Clark misses crowd's point

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The Independent Online

Nottingham Forest 1 Southampton 0

It used to be Arsenal who were masters of the 1-0 win but nowadays maybe Forest should be so acclaimed. This was their sixth such scoreline this season, a third in a row at the City Ground. They even stand accused of being boring, or so their manager thinks.

"I can understand the crowd getting frustrated," Frank Clark said. "You pundits keep telling us we have to play a more patient, passing game to match the Continentals but one of the problems in that is educating English supporters.

"They want the ball going forward quickly - that's what they are used to - but we've got to ignore them in that respect.

"Southampton made life very difficult for us by getting 10 men behind the ball. But we were patient, kept passing and kept probing. It was not a free-flowing, crowd-pleasing performance but in the context of a difficult game it was excellent."

An honest assessment but he was missing the point. It is not so much the method as the end result that is getting the crowd down, the fact that Forest have only to score once, it appears, to be collectively seized by goal-scorer's block. In the last 13 games they have only once reached two. Supporters do not tire of winning 1-0 but they can do without the anxiety it involves. Ask an Arsenal fan.

Kevin Campbell would be quite at home, if someone at Forest could shield his shortcomings the way Ian Wright did at Highbury. Clark, seeking to defend a striker with two goals in 13 starts, said it was "important to have a front player to hold the ball up" but pounds 2.5m is a lot for a foil. Robert Rosario, languishing in the reserves, could do the job just as well.

As if to emphasise this point, it was a defender, Colin Cooper, who broke the deadlock, capping a redoubtable display in his primary role by stealing Campbell's thunder for good measure. Cooper popped up in Southampton's box to head home Bryan Roy's cross a minute before half-time.

But if Forest are worried about Campbell, their concerns are nothing next to Southampton's over Matthew Le Tissier. His loss of form has become a chronic malaise. His manager suspects rejection by England is at the root of it all.

"You'd have to ask a pyschologist about that," Le Tissier said, declining to discuss the theory. In Dave Merrington's view, however, there would be no need.

"If I were a class player and did not get selected it would affect me," Merrington said, "and I'm sure it has affected him."

Goal: Cooper (44) 1-0.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Gemmill, Bart-Williams, Woan; Campbell (Lee, 77), Roy. Substitutes not used: Phillips, McGregor.

Southampton (4-4-1-1): Beasant; Dodd, Neilson, Monkou, Charlton; Bennett (McDonald, 58), Magilton, Venison, Maddison (Watson, 68); Le Tissier; Shipperley. Substitute not used: Grobbelaar (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Forest: Pearce; Southampton: Dodd, Monkou.

Man of the match: Cooper. Attendance: 23,321.