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Forget points deductions, set-pieces will relegate Nottingham Forest after wasted chance

Forget points deductions, set-pieces will relegate Nottingham Forest after wasted chance

Nuno Espirito Santo may have described the points deduction controversy as “a mess”, but it is set-pieces that are threatening to relegate Nottingham Forest.

It is now a league-high 22 goals conceded from dead-ball positions and Nuno must find a solution in order to prevent the club from dropping into the Championship.

“Going down” chanted the Wolves supporters at the end of this often chaotic contest, and it felt like an opportunity wasted by Forest to move further clear of the dreaded dotted line.

Forest’s latest defensive debacle presented Wolves with a simple second goal and it is these frailties that have afflicted them all season.

After being deducted four points last month for breaching the Premier League’s financial rules, Forest are still waiting for a hearing date after launching an appeal. Yet while there are fears that the outcome of the relegation places may be decided by lawyers rather than players, the weaknesses on the pitch leave Forest dancing with danger.

Though Luton’s mauling at Manchester City enabled Forest to hoist themselves a point clear of the bottom three, Nuno could not conceal his disappointment over failing to beat his old club.

“It’s very frustrating for all of us, the players, the fans. We were better and it’s a missed opportunity so we are sad and disappointed,” he said.

“We are in a fight, it’s going to be a tough one but we’ll give it our all and go to the end. We did enough to win. It’s disappointing with the way we conceded, the goals were too easy. We have to look at all of them [set-pieces] in a realistic way and today the organisation was good but we should have done better individually.

“We have a lot of tough games ahead of us so we need to keep going and try to improve in the next game at Everton.”

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Nottingham Forest's Morgan Gibbs-White celebrates scoring - Reuters/Chris Radburn

Wolves deserved their point and how Gary O’Neil will be painfully reflecting on what could have been. With Pedro Neto, Hwang Hee-Chan and Matheus Cunha missing much of the past two months through injury, an excellent campaign risks fizzling out. Slim hopes of European football next season now appear forlorn after a fourth league game without a win.

Cunha has recently returned from a hamstring injury and underlined his quality here with two goals, including an outstanding solo effort for the first of the game. Picking the ball up inside his own half, Cunha advanced towards goal and eluded Andrew Omobamidele before crashing a shot into the top corner.

O’Neil has also been without defender Craig Dawson for the past month, while Rayan Ait-Nouri missed out with a calf strain, and the Wolves head coach admitted his patched up squad is running on empty.

“It is the toughest spell I’ve ever been involved in as a player or a coach, I don’t think many coaches will be selecting their XI from 12 outfield players,” he said.

“Most teams at this level will have two players per positon and make like for like changes, we’ve not really had that all season. There’s a sense of pride really. Credit to the group, I like us to be better than we were in certain moments but 43 points is good for this stage.”

Forget points deductions, set-pieces will relegate Nottingham Forest after wasted chance
Matheus Cunha's goals are a welcome boost for Wolves - PA/Nick Potts

Cunha provided the first quality moment in front of goal with the opener before Morgan Gibbs-White delivered the equaliser. The former Wolves attacker was given far too much space to head Gio Reyna’s corner past Jose Sa, who should have done better.

Forest inched ahead 12 minutes into the second half after Danilo’s close-range finish. Gibbs-White was again involved, with his run into the area halted by Matt Doherty but the ball squirted into Danilo’s path and he placed the ball under Sa.

Their lead lasted just five minutes, with Forest’s defending again abysmal. Pablo Sarabia’s corner caused all sorts of problems and though Max Kilman’s header was saved by Sels, Cunha pounced on the loose ball to stab the ball home.

The game then ebbed and flowed, but the two teams could not be separated. Whether this point could prove crucial for Forest will be unknown for a few more weeks, but Nuno will have wanted more.

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