Clark should let Forest's football do the talking

Nottingham Forest 1 Derby County 1
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The Independent Online
It was not something Alex Ferguson would have stood for without revealing the rough edge of his Glaswegian tongue. A television camera in the press room (a no-go zone even for radio reporters at Old Trafford); a succession of questions about take-over bids. Occasionally, someone asked about the game.

Frank Clark handled it in his usual phlegmatic way. But somehow you wished he might not listen so politely, or not compose such careful replies. You wished he would be bad tempered, as his Manchester United counterpart surely would, and refuse to discuss anything but football.

The Forest manager is concerned about the way speculation over the future is affecting his players. He insists that the proposed buy-outs to be put before the club's 209 shareholders on 31 October should not be of concern to those players, whose contracts, he says, are watertight.

However, so long as uncertainty persists over who might take control, whom he might want to buy and, indeed, whom he might want to be manager, it would be a rare player who could remain entirely aloof. Clark's worry, though he is not yet speaking in such specifics, is that the price to be paid might be relegation. With one win from 10 Premiership matches, Forest have slipped into the bottom three, where those who linger long tend not to get out.

And yet by discussing the uncertainty, Clark merely adds to it. Far better he left such matters to others and talked only of what his team must do to arrest their decline.

Either way, he is in urgent need of improvement. Forest need fresh blood: in particular, someone who can command midfield. But also they need greater motivation. Although they took the lead after only 73 seconds when Ian Woan and Jason Lee combined to set up Dean Saunders against his former club, it was not until the last 10 minutes that they played with real passion.

Their opponents, on the other hand, were full of purpose. In Aljosa Asanovic, the Croatian playmaker, Derby have just the kind of presence in midfield that Forest require, someone who can win the ball, keep it and then make things happen. If Jim Smith can find the right combination in attack, his team will enjoy a good year.

Asanovic provided the nudge from which Christian Dailly calmly side-footed Derby's equaliser, and to which Ashley Ward would have added had he not blazed the ball too high after a splendid run into the Forest box.

Goals: Saunders (2) 1-0; Dailly (59) 1-1.

Nottingham Forest (5-1-2-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Blatherwick, Cooper, Pearce (Chettle, h-t), Allen; Bart-Williams; Gemmill (Roy, 69), Woan; Saunders, Lee. Substitutes not used: Haland, Guinan, Fettis (gk)

Derby County (3-5-2): Hoult; Rowett, McGrath, Stimac; Laursen, Dailly, Asanovic, D Powell, C Powell; Willems (Simpson, 86), Ward (Carbon, 80). Substitutes not used: Flynn, Quy (gk).

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Bookings: Forest: Gemmill, Lee, Lyttle, Crossley; Derby: Laursen, Stimac.

Man of the match: Asanovic. Attendance: 27,771.

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