Football: Campbell's canter

Crewe Alexander 1 Little 29 Nottingham Forest 4 Bart-Williams 10, Campbell 15, 25, 30 Attendance: 5,759
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The Independent Online
CREWE Alexandra turned out to be the fall guys for Forest as they demolished Dario Gradi's latest collection of young talent with a curt brutality. The prospect of Premiership football next season stands head and shoulders above anything else as an incentive.

Still smarting from that smacking from their fellow contenders Sunderland last week, the visitors could not be blamed for travelling to Crewe with some trepidation especially as injury had shorn them of Pierre van Hooijdonk and Colin Cooper, while Des Lyttle was suspended.

But it took only nine minutes to settle their nerves, the time it took for the makeshift striker Chris Bart-Williams to trundle his shot beyond Jason Kearton and into the net off a post.

Further soothing of those nerves came five minutes later when Kevin Campbell punished slack marking in the Alexandra defence with what was to be the first goal of a 15-minute hat-trick when he buried the midfielder Steve Stone's cross unchallenged. He did it again in the 25th minute, seconds after a Dave Beasant slip had let Kenny Lunt through, but Jon Olav Hjelde recovered to block the shot and spare his veteran goalkeeper's blushes.

Despite this early bruising, Crewe were still living up to their reputation as one of the most attractive and creative sides in the First Division. Their 28th-minute goal illustrated both qualities as the impressive Gareth Whalley confused Alan Rodgers with a neat juggle and landed his cross perfectly on Colin Little's forehead as the striker burst through the Forest defence.

It did not matter, though, as two minutes later, Campbell bustled through a hesitant back line to gather a long clearance and stick his third goal beyond Kearton.

The second half had to be, at best, an anti-climax after all that and it was. Bart-Williams had a shot cleared off the goal-line, Kearton pulled off a good save to prevent Campbell starting on the road to a double hat- trick, and Ian Woan rattled the Crewe crossbar with free-kick from 20 yards.

Seth Johnson, who had missed the home side's best chance in the first half, did it again eight minutes from time when he managed to send his shot high over Beasant's cross-bar and out into Gresty Road.

It was an easier afternoon's work than the Forest manager Dave Bassett could have anticipated - and it had the bonus of Campbell's confidence and ambition being restored by his hat-trick as the voracious Van Hooijdonk waits in the wings for a return to action next week.