Everton on brink of safety after win over Nottingham Forest in ‘El Deductico’

Dwight McNeil

Everton’s handy cut out and keep guide for avoiding relegation served them well in what was dubbed the Premier League’s ‘El Deductico’.

We should all be acquainted with the much-repeated storyline for the Merseyside club. They endure a turgid few months, experience the occasional existential crisis amid performances oscillating between the underwhelming and the embarrassing, and eventually there is a communal agreement that the recriminations should pause.

As the Evertonians clear their throats in a final, last ditch attempt to avoid the abyss, midfielders unaccustomed to scoring regularly - let alone spectacularly - let fly from 25 yards. Think Barry Horne versus Wimbledon in 1994, Gareth Farrelly against Coventry City in 1998 and, most recently, Abdoulaye Doucoure in 2023.

This time it was Idrissa Gana Gueye who stepped up as the unlikely game-changer, his 29th minute opener settling the nerves in this season’s mother of must-win games. Dwight McNeil replicated it in the second half and although the latest survival quest is not completely done for Sean Dyche, there was a palpable release of tension after victory over Nottingham Forest. They surely won’t mess it up from here.

True, Everton rode their luck when Ashley Young was the right side of at least two penalty decisions from referee Anthony Taylor, which ended up contaminating the game thanks to a ranty social media post from Forest’s media account which gave the impression it was ‘bring your child to work’ day.

Forest tweet
Nottingham Forest's statement on X

If the penalty decisions were contentious, there is no arguing how petulant and inappropriate the outburst they provoked from Forest, who tweeted at full-time about Luton Town-supporting video assistant Stuart Atwell refusing to reconsider the handball claim against Young in the first half, and lunging tackle on Callum Hudson-Odoi early in the second.

Both could have been given. Either way, we are in dangerous territory if subjective decisions are being misrepresented as part of grand conspiracies, in this case to deny Forest a Premier League spot.

Presumably, Forest have overlooked the fact Luton play Everton in a few weeks and it would have been as much in their interest for Dyche’s side to lose.

“I don’t think we’ve had our fair share of penalties,” Dyche countered, fully on board the ‘win some, lose some’ bus on this occasion.

Too many clubs are embarking on absurd and sinister deflections for their own shortcomings. Forest were beaten because Everton carried more physicality and belief than visitors whose passing rarely rose above the pedestrian and never carried penetration.

And they are where they are because of a points deduction they - like their opponents - brought upon themselves, independent of the justifiable confusion as to how punishments are decided.

For now, Everton look most equipped to put their numerous setbacks behind them.

After the drubbing at Chelsea, Dyche looked dressed for sport more than business and it rubbed off on his hard-working team. He usually resembles one of Sir Alan Sugar’s henchmen from The Apprentice, full of brooding determination in the technical area. He was barely recognisable in training gear, bellowing his instructions on a predictably tense afternoon.

Everton on brink of safety after win over Nottingham Forest in 'El Deductico'
Everton manager Sean Dyche opted for a tracksuit over his usual suit - PA/Peter Byrne

He admitted it was a deliberate ploy after a rethink following the Chelsea loss, a symbolic gesture that he wanted to be in the trenches with the players.

“I knew it would be a talking point,” said Dyche. “I spoke to my staff and players to question ourselves. We looked at training ideas, plans, tactics and the team and I wanted to play my part.”

Such was Dyche’s proactivity appealing for every free-kick and throw-in, his energy was reflected on the pitch, Jack Harrison, Abdoulaye Doucoure and McNeil back to full application, while James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite were intent on showing events at Stamford Bridge were a blip.

The game plan manifested itself early, Everton peppering set-pieces while Forest hoped their pace might pierce a well-drilled defence. It never did.

Everton had the platform they craved when Gueye beat Matz Sels, whose slow reaction enabled the well-placed strike to bounce in off the post.

After Forest’s penalty appeals, Everton desperately needed a second to relieve their anxieties. McNeil obliged. Only an ugly injury to substitute striker Beto soured the mood, the back-up striker likely to miss the next few games due to concussion protocols.

“It’s a big important win, but we still have work to do,” said Dyche. “With 38 points (before the deductions) people would be viewing it differently. It is within our capability to make sure (of safety), but it would be handy if people stop taking points off us.”

