Football: Foolish Forest fail to fool their fans

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Nottingham Forest 1 Coventry City 0

HARD TO please, these Nottingham folk. Forest paraded their pounds 2.5m new signing (in his civvies, admittedly) and won the match for good measure yet still had to witness a post-match demonstration by disgruntled supporters.

"I'd like someone to tell me what they are demonstrating about," the club's manager, Dave Bassett, said afterwards, even though he knew full well. The club's selling of Kevin Campbell, one half of the First Division's deadliest attack last season, plus shadow striker Ian Moore and the club captain, Colin Cooper, has left not only Pierre van Hooijdonk but much of the Nottingham public wondering whether Forest are serious about staying in the Premiership.

Forest cannot be held responsible for Van Hooijdonk's petulant refusal to rejoin the squad, although having signed a player with a track record of such behaviour they should have known they were taking a risk and that they would need to match his ambitions to keep him sweet.

But they can be accused of being foolish in allowing two other forwards to leave while Van Hooijdonk's future was unresolved and pretty daft too in acceding to Cooper's request to join Middlesbrough within two days of losing another centre- back, Jan-Olav Hjelde, to injury.

Bassett may have unearthed a gem in the pacy Jean-Claude Darcheville, on loan for the season from Rennes, but Dougie Freedman, signed from Wolves, has some improving to do to be recognised as Premiership material and it will take more than Nigel Quashie, the QPR midfielder signed just too late to play on Saturday, to transform a team of essentially only First Division quality.

Just as well, for Forest and Bassett's sake, that they do not lack determination, which was the main reason, allied to the brilliance of goalkeeper Dave Beasant, why they were able to beat a Coventry side that had turned over Chelsea last week.

Unlike Marcel Desailly and company, Forest's defenders did their job with such concentration that Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin were rendered comparatively ineffective. Going forward, Steve Stone and Thierry Bonalair attacked Coventry's weaker left flank with speed and gusto.

Even so, but for Beasant Coventry could have left with one point if not all three. At 39, the former Wimbledon goalkeeper, once better known for his gaffes than for great saves, seems to have been reborn. His judgement is superb, his agility that of a much younger man; the saves he pulled off to keep out headers by Noel Whelan and Gary Breen were of the highest class.

Gordon Strachan, not a man to take defeat lightly, could find nothing to criticise, even when Stone blasted Forest in front. "I felt it was always going to be their day," he said.

Goal: Stone (52) 1-0.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Beasant; Bonalair, Chettle, Armstrong, Rogers; Stone, Gemmill, Thomas (Johnson, 75), Hodges (Lyttle, 88); Darcheville (Harewood, 89), Freedman. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Edwards.

Coventry City(4-4-2): Hedman; Nilsson (Wallemme, 46), Shaw, Breen, Burrows; Telfer, Boateng, Soltvedt (P Hall, 77), Whelan; Huckerby, Dublin. Substitutes not used: Ogrizovic (gk), M Hall, Williams.

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Bookings: Forest: Rogers, Armstrong, Harewood. Coventry: Boateng.

Man of the match: Beasant.

Attendance: 22,546.

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