Football: Clough revels in upside-down world

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The Independent Online
Chelsea. . . . . . . .0

Nottingham Forest. . .0

CLOUGHIE at his most perverse. Bottom of the Premier League and with the know-alls lining up to claim his time has passed, here was football's eccentric bursting into the press room beforehand - when did he ever do that when Forest were top? - promising an exclusive and, what's more, for free.

Clough had just nipped upstairs to offer his chairman a vote of confidence. Ever ready to reverse the game's traditions, we can rest assured he is not about to augment that by allowing Fred Reacher, or anyone else for that matter, the chance to pick his team.

The Forest manager was ebullient before the start, and afterwards his high spirits were again much in evidence. Clearly a first away League point works wonders because, while the game and result went some way to restoring Forest's solidity and pride, this was not the kind of performance Clough will care to remember.

Gary Bannister would have broadened his manager's grin and rubber-stamped his own Forest future had he not been careless with three presentable second-half chances. His indulgence helped Kevin Hitchcock record his third successive clean sheet since ousting Dave Beasant in the Chelsea goal.

But there was little else for Chelsea followers to take from this moribund affair, apart from the growing authority of David Lee's defensive pairing with Frank Sinclair, and the occasional moment of inspiration from Dennis Wise.

Bobby Campbell's presence on the press benches, the former manager working for a Sunday newspaper, was a reminder that little changes at the Bridge. Players come and go - having purchased David Hopkin from Morton on Friday, Porterfield is giving a trial to Polish international defender Roman Szewczyk - expectations rise, and Chelsea continue to fall short.

There were too many wasted passes, too many aimless crosses, too much sterility and Chelsea were not alone in disappointing. Yet the home supporters, among the most critical anywhere, applauded as the players came off. Funny old breed, the football fan, because there was not much fun here.

Robert Fleck has still to come good, but Porterfield is right to point to the amount of goals he has laid on for his new club. Yet it says everything about the hosts, buoyant if not fresh from two wins in four days, that they had to wait until the 52nd minute for their first shot on target, a post denying Lee his first senior goal for nearly two years.

Things improved with Graham Stuart's introduction, and with him at last came a touchline centre delivered with some purpose. Mick Harford climbed to head towards goal but only gave Mark Crossley, another keeper under pressure, the chance to demonstrate his agility.

Chelsea: Hitchcock; Hall (Stuart, 65), Sinclair, Townsend, Lee, Donaghy, Newton, Fleck (Spencer, 70), Harford, Spackman, Wise. Substitute not used: Chamberlain (gk).

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Laws, Pearce, McKinnon, Tiler, Keane, Crosby, Gemmill, Clough, Bannister, Orlygsson. Substitutes not used: Chettle, Glover, Marriott (gk).

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).