Football: Cottee freezes out Forest

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The Independent Online
Everton. . . . . . .3

Nottingham Forest. .0

THERE can not have been many Saturdays in March on which Norwich against Oldham would have looked more relevant to the championship than Everton versus Forest, but this has been a season of rare trauma for many of the so- called big names, not least in these parts. It is a long time since Merseyside have seen relegation territory so clearly.

Not since 1949 have both Everton and Liverpool finished in the bottom half of the top division. On yesterday's evidence, however, as Everton put more daylight between themselves and the danger zone, there is cause for optimism in at least one corner of Stanley Park.

Forest, on the other hand, increasingly resemble condemned men. Here they were less defeated than demolished as Everton ran up a 3-0 lead in 38 minutes and were then allowed largely to coast along untroubled.

This was Forest's 15th defeat and almost certainly their poorest performance. Five first-choice players were absent through injury or suspension, which was a handicap, but there was not much present in the way of spirit. The two bookings they picked up were for truculent backchat rather than overzealous commitment.

Everton struck when Matthew Jackson's exchange with Mark Ward took the full-back to the Forest line and Tony Cottee tucked away the cut-back. Eleven minutes later, Cottee, meeting Ward's cross, flicked a near-post header past Mark Crossley and Forest already looked finished.

Forest were a spent force after the third. Crossley was penalised for catching Carl Tiler's back-pass, and after Ian Woan had been booked for complaining Andy Hinchcliffe blasted home Peter Beardsley's tapped free-kick despite a Forest wall along the goal-line.

Everton were so much in command that the score might have doubled, but against such apathetic resistance their incentive faded. Even so, Neville Southall was not seriously tested until five minutes from time. 'Sometimes in a season you meet a struggling side on a good day, as we did,' Howard Kendall reflected later. Spring sunshine bathed the Goodison afternoon, but Forest remain in the grip of winter.

Everton: N Southall; M Jackson, A Hinchcliffe, I Snodin (S Barlow, 70 min), D Watson, G Ablett, M Ward, P Beardsley, T Cottee, B Kenny, P Radosavljevic (K Sansom, 78 min). Sub not used: J Kearton (gk). Manager: H Kendall.

Nottingham Forest: M Crossley; G Charles, B Laws, S Chettle, C Tiler, T Orlygsson, G Crosby (L Glover, 79 min), R McKinnon, N Clough, G Bannister, I Woan. Subs not used: B Williams, A Marriott (gk). Manager: B Clough.

Referee: V Callow (Solihull).

Goals: Cottee (1-0, 15 min); Cottee (2-0, 26 min); Hinchcliffe (3-0, 38 min).