The gap to the bottom three is now five points and it is those below who need to find a saviour. Forest can start by following Everton’s blueprint on Sunday. They need to look at themselves for delivering such an average performance in a consequential fixture before finding scapegoats elsewhere.

“We should blame ourselves because we had clear chances and should have done better,” insisted Nuno.

Maybe he should send that memo to others at his club.

Everton vs Nottingham Forest, As it happened

04:13 PM BST

Match over, refereeing and VAR saga begins

Match over, Everton fans’ hearts lifted and a refereeing saga begins. That’s it for the live blog, thanks for following along. Feel free to add your comments below about the match and the standard of officiating.

04:10 PM BST

Promising news about stretchered-off Beto

To end on a more positive note, Sean Dyche had promising words about Beto, the substitute who was stretchered off in stoppage time after a collision with Morgan Gibbs-White.

“The early signs are very positive, Beto had come round and was speaking to the medical team. That’s very positive news at this early stage.”

04:09 PM BST

Forest claim they asked for Atwell to be removed as VAR because he’s Luton fan

We have more about Nottingham Forest’s sensational claim that they asked for Stuart Atwell to be removed as VAR for this match because he was a Luton fan below.

04:01 PM BST

Jamie Carragher is scathing about both the refereeing and that Forest statement on X

03:58 PM BST

Forest set to consider options after “extremely poor” refereeing decisions

Well, well, the refereeing controversy continues and one suspects this one will rumble on. Anthony Taylor and VAR official Stuart Atwell are in the firing line, as Nottingham Forest have released an unprecedented statement on X.

They claim the VAR is a Luton fan and that the PGMOL didn’t change him despite their warning.

03:54 PM BST

Tarkowski: Dyche reminded us of who we are and how far we’ve come

Goalscoring midfielder Dwight McNeil and centre-back James Tarkowski have been in front of the Sky Sports cameras, giving their assessments:

Tarkowski on a topsy-turvy week:

“I’ll smile for now, but there’s a lot of work to be done. After Monday, we needed to respond and we did. There’s a lot of teams down there battling for their lives, so it’s great to come out on top with a real resilient performance.

With the fans behind us, we know we can beat anyone. Today’s a good day but we’ll be straight in there to recover and be ready for Wednesday’s game.

Monday was a real bad day for us and everyone at the club, so to respond and perform the way we have, to get three points was nice after a long time without winning but we’re not getting carried away.

It was a week of reminders [from Sean Dyche] of what we are and who we are and how far we’ve come as a team. Monday was a reality check, you get them sometimes, we bounced back today.”

03:45 PM BST

What victory means to Jordan Pickford

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is delighted with three crucial points in their home match against Nottingham Forest
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford celebrates an important victory over Premier League opponents Nottingham Forest - Reuters/Lee Smith

03:41 PM BST

Full time: Everton 2 Forest 0

And there the whistle goes. A huge three points go to Everton after goals from Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil. It wasn’t pretty, but they took their chances, proved defensively robust and Jordan Pickford made a pivotal save. There was even a clean sheet, their second in three games.

They rode their luck too, with creaking Ashley Young at the centre of several denied penalty claims from the visitors. It’ll be interesting to hear what Nuno Espirito Santo has to say about referee Anthony Taylor.

That result has significantly eased the pressure in the relegation scrap. Everton sit 16th with a game in hand over Nottingham Forest, five points ahead of 18th-placed Luton. For their opponents, it could go down to the wire and a last-day game away to Burnley.

03:35 PM BST

90+16 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

We’re technically into the 106th minute of the match after that lengthy Beto injury delay in second-half stoppage time.

Nottingham Forest are still coming forward. Yates finds Williams who cuts in from the right touchline, but the looping ball into the box is claimed by a leaping Jordan Pickford. It’s been a commanding performance from Everton’s goalkeeper.

Chermiti receives a yellow card for delaying the play after a Forest free kick in midfield. He’s had a busy five minutes since coming on.

03:34 PM BST

90+14 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

Chermiti shrugs off a Forest challenge and is slowed by an attempted foul. He gets away, sees Gueye’s run into the box, but it’s blocked. Sean Dyche is furious on the touchline at why a free kick wasn’t awarded.

03:31 PM BST

90+11 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

Murillo goes for the ball, completely misses it and clears out Chermiti instead. Stonewall yellow card, that, and referee Taylor awards it.

