Express & Star

Nottingham Forest 1 Wolves 1 – Report

A late strike from substitute Daniel Podence rescued Wolves a point in their crunch relegation scrap away at Nottingham Forest.


In a first half that was fairly even and devoid of many good chances, Brennan Johnson’s strike after 38 minutes handed Forest the lead.

After the melee between these two sides in the Carabao Cup quarter-final back in January, this league tie had an added edge, and it all boiled over again in the second half when both benches clashed – resulting in a Forest staff member, and Wolves coach Pablo Sanz, both being sent off.

Wolves hardly came close to scoring until substitute Daniel Podence stepped up with a superb finish into the top corner, to send the travelling supporters into raptures.

Despite a very tense finish, Wolves saw the game out to take a point from the City Ground.


Julen Lopetegui made five changes to the side that lost to Leeds two weeks ago, and started in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Toti Gomes came in for his first appearance since January 17, as Matheus Nunes, Joao Moutinho, Adama Traore and Matheus Cunha also came into the side.

Jonny Castro Otto had the first game of his three-match ban, while Joao Gomes, Pedro Neto, Podence and Raul Jimenez all dropped to the bench.

Hugo Bueno made his return from injury and was named among the substitutes, but Rayan Ait-Nouri was once again left out. He missed the last game with Leeds, as Lopetegui described it as a ‘tactical’ decision, and the head coach left him out again.

Boubacar Traore was available for selection after recovering from his injury, but was not named in the squad. Youngsters Dexter Lembikisa and Joe Hodge both played for the under-21s on Friday night and were not involved, while Hwang Hee-chan was sidelined with a knock.

Steve Cooper also made five changes to his Nottingham Forest side, who started in a 4-3-3 formation.

Former Wolves attacker Morgan Gibbs-White started, as well as former Wolves January target Felipe.

Toti against Johnson was always going to be a big battle in this game, and the Wolves defender did well with his first test. The Forest man got away down the right, but Toti matched him for pace and made a good tackle that gave away a corner, which Wolves cleared.

On the other flank and heading in the opposite direction, Adama did well with his first attack. He used his pace and power to race beyond Harry Toffolo and his cross was blocked for a corner, which Forest cleared.

The first chance then fell for the hosts. Gibbs-White found Johnson, who cut inside and curled an effort towards goal, but Jose Sa tipped it over his bar and Wolves defended the corner.

Following that, Wolves enjoyed a spell of pressure and created a good chance. Toti’s cross from the left was a good one that just missed Cunha, before Adama had a shot blocked at the far post.

Wolves did not take advantage of that pressure and then allowed Forest to take a grip of the game. Wolves were camped in their own box but some poor Forest decision-making saved them, when the chance to take a shot came their way. After surviving that five-minute onslaught, Wolves finally got some possession again.

A nice move then saw Nelson Semedo cross from the right, with Cunha lurking, but goalkeeper Keylor Navas collected it.

Wolves almost took the lead in fortuitous circumstances when a Nunes cross was headed onto his own crossbar by Moussa Diakhate, under pressure from Cunha.

With Wolves pushing, Nunes had a good chance. Neco Williams made a mess of clearing Semedo’s cross at the back post and Nunes should have reacted much quicker for an open goal.

Forest were still dangerous however, and a good Gibbs-White pass set up Emmanuel Dennis on the left. He cut inside and shot straight at Sa, who held the ball.

Despite it being a fairly even game, some poor Wolves defending saw Forest go 1-0 up. A looped pass went over Toti and after Sa hesitated to come for it, Johnson fired underneath the goalkeeper to take the lead.

Moments later, with Wolves panicking, the hosts were calling for a penalty. Johnson went down in the box under a challenge from Toti, but referee Chris Kavanagh gave Wolves a free-kick and booked Johnson for diving. The decision was the correct one, but Toti certainly took a chance with some hands-on defending.

Wolves then got more bad news before the break, when Ruben Neves picked up a yellow card. As it was his 10th of the season before the 32nd fixture, he will now be suspended for the next two games, at home to Chelsea and Brentford.

Forest were on top and came close to a spectacular second, when Dennis fired over with an overhead bicycle kick.

Wolves made it to the break without conceding again, as the teams entered half-time drawing 1-0.

Wolves failed to register a shot on target in that first half. Their biggest problem came with Cunha’s natural instinct to come towards the ball and link-up play – which he does very well – but it meant no-one was running beyond the Forest defence, making it too easy for them.

Lopetegui looked to rectify the lack of goal threat at half-time, when he brought on Podence and Pablo Sarabia, in place of Moutinho and Mario Lemina.

Wolves were appealing for a penalty when Adama hit the turf under a challenge by Felipe, but nothing was rightly given, as Adama went down too easily. The Wolves bench appealed, prompting the Forest bench to react angrily, before a member of the Forest staff shoved Wolves coach Sanz, and a melee ensued between both benches. Both staff members were then given a red card.

Craig Dawson then made a silly error in possession and allowed Forest to break forward through Dennis. He found Gibbs-White, who shot straight at Sa.

After those ugly scenes in the dugout, the game was becoming scrappier and that suited Forest, who forced Wolves into mistakes.

Another Forest attack should have seen them score. Dennis was through, and could have squared to Gibbs-White, but went alone and Sa saved.

After 65 minutes, Bueno replaced Dawson – meaning Toti moved to centre-back, and Diego Costa replaced Adama. Shortly after, Joe Worrall came on for Dennis, as Forest moved to a back five.

Despite making those attacking changes, it was Forest who came close again. Gibbs-White picked out Danilo, but he dragged his shot wide.

Minutes later, Semedo made an interception that denied Danilo a tap-in, as Forest looked the most likely to score.

Wolves were hardly looking likely to score and Lopetegui’s last throw of the dice came in the 81st minute, when Neto replaced Cunha.

And only moments later, it paid off. A long free-kick came in and was knocked into the box by Max Kilman. Neto had a shot that was blocked and the ball fell kindly to Podence, who turned inside his defender and smashed the ball into the top corner.

As the game entered five minutes of added time, a VAR check was made for a possible red card on Podence. He made the action of spitting at Johnson – although no spit was visible in the footage – and the officials decided that no punishment would be given.

A very nervy finish to the game saw Wolves hang on for a point on their travels.

Cooper and Lopetegui exchanged words after the final whistle, with the Forest manager clearly unhappy with something, but this time it did not boil over.

Key Moments

GOAL 38 Johnson puts Forest ahead

GOAL 83 Podence levels for Wolves


Wolves: Sa, Semedo, Dawson (Bueno, 65), Kilman, Toti, Neves, Lemina (Podence, 45), Adama (Costa, 65), Moutinho (Sarabia, 45), Nunes, Cunha (Neto, 81).

Subs not used: Bentley, Collins, Gomes, Jimenez.

Nottingham Forest: Navas, Williams, Felipe, Niakhate, Toffolo (Lodi, 60), Freuler, Danilo (Awoniyi, 86), Mangala (Kouyate, 86), Gibbs-White, Dennis (Worrall, 66), Johnson.

Subs not used: Hennessey, Shelvey, Colback, Surridge, Ayew.