Football: Cooper makes amends

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. .1

Bright 10

Nottingham Forest. . .1

Cooper 88

Attendance: 32,488

EVEN deprived of their likeliest match-winners, the form teams of the Premiership and the First Division contrived a compelling drama in which a Forest goal after 88 minutes produced an entirely just result and a replay at the City Ground a week on Wednesday that promises to be equally enthralling.

Forest, unbeaten now in 13 games, had to manage without Stan Collymore, their 19-goal leading scorer, because of injury, but found an enormous depth of spirit to accompany some precise and confident football and had Wednesday's measure for long periods. Only the lack of an end-product, due mainly to some alert goalkeeping by Kevin Pressman, suppressed the evidence that the gulf between the elite and the pretenders may not be so wide as some would have it.

Wednesday, for whom Chris Waddle, disappointingly, was absent, seldom looked capable of imposing themselves in the manner one might have predicted from a side that has lost only once in 20 matches since Manchester United won at Hillsborough in October. Their manager, the former Forest star Trevor Francis, blamed an uneven pitch as much as anything lacking in his players, but there was more to it than that.

They seemed prepared to let Forest's five-man midfield take charge, particularly in the first half, and Pressman, keeping Chris Woods on the bench these days, was repeatedly under fire. Lee Glover, not a fans' favourite at Forest but an admirable deputy for Collymore here, might have had a hat-trick on another afternoon. Pressman's agility and excellent positioning prevented that, just as his lightning reflexes kept out one stinging early drive from David Phillips.

Phillips, Lars Bohinen and Neil Webb dominated midfield. They were at the heart of Forest's most constructive moves, Phillips displaying his Norwich pedigree in the pivotal role in front of the back four. Yet it appeared that fortune was wearing a Wednesday shirt. Rare hesitation in the visiting back four allowed Mark Bright, with his sixth goal in as many games, to nod Wednesday into a 10th-minute lead, and until Forest mounted their last breathless assault, it seemed that this would remain the critical moment, even after Wednesday lost both full-backs through injury.

'I thought we had got away with it and were going to get a result we did not really deserve,' Francis confessed. Steve Stone missed dreadfully with the goal at his mercy with four minutes left but Colin Cooper, the defender at fault when Bright scored, thundered into the Wednesday area during the next attack, rose to meet Phillips' cross from the right and, despite Des Walker's attempt to deflect his header to safety, peeled away to a mobbing from his deeply relieved team-mates.