Football: Chettle has Forest in fine fettle

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The Independent Online
IF ANY manager needs a hint on how to take advantage when league leaders slip up, and it seems several do, perhaps they should pick up the phone and call Dave Bassett. His Nottingham Forest side made the most of Middlesbrough's failure to beat Birmingham City at St Andrews by defeating Portsmouth, 1-0 at Fratton Park, to regain the First Division leadership.

Pompey, who will not have overly impressed their prospective owner, the American billionaire businessman Vince Wolanin, lost the game when, seven minutes into the second half, Steve Chettle stole forward at a corner and connected with Pierre Van Hooijdonk's flick. "I was delighted with the team's attitude," Bassett said. "We quickened things up after the interval and got our just reward."

Wolanin, who reportedly has pounds 90m to spend, went into talks with the chairman, Martin Gregory, after the game knowing that most of the money will have to go on new players if Pompey, with only one point from the last six matches, are to stay up.

Boro lost the leadership when their sloppy defending at the start of the game gave Brum an early lead. Steve Baker's square pass across the Boro goalmouth let in Jon McCarthy who pounced to beat Mark Schwarzer in the third minute for his forth goal of the season.

Boro were back in the game as half-time approached and equalised when Gianluca Festa, returning after suspension, powered forward, collected a return pass from Paul Merson and fired home from 20 yards. Boro controlled the game for the next 30 minutes but the introduction of Brum's new pounds 1m striker, Dele Adebola, late of Crewe, nearly brought the home side the winner. But it stayed 1-1. Bryan Robson, the Boro manager, blamed three games in six days for his side's lacklustre display.

Adebola's former club lost 3-2 at Queen's Park Rangers where the former Liverpool winger Mark Kennedy inspired the home side, scoring twice and making Karl Ready's winner after Crewe had fought back from 2-0 to level the scores.

Bobby Ford, who moved to Sheffield United from Oxford United for pounds 400,000, broke his duck against his former teammates to give the Blades a 1-0 win at Bramall Lane, lifting them into fourth place.

Tranmere Rovers' goals. Like a bus (pick your own route), you wait for one for ages and then they come along in a procession. It had been 11 hours and 44 minutes between Rovers' previous successful effort and Kenny Irons' 10th-minute strike at Elm Park, but they went on to score two more, through David Kelly and Graham Branch, as they beat Reading 3-1.

The miserable week of play-off hopefuls Charlton Athletic came to the only suitable conclusion when they lost 1-0 at Bradford City while West Bromwich Albion crept quietly back to the edge of the play-offs with a 2-0 win at plummeting Swindon Town.

In Scotland, Rangers, no longer invincible, were held by Dunfermline, 1-1 at Ibrox. Poor defending at a free-kick let in Harry Curran for the Pars' 90th- minute equaliser. "I'm very disappointed to drop two points when we had 99 per cent of the pressure," the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, said.

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