Solid if uninspiring, Everton confirmed their revival with a third successive Premiership win as Forest's predicament deepened last night at the City Ground, where Craig Short's early header consigned them to a third home defeat and extended their gloomy sequence to 10 league matches without a win.
Everton had played only once in the preceding month but showed little evidence of inactivity, taking the lead after only four minutes and defending with assurance, bolstered by the return of Dave Watson for his first full game of the season. The win enabled them to move up from 15th to eighth place.
The goal illustrated both the good and bad sides of goalkeeper Mark Crossley. It stemmed initially from Andrei Kanchelskis, who darted across the face of a Forest defence lacking the injured Stuart Pearce and swivelled to shoot left-footed towards the bottom right-hand corner. Crossley excelled in deflecting the ball for a corner but, as Andy Hinchcliffe launched an inswinging kick from the right, Crossley showed himself at his indecisive worst, staying on his line as Short rose to nod the ball past him.
For a Forest side already low on confidence this was a morale-sapping start, which probably felt worse still as the playing surface became increasingly treacherous in heavy rain. Forest make enough errors on dry pitches these day, without having to worry about staying on their feet. The weather that postponed the Merseyside derby nine days ago appeared to have crossed the country in Everton's tow.
It seemed less of an incumbrance to them than to Forest, however. Indeed, they should have doubled their lead after 23 minutes when young Michael Branch wriggled free on the right and bore down on Crossley's goal. Graham Stuart, unmarked, was screaming for the ball to be squared to the far post but fortunately for the home side the 18-year-old was more inclined to see his name in lights than pick out his colleague, and his attempt to beat Crossley from a narrow angle at the near post met with predictable results.
Forest remained unconvincing and unsure going forward but gained some encouragement at least after David Phillips had been fouled by Short outside the penalty area on the left after 28 minutes, bringing the Everton man a yellow card. Phillips himself drove across a free-kick and Jason Lee's header was not too far off target.
Still looking for a way to compensate for the absence of the stricken Steve Stone, Forest experimented with Dean Saunders in a wide position on the right. With Kevin Campbell's comeback again delayed, Lee accompanied Bryan Roy in attack but, given that the featherweight Dutchman seems easily put off his stride by burly defenders, it did not seem a plan with much going for it.
Frank Clark confesses that the current slump is causing him sleepless nights; certainly Forest have not been in as poor shape as this since relegation ended Brian Clough's reign. The pressure on shareholders to make way for a money-spinning takeover at Thursday's annual meeting is strong.
As Crossley beat out a long-range shot by Gary Speed early in the second half, the home crowd were becoming anxious to see a meaningful Forest response and the substitution of Roy on the hour brought few complaints.
Saunders, reverting to his more familiar role, tested Neville Southall with a header tipped over but Kanchelskis, released by Tony Grant, should have wrapped things up for Everton 11 minutes from time but surprisingly failed to go round Crossley.
Nottingham Forest: (4-4-1-1): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Haland; Saunders, Gemmill, Phillips, Woan; Roy (Allen, 61); Lee. Substitutes not used: Jerkan, Howe, Blatherwick, Fettis (gk).
Everton: (3-4-1-2): Southall; Short, Watson, Unsworth; Barrett, Parkinson, Speed, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis; Stuart, Branch (Grant, 75). Substitutes not used: Limpar, Hottiger, Allen, Gerrard (gk).
Referee: P Durkin (Portland).