03:30 PM BST

90+9 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

There is movement from Beto, who is secured on a stretcher before being taken off to rapturous applause at Goodison Park. There’s an oxygen mask on his face, but he raises his left arm and gives a thumbs up. That’s encouraging to see.

Youssef Chermiti comes on to replace him for these final... six minutes or so, I make it.

03:27 PM BST

90+5 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

The ground has gone quiet as Beto is treated on the pitch. Concussion protocol will be implemented for the Portuguese player.

The collision also means there will be stoppage time added on to the original nine minutes of stoppage time.

03:25 PM BST

90+2 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

A nasty clash of heads between Everton substitute Beto and Morgan Gibbs-White as they leap for the ball. The Forest captain is sitting up, but his opposite number is prostrate on the ground. That sickener has taken the sting out of the final minutes.

03:22 PM BST

90+1 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

Jack Harrison catches Ola Aina.

The provisional league table flashes up. If Everton win this, they’ll have a game in hand and will be five points above 18th-placed Luton. A massive win for them on the cards, which would be only a second in 16 Premier League games.

03:20 PM BST

90 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

Nine minutes of stoppage time to be added. There’s still defensive work for Everton to do.

03:18 PM BST

88 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

More balls in from Nottingham Forest. Aerial threat Chris Wood nods one down, but Everton clear it away again. The away team have not found a way to get past a stubborn, physical defence this afternoon.

There’s a delay in play as Neco Williams back-pedals at speed over the advertising hoardings and hits the floor. He couldn’t slow down in time. He sits up, groggy.

03:16 PM BST

Everton fans bring the noise after McNeil’s second

Two goals which do not belong in such a low quality game. Everton won’t care. The explosion greeting McNeil’s goal was like a season’s worth of tension being released.

03:14 PM BST

84 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

It’s raining yellow cards now. Jack Harrison goes into Anthony Taylor’s book for manhandling and slowing down a Forest break.

Beto tries to break through the middle, but it’s a well-judged challenge from Niakhate to dispossess him.

03:12 PM BST

82 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

Yates did get a yellow for his swinging arm in the aerial challenge. He’s one of three Forest substitutes just brought on, alongside Divock Origi and Rodrigo Ribeiro. Reyna, Hudson-Odoi and Dominguez were the ones replaced.

03:10 PM BST

79 mins: Everton 2 Forest 0

Tarkowski is draped over Wood like an amorous nightclubber as he defenders a cross. Nothing doing from the referee, which has been the story of the match for Nottingham Forest.

In midfield, Jarrad Branthwaite gets a yellow card for suggesting Ryan Yates should be penalised.

03:07 PM BST

GOAL! Everton 2 Forest 0 (McNeil 76)

Dwight McNeil adds a second for the home side. He gets onto the ball from the halfway line, plays a quick 1-2 with Doucoure as they moved forward and bangs a venomous left-foot shot into the corner.

Everton were under the cosh for most of the second half, but that is a big pressure reliever.

03:05 PM BST

74 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Gueye wins the ball with a strong challenge in midfield and surges forward, passing it to McNeil in space down the right touchline. Doucoure only has eyes for his cross in, but he catches Neco William as he raises his boot to bring it down. Yellow card, the first of the match on the field.

03:02 PM BST

71 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Jack Harrison sends Aina to the shops with fancy footwork on the right touchline and sends in a low ball. Neco Williams stretches to clear it, with Beto in close quarters.

03:00 PM BST

Everton’s lucky break with refereeing calls

Forest fans are suggesting Anthony Taylor’s failure to award two penalties to their side is a consequence of Premier League ‘corruption’ which, today, is favouring Everton. Meanwhile, Everton fans have been chanting similarly about the Premier League rule-makers all season.

Those shadowy figures must be working overtime. Yes, my head is spinning, too. Fair to say Everton had a lucky break with both calls, mind you.

02:58 PM BST

68 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Calvert-Lewin was struggling with an injury a few minutes ago and he’s being replaced, as is Andre Gomes. On come Beto and James Garner.

