Nottingham Forest have signed 29 players and spent close to £200m this season, but local hero Brennan Johnson continues to build his reputation.
It may have been a slow start for Johnson in the Premier League fast lane, but here was further evidence of how the Wales international is thriving under Steve Cooper’s stewardship.
Johnson has now scored five goals in his last four league games at the City Ground and has been a regular influence in attack in what has been a transitional season for the club.
Everton are said to have made at least one offer to the 21-year-old in the summer when his contract situation was still to be clarified.
You must be fed up with the sight of him now after his fine equalizer extended Forest’s unbeaten run at home in the league. Cooper’s team hasn’t been beaten in front of their home crowd since September 16.
The partnership between Johnson and record signer Morgan Gibbs-White is developing impressively and gives Forest a great chance to stay out of trouble.
Cooper’s reputation was built on nurturing young talent and Johnson is another player to benefit from that experience.
Cooper said, “Brennan is on an upward curve and doing really well. I don’t mind saying positive things about him because I see how committed he is and how much he wants to improve.
“He knows there is still a long way to go but we are very happy with him. He loves the club, he’s a local born down the street.
“He had a rocky road before the World Cup break, but that’s what happens to young players. There are levels he can still reach and as always it’s all about improving.”
With Forest’s owner Evangelos Marinakis in the director’s box, this was a gripping advert for the Premier League basement battle that contained so much drama it almost felt like the last day of the season.
With as many as nine teams potentially in contention for relegation, this type of frenetic clash could become the norm when it comes to staying above the dreaded dotted line.
This was despite the bewildering performance of referee John Brooks, who lost control of the game and frustrated both managers with his decisions.
These are the moments when Sean Dyche shines, points count and the pressure mounts.
Everton remain in the bottom three on goal difference but that performance contained all the qualities the club needed to secure another of their great escapes.
Three of Everton’s four goals under Dyche have now come from set pieces and there was no doubt about the commitment or resilience of the players he inherited last month.
Dyche needed an answer after Wednesday night’s capitulation at leaders Arsenal and got it.
He said: “We’re asking more questions and I see this result as growth. I feel like the performances are getting better and stronger.
“You have to have a method for what we’re doing and there are very positive signs of how players are approaching the game.
“The challenge of the division is visible to all. We talked about the mentality away and changed history, but that was almost the entire away performance.”
It was an immersive, bad-tempered game that only underscored how much survival means to these two groups of players.
Forest were nervous and hesitant from the start and Jonjo Shelvey’s hasty fight against Dwight McNeil in the box was a clear penalty while Demarai Gray saved the penalty.
The home side reacted when Johnson equalized from close range in the 19th minute after Jordan Pickford failed to save Morgan Gibbs-White’s shot.
Everton regained the lead just before the half-hour after benefiting from another suspect defence, with Abdoulaye Doucoure scoring his first goal since September 2021.
Everton remained a threat at the break but Johnson’s fine finish with 13 minutes left leaves Dyche still waiting to start.