Football / FA Cup: Wright undone by his desire: Striker's blow

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The Independent Online
Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Nottingham Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

IAN WRIGHT is so committed to playing at Wembley that half of his prolific goal output this season has come with the singular aim of performing beneath the twin towers. Sadly for the 29-year-old, and England, his visit to the 'Venue of Legends' for the San Marino turkey shoot on Wednesday is in doubt, the consequence of chasing a 12th cup goal in nine ties this term.

Wright is a competitor with an appetite to match his prodigious finishing. A late starter professionally and internationally, he is determined to make up for lost seasons. Occasionally, this enthusiasm manifests itself in sudden acts of frustration, a trait that has led to fines and bans. But when intelligently channelled, this hunger for the ball is the key to his, and Arsenal's, success.

Wright's zeal, combined with his pace, ball control and shot placement, brought him two magnificent goals to evict Nottingham Forest from the only Cup competition Brian Clough has never won as a manager. His eagerness also brought an injury that may see him miss England's World Cup game.

The crowd were waiting for the final whistle when Wright, seeking to complete a hat-trick by securing his eighth goal in three FA Cup games, raced after a ball bouncing towards Mark Crossley, the Forest keeper. His acceleration over-extended a leg muscle at the top of his left thigh.

When asked whether Wright's appetite had been his undoing, George Graham, the Arsenal manager, replied: 'I want him to chase eveything. That's one of his qualities.'

Wright's instinct for beating goalkeepers is his principal asset, an art form on full display in the first half as from the inside-left channel and then the inside-right he produced what his colleague Paul Merson described as 'the best brace of goals I've ever seen'.

Both managers fielded 4-5-1 formations with Wright and Nigel Clough as figureheads but Graham's was the more positive, his industrious midfielders looking to release Wright at every opportunity. After 20 minutes, the promising Ian Selley headed Steve Chettle's weak clearance powerfully towards Wright. Cutting between Brian Laws and Carl Tiler, he chested the ball down before dispatching it with the slightest of spin past Crossley from 25 yards. Glorious - even the mural fans seemed to smile.

His second, moments before half-time, again came at the end where Arsenal had hitherto struggled to score this season. The move was marvellous, a four-man build- up propelling the ball to young Selley. His perfect pass invited Wright to run at Forest's back-pedalling defence. Stuart Pearce dived in and was left in Wright's wake, while Tiler was too bemused to risk a challenge. The torment ended when Wright drove right-footed past Crossley from eight yards: his 22nd goal of the season.

Despite their hapless state at Highbury, Forest's rearguard is still superior to San Marino's. One can only imagine what sort of avalanche of goals a fully fit Wright would start against the men from the mountain top.

Goals: Wright (20) 1-0; Wright (45) 2-0.

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Hillier, Linighan, Adams, Jensen, Wright (Morrow, 90), Selley, Merson, Limpar (Campbell, 87).

Nottingham Forest: Crossley; Laws, Pearce, Chettle, Tiler, Keane, Bannister, Gemmill, Clough, Webb (Crosby, 69), Woan. Substitute not used: Charles.

Referee: A Gunn (South Chailey).