02:57 PM BST

Crossed arms, potentially cross with the referee

Nottingham Forest manager Nuno Espirito Santo on the sideline against Everton
Nuno Espirito Santo folds his arms and watches his Nottingham Forest side face Everton - Reuters/Peter Powell

02:55 PM BST

64 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Hudson-Odoi tries to play in Murillo on the left byline, but he overhits the pass. Nuno Espirito Santo has arms folded and appears to be chewing a wasp on the sidelines. As we enter the final third of the match, his side are playing the prettier football, but they have no goal to show for it.

02:51 PM BST

61 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Big chance for Nottingham Forest, as Tarkowski’s header goes backwards and is down the throat of Morgan Gibbs-White. Pickford is caught a little in no man’s land, but he isn’t tested as the captain fires wide of the right post. A lofted lob might have been the wiser choice there.

Everton living dangerously. It’s been all Forest since half-time.

02:48 PM BST

58 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

There’s a pause in play as Jarrad Branthwaite gets some treatment after a sore challenge in midfield. The youngster may have to come off.

02:46 PM BST

56 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Another penalty shout against Ashley Young. The referee suggests that he got to a through ball first ahead of Hudson-Odoi, or was he late after being caught ball-watching?

It’ll be no surprise if post-match, Nuno Espirito Santo has something to say about the standard of officiating at Goodison Park.

02:44 PM BST

54 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

McNeil swings in a corner to the back post. It falls to Calvert-Lewin in a crowded area, who slashes it wide from the edge of the six-yard box.

02:43 PM BST

Physicality and a pinpoint strike giving Everton the edge

Everton’s physicality - and a strike from Gueye out of character with the quality of the game - has given Dyche’s side the advantage. Forest are trying to play marginally more attractive football, but for perspective that means they are showing a greater capacity to string a sequence of at least three passes.

To quote the judges at the world limbo dancing championship: ‘It’s a low bar’. Nuno will be asking why the handball against Young was not given just before half-time.

02:41 PM BST

50 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Callum Hudson-Odoi sprints onto a flicked-on ball down the left and gets there ahead of Mykolenko. The Ukrainian slows him down, giving his teammates enough time to get back and clear his resulting ball in. Fine defending. It’s not always about winning the ball.

02:39 PM BST

48 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Nervy start to the second half for Everton, copping a few sloppy passes. Sean Dyche tries to stir them up from the touchline.

02:37 PM BST

Celebrations after Gueye’s first-half opener

Everton players wheel away in delight after Idrissa Gueye scores a key opening goal against Nottingham Forest
Everton celebrate Idrissa Gueye's opening goal in their Premier League match against Nottingham Forest - News Images/Steve Flynn

02:30 PM BST

Jamie Carragher praises Pickford

Picking through the first-half on Sky Sports, there are plenty of replays of Jordan Pickford’s pivotal save from Chris Wood. Granite arms shown there.

“One of the best saves you’ll ever see,” says Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher.

02:19 PM BST

45+2 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

The first person to go into the book... is not a player. Anthony Taylor saunters over to the dugout and gives a yellow card goes to Forest assistant Rui Pedro. Unclear what he’s done wrong: possibly loud chuntering about that handball appeal?

After two minutes of stoppage time and a couple of Everton defensive headers, it’s half-time.

02:16 PM BST

42 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Forest end the half brightly, trying to fashion a chance down the right. Gibbs-White wafts a sumptuous ball to the back post, and Hudson-Odoi plays it down onto Ashley Young’s right hand. The Forest players cry for handball, but nothing doing on VAR. That’s a controversial one.

02:11 PM BST

39 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Big save from Jordan Pickford, who celebrates like he’s scored a goal. It’s almost at point-blank range as the ball pinballs in the area to Chris Wood, but his wallop is repelled by the England keeper. How important could that prove to be?

02:08 PM BST

Gueye’s slow-motion crucial opener

An understatement to say Everton needed that moment of inspiration from Gueye. All seemed to happen in slow motion - a perfectly placed shot but Forest keeper Matz Sels’ reaction time was not the quickest.

02:06 PM BST

35 mins: Everton 1 Forest 0

Everton fans roar as their team comes forward again. They have had the better of this first half after a sluggish start.

Harrison and McNeil play a tidy 1-2 at close quarters on the edge of the box, a touch from Murillo sends the ball trickling out for a corner, just past the post. Jangling nerves for Espirito Santo there, perhaps.

