Football: Dutchman eases Bassett's worries

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The Independent Online
Dave Bassett admitted last week that he probably faces the sack if he does not steer Nottingham Forest straight back into the Premiership. So he was mightily relieved when Pierre Van Hooijdonk's eighth goal of the season against Portsmouth sent Forest back to the top of the First Division.

For that Bassett had also cause to be grateful to West Bromwich Albion, who dropped their first home points of the season in a goalless draw with second-placed Swindon. As for Forest's performance, their manager regarded the first 45 minutes as the best they have played this season.

But with five points covering the first 13 clubs, pointers for the season were perhaps being made elsewhere. Middlesbrough, still waiting to discover exactly what Fabrizio Ravanelli plans to do with himself, sent Birmingham tumbling to their second successive league defeat at the Riverside Stadium.

Goals from Vladimir Kinder - able to play after Slovakia declined to invoke the five-day rule for their next World Cup qualifier - Mikkel Beck and Emerson proved the foreign influence on Teesside will not end even if the `White Feather' floats away.

Brian Deane and Jan-Aage Fjortoft were both on the mark as Sheffield United won 4-2 at Oxford where Bobby Ford was sent off, while QPR made it three wins in a row after goals from John Spencer, Danny Maddix and Trevor Sinclair secured a 3-2 win at Crewe.