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Fans’ favourite Cooper clings on with point

By Joe Bernstein AT MOLINEUX

STEVE COOPER gambled with seven changes. Though he didn’t hit the jackpot, he’ll hope a point earns him another roll of the dice with Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis.

The way the Forest manager went over at the end to applaud those away fans who sang his name throughout may have looked like an emotional farewell, but he denied it.

‘No, that’s the last thing it was,’ Cooper said. ‘I was saying thank you for your support, you have spent a lot of money this week and dragged players through challenging times in this game. I’m full of gratitude. They were so noisy it didn’t feel like an away game.’

Forest have won only one game in 12 and the relationship between owner and manager has been fractious. There is a decision to be made before Friday’s visit by Spurs.

The players are clearly behind their manager. After the 5-0 drubbing at Fulham, the spirit they showed here was impressive.

After Matheus Cunha had cancelled out Harry Toffolo’s opener, Forest had three gilt-edged opportunities to win. It was the reaction the manager wanted after the loss at Craven Cottage, which prompted him to change personnel and system to 3-5-2.

‘In normal circumstances it was a positive day in terms of performance and a point away from home. But we have not won the game after all the sideshows going on and how we let ourselves down at Fulham.

‘We could have gone two ways: play with fear or show personality, togetherness and quality, which we did.’

Forest wouldn’t have had long to work on their new formation but started brightly. After 14 minutes, Wolves defender Toti misplaced a pass and Neco Williams capitalised with an excellent cross from the right. At the far post, his fellow wing-back rose well to head over the line.

Wolves’ opportunity arrived after 32 minutes. Pablo Sarabia crossed from the right and Forest defender Moussa Niakhate didn’t track the run of Cunha, who had time to sweep in from close range. On the touchline, Cooper grimaced.

Forest should have retaken the lead on the stroke of half-time. Max Kilman’s stumble allowed Cheikh Kouyate to run clear, but he lacked composure and his shot was blocked by Jose Sa’s legs.

After 53 minutes, Forest’s makeshift centre-forward Anthony Elanga rattled the crossbar, though he may have been offside. Toffolo was definitely onside when he headed over from four yards.

Cooper was in anguish at the chances missed. It nearly got worse when Cunha wriggled free and Matt Turner had to make a matchsaving parry.

It wasn’t the way Wolves wanted to mark Gary O’Neil’s 50th Premier League game as a manager. ‘We looked overly patient,’ O’Neil said. ‘We weren’t quite quick enough but 19 points is a good return from our games so far.’

Cooper, whose 44th birthday is today, angrily denied reports that he’d fallen out with club captain Joe Worrall and defender Scott McKenna. His explanation was that Forest had split training groups because of numbers, and that McKenna is coming back from an achilles injury.

It added to the feeling that everything is a ‘sideshow’ at Forest.

The fans want him to stay. Marinakis, as Forest ended a fourmatch losing streak but again didn’t win, will be the ultimate arbiter.

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