Football: Cox steers into calmer water

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The Independent Online
Bolton Wanderers 3

Gardner 32, Holdsworth 65 pen, Cox 90

Nottingham Forest 2

Freedman 47, Wright 50 pen

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 14,978

TO LOSE one key man, Mr Hargreaves, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two in a week looks like carelessness.

Oscar Wilde may have considered the Bolton situation ripe material for his sardonic wit, but the creases around the lips of the Bolton fans were downturned prior to kick-off.

For them the departures of Per Frandsen for a modest pounds 2.25m to neighbours and rivals Blackburn and of the manager Colin Todd, in protest at the sale, would be a blessing if it ended there. But it seems likely this is only the beginning of an exodus that may yet feature Eidur Gudjohnsen, Claus Jensen and Andy Todd - front to back, the spine of the team.

While the chairman, Gordon Hargreaves, may point to a failed promotion campaign last season as the reason for a lack of funds for transfers and a need to reduce the wage bill, his critics - and there were many at the Reebok Stadium yesterday - reminded him that there were thousands of seats in the visitors' end withdrawn from sale because of an on-going hotel development. "Football not hotels" read the banner at the directors' entrance.

The caretaker manager, Phil Brown, has been given a minimum of three games by the board to stake his claim and he has made no attempt to hide the fact that he wants the job for keeps. Though the fans are backing the return of the Bolton hero John McGinlay, the financial straits of the club may well lead to the appointment of Brown on the grounds of prudence.

"I'm proud of the players," Brown said. "I asked them to show if they wanted me to get the job and I think their performance spoke for itself."

His football philosophy differs from that of Todd, and with the club just a point above the relegation zone at kick-off, his assertion that a more direct style would be appropriate is difficult to condemn.

Perhaps this caught Forest off-guard. Perhaps David Platt's men had expected to face a disheartened opposition, so slight was their impact in the first half and so generous their defending in allowing a string of attacks to stretch them with the inevitable result that one would succeed - Ricardo Gardner managing to tap in from the cross of Neil Cox.

Within six minutes of the second period starting, Forest were ahead after Dougie Freedman took advantage of the confusion between the goalkeeper, Keith Branagan and Jimmy Phillips, and then Ian Wright converted a penalty award.

The home side responded and forced the tempo levelling through Dean Holdsworth from another spot-kick and in injury time, a deserved winner was conjured by Cox, who poked home Michael Johansen's low cross.

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