Chelsea. . . . . . . .0
THIS is the 20th consecutive weekend on which Nottingham Forest have occupied last place in the Premier League, but there are signs at last that they might not stay there much longer. Even modest achievements can provide vital fuel for confidence as fragile as theirs has been, and yesterday's decisive win enabled them to celebrate two league victories in a row for the first time this season.
Forest always held the upper hand over Chelsea, whose season has fallen apart since the turn of the year. After a streak of 10 matches without defeat, in 11 days the Londoners have gone out of both the major cup competitions and surrendered vital ground at the fringe of the title race, losing four games in a row and conceding 12 goals in the process.
Gary Bannister, recalled after Forest's own Coca-Cola Cup defeat at Arsenal, responded by scoring the first two goals. Thorvaldur Orlygsson, sent on with only six minutes left after Scot Gemmill sustained a facial injury, added the third after Chelsea's comeback bid petered out.
Whether this win can be turned into a sustained recovery remains to be seen. Without a regular goalscorer, Forest's short passing style has too often not been enough. Yesterday's result should not detract from that.
However, Bannister took his chances well, coolly sliding home his first after Kevin Hitchcock had denied Roy Keane, then deftly stooping to head home Ian Woan's chipped free-kick 13 minutes into the second half. Woan was the provider again when Orlygsson converted his far-post cross.
Chelsea, for whom Frank Sinclair was lucky not to be sent off after two horrendous body-checks on Stuart Pearce, hit the woodwork in each half and stirred briefly after substituting both their front-runners with a quarter of the game left, but by then Forest were starting to sit back.
Nottingham Forest: M Crossley; B Laws, S Pearce, S Chettle, C Tiler, R Keane, G Bannister, S Gemmill (T Orlygsson, 84 min), N Clough, N Webb, I Woan. Subs not used: A Marriott (gk), G Crosby. Manager: B Clough.
Chelsea: K Hitchcock; G Hall, F Sinclair, A Townsend, E Johnsen, M Donaghy, G Stuart, C Burley, M Harford (R Fleck, 68 min), E Newton, G Le Saux (J Spencer, 68 min). Sub not used: D Kharin (gk). Manager: I Porterfield.
Referee: P Durkin (Portland).
Goals: Bannister (1-0, 9 min); Bannister (2-0, 58 min); Orlygsson (3-0, 89 min).