What Ryan Yates did at full-time of crucial Nottingham Forest win as doubt replaced by belief

Nottingham Forest players and staff celebrate their win over Sheffield United in front of the away end
Nottingham Forest players and staff celebrate their win over Sheffield United in front of the away end -Credit:Getty

Not quite there. Not yet. But nearly. Survival is well within Nottingham Forest’s reach now.

There will be no counting of chickens on the banks of the Trent; not until the counting of points equates to mathematical safety. Those of a Reds persuasion know anything can still happen until the fat lady has sung her last note.

But where not so long ago there was doubt, now there is belief. The chance is there for Forest. They just have to take it.

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Saturday’s 3-1 win over Sheffield United was huge. It was a big step towards getting over the line.

It wasn’t pretty; far from it for the most part. But getting the three points any which way and any how was all that mattered for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.

Making the difference

The visitors were a mess in the first half. They were poor and all over the place.

When you are not playing well, you need difference-makers. And Callum Hudson-Odoi certainly falls into that category.

The former Chelsea man is proving to be an excellent signing for the Reds. The £3 million the club paid for him already looked like an absolute bargain some time ago and just gets better as the weeks go by.

Two trademark quality finishes from the 23-year-old took him to seven goals for the season. The Blades can’t say they weren’t warned about his ability to cut inside and let fly. That is Hudson-Odoi’s signature move.

He did it once to draw the visitors level just before the half hour mark. For some reason, United then gave him the space to do it again in the second half. He clipped the post with one effort, then made no mistake a second time.

Nuno believes there is still more to come from him. He is confident the winger can add different types of goals to his game.

And Hudson-Odoi himself said: “I want to help the team and get more goals and assists. Hopefully there are many more to come. When I hit the post I was thinking, is it going to go in or not? The more you shoot, the more chance it has of going in. I am happy to help the team.”

Landmark week

It has been quite the week for Ryan Yates. Did he end it by jumping in the Trent? Few could blame him if he did brave a celebratory dip.

Against Manchester City, he made his 200th appearance in the Garibaldi. He appeared to have a lump in his throat when shown a video of messages from his teammates and fans to mark the achievement during the week.

Scoring his first Premier League goal for the club capped off a momentous seven days for the midfielder. It meant a lot, too. The roar after he had whalloped the ball in for 2-1 said as much.

Yates continues to come in for a fair bit of stick from some supporters. But when Forest needed him to step up, he was there with a terrific finish. It is not the first time he has produced in the big moments - and not the first time he has done so at Bramall Lane, either. Nuno admitted he was a little anxious when VAR checked for a foul by Murillo on Ben Brereton Diaz, but the goal stood.

To get a sense of how much Yates is valued in the dressing room, you only had to see the reaction to his strike. Ola Aina and Danilo made sure he was front and centre when the Reds went to celebrate in front of the away end at full-time. They gave him a shove forward and the skipper responded by miming going for a swim.

Congratulatory messages on social media came from teammates past and present. “Big game player Ryan Yates,” Joe Worrall - currently on loan at Besiktas - said on X of his fellow Nigel Doughty Academy graduate. “Never lets you down.”

Room for improvement

The end result was the most important thing, but there was no disguising the fact Forest were well below par in the opening 45 minutes. They were somewhat fortunate to go in at the break on level terms. Indeed, it was difficult to tell which team was fighting for their lives at that point.

A sliding challenge by Gonzalo Montiel on Brereton Diaz had got the match off to the worst possible start. The Blades forward slotted in the resulting penalty and celebrated against his former club.

The hosts had chances to push on. It was largely thanks to the combined efforts of Murillo and goalkeeper Matz Sels that the Reds were still in the game. The former made a couple of superb blocks and Sels pulled off some crucial saves.

The second half as a whole was much better. The visitors got more of a grip on the match and could have won by a greater margin, but they will know there is still a lot to work on.

Nuno had opted to revert to a four-man defence against the already-relegated hosts. That was despite his team producing one of their best performances of recent times when they played with three at the back against City.

He did switch to a three during the second half. But there is surely a case for starting with that formation in the remaining games as Forest look to get the points they need.

A decisive week?

This could be a big week Trentside. Three points in South Yorkshire put the Reds three points clear of 18th-placed Luton Town with two games to go, while the gap to Burnley is five points.

Forest’s fate remains in their own hands and they now have a little buffer. Not a big one, but it could be enough.

Players, staff and fans all knew the importance of this one. You could sense it in the air at Bramall Lane.

As one, the team and coaches made their way over to applaud the travelling supporters after the full-time whistle. They stood in front of a bouncing away end, enjoying the winning feeling. It felt like a significant moment.

And there could be more to follow in the next few days. The club are expected to discover the outcome of their appeal hearing over their four-point deduction for breaching financial rules this week. A tasty clash with Chelsea at the City Ground follows on Saturday. Time to get the job done.

"It has been very hard for us to manage all the situations,” Nuno told Sky Sports. “The points deduction, the players that went away to the Africa Cup of Nations, the referees. The only way we can change things is on the pitch. That is the big advantage we have. It is in our hands to achieve the final objective."

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