Football: Forest denied a conclusive end to season of suffering

Nottingham Forest 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
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The Independent Online
WHAT DO Nottingham Forest have to do to get themselves relegated? After a withering season more than 25,000 came to the City Ground on Saturday wondering if their team would finally be put out of their misery. But despite Steffen Iversen's winner for Spurs, a late equaliser from Marians Pahars 200 miles away in Southampton leaves Ron Atkinson's men with only the most contrived chance of avoiding the drop.

Should either Charlton Athletic or Blackburn Rovers gain two more points from their remaining five fixtures - almost certain given that the two sides play one another on 1 May - Forest's fate will be confirmed.

With the season effectively over for both sides, attack was the order of the day. Forest deployed a formation which was perhaps intended to give Pierre van Hooijdonk a freer role behind the two forwards, but instead seemed only to confuse the lacklustre Dutchman.

George Graham, with a comparative embarrassment of forward options, went for a three-man attack of Les Ferdinand, Chris Armstrong and Iversen. At times they threatened to overwhelm the Forest back three who, Richard Gough apart, looked a jaded and dispirited unit. Outstanding at the back of the Tottenham midfield was Steffen Freund, who again turned in a flawless display.

Were it not for poor finishing by Iversen and Armstrong, and a scuffed penalty from Allan Nielsen, Spurs could easily have scored more. None of these three should be over-confident of surviving the forthcoming purge at White Hart Lane. "Anyone who thinks this season is finished will find themselves sitting up in the stand," said Graham.

Gough received a warm reception from the Spurs fans in lieu of his days in north London. However, he will not be at the City Ground next season, having expressed a wish to return to San Jose instead of a season in the Nationwide League.

Neither, it seems increasingly likely, will Atkinson, another man known for his appreciation of sunnier climes. "You won't be the first to know, that's for sure," the Forest manager retorted, having been asked whether he would be staying. "When I decide, I will talk to the appropriate people." Whether that decision is in his hands any more is questionable.

Goal: Iversen (67) 0-1.

Nottingham Forest (3-4-1-2): Crossley; Edwards (Stensaas, 74), Gough, Chettle; Louis-Jean, Bonalair (Woan, 20), Johnson, Rogers; Van Hooijdonk; Shipperley (Harewood, 80), Freedman. Substitutes not used: Mattsson, Beasant (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-3-3): Walker; Carr, Young, Campbell, Taricco; Freund, Sherwood, Nielsen; Armstrong, Ferdinand (Anderton, h-t), Iversen. Substitutes not used: Nilsen, Fox, Ginola, Baardsen (gk).

Referee: G Willard (Worthing). Bookings: Forest: Bonalair, Louis-Jean, Gough, Johnson. Tottenham: Nielsen.

Man of the match: Freund.

Attendance: 25,181.