All Forest eyes on takeover vote

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest 0 Aston Villa 0

Given everything else going on at Forest, Saturday's match could have been a seven-goal thriller and still failed to make the main headline. Just as well, then, that nothing happened. Squeezed between last week's match-rigging story and tonight's takeover vote, it was barely worth the players turning up.

"We never played well at all but we ground out a result," Stuart Pearce said, or rather his spokesman said. Forest's player-manager will not attend post-match press conferences himself, apparently fearful of saying something he might later regret. Perhaps composure will come with experience; or when he is as grey as Brian Little.

No one keeps the lid on quite so impressively as the Villa manager. If he was not hopping mad on Saturday he was at least seriously cross, when what appeared to be a legitimate goal three minutes from the end was chalked off because of a technical offside. Yet he deals with these matters so calmly you wonder whether he is wasted merely running a football team, whether he should instead be brokering peace in some distant trouble spot.

"According to the linesman, Dwight Yorke was offside when Savo [Milosevic] shot," Little said, stroking his chin reflectively. "We found that very hard to believe. No one on the Forest side appealed. The pictures might show that the fellow was right but if it turns out that a bad decision has shaped the result the players will be disappointed."

He even finds nice things to say about Milosevic, which puts him in a very small minority. The big Serb - better known as Missalotovic among Villa fans - lived up to his reputation with two spectacularly awful first- half misses. The second must have been especially frustrating for Dwight Yorke, who created the chance with the best piece of skill of the match, a breathtaking turn that left two defenders, David Phillips and Steve Chettle, wondering where he had gone.

Forest, who omitted Ian Woan and Kevin Campbell after their pitiful FA Cup exit at Chesterfield, created little, perhaps missing the on-field inspiration of Pearce, forced by suspension to spend another 90 minutes standing by the dug-out.

In any case, for them the important match is the one taking place tonight, when the two sides in the takeover contest square up in front of 203 shareholders at the City Ground, vying for the 75 per cent vote that will put one of them in control.

In one corner, media consultant Albert Scardino, heading a venture-capital backed consortium offering Pearce pounds 19m to buy players; in the other, author and businessman Phil Soar, with the support of City tycoons Nigel Wray and Julian Markham and former Tottenham chairman Irving Scholar, promising pounds 16m for players and pounds 20m more through a Stock Market float.

Nottingham Forest (4-3-1-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Phillips; Haland, Gemmill, Bart-Williams; Clough; Roy (Woan, 75), Saunders. Substitutes not used: Allen, Blatherwick, McGregor, Fettis (gk).

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Staunton (Scimeca, 46), Southgate; Nelson, Taylor, Draper, Townsend, Wright; Milosevic, Yorke. Substitutes not used: Johnson, Joachim, Hendrie, Oakes (gk).

Referee: G Barber (Warwick).

Bookings: Forest: Gemmill, Lyttle; Villa: Nelson.

Man of the match: Yorke.

Attendance: 25,239.