FOOTBALL: All smiles for one Lee

Nottingham Forest 3 Manchester City 0
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The Independent Online
There is a lot to be said for a bit of dignity under pressure. It was one of the few things, for example, that earned Trevor Francis credit during his decline at Sheffield Wednesday. He may have managed badly but at least he did it with composure.

Alan Ball seems to have lost his already. So far this abject season, if he has not been whining about unlucky defeats, it has been unhelpful referees. He could not bring himself even to do that after this match, though he would have been justified. "They've been making it up all week, they can make it up again now," was his only public comment.

Apparently, it was the suggestion that he was planning a clear-out of players that had made him so cross, even though most people looking at his team's record would probably say it was a good idea. If reports of a rebellious dressing room have any foundation, he might do well to ship a few out.

If Ball manages to keep City in the Premiership - assuming that Francis Lee stays loyal to him - it will be a remarkable achievement. One draw and seven straight defeats is the worst sequence even in City's up-and- down history. The scoreline here probably flattered them. Had Forest, unbeaten now in 21 League games, been at full throttle, it might have doubled.

"We could have done no more in the second half but I felt we were a bit low-key before that," the Forest manager, Frank Clark, said, finding it hard not to rub it in. "We could have done our goal difference some good."

Bryan Roy, for all his wizardry on the ball, again missed the target more often than he hit it, but otherwise for Clark there was much encouragement, not least in the progress of Jason Lee.

Bought 18 months ago from Southend for pounds 200,000, Lee's only function previously was to cover for Stan Collymore and, really, he never seemed much of a substitute. Given that he spent nearly pounds 4m on Kevin Campbell and Andrea Silenzi during the summer, Clark appears to have been of similar mind.

But with Silenzi and now Campbell suffering injuries, Lee has acquired first claim on the target striker's position and not only is he quite unfazed by it, he is also destroying one or two preconceptions. His hair may look as though it should be attached to a donkey's posterior but the similarities end there.

He scored twice - a first for him in a Forest shirt - and although neither goal will be remembered long, both were put away coolly, capping an accomplished performance. No wonder Silenzi looked eager to impress when he replaced a limping Roy.

Had he been of a mind, Ball could have grumbled about Mike Reed, the referee, and received a sympathetic hearing. It was never a match to warrant nine yellow cards - plus a first-half red for Ian Brightwell for picking up two within a minute - but with 27 bookings and three men sent off already, Ball will need some new players, clear-outs notwithstanding, to replace all those suspended.

Goals: Lee (10) 1-0; Lee (47) 2-0; Stone (82) 3-0.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce; Stone, Bart-Williams, Bohinen (Gemmill, 85), Woan; Roy (Silenzi, 65), Lee. Substitute not used: Tiler.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Immel; I Brightwell, Curle, Symons, Foster; Lomas, Brown, Kinkladze, Beagrie; Rosler, Creaney (Summerbee, 52). Substitutes not used: Quinn, Margetson (gk).

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).