Report and free match highlights as goals from Emmanuel Dennis and Ashley Young only briefly lit up this Midlands derby. Aston Villa were on top for much of the second half but lacked the creativity to break down Nottingham Forest
Tuesday 11 October 2022 11:48, UK
Steven Gerrard has demanded more from his "big hitters" after Aston Villa's 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
Emmanuel Dennis' early header had given Steve Cooper's side the lead but Ashley Young's stunning strike soon levelled things up. Villa had the better of a game short on quality but could not find their first away win of the season as Forest ended a run of five defeats.
The point is enough to lift Forest back above Leicester, while Steven Gerrard's side remain in 16th having been unable to secure the win that would have taken them ninth.
"It is not an application thing," Gerrard said after the match. "We need more quality from our big hitters."
Nott'm Forest: Henderson (6), Aurier (6), Cook (6), McKenna (7), Toffolo (7), Kouyate (6), Yates (6), Freuler (6), Gibbs-White (7), Johnson (6), Dennis (6).
Subs: Williams (6), Surridge (6), O'Brien (n/a).
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (6), Konsa (6), Mings (6), Young (7), Luiz (6), McGinn (6), Ramsey (6), Buendia (6), Watkins (5), Coutinho (5).
Subs: Ings (6), Dendoncker (6), Archer (6).
Player of the match: Scott McKenna.
Cooper, fresh from signing his new contract with the club, emerged to a standing ovation from all four corners of the ground and that atmosphere of support for the team was rewarded with the breakthrough goal inside the first quarter of an hour of the game.
Dennis, on his first Premier League start for the club, scored his first goal by heading in unmarked from Morgan Gibbs-White's right-wing free-kick. The Nigerian striker did not even have to move, a reflection of the dismal marking by the Villa defence.
Steve Cooper made five changes in total. Serge Aurier made his first start replacing the ever-present Neco Williams while Harry Toffolo, Ryan Yates, Remo Freuler and Emmanuel Dennis were all handed recalls. Jesse Lingard was among the players to drop to the bench.
Steven Gerrard made two changes to the Villa team that drew with Leeds as Matty Cash returned from injury and Emiliano Buendia replaced the injured Leon Bailey. Ludwig Augustinsson was also missing from the previous squad with a hamstring problem.
The Forest fans hardly had time to celebrate it though - surrendering a lead yet again, although this time the hit could only be admired. Young seized upon a loose ball outside the box and lashed it low into the bottom corner of Dean Henderson's net.
Forest's frailties were still in evidence, although the offside flag prevented Ollie Watkins putting Villa ahead shortly afterwards. What both teams lacked in quality they tried to make up for in desire. The contest was full of effort. But something was missing.
Gerrard had described this as 'a unique opportunity' to move seven places up the Premier League table in one night and talked of how Villa had been working on their creativity. But with Forest retreating into their new defensive shape of 4-5-1 there was no way through.
Ezri Konsa's penalty appeal on the hour mark was as close as they came, while Cheikhou Kouyate's long-range strike was the best that Forest could muster. The result at least stops the rot for Cooper, while Villa extend their unbeaten run to four. But pretty it was not.
|Bonus points||Dennis (3), Young (2), Gibbs-White (1)|
"It's a step in the direction," Cooper told Sky Sports. "It's not the ambition to be drawing games at home and not having much of the ball. But the circumstances meant we had to accept that it was a forward step. There were lots of things we need to improve on but we really need to look at the things we did well. We can keep building.
"For all the tactical things we do I haven't loved the fight in the team. We are trying to put a team together but that's not an excuse for not running or fighting. We did that better tonight. We were deeper and more compact. Is this my favourite way of playing? No. But it was something that was right for tonight."
"I thought we were the better team but we still need to create more in the final third, more quality," said Gerrard. "I have challenged the forward players to add more in the final third because up to that point there is not much wrong.
"It is not an application thing. We need more quality from our big hitters. I seem to be talking about our final third play too much. Hopefully, players can get into form. If not, I am going to have to change things, whether that is personnel, system or shape.
“Coutinho is a shadow of a player," Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports. "We know he is as it didn’t go well at Barcelona but he’s a million miles off it."
"The names are there, the talent is there, I have seen them do it a lot, consistently. We have certainly got the names. We have recruited big in that area of the pitch. It is only right that we demand more in that area of the pitch.
"I am aware we should have more points, more goals. I have not got my head buried in the sand. We are playing against a team that give a lot of chances up. We had a chance to go from 16th to ninth. The fans deserve for us to win that game."
Nottingham Forest travel across the Midlands to play Wolves at Molineux next Saturday, before another away game at Brighton on October 18.
Aston Villa's home game against Chelsea is live on Sky Sports Premier League next Sunday, followed by a trip to Fulham on October 20.