Football: Clough spares his father further gloom

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Nottingham Forest. . .1

Coventry City. . . . .1

PURISTS may argue that the Premier League table should be turned upside down. But on the evidence presented to the City Ground last night, Coventry are not unduly flattered by second place while Forest will have to improve considerably to vacate the bottom rung.

Coventry, all pace and power, deserved their half-time lead, even if Andy Pearce's goal was fortuitously deflected past Mark Crossley. Nigel Clough spared his father the indignity of a record-equalling seventh successive defeat with a 70th-minute equaliser.

Forest thus secured their first point since the opening weekend of the season, while Coventry were denied a club-record fifth consecutive away win. Nevertheless, the Sky Blues manager, Bobby Gould, was entitled to draw greater satisfaction from the outcome than his counterpart, Brian Clough, and Coventry go into Saturday's home match against the leaders, Norwich, knowing that victory will restore them to the summit.

Before the match, the Forest manager received the dreaded vote of confidence from his new chairman, Fred Reacher, who also assured Forest supporters that funds are available for new players.

Laurent Blanc, Napoli's surplus French sweeper, is reported to be one target, although it must be doubtful whether he would come cheaper than Colin Foster. The West Ham defender's on-off return is finally off after a disagreement over personal terms.

Central defence is undoubtedly one of Forest's weaknesses. Roy Keane partnered Carl Tiler on this occasion, though the experiment was not a conspicuous success. Keane's surges from midfield were badly missed, and his aggressive instincts did not always serve him well at the back.

Forest were in disarray as early as the fifth minute, when a long throw-in by John Williams was back-headed by Robert Rosario. Peter Ndlovu, who troubled Forest throughout, forced Crossley into a desperate save.

Forest retaliated only sporadically. Even when Steve Ogrizovic kicked a clearance straight to Gary Bannister, the striker sliced his attempt to find the unguarded goal. Coventry, releasing the ball early to their pacy forwards, threatened more frequently and went ahead seconds from the interval.

Keane betrayed his unease by obstructing Ndlovu near the penalty spot. Kevin Gallacher touched the free-kick to Andy Pearce, and from the kind of range at which his Forest namesake is devastating, the Coventry captain drove his shot at the defensive wall. The ball flew off Rosario's heel into the net.

Although Stuart Pearce looked Forest's most likely marksman, the face-saver came from the player the manager calls 'our No 9'. Following a Gary Crosby corner, Clough Jnr scored with a scissors kick, although it was hardly a textbook example.

It is a sign of the times when Forest are happy with a home draw against Coventry, but Brian Clough was in bullish mood afterwards. 'I'll outsee the lot of you,' he ranted at Radio 5's man. 'All this speculation about my job is ridiculous.' And the vote of confidence? 'If that's what it is,' he admitted, 'it's frightening.'

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

Coventry City: Ogrizovic; Borrows, Sansom, Atherton, A Pearce, Ndlovu, McGrath, Hurst, Rosario, Gallacher, Williams. Substitutes not used: Babb, Fleming, Gould (gk).

Referee: K Morton (Bury St Edmunds).