02:02 PM BST

GOAL! Everton 1 Forest 0 (Gueye 29)

Idrissa Gueye is back in the line-up and opens the scoring for Everton with a low, well-placed shot into the left corner.

It dropped to him on the edge of the box after a weak headed clearance from Murillo, Forest were slow to shut him down. Far from a clean strike, but Sels couldn’t stop it.

01:58 PM BST

26 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Pickford shanks a clearance to the advancing Gibbs-White in midfield, but his blushes are saved by Tarkowski, who sticks a leg out and tidies up. That would have been a howler.

Up the other end, Calvert-Lewin is unchallenged as he rises to a cross from the left in the box, but his effort is straight into the arms of Sels.

01:55 PM BST

24 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Reyna to Aina, and back again. With that rhyme, they could be a hoary comedy duo.

The American went down in the box as he turned, but nothing doing from the referee or the VAR. Ashley Young protests his innocence, but that was a close one, kicking through the player and clearing the ball.

01:53 PM BST

Gomes lacking accuracy for Everton

Everton cannot afford to waste their set-piece opportunities given how little they score in open play. Andre Gomes not finding his radar yet. In fairness, he must feel like he is playing a different sport to his Barcelona days. It is not exactly tiki-taka out there.

01:51 PM BST

20 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Calvert-Lewin puts his body in front of Niakhate as he charges towards a 50-50 on the right byline and wins a canny free kick. The ball pings into the wall and out. Not clear whether his gesture of hands outstretched on the touchline is one of abject apology to the home fans or asking for the ball.

Everton work possession to Young, whose cross is flicked away by the Forest defender to Mykolenko, who blazes it into Row Z from the edge of the box.

01:48 PM BST

16 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Jarrad Branthwaite drives forward from the back, passing a couple of Forest players. He moves into the box after passing to Calvert-Lewin, but the striker doesn’t see him on the edge and overshoots it.

01:45 PM BST

14 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

McNeil tries to play in Calvert-Lewin, but Murillo snuffs it out. However, Everton win the ball back and earn a free-kick on the left sideline, 30 yards out, after Williams chops Gomes down.

Another disappointing delivery from the Portuguese midfielder, belting it over and out. That is a far cry from the set piece accuracy Sean Dyche will have wanted.

01:43 PM BST

Dyche dapper - will sartorial excellence lead to footballing quality?

It is unusual to see Sean Dyche in his training gear rather than suit. He is being very proactive in the technical area. Maybe it is a day where he is hoping if he exerts enough energy it will be reflected on the pitch.

01:40 PM BST

9 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Two corners in a row, as Wood nods out a Pickford free kick from inside his own half. Sels punches the ball out of play for the first one, and Gomes delivers a shoddy, daisy-cutting second corner which doesn’t beat the first man.

01:38 PM BST

7 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Corner for Everton, the first of the game, after a cross is headed out following a Murillo misspass. McNeil’s delivery is a bit deep and a foul on Chris Wood, mucking in at the back, relieves the pressure.

01:36 PM BST

5 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

More link-up between that pair. Neco Williams has the freedom of Goodison Park 30 yards out but lashes a powerful shot straight at Jordan Pickford, who beats it away.

01:35 PM BST

3 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Good link-up down the right between Gibbs-White and Neco Williams. The Forest captain got onto the edge of the box and played it back to the charging Welshman, whose low ball in was cut out by Doucoure. They opened up Everton easily there.

01:32 PM BST

1 mins: Everton 0 Forest 0

Early foul on Aina in the air from Jack Harrison in the away team’s half. Forest free kick and they spend the first minute settling in and moving the ball around.

01:27 PM BST

Kick-off in five minutes

The teams head out onto the pitch to a roar. Home fans have hung a big “We shall not be moved” banner.

01:24 PM BST

Chris’s view from the ground

The outcome of the Premier League’s ‘El Deductico’ will surely define which of these clubs is best placed to put a traumatic season behind them. Everton fans have vowed to create an atmosphere akin to the previous two years when the Goodison factor kept the team up. It’s a sad indictment of their club that the fans believe they need to be its saviours again.

Nuno Espirito Santo was once a contender for the Everton job. He may have personal motivation for piling on misery on the hosts who are in the midst of a dire run of one win in their last 15 games.

