarlison – sold 51 days ago – or the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Lampard’s team had 19 shots but, Gray’s equaliser apart, none carried the precision or quality to truly extend Dean Henderson in the Forest goal.

“When you have 19 shots at home you expect to score more than one goal,” said Lampard. “It is hard when you have a lot of opportunities and periods of control and don’t score to sustain that confidence but we showed good spirit to come back.”

Everton started brightly, with Alex Iwobi shining on his 100th appearance for the club and the driving runs of Anthony Gordon and Gray putting Forest on the back foot. Their first-half threat petered out once the visitors improved in possession, however. Lampard’s team dropped deeper and, with Salomón Rondón isolated, had no outlet.

Gordon received a warm ovation at the end of a week in which Everton had rejected two bids from Chelsea for the homegrown talent. The 21-year-old forced the first save of the game from Henderson although it was Gray’s set-piece delivery that provided Everton’s best hope. Tom Davies, selected ahead of the new £33m signing Amadou Onana, just failed to connect with Gray’s first in-swinging free-kick. The midfielder was again left unmarked when Gray repeated the routine. This time Davies did connect but scuffed his volley when he should have at least tested Henderson. Gray tried a different approach with his third free-kick from the left, sweeping hard and low to the near post, but the Forest keeper reacted well to save with his legs.

Forest, with 13 summer signings in their matchday squad, understandably needed time to settle. Their confidence, understanding and threat increased throughout the contest, particularly when the one-time Everton target Gibbs-White injected greater menace and pace into the attack. Cooper’s team took the lead when the previously anonymous Jesse Lingard teed up Ryan Yates for a 25-yard shot. Pickford pushed away the substitute’s shot but straight into the path of Johnson, who dispatched an immaculate finish into the far corner.

Everton were staring at another loss until Pickford played the pass of the game, picking out Gray’s run behind the Forest defence with a superb long-range ball. The winger beat the exposed Henderson with a confident strike. Lampard said: “You watch Liverpool and Manchester City, they all play that pass. If you have a goalkeeper that can hit it hard and flat like Jordan can you have to use it.”