Football: Clinical Sutton takes his chances

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest. . .0 Blackburn Rovers . . .2 Sutton 6, 68 Attendance: 22,131 CHRIS SUTTON may not be a candidate for the kind of adulation enjoyed by the likes of Ryan Giggs and Andy Cole, but his sheer efficiency must be his manager's joy. He had two chances at the City Ground and took them both without hesitation or ceremony to send an increasingly frantic Nottingham Forest to their first Premiership defeat of the season, ending a 24-game unbeaten record in all competitions.

Sutton has scored 14 goals this season - 11 of them in the League - and none with more potential significance than yesterday's strikes. Despite the best efforts of Lars Bohinen in the first half and Bryan Roy in the second, Forest could find no reply on a day in which all their shots went straight at Tim Flowers in the Blackburn goal.

Forest missed the ability of the injured Stan Collymore to create goals out of nothing, but they still had more than enough chances to drag themselves back into the match after Sutton had given Blackburn the lead in the eighth minute. The pounds 5m striker capitalised on Forest's failure to clear the ball on the edge of their area by thumping a right-foot shot on the turn, the ball taking a slight deflection off Colin Cooper.

With Jason Lee partnering Roy in front of a four-man midfield, Forest gradually raised the intensity of their efforts. Bohinen ran the game for the 30 minutes before half-time, spreading the ball to Ian Woan on the left and Steve Stone on the right in an effort to go around the flanks of the Blackburn defence.

For 20 minutes in the second half, Roy took over as the mainstay of the Forest attack, drawing warm applause as he flickered between the markers, on one occasion drawing three of them to him before releasing the ball with exquisite timing to the unmarked Woan.

The Dutchman shot over the bar twice and tested Flowers' catching on two more occasions. Stuart Pearce and the otherwise disappointing David Phillips also experienced the magnetic power of the Blackburn goalkeeper, who needed only to stand his ground and protect his midriff to shut out the home side.

The more pressure Forest exerted, the more likely it seemed that Blackburn would break away to score again. Even when Stuart Ripley and Jason Wilcox were required to concentrate on helping defend the flanks, Sutton's ability to hold the ball up, matched with Shearer's instinct for a damaging run, maintained the threat.

In the event, their second goal came from a corner, swung over by Ripley to Shearer, whose apparent mishit on the turn fell neatly for Sutton to smash the ball past Mark Crossley and a couple of defenders. 'I thought we fell asleep and failed to defend a well-worked corner,' said Frank Clark, the Forest manager. 'I thought at least we're getting a bit of good luck today,' his opposite number, Kenny Dalglish, said.

Clark praised the entertainment value of the match, and described himself as 'disappointed, but not despondent'. He could not, he said, have asked for more effort from his players. Invited to blame defeat on the absence of Collymore, he chose instead to praise Lee's wholehearted commitment, a contribution unappreciated by the crowd who were pining for their hero.

In a hard, competitive match there were bookings for Roy, Pearce and Paul Warhurst. The referee, Paul Danson of Leicester, also sent off Wilcox for two bookable offences - the second of them, in the 87th minute, for a stupid attempt to waste time by flipping the ball away. Dalglish, invited to comment yet again about the inconsistency of officialdom, allowed himself to mutter something about the probable desire of some referees to see their names in the papers.

Otherwise he was in good humour, praising the level of entertainment offered by this season's Premiership contest. The functional effectiveness of his own side may not be designed to entertain anyone beyond their own supporters, but at least it makes an interesting contrast with the more fashionably decorative approaches preferred elsewhere. Yesterday, riding their luck, they looked well prepared for the long haul.

(Photograph omitted)