01:21 PM BST

Jamie Carragher: Everton lacking the X factor

Some might not see the career-long Liverpool player as an impartial observer. On the punditry for Sky Sports, he reckons Everton are missing that special, in-form player.

That could be the difference for Everton. You sometimes look at the team on paper and [fans] think ‘who’s going to get us a goal, who’s going to create something?’ And Nottingham Forest have those players.

Back in the XI, Dominic Calvert-Lewin may have something to say about that. He may only have five goals this season, but two of those have come in his last two games.

01:15 PM BST

Talking to Sky Sports, Nuno Espirito Santo is all about standards

It’s really important we keep sustaining our levels of performance, even trying to increase the standards of our players. It’s crucial at these moments.

We want every player to give their best, that’s the idea. For that, maximum determination and focus is required.

The Forest manager on his two changes, bringing Dominguez and Niakhate into the startling lineup.

Nothing special, trying to find another way. Yates played very well, now we go for Dominguez, it’s all about what we want from the games.

It’s very difficult here at Goodison Park: the crowd and especially the quality of their players. We have to be ready for it. And we are ready: let’s play the game.

01:13 PM BST

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01:09 PM BST

Jamie Carragher reckons set pieces will be crucial

01:06 PM BST

Forest striker Chris Wood speaking to Sky Sports pre-match

“We want to keep improving and keep getting better, to show it consistently week after week. All these last five games are going to be huge, no matter what, there are not many left to go and it is an important one for both sides. We are going to focus on what we can control, which is our team and how we play and go from there.

I know we are going to have chances to create and score, we need to be solid in defence. We have worked hard this week to be ready for this team, and we need to show it now.”

01:03 PM BST

Two changes for Forest

Less tinkering from Nuno Espirito Santo. Nicolas Dominguez slots in for Ryan Yates, while Moussa Niakhate replaces Andrew Omabamidele.

12:57 PM BST

Calvert-Lewin and Gueye return from injury

Four changes from the heavy Chelsea defeat for the home team. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Idrissa Gueye are back in the starting line-up after recovering from injury.

Andre Gomes and Jack Harrison are also back in midfield. However, Everton are missing club captain Seamus Coleman with a groin problem.

12:51 PM BST

The team sheets are out

Everton: Pickford, Young, Tarkowski, Branthwaite, Mykolenko, Harrison, Gueye, Andre Gomes, McNeil, Doucoure, Calvert-Lewin.
Subs: Keane, Onana, Danjuma, Virginia, Beto, Godfrey, Chermiti, Garner, Warrington.

Nottm Forest: Sels, Williams, Niakhate, Murillo, Aina, Dominguez, Danilo, Reyna, Gibbs-White, Hudson-Odoi, Wood. Subs: Turner, Sangare, Toffolo, Elanga, Yates, Origi, Montiel, Omobamidele, Duarte Ribeiro.

Referee: Christopher Kavanagh (Lancashire)

12:44 PM BST

Welcome to Everton v Nottingham Forest

Good afternoon and thanks for joining our live coverage of a match between two relegation battlers that the wags are dubbing the “points deduction derby”.

No doubt the two sides have a shared contempt for the powers-that-be at the perceived injustice. Everton are in 16th on 27 points, having been docked eight points in total. Nottingham Forest (docked four) are positioned in 17th, with one point fewer and considerably better form.

It has been a particularly rough week in a trying season for the home team. It started with a 6-0 shellacking to a Cole Palmer-inspired Chelsea. Then there are the ongoing administration fears and several more crocked players in their crowded sick bay.

Not forgetting the small matter of the relegation scrap, a situation worsened by only winning one of their last 15 Premier League games. 18th-placed Luton are lurking on 25 points.

“Fifteen games ago I was deemed to be the Messiah - I had found the key. Fifteen games later, I am not. The fans question us but I would ask them to stay solid with us,” manager Sean Dyche said in Friday’s press conference.

Whatever happens this afternoon at Goodison Park, the relegation fight could be decided off the field. The Premier League confirmed on Saturday that the outcome of Everton’s appeal against their latest two-point deduction will be known before the final day of the season.

Nottingham Forest’s own appeal against their four-point punishment, served in March, for breaching profit and sustainability rules, will be held on Wednesday, 24 April.

“We don’t know exactly how many points we have, both of the sides,” Nuno Espirito Santo remarked on Friday. Fun.