Football: Collymore straight to the points: Fortunate Forest

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The Independent Online
Nottingham Forest . . . .2

West Bromwich Albion. . .1

AN ODDLY tepid performance by Forest against troubled Albion still yielded the anticipated result yesterday, raising the possibility that the return of the Nottingham side to the Premiership at the first attempt may be confirmed by Wednesday if results go in their favour.

Should tomorrow's First Division programme result in points dropped by Millwall (at Luton) and Leicester (at Portsmouth) and defeat for Tranmere (at home to Charlton), then a victory by Forest over their fellow-contenders Derby at the Baseball Ground the following night would bring automatic promotion.

For that to happen, Frank Clark's team must play a good deal better than they did yesterday. Albion, clinging to a perch just above the bottom three, were the dominant force throughout. Forest snatched the lead after seven minutes, cushioned their advantage from a 67th-minute corner and by the time the visitors found a finish worthy of the quality of their approach work, only five minutes remained.

'We were exceptionally lucky,' Clark admitted. 'People have been saying to my players that all they needed to do to win was to turn up. Perhaps they believed it.'

Albion, who face a vital derby match themselves at home to Birmingham on Wednesday, would have won comfortably had they put away even half their chances. Mark Crossley, the Forest goalkeeper, kept out shots by Lee Ashcroft and David Smith in the first half, and from Smith again in the second, before Bob Taylor, turning David Phillips inside out, at last found the net in the 85th minute.

Forest surrendered midfield from the outset, preferring to hit the ball long in search of Jason Lee and Stan Collymore, a tactic which would not have been approved by Clark's predecessor, but with Collymore about there is always a chance that the direct approach will pay off, as the opening goal illustrated. When Ian Woan chipped the ball forward, the pounds 2m striker gave chase. So alarmed were Albion that Scott Darton, Paul Raven and the goalkeeper Stuart Naylor converged on him simultaneously. When the ball ran loose, Steve Stone was free to shoot into an empty goal.

After Colin Cooper headed home Woan's corner the result seemed never in doubt.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Chettle, Pearce (Black, 52); Stone, Phillips, Gemmill, Woan; Collymore, Lee. Substitutes not used: Bohinen, Wright (gk).

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Naylor; Burgess, Mardon, Raven, Darton; Ashcroft, Hamilton, Donovan, Smith; Taylor, Hunt. Substitutes not used: Mellon, Parsley, Lange (gk).

Referee: P Wright (Northwich).